The horror of getting into one of your top schools and not receiving a good enough financial aid package to make it even remotely affordable is one of the worst things a prospective student can experience. Even after begging the financial aid office, applying for scholarships and loans, and gathering every last bit of money you have to make it affordable, sometimes the stars just never align. It is a gut-wrenching experience. The reality of not being able to afford a school (or schools) that you have worked so hard to get into is one of the hardest things to face. Eventually you will get over not being able to attend this college or university, but there are certain stages you go through to get over this.
The first thought that pops into your head is that the financial aid office messed up or you put an extra zero into your family’s income on the FAFSA or CSS Profile. You think to yourself that there is absolutely no way that the school didn’t give you enough financial aid. They’re a need-blind school and you’re really needy, come on!
If you didn’t look at the college or university’s Net Price Calculator beforehand or see what their loan-to-grant ratio is, then you probably did not expect to get such a small amount of financial aid. Often times, people who experience denial will go back through their financial aid applications multiple times to check to see if all of the numbers are correct. Once they realize that it is, then they start to get over the denial stage…
Anger does not always follow denial. Anger can happen at any point. But, most people do experience anger. During this stage you will find yourself thinking about the absurd amount of money the school charges in tuition and how stupid it is that they cannot provide financial aid for those who qualify academically but cannot afford it. Or, you will be angry that your parents earn just a bit too much to qualify for a certain federal grant or that you did not do better in high school to get a full ride.
Becoming angry at your parents is useless. Wishing that you did better in high school is not worth it because everything is over and done with now. Unfortunately, colleges are businesses and they do not always want to put their money where it should be going — investing in their students appropriately. There really is no other way to get over the anger stage than to realize that there is literally nothing you can do to change this now.
This stage includes applying to every possible scholarship that applies to you, seeing if you and your family qualify for loans, and asking the financial aid office to give you more money. The bargaining stage is very useful because a lot of learning goes on during this stage. For example, I did not know that if I am denied for a private loan, the company will then notify the school which will then notify the government, which will allow me to take out an extra $4,000 per year through them, until I reached this stage. As useful as the bargaining stage is, it is also emotionally taxing. You will often find yourself thinking, what if I can’t pull this off?
Depression may involve tears and a lot of sobbing. This stage can be brief or very long depending on how in love with the school you are. The only way to get over depression is by researching everything about the new school you will be attending or the schools you can still financially afford on your list. By doing so, you will be able to take your mind off of all of the things you might be missing out on.
Once you have finally accepted that you will not be attending the school or schools you cannot financially afford, things get easier. Chances are, your list will be cut down significantly and you will be able to have an easier time choosing where to go. Some will have one clear choice while others will still have a few. In order to decide on a school, check out the search and selection section of TP’s website.
Find things you absolutely love and cannot wait to be a part of at these schools. Look up the different classes you are able to take and start brainstorming future schedules. Stalk them to no end on social media. Most importantly, try to clear your head of whatever bad feelings you might have about the schools that did not give you enough financial aid. This all happened for a reason.