Best way to leverage local college to offer scholarship money?
December 15, 2014 10:35 AM   Subscribe

Just starting to get into the whole applying to college and looking for money game. I want to find the best way to get some scholarship assistance from the local University. Special details inside..

While there are some assumptions built into this statement I feel it will likely hold out to be true: Both my kids will likely have the academic achievement to be easily accepted into the local, major state University and likely their Honors College. With that said, we're keeping all options open, but for matters personal and financial, staying close to home makes sense. But here's the rub: If my kids are of the "quality" to consider the local U their safe school, what might be the best way to leverage that to entice them to offer some serious tuition assistance? I guess what I'm asking is if there is any benefit to playing hard-to-get? And how to respectfully go about it?
posted by teg4rvn to Education (28 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
What? No.

Have the kids apply for scholarships, but no school is desperate for your children to attend to the extent that they'll offer them scholarships just for the privilege.

Now, if they play a sport, or have some other talent for which scholarships are awarded, by all means, try there. But for most folks, we apply for fifty-gazillion scholarships and we're happy if we get two or three.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:38 AM on December 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


If my kids are of the "quality" to consider the local U their safe school, what might be the best way to leverage that to entice them to offer some serious tuition assistance?

The way this works is to apply for all of the "honors college" or "special scholar" programs at that local school, along with financial aid. When you have competing offers in hand from other universities, see if the local university can offer something better or more enticing.

Basically LocalU already knows based on your children's application that they are competitive applicants for other more prestigious universities, so they will start off trying to figure out whether they're being used as a safety school (because they just sent in a generic application) or whether they can do something that will make the experience worth their while (like if your children are applying for special programs created for top candidates who want to live close by).
posted by deanc at 10:43 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


State universities really don't work that way.

Heck, I was an honors student trying to decide between two state universities and posed the question to a department chair why I should attend one school instead of the other. And she laughed for an uncomfortably long time and said, Oh, there's no competition. We'd be delighted to have you, but we have 25K other students, so really, you should do what you like.
posted by mochapickle at 10:43 AM on December 15, 2014 [7 favorites]


- There are some schools that will offer merit scholarships based on academic merit, rather than need. My sense is that this is usually a standard offer. Read the school information carefully to see if you need to apply or if any student who is eligible is automatically considered.
- Learn about FAFSA and understand how income is calculated so if it is legal/ethical/appropriate for you to adjust your income and your child's income and assets you will know ahead of time.
- Schools want to admit applicants who will accept them (what dean said) so it is advantage to be able to show in the application why the student really wants to go to this school instead of a more prestigious one.
- Get offers from other schools. If the total cost of attendance somewhere else is less, it doesn't hurt to ask for more money. May not work, but worth respectfully asking.
posted by metahawk at 10:47 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Some large state universities have programs to try to keep high achieving local kids in-state when they might otherwise head to the Ivies, so it's not a bad question.

One thing that the local Big State U in my hometown did was to offer school-funded National Merit Scholarships to everyone who qualified as a National Merit Finalist (you take the PSAT during your junior or senior year and qualifications are based on scores). Not everyone gets the national scholarships, but colleges can sponsor school-specific scholarships. It's win-win--the school gets to say they have X many National Merit Scholars and the students get a scholarship. So you should definitely have your kids take the PSAT when it's offered and see if it generates any leads.

Agreed that your kids should apply for the honors college and whatever else is available. You might have a look at the Financial Aid website for the college and see if they actually promote any programs like Presidential Scholars or whatnot that your kids might be eligible for.

There probably is NO benefit in playing hard to get, although when your kids are actually at the point of making a decision sometimes FInancial Aid offices will match real offers from other schools, but they usually want to see actual numbers.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 10:51 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Are there any small private colleges in your area? You might have a better chance with full funding there. I know the college where I work has full tuition + board scholarships, others that include study abroad or research funding, etc. Much better than what was available to me back in undergrad at my state university.
posted by bizzyb at 10:51 AM on December 15, 2014


Response by poster: Thanks for the initial responses. I guess I'm trying to get through some of the anecdotal BS I've been told by others thus far. For example, many moons ago, I was offered several full tuition scholarships from out-of-state State schools because at the time they said they were looking to recruit more high achieving candidates from my geographic area. More recently a colleague of mine's child was offered a full tuition scholarship to Ohio State University. He chose to attend Duke instead. And lastly (and again anecdotally) I was told that the local U is always chomping at the bit to enroll graduates of my kid's high school because they know it has a rigorous curriculum and they'll "do anything they can to get them to stay home and attend the U"

Just looking how to go about this respectfully.
posted by teg4rvn at 10:55 AM on December 15, 2014


When you're comparing offers, look hard at the average time to graduation: the sticker price at the local state university may not seem so good once you tack on an extra year of tuition.
posted by yarntheory at 10:56 AM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Now there are state programs, like the Hope Scholarship. In Arizona my first year of tuition was paid because I graduated in the top 10% of my class. So there's that. But those are things one applies for and gets, not that the school coughs up.

There's a lot of leg work students and parents have to do to wrangle scholarships, the more you apply for, the more you get.

And don't overlook sports. For a while in Ohio they were offering full scholarships to women who would join the crew team (to balance the tables so they could field their football team under Title IX). No experience necessary.

No one will knock on your door, and you can't twist anyone's arm, but if you're willing to work for it, you can get quite a hefty sum for school.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:58 AM on December 15, 2014


OK, so backing up, from a previous question, it sounds like your kids are still in middle school. Which is great! You have a lot of time for your kids to keep doing well in school, to volunteer, to get involved in activities -- all things that will make them more appealing for scholarships.

Your local school will have college resources. Also, your local university will have visitor days where you and your kids and walk through the campus, ask questions, and take an opportunity to know what's there. Those are fantastic first steps.

As a datapoint, I did end up getting full tuition for free my freshman year at my local state U because of my grades and small scholarship for my sophomore year because of my freshman GPA. I also received money from VA because my dad was a disabled veteran. I won an English Department writing scholarship midway through, which covered my third-year tuition (people seem to forget about those kinds of things). My folks paid for my room and board. With working part time, I managed to graduate with zero debt. For me, the state school worked out and I was able to stay close to home and family.
posted by mochapickle at 11:06 AM on December 15, 2014


Response by poster: Thanks. FWIW, my oldest is a 10th grader, so time is of the essence. My youngest, yes, is younger, but in terms of the spirit of my question, he's the one to whom this question applies the most as he's more high achieving than his sibling.
posted by teg4rvn at 11:11 AM on December 15, 2014


Colleges want to see applicants that are VERY, VERY HUNGRY to attend their schools. The more your child can exhibit that he sees himself there, that he will contribute in a valuable and meaningful way to the school, that YES, he has looked at many options and this is the school for him, the better chance you have at acceptance and therefore also at non-need-based aid.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 11:23 AM on December 15, 2014


I think that the best strategy is to cast the net far and wide. Apply to a lot of schools, ones that would be a stretch academically, ones that would be a stretch financially, and ones that would be closer within the comfort zone. Once you have some offers, it's okay to take the best few and ask for counteroffers. Just don't expect for miracles.

Believe it or not, you do have plenty of time. Spring break junior year is the classic whirlwind college tour time, so you have over a full year to gather ideas and mull them over. Right now your child's focus should be on identifying and building up the activities, skills and values that are important to him/her and will make him/her a more valuable candidate for acceptance.

Note: I am not saying the activities, skills and values that are important to you. While your guidance and financial support are important, your child is the one who will be having the college experience. It's hard for parents to remember that, but I think that the college search process is an important step in the transition to letting your baby bird fly on his own.
posted by Liesl at 11:55 AM on December 15, 2014


One thing that the local Big State U in my hometown did was to offer school-funded National Merit Scholarships to everyone who qualified as a National Merit Finalist (you take the PSAT during your junior or senior year and qualifications are based on scores).

Oh, this. I have no idea what the current scene is, but if you've got a sharp kid who tests well, it'd be worth both your whiles to get some practice tests and drill a bit. Your kid may not end up at the local big state u, but 10-15 years ago a national merit scholar could count on a full ride at a number of big research universities (and awards ranging up to full tuition at smaller private schools). Again, 10-15 years ago, there were a lot of high schools that were clueless about the program, so it'd be worth looking into.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 12:03 PM on December 15, 2014


Almost every state school that I applied for had a prestigious merit-based scholarship that covered all of tuition but no room and board. They are called different things school to school. Usually around 20/5000 students earn this award, and it will usually be tied to a honors college or honors program.

Usually ACT, GPA, Leadership, etc are all tied into the final grade along with performance in interviews and essays written for the scholarship.

The more prestigious the school, the more competitive these are.

Also, all of the ivy league schools have free tuition now, but the chances of getting in are going to be less than the chances of winning one of those prestigious state tuition scholarships.

Many schools have big scholarships for students that are out-of-state, but those scholarships typically make up the different between out-of-state tuition and in-state tuition.

I can't emphasize enough the value of attending a community college for two years and then finishing the BS/BA at the state school. In leau of a full ride scholarship, that is.
posted by bbqturtle at 12:07 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Also, all of the ivy league schools have free tuition now, but the chances of getting in are going to be less than the chances of winning one of those prestigious state tuition scholarships."

I don't think this information is accurate. The Ivies are increasingly "Need blind", meaning they don't take a student's financial aid status into consideration when deciding whether to offer admission.

But they aren't free tuition that I am aware of, and I'm pretty involved in my University's admissions process.
posted by mazienh at 12:11 PM on December 15, 2014


State universities in my area offer scholarships for National Merit Scholarship semifinalists, and even more for finalists. They even waive state residency requirements for in-state tuition for those scholars. There are also scholarships for students in the top 10% of their class, and a significant bump for the class valedictorian. If this is the case where you are, now is the time to press the money and academic performance relationship to your student.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 12:21 PM on December 15, 2014


Some or many of the Ivies are tuition-free for families whose incomes fall below a certain amount. Harvard, for sure, but I don't know offhand about the others.

I did get a much, much better aid package (a million years ago) from small, wealthy colleges than I did from my flagship state university, and ended up graduating from an Ivy with less debt than I would have had had I attended that state U.
posted by rtha at 12:24 PM on December 15, 2014


I guess I'm a little confused as to what you mean by "go about this respectfully." All the examples you listed are just examples of people getting scholarships, not of people playing hard to get? For example, if you've heard that "the local U is always chomping at the bit to enroll graduates of my kid's high school" then...hooray! They are going to know he is from that high school from his application, and will offer an award package accordingly. There's really no gaming you need to do there. The biggest thing is to

a) Apply to a variety of schools, because aid packages can vary widely in terms of the amount given in loans vs. grants vs. work study.
b) Apply for every scholarship out there that you're remotely qualified for.

I think trying to bargain among schools AFTER you get initial aid offers is fine, although I haven't heard of too many people having much success with that at the undergrad level (definitely happens at the grad level when there are many fewer applications/spots available).

If anything, I think playing TOO hard to get is a recipe for not getting accepted. Colleges care about their "yeild," i.e. the number of students accepted who end up actually attending, because it factors into their rankings. So if you somehow fool them into thinking you aren't very interested in attending and are really likely to go elsewhere, I think the mostly likely outcome is either not getting accepted or not getting as high of an award (they would want to redirect the funding toward someone who is going to come!)
posted by rainbowbrite at 12:54 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: *I guess I'm a little confused as to what you mean by "go about this respectfully."*

Odds are that because of personal and financial reasons my kid(s) will attend the local U. If the U knew this was our likely plan they would be less likely to sweeten the pot to get my kid to go there. However, if they knew we had other options that unbeknownst to them we would likely not take they might just go ahead and offer a financial nugget to keep the kid local. No harm in trying to get a better deal, right?

By respectfully, I mean that I'm not sure whether this whole process isn't similar to any other business transaction. Take a Craigslist ad. You list something for $500. You get a low-ball offer for $100...not respectful. Alternatively, you get a response showing that the same item is listed elsewhere on CL for $375 max and on ebay for about the same, would I take $325 to have cash in hand right now?...that's a respectful offer.

Maybe my naivete is coming through with my example, if not my original question. Nevertheless, that's what I mean.
posted by teg4rvn at 1:14 PM on December 15, 2014


I want to find the best way to get some scholarship assistance from the local University.

The short answer: have the good luck to have children who are exceptionally talented academically or athletically; enough to win full tuition scholarships.

But as far as negotiating a better aid package? Universities are not car dealerships. Financial aid analysts really do give each qualified applicant the best offer they can. There's a formula each school's financial aid office uses to determine those aid packages. Generally, packages don't get revised unless there's a new piece of information that qualifies the candidate for another scholarship (i.e., another source of independent funding that can only be used under very specific circumstances). There is very little room for haggling over the amount of aid granted.

If you're trying to make college cheaper, since your children are young — have them take AP classes in high school that can be counted toward lower-division college credit. They might be able to shave nearly an entire academic year off. Or have them take classes at a community college, then transfer.

If you cannot rest until you know specifics about how the school you're interested in awards its merit scholarships, go and talk to an admissions officer and financial aid staff at an open session/visitors night.

Do try to remember that this is your child's college experience — not yours — and having them take ownership of the application and admissions process is much more conducive to their growing sense of self-mastery than having you orchestrate it for them.
posted by culfinglin at 1:15 PM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


(Watch out for AP credit if your kids want to go to med school.)

Odds are that because of personal and financial reasons my kid(s) will attend the local U. If the U knew this was our likely plan they would be less likely to sweeten the pot to get my kid to go there.

No, there really aren't signing bonuses with state schools for undergrad, as far as I know. They have packages they offer to everyone who meets certain criteria (national merit scholars gets X, high undergrad GPA gets Y.)

As far as I know, my state school doesn't have extra pots of money they're hiding to bribe local kids into attending. Most state schools have pretty low admissions standards for in-state students, but they make much more tuition off out-of-state students. They need to balance the local kids with the kids who pay soooo much more.

Your kid might get more heavily recruited by the state school if they're National Merit, or some other merit-scholarship, but they won't get offered more money if they play hard to get.

By respectfully, I mean that I'm not sure whether this whole process isn't similar to any other business transaction.

BTW, I've dealt with parents at the department level who thought about things the way you do, and they were annoying as shit. No matter how fantastic you may think your special snowflake is, and no many aggro dads call me up and think we're haggling, my department doesn't have scholarship money for undergrads, period.

Honestly, we really aren't too concerned about recruiting individual students into our major. At state schools, undergrad admissions is focused on the aggregate, not on the individual.
posted by Squeak Attack at 1:47 PM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


If you're looking to save money, look into AP Classes and testing. This does two things, it increases GPA AND AP test scores can count towards college credit.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:50 PM on December 15, 2014


If the U knew this was our likely plan they would be less likely to sweeten the pot to get my kid to go there.

Insofar as this is a "thing", it is most common among well-endowed private universities that you can call up and say, "thanks for admitting me. I really like your school, but private university X offered me a financial aid package with a larger grant and much lower loans, meaning that my costs will be lower than at your school. Can you do anything about my financial aid package?"

You kind of want to do the opposite with LocalStateU-- "I am a top student at my high school! I have always dreamed of attending LocalU and really want to attend their honors college as part of the YoungLocalTopScholars program, which is why I've applied for the YoungSuperstarsPresidentialScholarship!"
posted by deanc at 1:55 PM on December 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


nthing National Merit. Also consider out-of-state schools that are known to have great merit scholarships, for instance look at the guaranteed ones from New College of Florida, an excellent public college in Florida (though it's still reasonably pricey for out-of-state students). The University of Alabama will give National Merit Scholars stipends on top of a full ride and even gives semifinalists a full ride.

And if your kid is the kind of student who can get into elite colleges, don't assume they'll be more expensive. In many cases (this is the case with many friends of mine receiving aid at the competitive, no-merit-aid school that I attend), it's actually cheaper. Not just Ivies, but selective liberal arts colleges, schools like Wash U in St. Louis, etc. It's often/usually not merit money, but schools meeting 100% of need can definitely cost less the cost of the flagship state U (especially if your kid would prefer not to live at home either way).
posted by R a c h e l at 2:42 PM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


I asked a very similar question last year. Pretty much everybody on the Green thought my daughter had no chance at a scholarship.

She got a full ride to an Out of State "State U," and substantial scholarship offers from 5 other schools. Oddly, the only school that didn't offer her anything was the in-state school.

I wrote up my thoughts on what I think I learned about scholarships in a blog post.
posted by COD at 4:42 PM on December 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Response by poster: **(Watch out for AP credit if your kids want to go to med school.)**

@Squeak Attack This comment was a somewhat random addition to your comment. What did you mean?
posted by teg4rvn at 9:33 AM on December 16, 2014


Many medical schools will not accept AP credits to fulfill pre-med requirements. So, if you think medical school is a likely possibility, this would be a bad way to try and save money, since you'd have to retake the credits anyway (and the exams themselves aren't cheap). I think this came up since someone above mentioned AP as a good way to save $$. In general, it CAN be, but you want to do a lot of research into where and how those credits will be accepted before investing in the cost of the exams.
posted by rainbowbrite at 9:46 AM on December 16, 2014


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