Golden Rule #4

I don’t like conflict, so when I purchased my last home, I hired a real estate agent to walk me through the financial purchase.  This was quite a relief for me as my agent asked for, debated and advocated on my behalf, saving me thousands of dollars.

Unfortunately, when you enter the college financial aid process, there is no agent who speaks on your behalf.  You are very much alone in lobbying for your financial aid.  If like me, you find this difficult to do, don’t hesitate to enlist the help of a parent, guidance counselor or friend.  Here is the golden rule you need to know:

Golden Rule #4: You need to possess negotiation skills to assist you in enhancing your initial financial aid position. Developing the ability to lobby your interests is crucial for getting the most aid possible. And most financial aid officers will be willing to listen—provided you can make your case.

When I received my daughter’s award letter last year I found, to my horror, that her aid had been cut by nearly $8,000 from the previous year.  Initially, my daughter wanted to give up, throw-in-the-towel and transfer to a cheaper community college.  Rather than accept defeat, I called the financial aid officer of her college.  Again, I don’t like conflict, but I felt someone needed to advocate on my daughter’s behalf and, well… there wasn’t anyone else.

When I called the financial aid officer, I was polite, but candid about our financial situation.  Essentially, I said something like this: “I’m not looking for a free ride, but the truth is that my daughter can’t go into debt that much.  It’s not a good financial investment and this award letter is a deal breaker for us.  Here’s how much debt I think we can realistically take on…”

The officer listened politely, asked questions for clarification and made suggestions.  In the end, she said she would look at the numbers again and call me later.  A week later, she came back with an aid package that met all our requests.

If I learned anything from this experience it was that we “have not because we ask not.”  Don’t be intimidated by the process.  Open a dialogue with your financial aid officer, make your case and you may be surprised with the outcome.

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