College isn’t free—especially if you’re moving away from home and will need to pay for housing. Luckily, financial aid can help you cover some (or all) of the costs. And, if you negotiate your package with your school, you might qualify for even more financial aid.
Negotiating financial aid packages is a common practice. It can put you in a strong position to pay for your education.
What Is a Financial Aid Package?
A financial aid package is an offer provided by a college or university to help a student cover the costs of their education. It typically includes a combination of scholarships, grants, work-study opportunities and loans. The full financial aid package is usually tailored to an individual’s financial need, academic merit and other relevant factors. Ultimately, it’s designed to make higher education more affordable and accessible.
Understand the Different Types of Financial Aid
There are several types of financial aid. You may qualify for a variety of financial aid options, including:
- Scholarships, which are financial awards based on academic achievements, talents or other specific criteria. They help offset educational expenses and don’t require repayment.
- Grants, which are need-based financial assistance provided by the government, institutions or private organizations. They’re typically awarded based on financial need and don’t require repayment.
- Work-study programs, which provide part-time employment for students to earn money to assist with educational costs. The earnings help offset expenses and are often based on financial need.
- Student loans, which are borrowed funds that students must repay with interest. They can come from federal lenders and are a common part of financial aid packages.
7 Tips for Negotiating Financial Aid Packages
There’s a common misconception that financial packages are an “all or nothing” proposal, but that’s not true. In fact, negotiation is common. Here are a few tips to consider as you negotiate a financial aid package to help cover college costs:
- Understand your offer. Review the financial aid offer carefully. Understand the different components like grants, scholarships, loans and work-study options. Know the terms and conditions associated with each type of aid.
- Gather additional information. If you’ve received better offers from other institutions, use them as leverage during negotiations. Provide documentation of these offers to support your case.
- Contact the financial aid office. Express your interest in attending the institution and discussing your financial aid package. Be polite and professional and clearly explain your situation.
- Explain special circumstances. If there have been changes in your financial situation (e.g., loss of a job, medical expenses), write a financial aid appeal letter and provide documentation. Explain how these circumstances affect your ability to contribute to your education costs.
- Request a re-evaluation of your financial aid package. Provide any additional information or documentation that supports your case for a higher award. Emphasize the importance of financial assistance.
- Be persistent. Don't be afraid to follow up with the school’s financial aid office and continue advocating for your case. If the initial response isn’t what you need, ask about the process of appealing the decision and gather any required documentation.
- Consider professional assistance. In complex situations—or if you’re uncomfortable negotiating on your own—you may want to consult with a financial aid advisor or an educational consultant. These professionals can provide guidance on the best approach for negotiating financial aid and help you navigate the process effectively.
After negotiations, carefully compare the revised financial aid offers from various schools. Assess which option aligns best with your financial circumstances and academic goals. Make an informed decision based on the revised aid packages and choose the most favorable option.
Negotiate Your Way to the Best Financial Aid Package
Negotiating a financial aid package for college might seem intimidating, but it can also help set you up for financial success. Remember to come prepared and explore your options. Your future self will thank you!
Navy Federal Credit Union offers resources and support to help students navigate the financial aspects of college. From guidance on completing the FAFSA to exploring scholarship opportunities and understanding loan options, we’re dedicated to helping future scholars like you make the most of their college adventure.
This content is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.