The excitement of getting accepted by a college or university can pop like a balloon once you start getting your arms around just how much money your child’s education will cost you. This is the time of year that prospective students start getting their aid package for the upcoming school year and if you aren’t happy with what you see, you may want to appeal the school’s decision and ask for more.

Be advised: The process is delicate. College administrators don’t like to think of what they are doing as negotiating your package, so tread lightly. Kal Chaney, the author of “Paying for College Without Going Broke,” suggests starting by asking the college for information about their appeals process. Some may have a form, others may ask you to provide a letter. Review your aid forms and make sure that any errors are pointed out to the school. If your financial situation has changed, if there has been a job loss in the family or any unusual expenses, inform school administrators. To get their attention, make sure you document any income changes, even if for example, mom and dad are now also supporting an elderly relative. 

Another issue to consider: If you have received better offers from other schools that are ranked similarly, it’s worth your time to let school administrators know. Many may match or even beat the offer, depending on just how much they want your little John or Wendy at their institution.

Chaney says parents should be sure NOT to accept the offer of admission until the package is appealed and to never use the word “bargain” or “negotiate” with the aid office. (Even though that is exactly what you are doing).

Keep in mind, it’s not just low income families who get financial aid. For the first time, the average household income of financial aid applicants will top $100,000, according to Noel-Levitz, a college consulting firm. Bottom line, it doesn’t hurt to ask for additional help. Just be careful how you do it.