How To Negotiate Scholarships

For many of you, you are already starting to receive college acceptance letters and scholarship offers. Some schools will offer you more money than others, that is a given. But what many people don’t know is that there is the possibility and opportunity that you can actually negotiate scholarships with colleges. 

People negotiating.

Can You Really Negotiate Scholarships?

The simple answer to this is yes! While it may not be talked about very often, it is definitely something that can be done. Colleges will make initial offers to a number of students during their first round of admissions. Then, as students accept these offers or decline them to go to a different school, the financial numbers change and fluctuate depending on the admissions numbers. Therefore, the numbers that colleges initially thought they could provide may have a little more flexibility that can be figured out with one simple email.

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How To Negotiate Scholarships with Colleges

The main tip for negotiating scholarships with colleges is to put everything in writing. Sure, a phone call may feel more personal, but having your scholarship request in writing will give you a record of your communication. Whether you choose to write your letter on paper or via email is your personal preference, but the immediacy of email may be more advantageous if you are hoping for a quicker response. 

How To Write a Scholarship Negotiation Letter

When it comes to writing your scholarship negotiation letter, there are a few things to keep in mind. 

1. Formally Introduce Yourself

Be formal when you introduce yourself. Keep your introduction short and sweet, and just give your letter the important information needed for the situation. The financial office will not have time to read a letter that is too lengthy or too complicated. Tell them who you are, what your request is, and why you are making the request.

2. Explain and Justify Your Request

There are typically three main situations that colleges are likely to adjust finances and scholarships for and award more money. For all of these categories, you may be asked to provide documentation as proof of your requests. 

  • Your request could be based on financial needs. Sometimes things change from when you first fill out your FAFSA form. For example, a recent diagnosis in the family could cause medical expenses to increase and therefore increase the need for more scholarship money for college. Other unexpected situations may include the loss of jobs or unexpected deaths of financial contributors in the family. 
  • Your request could be merit based. For example, if your ACT scores have changed since you received a scholarship offer, then you may be eligible for more money if you earned a higher score.
  • Another school has made a more appealing offer. remember to take into consideration the overall cost of each college as well, out of pocket cost. For example, $1,000 a year for a school that costs $10,000 a year is a $9,000 out-of-pocket price tag for that college for the year. Another offer might seem appealing because they are offering you $2,000 a year, but if the total cost per year is $15,000, then your out-of-pocket payment each year will be $13,000.  So, while the $2,000 a year on paper looks like the higher offer, the out-of-pocket cost is still higher. 

3. Be Realistic About the Finances

Don’t go too crazy with your request. There are some things schools will be willing to make adjustments for, but there are also situations they will not make changes for. For example, a slight change in a normal life expense like rent going up or a parent’s salary going down may not be something that would get you more financial aid. But usually, unexpected life changing events are taken into consideration.

4. Submit the Letter Before You Accept

When it comes to submitting your request, there is usually a window that may make your request more valuable. By submitting your letter before making an initial deposit, you can show colleges that the financial component plays a big role in your decision. Once you make a deposit, it shows that you have made a decision that you likely will not change even if they do not change the offer amount. At the same time, don’t wait too long to make your request. You still want to show colleges that you are interested and not make it look like you are waiting to make a last second decision.

Many people may feel like scholarships are not negotiable, but that is not true. Finances are always an important factor when it comes to making a college decision, and most colleges are willing to entertain a conversation about it. Now that you know how to negotiate scholarships, take the time to write and send a letter. It may be worth more than you realize. 

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