How to Negotiate Merit Scholarship Aid
While all colleges have a “sticker price” the actual cost of attendance will vary for each student. Many students receive need-based financial aid in the form of grants, and some deserving students will also receive merit scholarships to in recognition for their academic, extracurricular, athletic, artistic successes (as well as other talents). But did you know certain schools will let you negotiate merit scholarship aid?
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 that are most likely to let you negotiate merit scholarship appeals meet the following criteria:
- They offer lots of merit scholarships
- They are lesser or moderately selective with acceptance rates at/above 40%
You may be successful appealing for merit aid at more selective colleges or colleges that only offer a few scholarships (though it will just be more difficult).
What are the best ways to negotiate merit scholarship aid?
The best way to appeal for more merit scholarship aid and scholarships is by writing an email to the admissions office. In this email, you should 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.
Here are some other recommendations for your email:
- 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.
How can I get more need-based financial aid? Can I appeal for more?
Need-based financial aid is a completely different type of financial aid than merit aid. Unlike merit aid, need-based scholarships are awarded according to a formula that is dictated by your family’s financial situation. This means that there is very little (if any) wiggle room for how colleges award need-based financial aid. With this said, there are two ways that you may be able to receive a reevaluated need-based financial aid package:
- There was a mistake on your FAFSA or other financial aid form
- Your family’s financial aid situation has changed since you submitted your financial aid forms due to dramatically increased medical expenses, a parent loses their job etc.
In these situations it is absolutely worth contacting the college’s financial aid offie to ask about what can be done.
Can you ask for more money from private scholarships?
Private scholarships are almost always awarding a very fixed amount of money so it is unlikely that they are going to be considering appeals. This is unlikely to be a winning strategy for students. Of course, with billions of dollars in scholarship money available each year, nothing should stop you from finding and winning more scholarships!
What can you do if you have been turned down? Are there other ways to get more funding?
Once you have exhausted the appeals process and have determined that your financial aid forms accurately represented your family’s financial situation your next best move is to apply for more scholarships and/or consider more affordable options on your list. There are still many scholarships available for current high school seniors. Additionally, you should continue to apply for scholarships once you are in college.
If a college accepts you, it means that they want you to attend their institution. This means that they may be open to considering you for other merit scholarship opportunities. For some students, taking an hour to negotiate merit scholarship aid can result in thousands of additional dollars in scholarship per year! If you have any other questions about asking for more money in scholarships leave them in the comments below!