negotiating scholarships

5 Steps for Negotiating A Better College Scholarship

Congratulations! You have been accepted to college and they offered you a scholarship!  If you are lucky enough to fall into this category, you may be able to negotiate for an even better offer.  Follow these five steps to maximize your chances of negotiation success:

  1. Understand why the college is offering you a scholarship. Schools offer scholarships in the hopes that it will encourage you to choose their school over the competition.  They want you to enroll.  Use this fact to your benefit.  Research the college’s website to see what dollar amounts they typically offer to a student like you.
  1. Know who to contact. Scholarships are typically decided upon in the Admissions Office, not the Financial Aid Office.  Colleges offer scholarships to many accepted students, even if they didn’t apply for financial aid.  If you have a contact in the Admissions Office (a counselor you interviewed with or met at your high school, or whoever signed your acceptance letter) use that person as your ally.  If you don’t have a name in the Admissions Office to contact, address your negotiation letter to the Director of Admissions.
  1. Share your story. Why do you want to attend this college, what new information makes you a better candidate, and—most importantly—what other offers have you received from competitive schools? Sharing offers from less selective schools may not help your case quite as much, but, if it’s the only negotiating material you have, use it!
  1. Be timely but patient. Contact the school as soon as you have all your offers, but before you pay your deposit.  Give the school about two weeks to respond to your request.  Follow up if you don’t hear back from them.  Admissions Offices are busy places—start with an email or phone call and follow up with any info they request.
  1. Send in your best negotiator. That could be the student or the parent. Keep in mind that you have nothing to lose, and the college will not rescind your acceptance or scholarships they have already awarded you.  The worst that can happen is the school says, “No, we will not increase our offer.”  While this kind of repudiation is not uncommon, you may actually be surprised at how often the colleges say “yes” and increase an award you thought was set in stone.

Colleges don’t often publicize the fact that they negotiate scholarship offers, but, in fact, many do.  The bottom line is you don’t know until you ask. Good luck, and happy negotiating!


Written by Laurie Peltier
Laurie Peltier is a college finance expert at College Coach. Before joining College Coach, she was a Senior Financial Aid Officer at Becker College and Anna Maria College. Visit our website to learn more about Laurie Peltier.