One of the colleges that accepted me is sending me a lot of emails. The emails are all from my admissions rep and he seems very eager for me to commit. I'm wondering if, based on this level of interest from them, I should hold out for scholarship offers from them, or even ask if scholarships are an option. Or do the constant emails not mean anything?
College admission officers are flying without radar this spring. That is, due to the unprecedented changes spawned by the COVID-19 pandemic, they can't rely on past data to estimate how many newly accepted students will enroll. Many schools have even moved their candidates' reply dates from May 1 to June 1 — or beyond — and thus it could be a while before the admission folks get any sense of their Fall 2020 numbers. Therefore, it's no surprise that some colleges are bombarding high school seniors with correspondence now, in order to try for at least a ballpark head count.
So ... can you turn this eagerness for a commitment into an advantage? That depends on several factors that you haven't mentioned to "The Dean." For instance, did you submit a FAFSA to apply for need-based aid? If so, were you offered any? Did this college meet your full demonstrated need already? (And, if they did, does your aid "package" include loans?) Does this college offer merit scholarships? Did you get one? If yes, does the school typically award merit grants that are larger than yours?
It is possible for you to negotiate with this college to get some money — or additional money — but you will have to initiate the process. Don't wait for such good news to simply show up in the next email. If you completed a FAFSA and have already been awarded aid, then you can certainly ask for more, if your full demonstrated need has not been met. If your financial aid package (whether your full need was met or not) includes part grant and part loan, you can request that the distribution be shifted to lower or eliminate the loan and replace it with grant. If your college offers merit scholarships and not just need-based aid, you can also request a merit scholarship (or a larger one if you've been given merit money but not this school's top dollar).
College officials expect to hear from many students and parents whose financial requirements have changed significantly in the past couple months. Institutions that have the resources to do so will be adjusting aid awards to accommodate families whose income, assets and future earnings have been torpedoed by the pandemic. If this is YOU, approach your eager college with some numbers that corroborate your financial concerns (amount of lost income and projected losses, etc.). As with any financial aid appeal even during "normal" times (remember those?), your best strategy is to be polite but persistent ... and never entitled, no matter how hard a hit your family has taken.
Because most admission officers are worried about filling their freshman classes during these troubled times, it's likely that they are open to discussions with all accepted applicants who are hoping for more dough. But their priority will be to first help those who can only enroll with additional assistance.
Sally Rubenstone is a veteran of the college admissions process and is the co-author of three books covering admissions. She worked as a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years and has also served as an independent college counselor, in addition to working as a senior advisor at College Confidential since 2002. If you'd like to submit a question to The Dean, please email us at email@example.com.
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