Very few families are excited when they receive their financial aid packages and far too many are confused with the jargon and how to interpret what the aid package says. The first thing that comes to a parent’s mind is “this can’t be right, the college can’t expect me to pay this much.”
The financial aid package is a direct result of completing the complicated financial aid forms and the colleges applying their financial aid policies to your “college tax.” It is not unusual to see Boston University giving a family $10,000 more in free scholarship money than say Northeastern. The reason is that Boston University’s financial aid policies are more generous to those families who exhibit financial need than Northeastern’s.
What happens if this family wants to appeal their package from Northeastern? Most parents’ first inclination is to call Northeastern touting the Boston University package and asking for more money. This is not a good idea for a number of reasons; the primary one being the parent is treating the financial aid counselor at Northeastern as they would a used car salesman. The chances of that appeal strategy netting them more money is minimal.
If a parent wants a fighting chance to get more money from a college on an appeal, they need to do three things. The first is to resell their child, not to Admissions, but to the Financial Aid office, so they will know that if they do “budge,” the student will attend their school. The second thing is to do the math to determine the amount of unmet need. As in the example of the family at Northeastern it is $10,000. The third thing is to determine what the colleges don’t know about their particular family situation. The only thing a college knows about a family is what they put on their financial aid form, verified by their taxes. There could be a number of extenuating circumstances that the college would not be privy to, such as a loss of income, care for an elderly parent, etc.