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Negotiating College Costs with Admissions Advisors

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Although it seems that the fall semester just began, it’s already October—which means that high school seniors across the country are rapidly approaching the deadline for submitting college applications.

Together with their parents, students are making final decisions regarding which colleges and universities are right for them.

Location and school size are both important factors, but cost is ultimately the biggest concern.

College Tuition Varies Widely

The rising cost of college tuition has received so much media attention in recent years that it’s easy to get alarmed, but the truth is that the price of college varies greatly.

According to the College Board, a non-profit membership organization comprised of more than 5,700 schools, colleges, universities and other educational organizations, over half of all undergraduates attend four-year colleges with published tuition and fees totaling under $9,000 per year. At the other end of the spectrum, though, are pricy private four-year universities—many of which cost upwards of $35,000 per year to attend.

If your goal is to attend the college that’s truly right for you, don’t let sticker shock and the fear of excessive student loans get in your way. Many students and parents are unaware that a school’s published tuition rate is not necessarily the price that they have to pay.

Play “Let’s Make a Deal”: Negotiate Costs with College Admissions Counselors

Once you’ve been accepted to a school, you should consider their published tuition rate as well as your own financial situation. Private, non-profit colleges and universities are more dependent on tuition money than public schools, and they may be willing to “make a deal.”

Why? Receiving less money from a particular student is better than receiving no money.

While colleges and universities cannot “discount” tuition for particular students simply because they ask, they can offer financial aid in the form of scholarships and grants. Work-study programs are also a method to lower out-of-pocket expenses.

Comparison Shop when Choosing a College

It’s common practice to negotiate price when purchasing cars and real estate, but few people know that it’s okay to “comparison shop” when choosing a college or university. If students and parents don’t ask about the possibility of extra money, a school will not offer it—and there’s nothing wrong with initiating a discussion about negotiating college costs with your college admissions advisor.

Be sure to let admissions counselors know if you’ve been admitted to other institutions. Lower prices at other schools may work to your benefit.

Some big-name schools are not as willing to negotiate costs as smaller colleges are because they are in higher demand; even so, they still offer financial aid programs for students.

Tuition negotiation typically works best at private, non-profit schools, but be sure to select a college or university that is a right fit for you. Cheaper may be better, but you won’t appreciate the savings as much if you’re miserable at school.


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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