Your Child Has Just Been Accepted to College: Now What?

How to find financial aid and get the most out of it.

Congratulations! Your child is in. Until now, college has been a sellers’ market. Everything your child has done in the application process was to convince selective colleges to admit her. Now, it is a buyer’s market as colleges compete to get your child to enroll. As the joy of earning admission gives way to the anxiety of figuring out how to pay for college, consider the following to reduce the cost of your child’s college education:

1. Determine if the college is offering your child real aid

Colleges will send financial aid packages either with their admission offers or in the following days. Colleges classify loans as “financial aid.” These loans are not aid, as they will leave your family or child with debt. Identify in the financial aid package any loan offers. Your goal is to reduce the cost of your child’s college education by converting these loans to merit scholarships and/or need-based grants that do not need to be repaid.

2. Negotiate larger merit scholarships

The size of a merit scholarship your child has received is not set in stone. Colleges can match scholarships from colleges that are similar with respect to ranking and admission requirements to entice your child to enroll. Your child should adopt a hard bargaining position, schedule a call with her designated admissions officer, and tell that admissions officer that she requires a larger scholarship that matches other scholarships she has received to enroll at that college. As an admitted student, your child has the leverage to negotiate.

3. Ask for more need-based grants

With a college education costing as much as $120,000 for a public university and over $280,000 for a private university, who doesn’t demonstrate a need for help with paying for college? If your child’s financial aid package does not reflect your family’s ability to pay for that college, call your child’s assigned financial aid officer, explain your family’s financial situation, and ask for a reevaluation of grant award it has offered. Financial aid officers may require additional documentation for a reevaluation, but filling out supplemental aid applications may result in additional grants.

Greg Kaplan is a college application strategist, author of Earning Admission: Real Strategies for Getting into Highly Selective Colleges, and the founder of Soaring Eagle College Consulting. Greg focuses on empowering families to develop their children’s high value skills, interests, and passions and market the value they would bring to colleges. He 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.