How to Negotiate the Best Deal on a College Education

Dear Parent,

In this installment, we’re going to discuss an extremely important topic – one that will significantly impact both your child and your bank account.

We’re talking about…

How To Negotiate The Best Deal On A 4-Year College Education!

Most parents take this subject lightly, and figure whatever the schools end up offering them is the best that they will get.

Let us tell you something…

Nothing Could Be Further From The Truth!

Let us ask you a question…when you went to purchase or lease your car – did you accept the first offer they made you, or did you look at their price as a “starting point” for negotiation?

What about when you bought your home?  Did you purchase it at list price, or did you muster up all of your negotiating skills to try to get the seller to come down in price?

So why is college any different?

Even the cheapest state schools today will cost you about $13,000 between tuition, fees, books, room and board, and miscellaneous expenses.

A private university can easily cost you $34,000-$50,000 a year and up.

Now multiply those amounts by 4.  Wow!!!  And that doesn’t even include graduate school (God forbid!).

Are you starting to get my point yet?

A college education for your child (or children) is one of the single biggest investments you will ever make in your entire lifetime!

Doesn’t it make sense to treat it like any other major purchase, and do your best to negotiate the best possible financial aid package for your child?

So Where Do You Begin?

Well, for starters, your children should be doing their best to get good grades in school.  In addition, they should be taking some type of review course to get a good score on their SATs/ACTs (it’s a little late for seniors, but not for juniors).

Second, you must start narrowing down your school choices to colleges and universities where your child lies in the top 25% of the applicant pool – this will significantly increase your chances of getting a good financial aid package.

Next, you must start researching schools that have the best policies on giving good financial aid packages.  You want your child to apply to schools that will meet most or all of your family’s financial need.  It is also important to pick schools that have a history of giving more FREE money, less loans. Follow this link to learn more about picking a college with a good financial aid package.

Hint – Pick schools that are well endowed and have a lot of money to give out to students.  Private schools tend to have far more money available than state schools do.  We recommend picking a couple of state schools as “safety” schools and the rest should be well-endowed private schools.

Fourth, you must apply to, at least, 6 – 8 schools to insure that your child gets a good offer from 1 or 2 of them.  If all the schools are the same academic caliber, and some give you a good financial aid package while others give you poor packages – it will allow you to pit one college against the other when negotiating for a better financial aid package.  Schools of equal caliber will often times compete for the same student by offering aggressive financial aid packages.  Be sure to take advantage of this.

Lastly, you must know your numbers in advance.

For example, do you know what your “Expected Family Contribution” is?

It is the minimum amount that the government expects you to pay towards ANY school.

Schools determine what they are going to offer you by subtracting your Family Contribution from their “Cost of Attendance”.

This provides them with your family’s “Financial Need”.

Frequently, schools will offer parents far less than what they were eligible to receive.  Most families don’t dispute this since they have no idea of what they should have been offered in the first place.

Don’t Let This Happen To You!

Know your numbers in advance.

Find out what your Expected Family Contribution is.  Then, find out what the cost of attendance is at each school.

Make sure the schools include all costs such as tuition, fees, books, room and board, living expenses, transportation, and miscellaneous expenses.

Once you get these two numbers, calculate your financial need at each school, and make sure their financial aid packages meets most or all of your need.

If they don’t, call or write the school to discuss why they “left you short”, and try to create a subtle competition with other schools your child applied to.

If you follow these steps, you should have no problem getting a great package from, at least, 2 or 3 of the schools your child applied to.



Scott Weingold

Founder, College Made Simple


Related Articles:

College Tuition Discounts

How to Make College Cheaper: Part 2 – Strategies


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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News,, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.