2. Need-Based Grants
Many public and private colleges offer need-based grants to applicants that demonstrate an inability to pay the full cost of a college education. Need-based grants are based strictly on need. Your child’s accomplishments will not be taken into consideration when assessing your family’s ability to pay for college. Grants are like scholarships; they reduce the cost of a college education and do no need to be repaid.
Colleges require students that will apply for need-based financial aid to complete the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (‘FAFSA’) and, depending on the college, a college-specific financial aid application as well.
Before your child applies to any college where she will also apply for financial aid, it is important to understand if the college practices need- blind admissions. Need-blind admissions means it is a college’s policy to not take into consideration a student’s (in)ability to pay when making admission decisions. If your child plans to apply for financial aid, she should understand that some colleges prefer to admit applicants that can pay for or finance their education through outside lenders. If paying for college will be a challenge for your family, find colleges that practice need-blind admissions.
III. Negotiate with Colleges Once Your Child Is Accepted
When your child applies to college, it is a seller’s market. Colleges boast as many as twenty applicants for every spot in their incoming class. When your child applies to college, she will do everything she can to gain admission. However, after your child has been admitted, the power dynamics shift to a buyer’s market that benefits your child. Your child will begin to receive materials from the colleges she earned admission to as these colleges try to convince your child to accept their offers and boost their own yield. As the power dynamic shifts to favor your child, your child will have the ability to negotiate with the colleges that have accepted her to increase the size of her merit scholarships and/or need- based grants.
If your child has been accepted to two or more colleges that have offered her merit scholarships, your child should try to negotiate with the colleges that have offered her smaller merit scholarships to match the highest scholarship offer that your child has received. Your child should tell the admissions officer she will need a larger merit scholarship to be in a financial position to accept the offer based on other merit scholarships she has received. Your child should explain to the admissions officer that she is unable to afford the cost of her college education based on the existing scholarship offer and will attend a college that offered her more scholarship funds unless this college matches her higher offer. It is okay for your child to be a tough negotiator. Your child will not interact with the admissions office after she enrolls at that college or enrolls elsewhere.
IV. Apply for Outside Scholarships
Your child should also apply for scholarships from outside organizations as well. Every dollar of scholarship your child receives will reduce the cost of her college education. There are no limits to the amount of scholarships your child can receive.
Your family should start the outside scholarship search in ninth grade. Yes, your child will be very busy creating a compelling profile for her college applications and may not have a lot of time to search for scholarships. However, if your family sets aside one or two hours a month to search for and apply for scholarships, you may be able to offset a significant portion of the cost of your child’s college education. Everything your child does to create a compelling profile for the college application process will also create a compelling profile for college scholarship applications.
There are several online resources available to search for outside scholarships. The College Board is a starting point, with an online scholarship search engine that allows your family to search for scholarships based on your child’s characteristics and interests. Also, Scholarships.com is a site exclusively dedicated to finding higher education scholarships. Your child should also ask her high school guidance counselor if any local organizations like Kiwanis or the National Legion offer scholarships to local high school students.
In addition to scholarships and grants from colleges your child will apply to, your family should dedicate time throughout high school for your child to apply to niche scholarships. By spending a few hours a month on applying for scholarships, your child can accumulate numerous smaller scholarships throughout high school that can further reduce the cost of your child’s college education.
Greg Kaplan is a college application strategist and author of Earning Admission: Real Strategies for Getting into Highly Selective Colleges. Kaplan focuses on empowering families to develop their children’s high value skills, interests, and passions and market the value they would bring to colleges. Kaplan is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business and UC Irvine School of Law, where he received close to a full tuition scholarship.