With the relentless increase in college tuition, fees, room, board, books, and so forth, the decision on where to attend is increasingly becoming an economic discussion. As for my son, he had competing scholarship offers from five in-state schools. All were willing to pay full tuition and some amount of fees, but what tipped the scale was one school’s offer of a full housing scholarship for the first year. All other things being equal, this closed the out-of-pocket gap significantly (roughly $5,000) and sealed the deal. Increasingly, more schools recognize this and are willing to offer such perks to woo freshmen to their school. They realize the importance of getting a student enrolled for the first semester. So, once you begin to receive scholarship offers, how do you seek out the best deal?
First, recognize that the first offer is just that – an offer. Schools will tell you that they have little leeway (public schools moreso) but there is always room to negotiate. Ask for additional scholarship money.
Second, play them off of each other. If there is a school that you really want to go to but you have a better offer from a similar school, use that information to negotiate with your ideal school. The worst they can say is no.
Third, ask for discounts. Private schools may be more willing to offer these than public schools, but it can’t hurt to ask. This may come in the form of a fee waiver, tuition or room discount, or other enticement. If you get this, be sure to lock it in for the full term of your undergraduate studies.
Fourth, for each of these strategies, be prepared to make your case as to why you are deserving of these considerations. It may take a couple of conversations with your school’s scholarship office, and it becomes easier for them to gain approval if you tell a compelling tale.
Finally, be prepared to walk away and take another deal at a competing school. Try to minimize the impact of emotion on this decision. Remember that each college is still just another business trying to sell education. As long as you are comparing accredited schools, it is unlikely that the quality of education that you get at one school is that much different than what you might get at another, at least at the undergraduate level.
Remember, make the best deal you can!