March is best known for wind, St. Patrick’s Day, college hoops, and also college admissions decisions! For high school seniors and parents, this can be a nerve-racking time as you will be finding out where you were accepted.
As you weigh your admissions decisions, the issue of cost will probably come up. After all, while colleges have a “sticker price” the actual cost of attendance will vary for each student. Many deserving students will receive merit scholarships to in recognition for their academic, extracurricular, athletic, artistic successes (as well as other talents).
Did you know that schools will sometimes award you an even larger scholarship if you ask for it?
When I worked in college admissions, I was a part of our college’s “scholarship appeal committee” where I helped evaluate various appeals for more financial aid and merit scholarships. There are certainly a few tactics that students can use to help make their case.
Before I get to that, I need to say that this is really only viable at certain schools. Schools that award zero merit scholarships are not worth making this request. Similarly, if a school awards very little in the form of merit scholarships (perhaps they only offer a few full-tuition scholarship) then this is similarly unlikely to work. Generally, schools that 1) offer lots of merit scholarships and 2) are moderately selective with acceptance rates at/above 40% are most likely to consider merit scholarship appeals.
So with those caveats out of the way, here are my suggestions:
- Write a thoughtful e-mail and address it to the admissions officer responsible for your high school (I always suggest that you CC the general admissions office e-mail account in your e-mail). You can explain that while you appreciate the scholarship offer, you were wondering whether there were any other opportunities for dollars. Be courteous and know that the admissions officer wants to help you as much as possible. This isn’t a used car negotiation where you have to haggle every dollar–the admissions officers are on your team.
- Have you accomplished anything significant academically/extracurricularly since you applied? This would be a good time to mention that. Same goes for any new grades/test scores.
- Do you have more generous merit scholarship offers from other schools? Include the offer letters along with your note. While this may seem a bit crass, it helps give the admissions office context of where you are coming from.
Remember, if a college accepts you to their school it means that they want you to attend! Sometimes, an a bump in merit scholarship can make the difference and colleges may be flexible. A simple letter can go a long way in this process and hey, you may get a few extra thousand dollars!