Step-by-step: How I asked the financial aid office for money and got it

During the first few weeks of every semester, there’s no building more packed than the financial aid office. I used to pay my visit every semester to make sure I was validated, and that my balance was cleared. Basically, making sure I wasn’t on the brink of getting purged so I wouldn’t have to move back home.

But this isn’t the only time, or reason, that you should pay a visit to the university’s financial aid office.

Pay a visit during the down season

Trust me; the line dwindles down once everyone gets their finances straight. Around late September, early October is when I would make my second round. Here’s what I did with every visit:

1.   Look at the Scholarship Bulletin Board

At my university, they had a scholarship bulletin board right outside of the office. Many of the scholarships were for specifically for students at my university, though they posted outside scholarships too. This is a tremendous resource that many students didn’t even know existed.

Most financial aid offices have this: a pool of resources for students, in case the school doesn’t have any extra money… (which leads to my next point).

2.   Talk to someone.

After grabbing all my little scholarship slips off of the bulletin board, I signed in to speak with someone. You can’t be shy for this step. Every school has extra money. Literally. It’s just about knowing how to ask for it.

3.   Here’s what to say…

Before you arrive, you need to list out all of your assets that make you valuable to the university. Remember, they need you just as much as you need them. Many schools do not want to lose students. If you have a high GPA, you’re a first generation college student, you are heavily involved on campus, you had a strong SAT/ACT score, you’re an honor student, you are studying something rare, etc. – lead with this.

Then, express why you chose this school and what receiving your education there means. They love that. A little stroke of the ego is always a good lead before you ask for something.

Lastly, I flat-out asked. “Do you all have any extra money?”  Sometimes, the answer is no.

4.   Push it to the ultimate limit.

Threaten to leave. I would tell them “Unfortunately, I cannot afford to attend this university if I don’t have any further financial assistance. Please help me, so that I can stay and continue my education and give back to the university when I graduate.” This works. Like I said, they need you just as much. They will do what it takes to keep you there. If you have a $3,000 balance… they will be more inclined to help you – whether through setting up a payment plan, or awarding you a random scholarship that is open.

Moral of the story: the squeaky wheel gets the oil. You have to be bold, ask, and your credentials must back up your plea. This works. I received $9,000 by asking. I ended up going as far as the president of the university with my request. You can’t stop at no.

“No” just means to find another way.

Be Easy,

Erin