This Free Digital Tool Helps Students Ask for Financial Aid Fixes
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- SwiftStudent is a free online resource that helps students request changes to their financial aid packages.
- Many students aren't aware that they can request financial aid changes, said Abigail Seldin, one of the tool's architects.
- SwiftStudent includes a wide range of guides and templates to help students successfully apply for financial aid changes.
- Students can use the tool for free online at https://formswift.com/swift-student
Many college students' financial situations saw drastic changes during the pandemic — but when it comes to requesting changes to their financial aid packages, few students know they can do so.
Students are able to request changes to their financial aid packages from their university, but they often face an uphill battle when it comes to asking for those changes, said Abigail Seldin, co-founder and chief executive officer of the Seldin/Haring-Smith Foundation.
"Very few students, especially first-generation students, know that they can ask for additional financial aid," Seldin told BestColleges.
Seldin, a higher education expert who mentors college students, said she rarely gets asked for help with schoolwork. The most common requests for help usually center around writing letters to administrators, dealing with financial aid, and working through the many unwritten challenges of higher education.
"Students have always had this need for clear information and clear guidance about how to ask for additional financial assistance," Seldin said. "The pandemic just shined a light on a problem that was already there."
Seldin's foundation was already working on a solution to that financial aid challenge before the pandemic began: SwiftStudent, launched as part of a partnership with the cloud-based document company FormSwift. The free online tool includes form letters and resources for students who need to change their financial aid packages.
The Seldin/Haring-Smith Foundation's work meant that the tool launched early on in the pandemic. Since it went live in April 2020, Seldin said the tool has been well received by students.
"My appeal ended up gaining me $1500 from my university, and an added $1500 to cover educational costs," one student at St. Thomas University told the foundation. "SwiftStudent empowered me to help myself during COVID-19, I am so grateful!"
"I like how easy and simple SwiftStudent is," a student at Dominican University said. "I was able to express my feelings in ways that I did not know how to word myself."
The foundation had collaborators on the project, but one of the most notable is the National Association of Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA). That key financial aid organization was able to provide input on the letters to make them both friendly to students and acceptable to financial aid officers, Seldin said.
A broad range of other prominent groups are partners on SwiftStudent, including the National College Attainment Network, New America, and other student advocacy and higher education policy groups.
The Seldin/Haring-Smith Foundation worked closely with both financial aid officers and students in developing the tool, Seldin said. Developing the tool included focus groups with both students and experts — and SwiftStudent is now included on "dozens" of college financial aid websites, she said.
The form is a boon to both students and financial aid officers, Seldin said.
"There are a variety of circumstances that dictate whether a student can get additional financial aid, but often from a financial aid officer's perspective, it can be a back-and-forth with multiple calls or emails to even get the information they need to be able to evaluate the request," Seldin said.
How to Use SwiftStudent
SwiftStudent helps college students write financial aid appeal letters online for free, according to the tool's website.
College students who are receiving federal financial aid to attend school can submit requests for financial aid adjustments, according to the website, although each school has its own requirements and processes.
The website includes both templates and guides for students wanting to start a financial aid appeal. Students can find out how to ask their financial aid office to exclude parental information when calculating financial aid, for example, or how to ask for financial aid to cover supplies needed for school like a computer.
SwiftStudent doesn't guarantee that students will get additional financial aid, as "approval depends on the professional judgment of the financial aid officer," according to the website. Financial aid offices' processing times also vary, the website notes.
To start an appeal letter using SwiftStudent, click here.