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This Family Got an Additional $11k/Year in Merit Aid—Here’s How

It’s no secret that college tuition rates have skyrocketed in recent years. According to an article by U.S. News & World Report, private colleges now average $35,676 a year, with more than 100 schools charging $50,000 or more.


For students embarking on the college admissions journey this year, the high tuition costs can be overwhelming. However, there are steps families can take to increase financial aid offers from their students’ top-choice schools. Read on to discover how CollegeVine helped a family in Gilford, Connecticut negotiate the cost of their son’s education.


How CollegeVine Helped Reduce Tuition Costs for the Sloss Family


When it comes to financial aid, families might not realize that they don’t have to accept a college’s first offer. On the contrary, students can negotiate with financial aid officers to come up with a price that works for both parties. That’s just what CollegeVine did for Tyler Sloss and his family.


A high school senior, Tyler Sloss was accepted to his dream school with a goal of studying game design and programming. However, the $14,000 financial aid package the college offered wasn’t sufficient to meet the family’s monetary constraints. Because Tyler’s mother had recently lost her job, the family needed more aid to afford the college’s $61,000 bill for tuition plus room and board. At a loss, Tyler and his mother contacted CollegeVine to help them navigate the financial aid process.


Utilizing our own financial aid calculator tool, and calling on our years of industry expertise, the CollegeVine finance team was able to determine that the school in question could afford to offer the Sloss family significantly more merit-based aid. Tyler and his mother then reached out to the school’s admissions department. The end result was Tyler receiving an additional $11,000 per year in scholarship money.


Tyler’s story was covered by NBC New York. You can watch the full report on the NBCUniversal website or in the video below:



Tips for Navigating the Financial Aid System


If you’re worried that your student’s financial aid package won’t be sufficient, know that there are certain steps you can take to maximize the amount awarded. Here are our top tips for navigating the financial aid process and coming out with sufficient funds to cover your teen’s education.


1. Learn About Different Funding Types


The first step in navigating the financial aid system successfully is understanding what forms of aid are available. College students can apply for the following types of funding:


Need-Based Aid

Need-based aid is granted based on the applicant’s family income. Families from lower-income backgrounds can generally expect to receive more financial aid.


Merit Scholarships

Merit aid is awarded based on a student’s accomplishments, whether in or out of the classroom. It could be granted for high grades and test scores, or stellar extracurricular achievements, such as winning national awards in art.


Institutions themselves can award merit aid to students with or without financial need. Private organizations can also award merit scholarships, such as the Coca Cola’s competitive $25,000 award. Keep in mind, however, that outside merit scholarships might reduce your family’s financial aid award. Your student must report all outside scholarships to their college, and the financial aid office will reassess your family’s ability to pay, taking into account this new scholarship. This sometimes results in a reduction of need-based aid, as colleges might determine that your family has less “need” with the outside scholarship. To be safe, check with your student’s financial aid office before applying to outside scholarships.


Student Loans

Unlike grants, which don’t have to be paid back, loans refer to short-term monetary contributions that allow students to attend college. In most cases, students have to start paying back their loans six months after graduating college.


Income Share Agreements

This is a relatively new college financing option that has yet to be implemented by most schools. Currently, the most well-known school that offers ISAs is Purdue University. ISAs are similar to loans, but rather than borrowing money upfront, students agree to pay the university a fixed percentage of their income for a certain number of years, based on the amount of funding received. At Purdue, only upperclassmen are eligible for ISAs.


2. Fill Out the FAFSA and CSS Profile


Also known as the FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid determines how much state, federal, and college-specific aid students are eligible to receive. Along with grant money, applicants may qualify for loans and work-study assignments. Because some colleges administer aid on a first-come, first-served basis, it’s important to fill out the FAFSA as early as possible to maximize funding potential.


Some schools require the CSS Profile along with the FAFSA. The CSS Profile is used to determine the amount of institutional aid granted, rather than federal aid. Be sure to check if your student’s colleges expect this additional form.


3. Don’t Accept a First Offer


The good news is that college financial aid packages are negotiable, and you don’t have to accept a first offer. For best results, negotiate right after you accept an admissions offer, or right before the matriculation deadline, as colleges may have money left over to give out at this stage in the process.


You should negotiate especially if your family has had a change of financial situation, such as a parent losing a job. Schools will take your new family income into consideration and often grant more aid.


If your student has also achieved something significant since submitting their application, such as a state or national award, you should also negotiate. Schools may be able to grant more merit aid to recognize this achievement.


4. Talk to the Right People


Wondering who to talk to about your financial aid concerns? If you’re looking to obtain more need-based aid, talk to the school’s financial aid department. If you have questions about merit aid, try the office of admissions instead.


Curious about your chances of acceptance to your dream school? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to get started!

Short Bio
A graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC, April Maguire taught freshman composition while earning her degree. Over the years, she has worked as a writer, editor, tutor, and content manager. Currently, she operates a freelance writing business and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their three rowdy cats.