High school seniors across the country are receiving their scholarship offers right about now. In our last post we talked about making sense out of those offers by placing a per-year dollar amount on awards from each school. Once that process is complete, you and your senior might find that their preferred school has not made the best offer. In this post we will look at ways to maximize those offers through negotiation with each school.
You have probably found through your calculations that your child’s scholarship offers fall short of the full cost of attending college. Outside of athletic scholarships, a “full ride” where everything is paid is rare. If this is your situation, negotiating can close the out-of-pocket gap for your child’s college education. Or, if your child does have a full ride, then negotiating can actually put money in your child’s pocket. The way financial aid works, any funds remaining after all costs have been paid to the university is refunded to the student. So, whatever your child’s initial scholarship situation, it pays to negotiate.
I believe that there are four steps you can take in order to get the best deal possible from a school. I recommend taking these steps with each school under consideration because you might be surprised at each school’s willingness to bring your child in as a student. The four steps in the process are:
First, recognize that the first offer is just that – an offer. Schools, particularly public institutions, will tell you that they have little leeway but there is always room to negotiate. Ask for additional scholarship money. You might also ask for additional aid in the form of work study, grant money for particular programs, research assistantships, or other non-scholarship programs.
Second, play each school against one another. 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 do is 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. Your child might be considering an out-of-state school; perhaps the school will give your child the in-state tuition rate, which is generally half the cost. 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.
Once you’ve made your best deal, go back to the previous post on analyzing your scholarship offers and update your numbers. We will use the results from this process in the next post where we make the college decision.
Besides purchasing a home, college is generally the largest financial commitment that an individual will make during their lifetime. If your child is in the position where they have multiple scholarship offers to consider, this can remove that huge burden. Using these negotiation tactics wisely, you may be able to improve your offers significantly. The last thing you want to do is leave money on the table. Next time we’ll look at making the big decision and committing to the college of your choice.
What other tactics can you suggest? Where have you seen this work? Please share your thoughts and feedback on this topic.