January 5, 2018

Don’t pay retail for college! Pay wholesale!

Don't pay retail for collegeThe cost of college is on the rise, and admission is getting harder due to more competition than ever. With the increasing cost of college, students are now asking the question “Is a college degree really worth tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt?”

I was coaching a young man on colleges that he should consider for his chosen interest. Both of the schools that I was excited to share with him were outside of the state that he lives in. He abruptly stopped me and explained, “I can’t afford to go to a college that is out of state!” “My parents can only afford for me to go to a state school in the state where I live.”

While this was a specific discussion that I recently had, every family that I meet with shares this same misconception: going to an out-of state college will cost more than we can afford. Have you gone to a college website, and found the cost for one year of college? First of all, good luck finding the information! It will take much of your day just trying to find the cost. Once you add up all the fees, you will quickly realize that an undergraduate degree will cost nearly $100,000 at your local state college. And on top of that, universities will publish that their out-of-state fees are nearly double that of the in-state-fees. I’m not surprise that families think that out-of-state schools are not an option.

So, you must be wondering why I said that you shouldn’t pay retail. “How can I pay wholesale for college?”

Colleges negotiate! Even out-of-state colleges negotiate. I’m sure that you didn’t know that! The financial aid officers would prefer that I not tell you this secret, but yes, colleges compete to get the right students into their institutions. Now, if you want to go to State U, and you ask the financial aid office for a discount, they will most likely laugh, and tell you that all students pay the same old sticker price. Not true!

Here are 7 steps to increase your chances of getting a discount:

  1. Apply to colleges that compete for the same type of students – You are more likely to get a positive response from the financial aid office if you can show them a better award letter from a school that they consider to be a competitor.
  2. Meet with the financial aid office FACE TO FACE – We find that appeal letters only work about 30% of the time. A face to face meeting in the financial aid office is the most effective way to appeal an award letter. Parents, let your student make the request.
  3. Be Appreciative for the Award Letter – If you have an award letter from a college, and then come demanding more money, you probably won’t get a good reception. Conversely, if you show them gratitude for their ”great” offer (even though it wasn’t that great), and then show them a better offer from a competing school, they will be more willing to help you.
  4. Be ready to commit to the school immediately – If you want an additional award, then you must be willing to commit immediately to attend their college. It’s considered to be in bad taste to go back and forth between schools to get the best offer. So, decide which school is the one you want to attend, and then negotiate only with them.
  5. Ask if they have additional scholarships in your field of study – Most colleges offer interdepartmental scholarships after you have completed your first year, but they can offer those scholarships to first year students as well.
  6. Request affiliate partner scholarships – Many Christian universities have affiliate partners like Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Young Life, and your local church. If you were involved in those organizations in high school, then many universities will give you a scholarship for your continued involvement in those affiliates.
  7. Let the Admissions department know of your financial need – People talk. If the admissions department really wants to help you, they may go to the financial aid office on your behalf. So, don’t skip this step. Admissions counselors have a vested interest to get students admitted, so they will want to help you.

Finally, you should be ready to reject the college’s offer – If you go through each of the steps above, and the university is unwilling to adjust your Award Letter, then you need to be ready to accept another offer that meets your financial situation. It’s not the school that you choose that will determine your success. Your success will be determined by the effort that you give while pursuing your degree. So, don’t worry if you don’t go to the college that you root for on Saturdays in the fall. Your college experience will be what you put into it, no matter which school you attend.

Have you had success negotiating with colleges? Leave your comments below and share your experiences.

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