How I Negotiated Higher Financial Aid Offers and You Can Too
You’re probably going to think I’m crazy.
I applied to 50 schools.
Let me explain.
The college application process is daunting. But the way I see, the college application process is a game of numbers: The more applications you submit, the more acceptances you’ll have—and the more likely you are to get better financial aid offers.
And because of that, I racked up more than $3 million in scholarships and grants.
Using those better offers to negotiate with my target schools and secure a better financial aid package.
So why not give myself the best chance to receive a great education at a lower price?
Here’s how I did it:
For months, I constantly researched schools using Niche and identified which schools were my reaches, targets and safeties.
Reach schools are those that you aren’t likely to get into, but there’s still a chance.
Target schools are those for which you’re qualified and you’re likely to get accepted.
Safety schools are those were you over qualify and can be used as a back-up plan (if you don’t get into your top picks).
I also determined which fit my academic, social and geographic needs.
By identifying my three types of schools, I understood that I was most likely going to end up at one of my target schools and that I needed to leverage safety school offers to help me accumulate larger financial aid and scholarship offers with the target schools.
In March, after my acceptances came in, I poured over my offer letters. Make sure you understand what each school is offering. Here’s Niche’s guide to reading financial aid letters.
Armed and ready with the more lucrative offers, I contacted my top universities and negotiated for better financial aid by leveraging the safety school offers. Doing this significantly decreased the price to attend my schools of choice, and I highly recommend doing this.
It never hurts to ask, and every single school that I appealed to (about 10) ended up offering me better packages. On top of that, I did not spend a single penny on applications.
At the start of the process, I emailed the financial aid offices of all 50 schools I applied to and asked for a fee waiver.
And guess what? Every single school agreed to waive the application fee.
Despite my success, I won’t sugarcoat the amount of effort it took.
This process was extremely exhausting, but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. I currently attend one of my top choices, and I will leave debt free.
But, full transparency: I did have a 4.06 out of 4.3 weighted GPA and a 1300 SAT. I was also being recruited by 15 schools across soccer and football, which also played into my decision to apply to so many schools. I was involved with around 10 extracurriculars at my high school in addition to athletics. Notably, I was the head attorney for my mock trial team all four years, and I co-founded the INK Literary Magazine and Senior Siblings clubs at my school. My stats are solid, but not jaw-dropping.
Even though I didn’t feel as though I had the best standardized test scores or high school resume compared to some of my peers, I knew that I could use my knowledge of the college process to be successful.
So regardless of what you look like on paper, with attention to detail and determination, you too can earn a financial aid package to help you attend more college affordably.
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