Hey, Financial Aid Office! Is That All You’ve Got?!

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“Lilacs out of the dead land,” indeed, T.S.!

“Lilacs out of the dead land,” indeed, T.S.!

In The Waste Land, T.S Eliot calls April “the cruelest month.” With colleges sending out their financial aid awards and finishing off their enrollment, April is an important month for a lot of college students and incoming freshmen who depend on financial aid to attend the schools of their dreams. Eliot wasn’t too far off, I think.


Back in the homeland, my little brother is sorting through his own wasteland of financial aid awards to figure out which school will be the best fit for him. Even though colleges have offered him some substantial amounts of grants and loans, he knows it won’t be enough. The cost of a college education is even higher now than it was when I was applying. So, when little goose asked me what he should do, I advised him to write a financial aid appeal letter and ask for more—just like I did.

Finding The Right Words

Back in 2009, Syracuse University and Boston University were my top college contenders. Both are great institutions with some of the best communications programs in the nation. And, both offered me almost full tuition, but not quite.

At the time, my family’s finances had just started to crash, and the uncertainty of my father’s career made it difficult for me to be able to just go wherever I wanted. So, I sat down and wrote letters to both universities asking for a reevaluation of my FAFSA application.

In those letters, I expressed my gratitude for what they had offered (I recommend you do this, too—it’s important to show that you’re thankful for any money you’re offered). I told them about how amazing it would be to be a part of their institution but that I needed more money to be able to attend. Then, I listed out the things that made it difficult for me to pay: my sister was still in college, my dad was unemployed and sick. In my letter to BU, I mentioned that the cost of living in Boston was higher than Puerto Rico.

I think I might have even mentioned having to buy a whole new wardrobe in my letters to both schools. I had never lived in a cold climate, and Syracuse is known for its snow, and Boston winters are no picnic, either. Coming from an island, I had no idea people wore anything other than chancletas (sandals) and tank tops, so the thought of rain boots and down parkas never crossed my mind.

The schools must have found my letters inspiring, because they both got back to me just a few days later. They had both offered me more money in the form of work studies and grants. The letters had worked! Now, the ball was on my court and I needed to make a decision. In the end I chose Boston University because I really wanted to attend a university in a city.

Times Have Changed, But Necessities Are The Same

My little brother’s letter could mention my dad’s retirement, the plummeting economy in Puerto Rico, and how both are affecting the family’s finances. He may even mention how expensive flights are from Puerto Rico and how that will impact his decision of where to attend. I know he’ll find the right words to say.

Federal Student Aid (FSA) provides around $150 billion in grants, loans, and work-study funds each year. If it wasn’t for federal aid, I know I wouldn’t have been able to leave Puerto Rico for my higher education. However, a lot of people see the paperwork and get discouraged and say, “my parents make too much money,” or, “the FAFSA is too much work.” The truth is, the money is out there, you just have to ask for it.

Don’t let a few words on paper stand between you and the financial aid you deserve. Get yourself out of the wasteland with a financial aid appeal letter!

Are you happy with your award letter? Let us know in the comments!

(Photo: Coulter Sunderman)

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