Strategic Guide to Negotiating MORE Financial Aid

So you've gotten a Financial Aid package and you're not 100% satisfied...

Firstly, CONGRATS on your acceptance! You've made it this far and all your hard work has seemed to pay off... except you need more money in scholarships and financial aid to be able to actually attend. It's a dilemma that many students know all too well, and we're here to tell you that all is not lost - you can ALWAYS appeal your financial aid package.

Many students will reject a school's offer for the upcoming school year (because they've gotten into another school that they really like and can afford OR they've decided to defer their acceptance). This means that money that the school had allotted elsewhere during the crafting of your financial aid package could be re-allocated towards you given that enough students have given up their spots and you provide a compelling argument concerning your need for more funding.

In order to appeal your financial aid offer, you will need to submit a formally written request to the Admissions Office or the Financial Aid Department (it depends on the school policy, so make sure you check). We advise that you craft this letter with the help of your parent(s)/guardian(s) as their information may be necessary to complete a compelling argument of financial need. 
INTRO: thank the admissions committee for accepting you, thank them for their generous financial aid award, and let them know that what's holding you back from accepting is finances.

EXPLAIN FINANCIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: here you will provide the relevant information pertaining to your parent's financial situation with SPECIFIC examples and reasons. Examples are listed below - and remember whatever you use, make sure you have the evidence and paperwork to back it up. You may also leverage another school of similar competitiveness / level if you have a better offer from them (see below on HOW to do that with HUMILITY).

CONCLUSION: humble, polite, attitude of gratitude - thank them again, offer to have a call with your parents and the school to discuss further, offer supporting paperwork (if applicable), and affirm that you look forward to hearing from them soon.

  • The letter should be addressed from the student, NOT the parent(s) / guardian(s)
  • Give specific details of the financial situation and why your parent(s) / guardian(s) cannot afford it. For example:
    - Job loss of a parent
    - New job with lower income
    - Death of a spouse
    - Any significant financial burden, such as outstanding medical bills
    - New expenses, such as childcare costs, private elementary and secondary school tuition, or ongoing expenses
    - Parents attending university
    - Any significant health related expenses
    - Multiple children attending college at the same time (including step-children that weren't included in the original financial aid application)
    - Expenses for elderly grandparents
    - Any other significant loss that will impact your family or the student
  • Whatever examples you give, please be prepared to BACK THEM UP with FACTS - like documents. Do not mention the factor is you have no evidence, because trust me, they will ask.
  • If you have a competing offer from a school on the same level of rigor as the school you are negotiating with, you can mention it in a polite and humble manner
    Eg. "I was fortunate enough to be awarded a scholarship from INSERT NAME OF COMPETING UNIVERSITY ON SAME LEVEL HERE for $XXXX per year, renewable for four years. This is one of five merit-based / need-based (WRITE WHICH ONE APPLIES TO YOU) scholarships that I have received. However, due to our current financial situation, my parents will have to decide based on finances, despite it being my dream to attend INSERT NAME OF SCHOOL YOU ARE WRITING TO.
  • Mention other siblings applying to college soon or attending college simultaneously as a significant expense, if applicable
  • Do be specific with how much more money you need to make this work. Your parents must know their number, you can't say you don't know - look at the numbers and decide what is the minimum the college can offer for you to attend.
  • Do not send in a deposit - you lose your leverage
  • Be polite
  • End with humility and gratitude AND reaffirm that this is your top choice, but given your parents' financial situation, you will likely have to take your highest offer
  • Offer proof of your financial situation if they need it
  • Also state that you are available to discuss further, or ask if it would be helpful to have a call with your parents
  • Thank them for their time



I am very happy to have been offered admission to NAME OF COLLEGE and I am grateful for the financial aid that you have given me. This experience has almost been a dream come true, however, my family is currently facing financial challenges and I am seeking further consideration for funding. Living in a single-parent home with three children has resulted in several economic constraints on my MOTHER/FATHER, who is the sole provider for the family. (INSERT EXAMPLE DESCRIBING THE GENERAL NATURE OF THE CHALLENGE).

My older brother is looking forward to CONTINUING his college education while my little sister, who is currently in grade 11, is now preparing to take the CSEC examinations in June 2018, which was a substantial cost to my mother due to extra-lessons, classes and fees. Additionally, she will have to find the fees to pay for my sister's education for the next two years of 6th form study. (INSERT SPECIFICS DESCRIBING THE CIRCUMSTANCE).

Coupled with this my mother has other debts and expenses that need to be paid off including mortgages, loans and other living expenses. My father was unemployed in 2020, and has now just received a job in 2021 which pays minimum wage. This means that he cannot easily contribute enough money to help support my family and my college education.

In Jamaica, our currency devalues on a daily basis and with an inflation rate of 4% and an exchange rate of $145 JMD to $1 USD, families often find it difficult to plan ahead especially for US denominated expenses. The business she operates simply does not generate enough money to sustain my college education as well as the education of my siblings.

I firmly believe that attending INSERT NAME OF COLLEGE will give me a head start in my academic and future career as I aim to become a successful INSERT CAREER PLAN. The knowledge and resources obtained from INSERT NAME OF COLLEGE will help to develop my skills in the field exponentially. Further, I believe if I obtain my qualifications at INSERT NAME OF COLLEGE I will be in a better position to ease the financial burden of my family in the very near future. I am aware that the award given by INSERT NAME OF COLLEGE is a very generous one, however, due to the financial circumstances at home, my parents will need to make my college decision solely on funding.

INSERT NAME OF COLLEGE is my top choice and I would definitely want the opportunity to attend. It is very difficult for my family to find an additional $10,500 (GIVE SPECIFIC FIGURE) and in light of this, I am requesting further financial assistance – whether in scholarships, grants or any other awards that may be open to me – to fully realize my dream of attending INSERT NAME OF COLLEGE. I assure you that if given the opportunity to attend, I will invest my energy, time and skill into contributing positively to the development of the INSERT NAME OF COLLEGE community. I hope that this will be favourably considered by you.

Yours truly,

Author: Nicole McLaren Campbell
Nicole is founder of AIM Educational Services (now AIM Online Academy) and the Teen Success Club. Nicole is a college counseling expert and has been helping students for more than 10 years attain their college dreams.

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