Strategies for a better deal

“Real-World Negotiating Strategies To Help You Negotiate A Better College Deal For you Child”

Dear Parent,

Here’s hoping that the adjustment into the school year and the Fall season have been smooth and happy for both your high school student and your family.  It is truly a significant transition virtually each and every year during high school, and there is no question that this transition grows exponentially bigger and more challenging when students make the jump from their high school years to their college or university years!

 We often find that when it comes to college application and college funding issues, many parents and families feel extremely uncomfortable and out of their depth in dealing with the colleges and universities to which their high school student applies.  This is natural, certainly, but it does not have to be that way.  In fact, it is because of this tendency that it is even more important for parents to gain a measure of confidence and comfort in dealing with institutions of higher learning.

The more parents know about the processes related to college admissions
and financial aid issues, the better prepared they will be to manage the
experience to the benefit of their student and their financial bottom
line.  That is, frankly speaking, one of
the reasons that we do what we do. As professional college funding advisors, we
are uniquely qualified to help parents learn what they need to make wise
decisions and maximize the educational options for their high school student,
and to make positive financial decisions as well.

A good college funding advisor can help parents with their communication
and interactions with the colleges and universities, and we also know the
important clues and strategies for negotiating with institutions to maximize
the options and the benefits for your child. 

With that in mind, we are pleased to provide a quick overview of some of the most helpful elements to negotiating and communicating with decision makers at the schools to which your child will eventually apply.  For more information, of course, or for any clarifications on the topics we introduce below, please do not hesitate to give us a quick call or schedule an appointment.  We are always pleased to be of assistance in this important time in the lives of rising college students and their families.

As
you are no doubt aware, a tough economy not only affects families, but it can
affect colleges and their endowments, as well. While tuition costs seem to
skyrocket, one of the reasons for the swollen prices may include a shrinking
endowment leaving less money available for incoming college freshman classes.

With
that said, it does not mean that your family is doomed to automatically pay the
“sticker price” for tuition when looking at different colleges and universities.
The quoted prices – especially for private or out-of-state schools – can be a
shock… but what many parents don’t know is that there are several things that
can be done to minimize that shock and engage in negotiations and strategic
communications that will almost invariably result in a lower overall price of
attendance for your student.

Pitting Schools Against Each Other

Many parents may not
think about playing schools against one another, but it can be very effective. It
can be difficult to take that mindset when there are schools that your student
especially wants to attend.  However, an
offer from a second or third choice school (or even lower!) can be taken
directly to a first choice school in order to garner more aid.

This tactic is also especially
useful for merit-based scholarships. If your child is applying to colleges and
universities that are well-funded and your child has strong academic
achievements then there is no reason not to try to earn more for their
hard-earned accomplishments! There are some parents who have managed to obtain
over $200,000 in merit-based aid for their children. It can definitely be done,
and your college funding advisor can provide more details on how to make this a
reality for your child.

It is good to remember
that while the sticker price for private colleges can cause some initial
dismay, they will often have a lot more free money to hand out since they are
receiving money from alumni, endowments, and private sources unrelated to
government coffers. Remember that some colleges and universities have been
known to cut the tuition by as much as 45% under the right situation.

Reveal Changed Circumstances

Your child does not
necessarily need to be a budding Rhodes Scholar in order to receive additional
aid from a college. There are other ways to receive additional aid – and it can
happen when situations change within a family for a variety of reasons. Life
happens, and many college administrators understand this. When circumstances
have changed within a family situation such as a job loss, divorce, or illness,
make sure to document this and send it to the college for additional
consideration. More often than not, administrators will increase aid offers in
light of changed circumstances.

College administrators
often have a lot of flexibility when it comes to how they distribute loans and
grants. If your child is a star pianist or was the school newspaper editor, you
can use those experiences as leverage to try and obtain additional grants or
aid.

Simply Ask

When your child
receives his/her award letter it is an exciting time, but if you find that the
offer is not exactly what you were hoping for, it is time to organize your
information and write a polite letter back to the Financial Aid office asking
them to reconsider the aid package and see if they will increase the aid.

You should first
understand how each school works. Not every school will have an official form
letter to request, but some schools have an appeals process already in place.
Go through the proper channels and state your position and why you would like
additional aid. It will not bode well for you if there is any embellishment.
It’s best to simply state your family situation and why additional aid would be
necessary.

Again, your college
funding advisor is well-versed in how to manage these requests and can help you
to know the right tack to take with each different school.

Be Clear

It might seem like
common sense, but it vital to remember that college administrators are not
omniscient.  They may be unaware of
circumstances for each student, so it is important to simply lay out the facts
to financial aid workers. Going on and on about how excited you are that your
child was accepted to the school, and so forth, is something they hear often
and does not necessarily help your case. Simply state what your current
circumstances are and why you feel you are in need of, and/or deserving of, an
aid package reconsideration.

Request Information About Work-Study, Grants and Scholarships

In addition to asking
for a reduced tuition amount, you could also request information about
scholarships, grants and work-study opportunities. When requesting
consideration for scholarships, this might be the appropriate opportunity to
toot your child’s horn. Include the reasons why your child would be an asset to
the school, why he or she will make an excellent alum for the school, and why he
or she deserves consideration for specific scholarships. Schools will certainly
go the extra mile to attract the right candidates to their institution. Presenting
your child as one of those candidates will often help you get you what you’re
asking for.

Try To Play It Cool!

Just like any
negotiation, there is a bit of a dance involved in the process of dealing with
schools. It is important to be strategic in communication with the schools. For
example, if your child receives an offer from a second choice school, parents
should usually not immediately run to the first choice school to talk up the
offer – this can seem anxious and could work against your student in the long
run.

Parents might choose to
wait a little while before contacting the first choice school for a better aid
offer. If they have an idea that they are the first choice school they will sometimes
be less likely to increase an aid package. Talk with your college funding
advisor about how to play it cool and see what happens!

Overall, it is important for your student to end up at one of the best options available for his or her future academic experience.  The process is a challenging one, in some regards, especially for families that enter the negotiation process without key information to make them successful (or even worse, refuse to even begin any negotiations, and just accept whatever is offered).  

Regardless, parents will invariably find that professional advice from a college funding advisor can be of enormous help when it comes to negotiating a college future successfully and in a timely manner.  As professionals in this area, we are delighted to be able to offer our expertise, since it is truly worthwhile for the families we serve. The fact that our clients see more success in their negotiations, as well as finding the process significantly smoother to manage, makes us even happier.

One of the most exciting ways that we offer this information is through our College Funding Workshops.  These presentations are live workshops for the parents of college-bound high school students, and are offered by insightful college funding professionals.  They provide the most current and up-to-date details with regard to the higher education challenges facing tomorrow’s college students. We would be happy to see you at an upcoming workshop in your neighborhood.

If you have questions or want some additional information or details about these workshops, or if would like to reserve a seat for an upcoming date, just call our office.  We do require reservations in advance, due to space and practical limitations, but there is never any admission fee for our workshops.  Our workshop crew will be pleased to assist you further if you call our toll-free number at 614-934-1515.

We also have published a written report introducing an overview of this very important information.  Our work covers the essential financial education needs of high school parents with children who want to attend college, and it reviews the college funding experience in one current and easy-to-follow FREE report.   We have given this valuable report the title “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College,” and it is a terrific reference for parents when it comes to understanding the foundations of paying for a college or university degree in the near future.  For a free copy of the “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College” report, send an email to info@midwestcollegeplanning.com  We will send out a free copy to you without delay.

Until next month,

~Marc


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