Financial Aid Strategies

SC Test Prep

So, your student has been accepted to their school of choice? Great!

You’ve received your financial aid offer? Wonderful!

The package seems completely sufficient and….um, not quite.

If this describes your experience with college admissions and financial aid, then congratulations! You’re having an experience similar to most families across the country. Now, what to do about it?

Below are some strategies that I encourage all of my clients to pursue after receiving financial aid offers. They have resulted in an increase in financial aid for many of them.

  • Ask yourself if the offer you have received is consistent based on your student’s academic profile and the average financial aid award offered by the school. If a student’s GPA and mid-50% range on the ACT or SAT is approximately average for the college or university, then typically they should be awarded something close to the average amount of financial aid. If their profile is higher, and therefore presumably their application stronger, then usually they should receive more than the average amount, and if lower and weaker, then less. This information is generally available on a school’s website. If not, they can be found at sites like Remember, only very rarely should a student pay close to the cost of attendance at any given school. Much like car sales, the majority of institutions determine tuition costs with the understanding that those will be mitigated by scholarships, grants, and other types of financial aid. As a result, if a family pays more to attend a school than is consistent with their student’s application strength, effectively they are valuing the education received there more than the school’s own admission and financial aid officers. (One notable exception locally is Converse College, who last year drastically lowered tuition in an attempt to do away with this type of shell game.)

  • Ask yourself, even if you are receiving a consistent financial aid offer: Is the cost of attendance still worth it? For instance, many students are encouraged to apply to “reach” schools like Duke or Georgia Tech. However, if one is barely accepted into a school, the financial aid offer can be consistent with a student’s application strength relative to their peers, but still leave quite a lot to be desired financially. If this is the case, I cannot stress enough that my advice is to move on to a school that is a better fit academically and economically.

  • Be prepared to speak in person with the admission or financial aid office. If you feel an offer isn’t consistent with the strength of your student’s application, a sit-down meeting can be a great opportunity to ask for an explanation or to see if test score improvement of second semester grades from senior year could result in an increase in financial aid. If you think the offer is consistent and the cost of attendance almost worth it, but need more financial aid, this can also be a wonderful time for the student to express their sincere interest in the school and for the parent to ask for some additional amount or award. Be reasonable, however. Schools don’t give away free rides or significant increases in financial aid simply because a parent asks. Have a number in mind that would make attendance possible and ask specifically for that. Typically, an additional $5,000-$6,000 a year is the most that a school will consider.

  • Most simply, be prepared to walk away and make a different decision if they can’t meet your need. Most educations simply aren’t worth crushing amounts of student loan debt.

Good luck, and as always, please connect with us at SC Test Prep if we can be of any help!