The 3 Steps To Negotiating Your Financial Aid Packages

By Lyle Li - Vanderbilt University - NextGenVest College Fellow - Brooklyn, NY

Financial Aid packages aren’t set in stone. Learn how to negotiate yours and save a pretty penny.Did you know that you could negotiate your student aid packages? Read below for 3 key tips from a student who saved $15,000.

Step 1: Send a Letter of Appeal

You can negotiate your student aid packages.How is this possible? Once a college admissions office decides to accept you, the Financial Aid office will prepare a package for you. This package is negotiable. Why? Because they want you to enroll! You can get the process started by doing the following:Draft a Letter of Appeal to the Office of Financial Aid introducing yourself as a recently admitted student and detail the concerns you are having with their initial financial aid package. Be polite but also be as honest as possible with your reasons behind appealing for more financial assistance with your letter.After getting accepted and receiving a financial aid package from College A, I sent my own Letter of Appeal.  I stated that I have been the product of Jesuit education and have grown not only as a student but also, more importantly, as a person. I insisted that I would very much love to continue my Jesuit education during the next four years of my college career. In this case, an extra couple of thousand dollars could convince me to send in a deposit.

Step 2: College B Comes into Play

Know all of your options.What if College A improves your financial aid package, but another college that you have been accepted into also sends you their financial aid package? The offer from College B matches that of College A. However, College B is closer to home, meaning the possibility of not having to dorm (saving more money for other expenses). Take some time to review the two options and reach out to see if there is anything College A can do to win you back.In my case, I immediately contacted College A regarding my recent developments with College B. I did not hide the fact that College B is geographically as well as academically advantageous towards my intended areas of study, Political Science & Economics. My parents, particularly my mother was very pleased to know that I might be close to home instead of traveling to another state for college. Yet, I did not dismiss College A, but restated why I was attracted to it in the first place, the Jesuit education. I asked for another review of my financial aid package.

Step 3: Leverage

For your own sake get the best financial aid package possible.Towards the end of the college admissions process, if you are a student with multiple options, begin to think of yourself as both an applicant and a commodity. Colleges are institutions devoted to fostering the brightest minds, the leaders of tomorrow. To accomplish this, universities try to recruit the highest achieving students into their incoming freshmen class. They are very much aware that other institutions also want certain applicants because of their exceptional grades, test scores, and talents. Think of it as a Fantasy Football Draft for the best players. If your heart is set on a certain school, update it on your options; create the need on its end to successfully bring you onto its campus.Realistically with my parents’ income and my sister’s future on the horizon, my four years of college would have placed a great financial burden on my family. I devoted a good deal of time to leveraging each financial aid package against each other until I was presented with the best possible scenario. Keep in mind that your education is perhaps one of the most worthwhile investments you can make. It is an active choice you must participate in. Take it from the kid who did and just recently transferred after his freshmen year to Vanderbilt, saving $15,000 with a much more competitive financial aid package. 

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