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By Mos   |  

Every fall, parents, teachers, counselors, and journalists remind students to apply for financial aid. But what happens to students who do apply, and six months later, find out that they didn’t get enough to pay for college?

At Mos, we hear from students like this daily–students who read their financial aid letter and think: “Where’s the rest?” The amount their college expected their family to pay is much higher than what their family can actually pay, which causes confusion and frustration.

Receiving a financial aid letter that doesn’t reflect the reality of your finances is frustrating, but you don’t have to accept it. An aid package is really just an aid offer, and students can negotiate with their college to try and get more.

This negotiation is called a financial aid appeal. The process can be time-consuming and potentially fruitless if you don’t have the right approach. To alleviate some of the stress, Mos put together a quick guide on the terms and concepts you’ll need to understand to successfully appeal for more financial aid.

Award Letters are documents that show your total financial aid amount for the upcoming school year and a break down of the different sources and types of aid. Unfortunately, these documents are not standardized across schools, so the format and terminology vary from college to college. 

Expected Family Contribution or EFC is calculated based on your family’s income, assets, household size, and other information you enter in your FAFSA®. An EFC is an estimate, but it does affect your financial aid award, which is why many families are surprised when the number is much higher than what they can afford. 

Cost of Attendance–sometimes referred to as the school’s sticker price–is the amount you’ll need annually to attend your college. It may include your tuition, room, and board (if you plan to live on campus), textbooks, school supplies, and personal expenses, but it depends. Some colleges give accurate estimates and other don't, which can make it hard to compare award letters. 

Dependency Status is a way the FAFSA® classifies you either as dependent or independent student. Independent students do not have to include their parent's tax information on their FAFSA, whereas dependent students do. Whether your parents list you as a dependent on their taxes or their willingness to help you pay for college does not determine how the FAFSA®classifies you.  

Professional Judgement is the part of the process that allows financial aid offices at colleges and universities to take new information into account and make adjustments to the student’s financial aid based on that information. If a parent has gotten remarried, for example, and takes on new dependents (step-children), the college may give the student more aid.

If you’ve made it this far, you have probably realized that the appeal process is complicated. But don’t let it scare you off from appealing for the aid you deserve. If you need help along the way, Mos is here. Mos works with families year-round to maximize financial aid packages. Our advisors provide expert guidance to get you through the appeal process with more aid.   

Sign up here to get started with Mos.

As a reminder, federal and state government operate financial aid programs. Many have their own applications, FAFSA® being the most important one. Mos is not affiliated with the Department of Education or any state agencies. Mos helps students with their FAFSA® for free, and the FAFSA® is also always available from fafsa.gov.

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