May 1 is the typical deadline for responding to college admissions offers with a commitment.
Cost and the availability of financial aid are a large and growing consideration in determining where to go to college, with student debt on the rise across the country.
For students with an acceptance in hand for a highly desirable school, but a financial aid offer that leaves attendance out of reach, is there anything to be done?
Typically, financial aid includes need-based and merit-based aid, including through grants, loans, work study opportunities and scholarships. Need-based aid is based on providing financial information through FAFSA, the Free Application for Student Aid.
And yes, initial financial aid offers can be appealed.
Whether an applicant believes there was an error in calculating need, a recent change in circumstance affecting need, or even a better aid offer from a competing school, financial aid appeals are often more successful than admissions appeals.
Talk to a local college admissions office about the process. When is it appropriate to appeal, what should the timeline be and what does an effective appeal look like? How long can an appeals process take?
If an aid appeal is denied, what options remain?
Talk to a college counselor about how students can access private scholarship opportunities from foundation, church or professional associations.
In recent years, more schools have been accepting commitments from students after the traditional May 1 deadline or even actively approaching students who have received offers but not committed. Not committing before the deadline is a big risk which could leave a student without a spot at all, but can provide some reassurance if a student’s top choice of school isn’t immediately feasible. Talk to students at a local university who transferred in a later semester, saved by taking credits at a community college or worked part time to assist with costs.
Navigating financial aid is a growing challenge for many college-bound families, and news audiences would be well served by high-quality information about how to make smart college decisions.