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Articles / Paying for College / Can I Get Yale to Match Princeton's Aid Package?

Can I Get Yale to Match Princeton's Aid Package?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | April 5, 2016

Question: I'm really extremely fortunate to find myself having been admitted to Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. However, all of these institutions are incredibly expensive. Princeton has given me a fairly substantial scholarship and an EFC around 20% of my family's income. By contrast, Yale has made the (incorrect) determination that I will be able to pay for the entire cost of attendance out of pocket. I'm still waiting to hear back from Harvard. If I am being perfectly honest, I'm not very interested in Princeton, and I'd much rather go to Yale. Is there a way for me to ask Yale to match Princeton's offer? What could I say to them?

Congratulations on hitting the admissions “trifecta!" Many folks would not shed a tear to hear about your “problem," but I'm sure it must be frustrating to be so close to attending Yale yet thwarted by the cost. Perhaps by now you have heard from Harvard, too, and you don't need this advice. But if that's not the case then, yes, you CAN appeal your Yale aid award although a successful appeal is not a sure thing.

It seems that the Yale financial aid officials have seen the same data that the Princeton officials saw but responded to it differently. That does happen, especially when there are extenuating circumstances that are not always viewed consistently.

So here's what you need to do:

1) Make an appointment to speak to a Yale financial aid officer on the phone. Don't just assume that someone will be available as soon as you call. And if someone is available right away, he or she may not have as much time to spend as when the session is planned in advance. If you live within a reasonable drive, try to go in person (but always with an appointment). The family member who can best explain your financial situation should be the one to take part in this conversation. It doesn't have to be you, the student.

2) Sound grateful for having the opportunity to attend Yale. Don't act annoyed or entitled. In other words, grovel!

3) Explain that you have received a very different offer from Princeton, and be prepared to send it to Yale via fax or email. Ideally, in fact, you would have sent it as soon as you set up the appointment. Ask the Yale official (very nicely) to explain how he or she interpreted the information differently.

4) If a better offer from Yale would allow you to enroll, even if Yale doesn't match the Princeton offer, then provide this information. Don't be like Oliver Twist and simply ask for “more." When you call, be sure to have a specific dollar amount in mind … e.g., “If we had $8,000 in grant [or whatever amount is required], then I [or “my child"] could enroll." But don't offer this figure unless the Yale official says that your package there won't change.

5) Be sure to jot down the name of the person you spoke with and, if any money is offered, get it in writing immediately (email is fine).

6) Email your regional admissions rep (the Yale staff member who oversees applicants from your high school) and explain that you will be contacting the financial aid office because you really want to go to Yale but Princeton has made a great offer, and Yale has offered nothing. Express your regret that you MIGHT have to turn Yale down due to cost. If you happen to be your rep's favorite applicant (well, give or take) perhaps he or she will put in a good word for you with the finaid folks.

Financial aid officers usually do have some leeway when it comes to adjusting an aid package. So it's important that you treat them respectfully and not insist that the college owes you a better deal. The fact that you were admitted to Harvard, Princeton, and Yale suggests that you are a very strong candidate, and each college may be eager to get you. But all of the Ivy League schools turn away many fabulous applicants every year, and so don't go into this negotiation with the assumption that Yale will do whatever it takes to land you. Instead, try to patiently discuss how Princeton may have viewed your aid forms differently which led to a very generous aid offer, but keep insisting that you still want to be in New Haven next fall.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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