Can You Ask A College For More Scholarship Money?

Published by Wendy Nelson on

Can you ask a college for more scholarship money? Most often, the answer is “Yes, it never hurts to ask.”

When it comes to asking for more scholarship money, there seem to be three different types of colleges:

  1. Colleges that do not accept requests for more financial aid
  2. Colleges that have a very defined “appeals” process that you must follow
  3. Colleges that will consider any type of requests for more financial aid

How will you know which type a specific school falls under? I would suggest first checking for details on the school’s admissions and financial aid pages. If you don’t find anything that clues you in on which type of school you are dealing with, a call to the admissions counselor or financial aid department should clear things up.

Let’s look at each type in more detail.

Colleges That Don’t Accept Requests for More Financial Aid

There are some schools that make it clear on their websites that they will not accept any requests for more aid.

What should you do if you find out one or more of your student’s top choices falls into this category? First determine if you can settle for the amount of aid awarded. If not, you basically have until May 1 (Decision Day) for your student to apply for private scholarships to make up the difference. Just keep in mind that many private scholarships are for one year only, so your student may need to continue to apply for scholarships each year. Otherwise, it may be best to move on from this school and focus on schools that are more affordable.

Colleges With a Defined Financial Aid “Appeal” Process

Once you find out what this process is, you are ready to craft an appeal. Many schools say they will only take appeals due to changes in financial circumstances or hardships. Don’t let this discourage you. All you can do is ask and try to be convincing about why their current offer creates a “hardship” for you. The worst they can do is say No.

Most schools require a letter or the completion of a standard form for the financial aid appeal process.

Here’s a link to a great article with tips and sample letters: How to Write a Great Financial Aid Appeal Letter

Who should write the appeal letter? Generally, the student should take the lead on all contact with the school. However, as in some of the examples given in the article, it may be more appropriate for a parent to go into details on the family financial situation. Colleges do expect to get appeals like this from parents and it is perfectly fine for the parent to make this sort of contact.

Colleges That Will Consider Any Type of Requests for More Financial Aid

These may be the easiest schools to deal with because you have more flexibility in contacting them. Just by the nature of this type, it also makes these schools seem more flexible and more willing to consider any requests for more aid (whether that’s actually the case or not).

This type of school would be most open to a case where you are just looking for more scholarship money because other schools have offered more. This type of conversation is best done in person or over the phone. Something like “This is my son/daughter’s top school and we really want to make it work, but X College and Y College have offered more merit aid and therefore their net prices are much lower.” Follow that with an explanation of why it would be a hardship for you to pay the higher price. For example, list out your monthly expenses and how much cash flow you have left over to put towards college payments, talk about saving for your other kid’s college funds, talk about needing to focus on retirement savings, etc.

The best advice I can give is to just be open about your finances, be humble about your inability to make their offer work out, be grateful for what they have offered.