I’m answering a quick financial aid question that I received on my Facebook page. Plenty of parents are asking the same question. Lynn O’Shaughnessy
My son applied Early Action to a number of colleges and has gotten into a variety of them with varying amounts of merit aid. Even with this aid, the schools are still very expensive. My son’s dad and I also filled out the CSS Profile and recently the FAFSA forms (as appropriate for divorced parents). My question is: when is the best time to ask the schools (perhaps just my son’s favorite few) if it would be possible to receive more merit aid? Now OR after the CSS Profile and Fafsa have been processed)? And, is it better for the student to ask for or the parents to ask?
Colleges routinely provide merit aid notifications in their acceptance letters. The institutions, after all, possess all the information that they are going to receive regarding a student’s academic profile, extracurriculars, recommendations etc. so they can decide which applicants deserve this money.
Schools can’t award need-based aid until they have received a student’s financial aid forms. If you haven’t filed the financial aid applications before your child receives his/her acceptance, the notification can’t possibly include need-based aid.
What is important is that parents know what the aid application deadline is for each school. I failed to do this in 2007 when my daughter was applying to schools. I didn’t check the aid deadline for Dickinson College and the date came and went without my filing the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE. I was lucky because when I contacted Dickinson, the admission office staff gave me a break and extended the deadline. I was very grateful!
In this mom’s case, the family can’t ask for more merit aid because they don’t even know if they will get need-based aid yet. If the family doesn’t qualify for need-based aid, it’s unlikely that a school would award a rich student more merit aid. I discuss this issue further in the chapter about financial aid appeals in my book The College Solution: A Guide for Everyone Looking for the Right School at the Right Price.