Finessing Financial Aid: Appealing A Disappointing Financial Aid Package

College is notoriously expensive, no matter the institution you decide to go to. With the FAFSA, students and their families have access to government funded loans and grants with the loans being more affordable options than private alternatives. The FAFSA package is determined on the information you, the student, provide about yourself and your family. For many students, the financial aid package is the determining factor between them being able to afford college and having to take time off to save up money.

If you receive a disappointing financial aid package that doesn’t cover enough of your education, don’t fret. It can be frustrating, discouraging, and irritating when you are in need of financial aid to pay for school but the financial aid department doesn’t quite see it that way. While a less than stellar financial aid package can seem like the end to your college career before it begins, there’s always a way to finesse any system, including funding your education.

The first step to addressing a less than adequate financial aid package is to speak with the financial aid department. Find out, directly from them, how to go about starting the appeal process and any important documents or due dates you should be aware of. Once you are armed with the steps your school requires for an appeals process to begin, gather all of your pertinent documents such as financial statement, past tax forms, and your parent’s income tax information. Whether you are appealing due to your circumstances or because of an error on your original FAFSA, you will need all important documentation to back your appeal claim.

Before you march into the financial aid office ready to tell them why you deserve more money towards your education, consider why your situation is appeal worthy. While it’d be nice to just demand the financial aid office offer you a better package, there has to be particular circumstances that warrant that. Most school offices consider special circumstances and unusual circumstances a legitimate reason to appeal a package award. While the terms seem interchangeable, they describe different situations.

Unusual circumstances usually relates to your status as a dependent. When you are under the age of 24, you are automatically considered a dependent which can greatly affect your financial aid package. If you status as a dependent is not as cut and dry as the financial aid department would like it to be, you may qualify for submitting an appeal under those guidelines. Unusual circumstances can include:

  • Having a protection order against your guardian or parent
  • The custodial parent is deceased and you are not in contact with remaining parent
  • You have been legally abandoned by your parents
  • You and your parents or guardians are estranged

These circumstances can be difficult to prove which is why your appeal should include all of the necessary documents.

The guidelines to qualify for a larger financial aid package under a special circumstance appeal mainly deal with your family’s financial situation. The circumstances include:

  • The previous year’s income of your family is not reflective of their actual income and ability to contribute to your educational future financially
  • A parent loses their job or has to take a significant salary cut
  • The family suffers a financial ruin like bankruptcy

Gather any and all important documentation you have to prove these claims and work with your financial aid office for a better financial aid package. Throughout the process, remember to remain humble, understand that you are asking for understanding and empathy which doesn’t happen as a result of being demanding. A disappointing financial aid package is frustrating but not the end of the road.

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