Q: My two sons applied to the same college Early Action, and they have both been accepted. Since they were EA applicants, they are not obligated to enroll at that college, and they have also applied to other schools. They don't know yet where they want to go, and will probably take a while to decide, before the May 1st deadline.
But I am concerned about the amount of merit aid they have been awarded. For some reason, one of my sons received an award of $40,000 merit aid, while the other one, who had a slightly higher GPA and slightly higher SATs, received $0. Unfortunately, it's this second son who is more interested in the school. At what point do I approach the school, and ask them if they will review their merit aid? Do I wait until he's sure he wants to go there? If it's in April, will that be too late?
A: I don't have enough information to know why one of your sons was made a generous offer, while the other has been offered nothing. It sounds like you have no idea, either. Does one son have stronger courses than the other? Or a special talent – such as in athletics or music -- that has been rewarded? You deserve to know the answer.
I would not wait until April to ask this important question. Between April 1 and that May 1 deadline, colleges are exceptionally busy as they host receptions and other activities that will ensure the enrollment of a full first-year class. I suggest that you call now and speak with the office of scholarships and aid. Ask why your second son was not given an award. If they can't give you a clear reason, then yes, do ask them to review his application again. At this point, you should say nothing about which son is more strongly interested in the school. But you can say, in all honesty, that the lack of an award could have a negative impact on your second son's enrollment decision.
At the same time, make sure that you have completed your FAFSA (and also the CSS Profile, if your sons' prospective colleges require them). If you need help or guidance filling out the form, The Center for NYC Affairs -- home to Insideschools - just published an updated version of: FAFSA: The How-To Guide for High School Students (And the Adults Who Help Them).
Submitting these forms will insure that you will be given full financial consideration by the colleges that accept your sons. It is possible that once other acceptances and award offers come in, you may be able to negotiate with the first college. But please note that some schools are open to that, while others are not. Just be diplomatic, and keep open those lines of communication between you and financial aid offices. A lot can happen between now and April.