Undergrad

College Financial Aid Packages: To Appeal or Not To Appeal

While we at Clarkson have pushed our deposit deadline for Fall 2020 to June 1, not every other college and university has done the same. So, for some high school seniors looking ahead to college this fall, the traditional May 1 deposit deadline is approaching fast and it’s time to make one the most important decisions of their young lives: where to attend college.

This is usually an exciting time for high school seniors and their families, but we understand there can be some stress involved as well, especially in our current COVID-19 situation. While admissions decisions need to be finalized and deposits need to be made, there is also uncertainty. So, what does that look like for your family?

By now, your child has probably narrowed it down to their top two or three choices and if you are reading this, Clarkson is likely on that shortlist of schools! Hopefully, you’re as excited as we are that your student is interested in what Clarkson can offer them as they embark on their next chapter. 

For parents, a child’s choice on which school to attend can have a heavy financial impact. As the deadline approaches, you’re probably doing your due diligence to make sure you know what you and your student should expect. 

Perhaps you’ve taken a look back at your Financial Aid Notice and realized the approximate invoice amount is more than you remembered, or more than you planned for. That can feel discouraging, even scary. You may start to wonder, does this make sense for us financially? Can we afford it? 

If this sounds like you, rest assured you are not alone! This concern you are feeling is common in parents of students who are about to make their college decision, even during more stable and certain times. 

Hi, I’m Kara Pitts, Director of New Student Financial Assistance

My role at Clarkson for the past several years has been in New Student Financial Aid through the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. Throughout my time in this position, I have talked to countless families about their financial aid notices and worked with them to make them feel comfortable about affording a Clarkson education.

If you’re concerned about your financial aid offer, one option available to you is to write a letter of appeal to our Financial Aid Appeal Committee.  What is a financial aid appeal? A financial aid appeal is when a family writes a letter asking the school to reconsider their student for additional assistance.  Families appeal for a variety of reasons which include but are not limited to changes in their financial circumstances, extenuating circumstances not reflected in their FAFSA information,  significant differences in financial aid offers compared to other schools with similar costs, and affordability.  

Appealing is not unusual, even for those who do not have any special circumstances that may justify a professional judgement. Professional judgments allow financial aid administrators to make changes to certain data elements on a family’s FAFSA on their behalf based on significant changes to their financial circumstances (job loss, excessive out of pocket medical, one time income, etc.). Clarkson receives several appeals each year for additional aid from new incoming students and although we are not always able to offer additional assistance, we give each appeal full consideration.  The vast majority of appeals are simply families who want to make Clarkson work for them, but might need a little more help.

With that said, at Clarkson, we have a long history of generously rewarding students for their hard work in high school while helping as many students with demonstrated financial need as possible. We will never “low ball” prospective students with our offers. Much thought goes into how we distribute the financial aid we have available from the initial packaging to any additional aid offered based on a financial aid appeal.  

On that note, I will leave you with my personal top five things to know about the appeal process.  

  1. We will need a letter detailing your situation. Outline why the current aid offer will not work for your family and be as detailed as possible. This is not the time to hold back or feel ashamed. If you don’t tell us what is going on, we won’t know and therefore will not be able to help. You can send that letter via email to newstudentfa@clarkson.edu. This will get the process started. 
  2. Be prepared to send supporting documentation. If you are going to mention something in your appeal letter we may ask for documentation to support that hardship so never embellish.  If your appeal is based on another school being more affordable make sure the other school you are referencing is comparable to Clarkson and include those aid offers. When I say comparable I mean schools that have a similar cost of attendance.  While we completely understand why one might be considering the local community college or state school, those schools don’t have comparable costs of attendance.  
  3. Be realistic and reasonable. Remember that our aid (unless otherwise indicated on the Financial Aid Notice) is almost always renewable. So asking for an additional $7,500 per year is actually asking for an additional $30,000. Also, really look at how much aid your child has already been offered and subtract that from the tuition costs. Our tuition for 2020-21 is $51,454. Are you already getting a pretty darn good deal? Was your Federal need met?  
  4. Don’t make your final decision based on costs without at least checking Clarkson or any school for that matter. Make sure there isn’t anything additional they can do to help.  Although help may not equal more gift aid, we might be able to offer suggestions on how to save in the future. 
  5. READ the Financing Plan Information Packet we included in your initial aid offer. It was green and is full of helpful information. If you lost it, click on the link for the PDF version available on our website. 

At the end of the day, the decision is yours on whether or not an appeal makes sense for you. What I can tell you is that if Clarkson is where your child wants to be, but you feel that money may be a problem, we encourage you to at least consider reaching out to your admission representative. All of our admissions staff members are cross trained in financial aid and can help answer any questions you may have. In this case, the saying, “It doesn’t hurt to ask!” is completely true. 

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your admission representative to set-up a call or Zoom session.  We are always happy to assist you however we can.  

3 Comments

  1. Thanks a lot for sharing this. I have been checking my plans on how the finances will be viable for me, but I will take up on your advice and make further inquiries. Thanks once again!

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