college financial aid

College Awards and Financial Aid: What You Need to Know

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Spring is the season when high school seniors and their families find out if their awards package at their chosen college or university will be enough or not. Whether you have an athlete looking for more money to participate in a sport at college or a student in need of more financial aid, you can always appeal the offer and ask for more.  

Remember that a ‘financial award’ is determined by the admissions office and that ‘financial aid’ is on an income/needs-based formula used by the financial aid office. These are two different monetary benefits, and some students receive both. Here’s what you need to know about college awards and financial aid: 

College awards

Most families don’t realize that they can appeal the award. An appeal for more money is not the same as negotiating to buy something, such as a car for example. Make sure you have your documentation to show the college why they should reconsider.  

To appeal an award, start by contacting both the financial aid and the admissions office by writing an appeal letter. Your letter must explain why the award should be reconsidered. Particular circumstances occurring during the last two years and differentiates the student from other students can change the award amount: 

  • Death of a parent 
  • Divorce or separation of parents 
  • Job loss or decrease in parental income 
  • The student has special needs or a health issue 
  • End of child support previously included in parental income 
  • A change in the student’s marital status 
  • Catastrophic loss from a natural disaster 

When can you appeal an award? At any time when the above occurs, or you feel there was an error or feel your student should receive more. An appeal will be for one year only and you will need to appeal additional years if necessary. 

Financial aid

Financial aid is awarded on an income/needs-based formula and based on two years of federal and state tax returns to prove parental income during the period the student was a sophomore and junior. In some instances, the student’s income will also need to be included if they made above a certain threshold at a part-time job. Also, if a student has experienced any of the above circumstances during the last two years after applying for and receiving financial aid, they can appeal and ask for more. 

Applying for financial aid is done through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) system which is a form completed by current and prospective college students in the United States to determine their eligibility for student financial aid. Gather these items ahead of time to make registering and completing the forms a breeze: 

  • Last two years of tax records 
  • Social security numbers 
  • Driver’s license number 

What types of financial aid is available?

A variety of financial aid sources are available to help pay for college or technical school. Here are some options to keep in mind: 


A  grant is a form of financial aid that typically does not need to be repaid. Various federal grants are available, including Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), and Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants. Your state may also offer grants if attending college or trade school in-state. 


Many nonprofit and private organizations offer scholarships to help students pay for secondary education. This type of assistance which bases on academic merit, talent, or a particular area of study, can make a real difference in helping you manage your education expenses. 

work-study jobs

The government provides a Federal Work-Study Program, which allows students to earn money to pay for school by working part-time throughout their studies.


Student loans borrow money from the government or a private entity to attend a college or technical school. You must repay the loan as well as any interest that accrues. It is important to understand your repayment options early so you can successfully repay what you owe. 

work with your financial professional

If you have questions about saving for college or how your investments can be used to pay for it, your financial professional can help. Contact a fiduciary advisor at Trajan Wealth to get started!

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