Finessing Financial Aid: The Full Need Policy and Matching Competitive Offers

Receiving a financial aid package is the backbone of many student’s college career. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, 86% of students seeking a 4 year undergraduate degree were awarded financial aid in 2014-2015. With such a staggering amount of students that need assistance when it comes to paying for the outstanding, it is no wonder that more and more students are looking for loopholes in the financial aid process. While students are searching for ways to cover the financial burden that comes with higher education, colleges and universities are trying to find a way to provide affordable educations while avoiding bankruptcy at the same time.

Some colleges and universities offer undergraduate students seeking a 4 year degree a full  need policy. The full need policy sets out to meet full financial tuition needs of students with scholarships, grants, and unsubsidized federal loans in hopes of eliminating the out of pocket contributions required of students and their families. Many of these colleges and universities also deem themselves need blind which means they admit students based on merit as opposed to their financial need. According to a survey conducted by U.S. News of 1,100 schools, 66 of them claimed to meet the full financial need of students that were from lower income families.

If paying for college is a potential barrier between you and walking across the stage in 4 years, finesse the financial aid situation and research schools that offer a full need policy. By applying to colleges and universities that offer a full need policy, the weight of paying for school will be lessened as the options for funding will be greater. However, what happens when full need policy schools are not an option for you?

In some instances, the schools you want to apply to might not offer an outright full need policy. While they will certainly take the FAFSA and offer grants, loans, and scholarships; your award at your top school still might not be enough to cover the costs of your education. If you followed your high school adviser’s advice, then you likely applied to several colleges and universities with 1 or 2 ranking as your top choices. If your bottom option comes accepts you and offers a more substantial financial aid package than your top choice that has also accepted you, don’t worry. You may have the perfect leverage to negotiate a better financial aid award.

To use another schools financial award to negotiate a better package at your preferred school, start by drafting an appeal letter. In the letter, explain your financial situation clearly making sure to include any special circumstances like being laid off or unemployed. Include detailed information about the financial aid award you were offered along with the award you were provided from the other college or university to demonstrate the gap. Explain how the added funds could help close the gap for you and allow you to go to that particular university, your first choice. When you are asking for additional financial aid, make your request reasonable as most schools are not going to match the opposing offer exactly. Be reasonable in your request and use the opposing offer to underline your request.

Seeking a higher education can be a financial burden but it doesn’t have to be. Seeking out full need universities and colleges can help take the weight off of your and your family’s pockets. If your chosen school has fallen a bit short in the money department, use opposing offers from other schools to encourage your top choice to boost the financial aid award package. Steep educational costs don’t have to stand between you and the college degree you want to earn.

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