In addition to helping find the right fit opportunities based on athletic, academic, social and financial fit, one thing that sets TSA Recruiting apart is helping prospects and their families save money on the costs of college and ensuring that they are receiving the best possible financial aid package. I compare it to buying a house or a car in the sense that you should never accept the first offer from a school. You should always ask for more and/or try to leverage offers from other institutions, even if you have a clear No. 1 school that you want to attend. I am proud of the fact that we have helped student-athletes and their families save thousands of dollars in the process and that’s why I ask all of my clients to reach out when this time comes to begin reviewing financial aid packages.
What to Know and How to Leverage Offers
Understand what is in your offer / financial package
Every college puts its financial aid package together differently. Some put starting costs, all awards and what remains to be paid “out of pocket”, while others just put the amount of money discounted and leave you to figure out what the “out-of-pocket costs” are.
- Merit awards, grants, and scholarships are “gift aid either from the college or the government (Pell Grant is a government grant based on your family income. Grants, scholarships DO NOT need to be repaid.
- Loans – Repayment Terms
- Subsidized – interest is paid by Dept of Ed while you are enrolled
- Unsubsidized – interest starts as soon as the loan is disbursed
- Plus Loan – beware – some schools put down PLUS loan to make cover remaining costs. These loans have high borrowing limits and parents are on the hook if they don’t get paid…so beware of these.
- Employment Programs – such as work-study that allow students to earn money and gain job experience while in school. For example, if you receive $2,000 in work-study, this means you can earn up to $2,000 via this program if you get enough hours. This does not mean you automatically get this amount nor does it mean you have a work-study job, you will have to find the job opportunity. Typically, these jobs are minimum wage, and often working off campus can allow you to make more money per hour. While I’ve seen as much as $3,000 offered as work-study, I believe that working enough hours to earn this much while also committing yourself to being a student-athlete would be challenging for most.
- Renewable Awards – Make sure you know if your awards are renewable each year. The last thing you want is to find out a portion of your financial aid package only applied to your first year and now you are on the hook for a higher cost in years 2-4/5. If you’re unsure if an award is renewable, ask the coach or admissions representative.
How to Leverage Offers
It’s important to have multiple financial aid offers to compare before you start to negotiate with the school. This is especially effective if schools are rivals or recruit similar student profiles. Most colleges are not at max capacity and need students in the seats to be profitable. They are often willing to give more financial aid if it means that they can count on the revenue that will come with having a student attend for 4+ years. Although it seems stressful, understand that colleges can’t take what they offered you away, they can only add to it. This is common practice and as a coach for 25 years, I saw it first-hand all the time. By doing this, families can save thousands of dollars per year.
If one college costs $10,000 out of pocket and the school you want to attend is going to cost you $15,000 out of pocket, be up front and let the coach or admissions representative know. The first question they will ask is if there are any financial special circumstances that may change your family income, such as parent job changes, family illness, etc. If there is not and you have financial aid offers from other schools that are better, then this is where you can leverage that to your advantage. Keep in mind though that some financial aid packages are not comparable. For instance, if School X is offering you athletic scholarship money and School Y does not have athletic scholarship money to offer, you won’t be able to use that to your advantage. But if you’re receiving academic scholarship from both of those schools, that still applies and can be factored into the bigger picture. Be prepared to share the financial aid package from the other school. There’s nothing that states that you can’t, it’s not a secret or privacy protected document.
Keep in mind that this is a business transaction. Colleges have used this to their advantage for years because too many families are not willing to look at it in the same light. Before you go down this path of negotiation, be sure that it’s for a school that you are ready to commit to attending. You don’t want to go through all of the work for a school that you’re on the fence about.
Asking For More Financial Aid
Be specific about how much additional financial aid you are going to need in order to commit. While you can’t always ask for a full-ride, remember that $5,000 or $10,000 may seem like a lot to you, but to the college, it’s negligible. Throughout the process, be thankful and appreciative, but don’t be brash. Make sure you understand that this process may take time and require you to fill out additional paperwork.
Here’s an example of what you might send to the coach or admissions representative:
We are very thankful for the generous offer to attend X University. Currently, it is Billy’s number one choice, and are excited for him as it seems like a great fit for him.
Thank you so much for your gracious offer to attend X University. Billy is very excited and wants to attend. Billy just went on a trip with Habitat for Humanity to ______ or Billy just got his most recent report card and his GPA for this past semester was a _____ which is above his cumulative GPA. (Say something positive may have happened recently that may increase his value, but don’t reference anything athletic related.)
It can be helpful to let the coach know if you are leveraging an offer, while they often don’t have a direct say in the financial aid package, they can go to the admissions office and speak on your behalf, which can help increase that total package amount.
Having other offers certainly can help here, but even if you don’t have other offers, just asking can potentially help you. If the difference means you might go somewhere else versus them giving you additional financial aid, quite often colleges will come up with more to get you to commit. Use this to your advantage, it is part of the process, don’t sell yourself short.
When the time comes to decipher your offer, I encourage you to reach out and set up a meeting with me. The last thing you want to do is speed through this process after all of the hard work you and your family have done to get to this point. At TSA Recruiting, not only do we want to help you find the right fit athletically, but also financially for you and your family.