You can get more financial aid after the fact if you don’t get awarded enough initially. You can appeal your financial aid decision, and look for other sources of funding.

Forms of Financial Aid

The term financial aid covers several options for financial help to get students like you through college. Need-based grants, merit-based scholarships, federal and private student loans, and work-study opportunities are all managed by the school you attend. Much of the money for these programs comes from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE). Many scholarships and grants are also funded by state or local governments. Overall, students use a patchwork of types of financial aid to pay for each year of their postsecondary education. Applying for financial aid starts with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It may also include applications to nonprofits or banks for other types of aid, like merit-based scholarships or private student loans. You may receive enough financial aid to cover your first year of school, but what if you do not receive the same amount the second year? There are ways to get more financial aid if your school’s award package does not cover your needs.

The Basic Financial Aid Application Process

The process of getting financial aid includes reapplying every year that you attend school. The basic process goes like this:

  • Go online and fill out a FAFSA with your current financial information and school costs.
  • Enter up to 10 schools at the end of the FAFSA, if you are not already enrolled in a school.
  • Manage your finances and investments, pay your bills, and pay down any debts before completing your FAFSA financial information, as this represents your baseline financial status.
  • Carefully look at the financial aid awards package sent to you by your school or the schools you listed.
  • If you are not yet enrolled in a school, you can use the financial aid award as one of the ways you choose the college to attend.
  • If you are already enrolled in a specific postsecondary school but have questions about your financial aid package, speak with the financial aid counselor on campus.
  • Appeal for more need-based aid if you feel your award is not enough.

To get the most possible financial aid in the first round:

  • Apply as early as possible, since some awards are first come, first served.
  • Legally minimize your taxable income, like hold off on 401(k) withdrawals.
  • Clarify ownership of assets because money in the student’s name has the biggest impact on FAFSA score.
  • Know that you likely qualify for some type of aid, like federal student loans.
  • Research a range of options, like merit-based scholarships from nonprofits or businesses.
  • Apply for various types of financial aid even if you are unsure you qualify.

Financial aid is an important method of paying for college. If you do not receive enough money to cover your first year of school, or your award is less than the previous year, you can appeal the amount and see how much your college can help you.

Appealing Your Financial Aid Might Raise Your Award Amounts

You may assume that the financial aid award you receive is final. The school, the federal government, and your state government are providing as much money as possible to help you attend college, but in reality, you can appeal the amount given if you need more financial assistance. To appeal your financial aid award amount, follow these steps:

  • Check for errors on your FAFSA. The online application is simple and fast to fix. Always review your FAFSA information for accuracy. It is possible to miss something in the application that you need to correct later. If the correction comes after you have received financial aid information from your school, let the school know you made a mistake and you are sending a revised FAFSA.
  • Write a letter. Explain your circumstances and ask for a professional judgment review. If you are not officially enrolled in the school yet, but they have accepted you, explain in your letter that the school is your first choice, but you need more help to get there.
  • Prove that you need more money. If you struggled with serious medical bills, your parents or other family members outright refused to help you, or you or your family suffered another financial problem in the past year or so, submit paperwork documenting this to show that your finances are not what the FAFSA showed.
  • Share personal struggles. Sometimes, the problem is not strictly financial. If you struggled with an addiction, for example, you can use this personal story to illustrate that you are working hard to get better. Additional financial aid could help you get the boost you need to get ahead.
  • Ask the school for merit-based aid. You may not qualify for very much need-based aid, but if you have good grades, a special skill, or strong leadership qualities, your college could offer a scholarship to you. Ask your financial aid office about merit-based scholarships, and do some research online.
  • Ask about second-chance aid. This is a way of getting more money through your merit-based scholarships. For example, if you have even better academics, take on more volunteer work, or are recognized for great athletics, musical talent, or another skill, report this to your college once you receive their acceptance. They may raise your award amount.

There is a clear appeals process to ask for more financial aid. Inquire with your school about how the institution expects your appeal to proceed. When you learn how to get more financial aid, know that it is not a bargaining process, like asking for a reduced price on something you buy. Instead, there is a formal appeal to the decision-making committee.

Find Several Funding Sources to Get Through Your College Education

The financial aid appeals process exists to help students with special or mitigating circumstances make an individual case for more financial aid from their college or university. It is important to know that the committee may decide not to offer you more money, or they will inform you that you have as much as you qualify for.

Consider other options to pay for your education to help you stay grounded. If you do not get enough money after appealing, you can apply for more in federal student loans, or look into private student loans.