Tuition Aid

Negotiating for Tuition Aid

Tuition Aid

Tuition Aid- The Do’s and Don’ts

College is an expensive endeavor, and finding the funds for it can be stressful. Even if you get into the school of your dreams, whether you can go or not will often depend on how much tuition aid you get and whether it’s enough to make it feasible for you to attend.

Once you get that fat envelope in the mail, you will either cheer or groan. What happens if you didn’t get enough financial aid to help you cover the cost of attendance? Even after you’ve gotten that financial aid award letter, there is still something you can do if the only thing standing between you and your top choice is a tuition aid award: you can negotiate your financial aid package.

Many colleges and universities will be willing to work with you to help you attain your academic goals. Asking for a review of your financial aid package is okay; however, there is a certain way that you should do it, and there are things you need to avoid.

When asking for more money:


  • Wait until you’ve received all aid offers from the schools you've been accepted to. You want to be able to compare awards and have an idea of what each school is offering you.

  • Be nice, courteous and professional. This should go without saying; the nicer you are, the more willing people will be to help you.

  • Explain why more financial aid is necessary. Be ready to show schools that there is an actual reason why you’re making your request.

  • Have evidence to back up your request. (i.e. a better tuition aid package from a similarly-ranked school, proof of recent financial hardship, etc.).

  • Explain how much you can realistically afford. Let them know that you’re willing to shoulder some of the financial burden.

  • Consider work-study programs. This can help eliminate some of the cost of attendance and will give you good work experience as well.

  • Have realistic expectations. Don’t think that a $5,000 scholarship will turn into a $15,000 scholarship. There is only so much a school can do.

  • Have a backup plan in case your request doesn’t pan out. It may not always turn out the way you want; be prepared to consider other schools that provide you with more attractive tuition aid offers.


  • Make demands. Remember, the school is actually helping you out; keep it friendly and realize that you’re both on the same side.

  • Make threats. “If you don’t do this, I’ll go to another school!” This is not the way to get people to help you.

  • Harass the school once they have given you their final decision on your request. Even if it’s well-meaning, continuing to ask the school for further consideration is more likely to frustrate them than help your case.

  • Wait until the last minute to start the review process. Give the school plenty of time to see what they can do.

  • Expect or demand merit aid if your stats are average or below average for the school. Merit aid is reserved for those with exceptional credentials; be realistic about yours and be willing to accept that the school makes merit determinations on its own.

  • Expect that you will avoid loans or work-study. When you ask for more aid, it is very likely that these will be a part of your package. If you are unwilling to accept this, it will make it very hard for the school to help you.

Comparing offers from different schools

Not all tuition aid is created equal. The best types of aid are the ones that do not need to be repaid (like scholarships, most merit aid and grants). Work-study programs allow you to work off some of your tuition by taking employment on campus. Many of these jobs can be fun and they also help you build up your resumé. Out of all types of financial aid, the least “beneficial” are loans, because they accrue interest and need to be repaid; however, institutional and federal loans are often the best because they have the lowest interest rates and are often more lenient with repayment options. Private loans typically have higher interest rates and stricter repayment requirements.

When comparing offers, keep these things in mind: The package that offers you the most via scholarships, grants, merit aid and work-study will be the most beneficial for you. Institutional and federal loans trump private loans.

Choosing between packages

When it comes to choosing schools based on tuition aid packages, take some time to discuss each one in detail with your family and, if you need to, with a financial advisor. When making final determinations, you need to choose the one that combines both your academic expectations and your financial requirements.

Getting your financial aid settled can be a stressful experience, but it doesn’t have to be! Just in keep in mind that you can always request a review of your financial aid package; you’ll give yourself some needed peace of mind.

Anne Chaconas is the Director of Admissions Counseling for PowerScore Test Preparation ( Every year, she answers countless questions about college admissions and helps many students get into their top choice schools.


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