Image from GetRefe.

Image from GetRefe.

Did your financial aid package fall short of expectations? If it did, then you’re not alone. For those students who are about to begin or have already begun the journey through college applications, it’s important to keep in mind that final college decisions often rest in the palms of students’ parents. That’s right, you need to be able to pay for college to attend college. Shocking, isn’t it? But there’s one sure-fire solution of your financial woes that you may not have previously considered: comparing aid packages.

When you get accepted into more than one college, you find that you may be able to use your financial aid packages from one college to bargain with financial aid officers at another college. Because colleges need to protect their yield rates (the percentage of students who decide to enroll after being admitted to an institution) they will often lower or “match” the cost of tuition for students who have received better financial offers from colleges of comparable merit in order to entice them to enroll. However, there’s a right way to do things and a not-so-right way to do things. Here’s how you should go about comparing aid packages, should you find the need to do so:

1. Find your regional admissions officer.

When your financial aid is calculated, there’s usually one person in charge of your specific application. A quick Google search can help you find the contact information of all regional admissions officers at the colleges you’re looking at, and scrolling down the list, you should be able to figure out exactly who calculated your financial aid package.

2. Take screenshots or attach a PDF or Doc.

The next step is crucial because you need evidence that you aren’t just making up numbers for your other financial aid packages. Make it nice and easy for your regional admissions officer by either taking screenshots of your aid statements with “PrtSc” on your keyboard, or downloading the actual financial aid statements in the form of a PDF or Doc.

3. Send an email.

Once you have solid visual evidence of the discrepancy between your financial aid statements and know the contact information of your regional admissions officer, the logical next step would be to send that person an email! Open in a kind, approachable, and professional manner – remember, you’re the one asking for a larger grant. That means that you and your family’s financial standing all lie in the hands of someone else, so you’d better be polite! Convey a sense of understanding that not all colleges match financial aid, and that under certain circumstances, some may not have the means to.

4. Make your case.

While you are the one making the request, you’re also trying to send a message to your admissions officer. You’re not simply asking for a larger grant to cover your tuition, your college decision is riding on a certain school’s ability to provide for your family. Make it clear (but in a polite manner) that you’re considering choosing other colleges because their aid packages are significantly more generous.

5. Know their policies.

Some schools just don’t match financial aid. No matter how you try, you’re probably not going to become the exception to the rule. In the end, your efforts likely won’t bear fruit and you’ll just come out of the experience with a sour taste in your mouth. If you know that a school that accepted you has not been known to match financial aid with other schools, then you’re better off saving yourself some time and effort by not stirring the pot in the first place.

TL;DR: If you want to a college to match financial aid because you’ve gotten better financial aid from a similar institution, then gather the evidence, shoot an email to your regional admissions officer and be polite. It really might save you a couple thousand dollars a year. Even if things don’t exactly work out, at least you made the effort. It’s better to have tried to match aid and lost than to never have tried at all!

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the author

Nelson Dong is an incoming freshman at the University of Pennsylvania and hails from North Hunterdon High School. Born in a state overrun by loud, tan New Yorkers (yes, they're all from New York with the exception of Pauly D), he holds great disdain for the shore. He dabbles in dancing, singing and writing, among other artistic ventures and plays tennis to stay in shape. However, it must be noted that he absolutely does not lift because he doesn't have time.

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