Ask a College Advisor: Can I Ask a College for More Merit Aid?
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Question: Can I ask a college for more merit aid?
Answer: Yes, you can absolutely ask a college for more merit aid. In fact, many of your peers will do so. And since this type of aid is given on a first-come, first-served basis, you will want to submit your request as soon as possible.
Asking for more merit-based aid can help you save money on your education, but it also teaches some good life lessons — first and foremost being that many things in life are negotiable. Whether it's your future salary or the price of a car or house, being a good negotiator can help you in many different ways.
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When asking for more merit-based aid, the school will be allocating more of its limited funds to you, so you'll increase your chances of getting more merit-based aid if the school sees something in it for them.
How to Ask for More Merit Aid
Keep in mind that merit aid isn't based upon financial need. So when you're asking for more money, you don't want this ask to sound like a plea for financial assistance. Instead, your focus should be on highlighting how you're going to make that college's investment in you pay off.
This may come in the form of:
- Mentioning recent accomplishments that occurred after your application. Examples include a higher GPA, awards, and accolades.
- Highlighting your future academic and professional goals and why that college is the ideal fit to help you achieve those goals.
- Demonstrating how you'll be a valuable addition to the campus community.
- Making it clear that attending this college is still your top choice.
Another strategy used by many applicants is sending a copy of other merit-based aid offers they've received. This is a good way to provide the financial aid office with evidence, which can help give them more confidence they're making the right choice in allocating more funds to you.
However, if you pursue this strategy it's important to tread lightly; you don't want to make it seem as though you're likely to attend whatever school has the best offer — the school you're asking for additional aid from should feel confident that they're your first choice.
In other words, avoid being too pushy here and don't use phrases like, "Can you match this offer?" Instead, lean more on the softer side, using language like, "Are there any potential opportunities to secure more merit-based aid?"
Schools differ in how and when they process applications, so it's worth a phone call to find out when this process occurs and to gain any other insights you can. However, in the end, you want to make sure to write a letter to the appropriate person or office, as that has the best chance of getting into the right hands.
The letter should come from you, the student, not your parents. At the end of the day, it's the student who will be putting in the work to make that school look good in the future. This letter is another chance for the student to make their case.
In writing the letter, strive to be authentic without being aggressive. Give the school personal insight into your life and your future goals and how a better merit-based aid package can help you achieve those goals.
The process of asking for more merit-based aid can seem daunting, but it's definitely worth it. If done correctly, it can help save you money while also showing the college why you're the best investment they could make.
DISCLAIMER: The responses provided as part of the Ask a College Advisor series are for general informational purposes only. Readers should contact a professional academic, career, or financial advisor before making decisions regarding individual situations.
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