5.09.2012

Don't Take No For An Answer Part 1: How To Negotiate Scholarship Money

I realize there are 2 negatives in the first part of my title. It bothers me a lot, but it's going to be part of a series so get used to it! :P

I am doing this series because I used to be that person who would always accept no for an answer. I'd be scared and nervous enough just asking for something that I wanted, and if no was the answer, I'd take it and walk away. Now I know better and you should always challenge that no....especially if it's in your favor.

Anyway, today I want to talk about negotiating scholarship money for school. It's going to be focused specifically on law school admissions because that's what I just went through, but I'm sure you can use these techniques for undergraduate and other graduate school scholarships too.

I know you're thinking that you don't even know if you qualify for scholarship money. My stats are GPA: 3.12 and LSAT: 158 so I'm pretty much at my school's medians. So what if I'm not above average? I'll still try to ask!

If you don't ask, the answer is ALWAYS NO.

How To Negotiate Scholarship Money

1. Consider Your Options
Let's think of what you have to offer the school. Did anything change since you last submitted your application? This would be a great time to tell them about that new job promotion, new job, new raise, an updated transcript, a new letter of recommendation, or a new volunteer experience.

Did you apply to any other schools? If you received an offer from a higher ranked school, save those letters. You can use them for negotiation. If you received scholarship money (even from a lower ranked school), you can use that as leverage too.

If you still don't have anything new to show, that's okay too! You can use other factors that may be holding you back from attending their school such as a high cost of living, having to quit your job and move, or how tuition is so expensive there.

2. Write the Letter/Email
Now that you know what you are going to include as your negotiation tactics, figure out if you want to send a formal letter or an email. I would say email is quicker and easier for the admissions people to look over, so I used that. You can also write a formal letter, print it out, scan it and attach it.

Put some careful thought into this. You don't want to sound arrogant and you don't want to sound too sure that you absolutely deserve the money. Entitlement doesn't usually work. Be considerate, but also state your stance confidently.

3. Back It Up
Per #1, if you have any other offers or letters, feel free to attach them. It shows that you aren't lying about it, and that gives you more leverage. Everyone feels more comfortable when there is documentation. I actually read a story about how one person said they got a full scholarship to a highly ranked law school, and told another school this during scholarship negotiation. That school ended up calling the other school and found out that the kid wasn't even ACCEPTED there, let alone a full ride! Don't be that kid. If you don't have any back up to provide, that's okay too.

4. Follow Up
Quite honestly, this was the most important part for me. I'll show you what I did below, but you need to follow up. Don't just assume that your letter/email was sent to the right person. Give it at least a week, and then send another email to make sure the correct person received your request. Also ask if they have come to a decision yet and when will you hear back.

5. If They Say No...You're NOT Done Yet!
So, they said no? No matter what, do not take no for an answer. Do not reply with "Okay, thank you anyway!" Be quick to respond by thanking them but also ask some questions.

Did they give you a reason? Ask them how they came to a conclusion. If they didn't mention anything else, ask them if you can be considered again in the future for scholarship money. Until the day school starts, you are still a viable consideration for them to give you some money. Also, ask about the possibility of scholarship money in the next year, and how do you go about doing that.

You want to be persistent and show your determination. Don't give up!

My Experience

I put my own technique to use just recently, and here are the results (I removed some info for privacy reasons).


>>> Erika <@gmail.com> 4/24/2012 8:21 AM >>>
Dear Financial Aid Committee,

I was very excited when I received my acceptance letter from _____ Law yesterday. Nonetheless, I have a really difficult commitment decision to make based on the high cost of living in CITY OF SCHOOL as well as the
high cost of tuition. If I choose to attend SCHOOL, I would need to quit my full-time job, which would put me in great financial hardship.

I am contacting you today to respectfully request consideration for merit aid or need-based aid to help me make the commitment to attend 
SCHOOL in the Fall. I have a strong admissions profile, and I am confident that I will be a leader at SCHOOL in the classroom and in the community. I would really like to attend SCHOOL as a first-generation law student, and I admire the diversity and community that sets SCHOOL apart from other law schools. If given aid, I will definitely attend SCHOOL.

Thank you for taking the time to read and think about my request. Please let me know if you have any questions and I look forward to hearing your response.

If this has been sent to the wrong department, could you kindly please forward it to the appropriate person?

Thank you so much,
Erika

---------- Forwarded message ----------

From: LawFinancialAid
Date: Tue, 24 Apr 2012 11:04:36 -0700
Subject: Re: Law Financial Aid
To: Erika <@gmail.com>

Dear Erika,

Your e-mail has been forwarded to ___________ (.edu), director of law financial aid, for consideration.  Please feel free to follow up with her regarding your request.

Best Regards,
Law Financial Aid

>>> Erika <@gmail.com> 4/30/2012 12:10 PM >>>
Dear Ms. __________,

I was given your email address from the Financial Aid office. I was informed that my request to be considered for merit aid has been forwarded to you for consideration. I am just emailing you to follow up and see if you have had time to review my request.

If you need more info or would like to talk to me about it, please feel free to call me at 555-5555.

Thank you so much and I look forward to hearing from you,
Erika



----- Reply message -----
From: "" <edu>
Date: Mon, Apr 30, 2012 4:27 pm
Subject: Law Financial Aid
To: "Erika" <@gmail.com>
Dear Erika,

Thank you for following up on the status.

As of the end of last week, SCHOOL did complete a re-evaluation of scholarships, and your name was included in the review, in response to the e-mail you sent on April 24, 2012.  I regret to inform you that have not been awarded a scholarship, based on last week's review.

We certainly still hope to see you here on campus for the Fall 2012 semester, and thank you for your continued interest in SCHOOL.

Best,
Director of Law Financial Aid
>>><@gmail.com> 4/30/2012 5:29 PM >>>
Hello again Ms. ___________,

Thank you for your prompt response. 
Will there be a later review or was this the last one? If possible, would I be able to be considered for anything (merit or need-based) at a later review of scholarship money?

Thanks!
Erika
----- Forwarded message -----
From: ""
Date: Fri, May 4, 2012 11:27 am
Subject: Law Financial Aid
To: <@gmail.com>
Dear Erika,

I will hold onto your request for scholarship consideration in case there might be any changes to how we are currently awarding scholarships, although I'm sorry I cannot guarantee that such a change will occur in the near future.

Best,
Director of Law Financial Aid

***


I Didn't Take No For An Answer

I did not end up getting scholarship money, but I applied #5 and I am happy with her response. I will be following up with her again after June 1st, which is when the final seat deposit is due for all incoming students. They should know by then how much money in the scholarship pot they have left. I'll also ask about scholarship info for the 2nd and 3rd years of school. 

At least I know that I tried my best to get scholarship money, rather than just sit back with my acceptance letter. I've heard that this school in particular is pretty stingy with scholarship money so I'm not surprised. I'll continue to fight for it though and hopefully I'll get something in the future out of this.

If you want more proof that this works... check out this thread which shows that many law school applicants have successfully negotiated scholarship money. Some people went from 0 to 50% scholarship or from 50% to 100% scholarship. It never hurts to ask, does it?

Btw, the giveaway ends today at midnight. I will be using random.org tomorrow to select a winner!

Have you tried negotiating scholarship money or negotiating money at all? How did it work out for you?

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