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Appealing financial aid offers

2 Dec

uc-berkeley-sproul-hall-sproul-plaza-occupy-uc-berkeley-7d9994-wingsdomain-art-and-photographySome of you may already be getting financial aid offers from the colleges to which you have applied — especially if you did your FAFSA early.

However, some of you may be disappointed with the offers.

Please know you can still plead your case with the financial aid office at those colleges. Do this with a letter addressed to “Financial Aid Officer” and include information that could improve your offer:

  • Information about a parent losing a job or being cut back to part-time.
  • Loss of a job you have had.
  • Information about high and unexpected expenses for situations your family has recently experienced, such as medical care or a car accident.
  • Death of a supporting parent or other close family member — thus creating loss of income or increased expenses.
  • Separation of your parents — so that you now only need report income for the parent with whom you are living (or who provides the greater amount of support).

It is helpful if the school counselor or administrator can write a letter authenticating your case.

Also, the letter may receive quicker attention if the school faxes your letter to the financial aid department(s).

Please don’t delay on this. Some money pots — such as work study — are limited, and colleges can only offer what’s available.

How to win more scholarships

28 Oct

college-scholarships

You increase your chances of winning a scholarship significantly if you understand the organization that sponsors the scholarship and the kind of student that organization would choose to reward with a scholarship.

Before you start filling out the scholarship application, do some research:

  • Read all of the materials that accompany the scholarship application. Often the organization will give some history about the group and/or the scholarship.
  • Go to the organization’s website and read all about the organization.
  • Ask your school counselor or other adults about the organization.

Then, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who are these people?
  • Why do they give scholarships?
  • For what kind of student are they looking?
  • What kinds of qualities do they want to see in the scholarship winner?

For example, your local Rotary Club is part of an international organization made up of business leaders in communities. Rotary members focus on fund-raising so as to sponsor various community-service projects, which often include scholarships for local high school students.

You can imagine, then, that Rotary Club members may be looking for students who represent the best of their own qualities, especially leadership and a mindset that community service is important.

Because my daughter had done a lot of community service for her school — organizing a school-wide effort to paint student murals on exterior walls and to spruce up the girls’ bathroom — she was a natural for a  great scholarship from Lowe’s, the home improvement store.

As you work on your scholarship application for an organization, think about those qualities that you have and those activities you have completed that would appeal most to your audience — that organization’s scholarship review committee.

CAUTION: NEVER misrepresent who you are to a scholarship organization. However, you do want to relate on that application the best of who you are that will dovetail with that organization.

And remember . . . always complete every application for which you are qualified. You won’t win every single scholarship for which you apply, but you also will not win any scholarship for which you don’t apply.

 

Evaluating aid offers

24 Mar

Weighing offers can be confusing!

As your financial aid offers start coming in, you and your parents may be a little confused. The differing formats and terminology may seem like you’re being asked to compare apples with oranges.

Buffy Tanner, a counselor with the BOLD (Bachelor’s through Online and Local Degrees) program at Shasta College, has some helpful advice. (She was formerly part of the College OPTIONS organization, which has a mission to strengthen the college-going culture in the more rural areas of northern California by increasing opportunities for students to pursue and become informed about postsecondary education).

portland-1-jFirst, she says to make sure each college includes all five components of Cost of Attendance (some colleges don’t include all five on their award letters):

  • Tuition/Fees
  • Room/Board
  • Books/Supplies
  • Transportation
  • Personal Expenses

Tanner also says, “Students need to realize that the Cost of Attendance published by each school is an AVERAGE, ESTIMATED cost.  For some students, transportation costs may be more or less, they can save money by tripling up in a dorm, or by living at home, etc.  As much as possible, they should personalize that Cost of Attendance for each college to determine what they will REALLY need.”

The College OPTIONS organization has developed a Financial Aid Offer Comparison Worksheet that can help you evaluate financial aid offers. In this Excel document you can insert the numbers of each type of aid from a college (and then the next college and the next), so as to get an actual “apples to apples” comparison (instead of apples to alligators).  This tool is online:  http://www.collegeoptions.org/#!financial-aid/c8k2. (See the middle column “Tools for Award Letters” — the last bullet. There is also a link for instructions on how to use the tool.)

“There are MANY roads from point A to point B,” Tanner notes. “Some are more scenic than others, others are quicker, still others have hidden gems along the way that they don’t even know about.”

In any case, do not make rash decisions based on a quick glance of the financial aid offers. Weigh your options carefully and make sure any decision is done with the help of your parents.