In recent weeks, I’ve received phone calls and emails from lots of happy students who have been admitted to their favorite colleges. Many have also been awarded generous merit scholarships or financial aid packages. That’s important, because getting into a school you can’t afford to attend is painful and frustrating.
If your financial aid package is not what you expected, it is possible to appeal. If there are special circumstances, such as a job loss or major medical expenses, contact the financial aid office. They may be able to improve the package. If another school has offered a financial aid package that has more grants and fewer loans, you can send a copy of the better offer and the financial aid office may match the other school’s offer. Some colleges engage in preferential packaging, where the best aid packages go to the students they want the most.
In addition to providing more need-based aid, some liberal arts colleges are increasing merit scholarships in order to make their school financially attractive and meet their enrollment targets. Some colleges that were offering $5,000 to $12,000 a year scholarships in the past are now offering $15,000 to $25,000. Students are in the strongest position if other, similar colleges have made better offers. You can send copies of those offers to your favorite college, which may be more likely to increase its offer rather than lose a desirable student.
Of course, that means you need to have applied to similar colleges, which takes some research. For students who will be applying to college in the fall, it’s more important than ever to do your research and apply to a number of similar colleges that are likely to award good financial packages, so that you can then take those offers to the school you prefer. If that school matches the offer, you have the school you want at a more affordable cost. If your preferred school does not match the offer, you can decide whether the school would provide a significantly better college experience that is worth the extra money, or whether you would be just as happy at one of the schools that will cost less.