Fall has just started, and the new season is already painting our trails in beautiful autumn colors. As we travel the country making our visits, we’re witnessing the passing of summer and the weather getting colder. Unfortunately, not everything we find is as magical as autumn leaves and pumpkin spice lattes! During our travels, we’ve encountered many uncomfortable situations when our evaluators inquired about tuition and/or financial aid.

We always encourage admissions representatives to leave the educational financing discussion to the school’s financial aid department or financial aid specialist to discuss options and provide application instructions. However, we have noticed that this is not always what happens:

 Later on in the interview, Ryan (admissions representative) told me that I should focus on getting my parents’ financial information and that I should focus on the parent with the worst credit.

Being helpful is something that comes naturally to many representatives. Good people want to help others! However, admissions and financial aid representatives should avoid at all costs coaching students on what information they should put on their aid applications.

 I told Bruce I needed to find out how much tuition was and he said that their financial officer would discuss tuition with me as well as tell me what I qualify for. He later said that in order to give me an accurate tuition estimate, they need to be able to look at my financial situation and see what I qualify for. I was not allowed to meet with Financial Aid unless I gave them my Social Security number, so tuition information was not provided to me.

Ideally, a first conversation about financing options should happen during the first interview with the student. Admissions representatives should not require a prospective student to apply, enroll or provide their Social Security number in order to meet with a financial aid specialist for general financial aid information. Relying on financial aid specialists to provide tuition information isn’t a bad practice, assuming every student is actually allowed to talk to the specialist.

 I asked Tyler how I could qualify for financial aid. He informed me that it was based on income and that because of my age, they needed my parents’ financial information. I told him I hadn’t talked to my parents in two years and he replied that I needed to get them involved because I was under 24. I then asked if it was possible for me to meet with someone from the financial aid department, but he said I would not be able to meet with them until after I enrolled.

Scenarios like this happen surprisingly often, unfortunately. Completing an application with a new student is exciting – we understand and we love to see genuine enthusiasm! Nonetheless, representatives must be prepared to face resistance at times, and have a strategy on how to proceed without putting too much pressure on the prospective student.

What about you? Do you have an uncommon financial aid tale to tell us about?

Written by: Andrea Gunning