Paying for College

Appealing an Aid Grant Based on New Class Rank

Question: Earlier this fall I was admitted to my first-choice college. I was given a nice scholarship of $6,000, but I did not get the largest scholarship of $8,500. According to the criteria put forth by this school, I meet all of the requirements except for my class rank. However, after the fall semester, I believe my rank will go up at least one spot, putting me in the top 10%. I will also have completed 9 hours (plus 9 from last year) of college credit this fall, while keeping a 4.0 grade average. I know it is possible for one to appeal a financial aid award, but is it possible for me to go to my university and ask them to reconsider the scholarship given my mid-year grades, without me seeming like I'm looking a gift horse in the mouth? And is it done?

Congratulations on being admitted to your first-choice college and for being awarded a scholarship as well. You can certainly appeal that award, and you’re already getting off to the right start. Contact the financial aid office at your university (e-mail is fine) and tell them almost exactly what you’ve told usâ€"and in the same way. That is, explain that you are thankful for the money you’ve been given and that you don’t want to “look a gift horse in the mouth,” but do point out that your fall semester achievements may enable them to view you in a different light.

There is often flexibility in financial-aid budgets and policies, andâ€"not surprisinglyâ€"admission officials are more apt to favor students who appear appreciative rather than those who act entitled. Moreover, since you may be working with the same staff members for the next four years, it certainly would be wise for them to identify you in the former group, not the latter, from the get-go.

Make sure in your letter you clearly explain that you understand why you weren’t initially awarded the larger scholarship, but explain carefully, too, how your rank is improving. Offer thanks for the $6,000 you have been promised, but also offer all applicable reasons why an extra $2,500 would make a significant difference (“I am now working 15 hours/week, but would like to cut back during my first semester of college;” “My parents are shouldering unexpected medical expenses;” “My mother will be facing a job lay-off in the spring,” etc.).

Appeals like this are done all the time, and it sounds like you have solid grounds for yours. Don’t be shocked, however, if you don’t succeed. (For instance, there may be a rigid rule that requires aid decisions to be based on class rank at the time of application.) But do be persistent, and be sure to be grateful and polite.