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How do you bargain for better scholarships?

As a high school senior, I’ve obviously approaching the time when I need to apply for college scholarships. What are some beneficial tips for bargaining for more rewarding scholarships from different institutions? #college #scholarships

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Lisa’s Answer

Hi John -- the best way to bargain with a financial aid official at your chosen school is to have a package from a competing school that is better. If you have one or two schools that you are targeting, you'll need to apply to at least one other school that is comparable -- similar in size, geolocation (generally), student qualifications, etc.

We didn't know this when our first-born applied to colleges, and had nothing to bargain with when his merit aid came back a smaller award than what we had heard other students of his caliber were receiving. With our 2nd, we made sure she applied to a school similar to her first-choice, just in case. She received a much better merit scholarship at her 2nd choice, which we then used to get a better scholarship from her first choice -- they couldn't match it, but they did increase her award.

So how did we get a better scholarship? We contacted the admissions (not financial aid) and let them know that we had a very generous scholarship package from the other college, and while she really wanted to attend their school as it was her top choice, we couldn't dismiss the financial benefit of lower tuition costs at their rival. Was there anything they could do to increase her merit aid?

It never hurts to ask, even if you don't have a competing offer, though. Merit packages are used to entice top-level students, but not all who are offered scholarships will attend. So there might be a few extra dollars that weren't taken that can be awarded to you.

Hope you find this helpful, Regards, Lisa

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Nicole’s Answer

Hi John H. I see that you posted this question a little while ago so I hope my answer to you (or others who may read this response) is still helpful.

Thanks so much for your question. While it has been a while since I graduated, what I remember very clearly about my university experience are the tasks around obtaining scholarships. To put my response into context, I share that my college years were very expensive but...I knew it would be worth it once I graduated.

In my case, and in addition to the guidance already provided, I worked with my school's admissions and financial aid office, I received federal grants, I had an on-campus work study job (20hrs per wk), my family applied for loans AND I applied for scholarships.

Since the question is specifically about bargaining for better scholarships, I offer this perspective. We did bargain with my desired university on the overall finance package..and we did it every year that I attended my university. In my case, there was no "bargaining" on scholarships. I filled out many applications for many scholarships. In most cases, it was pretty clear to me what the criteria was to applying (grades, desired programs of study at university, etc), submitting my application with all the necessary pieces including letters of recommendation and what the scholarship award would be if I was granted the scholarship. For a few of the scholarships I applied for, I had to do a face-to-face interview.

I share this to help keep in mind that often times, a scholarship and what comes with it is pretty much set. That said, there are many ways to work with your prospective college/university.. the admissions and/or financial aid teams on how best to fund your education.

Best of luck to you!