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