BY LILOU HOFFMAN
Getting into a dream college is cause for excitement and pride for graduating students and their families. But excitement can turn to panic when future freshmen see the price of higher education. With college costs rising year after year, few are able to pay out-of-pocket or by freelancing on the side. Indeed, around two million students already rely on financial aid deals for higher education services. A generous financial aid package oftentimes makes the difference for students, easing the costs of college and making it possible to achieve educational dreams and learn important professional skills.
While the financial aid deal offered may seem like an area where the student has little control, students hold power as potential future clients of the university. Students should consider themselves potential customers shopping for the best deal. With their role as customers in mind, graduating students can take three (free!) tips from high-level business negotiation training to ensure a financial aid deal that makes a university degree more accessible.
Do research on the appeals process
Any good negotiation workshop will tell students to arrive at a negotiation having done research about the other party’s expectations, history, processes, and limits. Students can bring research into the first step of negotiating a better financial aid deal by learning about their dream school’s protocols for redefining a financial aid package.
If a student tries to call a financial aid officer directly, instead of following the school’s established process, the student may never even get to a negotiation with the appropriate person. Often the financial aid officer is unable to make a decision unilaterally; so the student won’t benefit by trying to bypass protocols.
Instead of trying to forge a separate path, students should learn the process for appealing the aid decision at their dream school, as well as do their homework to find out what materials to gather in order to make a more compelling case.
A negotiation skill taught in the best negotiation workshops is to consider both parties’ needs, and search for a win-win solution in service of as many of those needs as possible. So, in order to get ready to negotiate a new financial aid deal, students must prepare to demonstrate their own needs.
Price is usually the main sticking point when deciding whether a student goes to a dream school, so students should prepare documentation that shows that the only barrier to the student going to the university is cost. To get better needs-based offers, students can show that their family’s income is too limited to invest in the school’s services. Documentation should also demonstrate any changes in the family’s financial circumstances since the application, which make payment more challenging. To argue for more merit-based aid, students can show improved grades or a new SAT score which could help the student access new scholarships.
Students should also consider how to take advantage of needs the university has. Universities want the students they have made offers to to accept. If the college took the time to select those students from a massive pool of applicants, then the college thinks the student’s presence would be beneficial to the college’s interests. So selected students would do well to understand why the University selected them. If students remember the negotiation skill of looking for mutual benefit, students can use this information to make a more compelling argument to their dream school, showing that some more aid would allow both the student and the university to meet their objective of having the student attend the institution.
In negotiation skills courses, you’re likely to learn about something called your BATNA – your best alternative to a negotiated agreement. Any negotiator must keep in mind what alternatives exist if the negotiation goes sour. This prevents negotiators from entering into a detrimental deal. Students should take this tip from top negotiators by bearing being clear on their BATNA.
Imagine a student seeks to go to their dream school. However, the ideal school costs a great deal more than a acceptably-ranked university where the student received a significant package of scholarships and aid. The student should think what price difference is worthwhile to go to their ideal school over their second choice. If the financial aid package negotiations are going poorly and the ideal school refuses to budge, the student can rest easy with an affordable and acceptable alternative awaiting them.
Establishing a BATNA can help negotiations in a number of ways. If the student shows up desperate to go only to their chosen college, with no secondary offers in mind, the college can usually sense the student’s desperation, and so can have a reduced incentive to lower lend more cost support. With a strong BATNA, the student can feel more confident in having a beneficial strong alternative, no matter the outcome of the negotiation. This allows the student to approach the negotiation with ease and creativity around potential solutions. A strong BATNA also increases leverage at the negotiation table. If the school really would like to see the student join its incoming class, the school will be less likely to play hardball knowing the student has other, more competitive offers.
With these three negotiating tips, based on skills taught in world-class negotiation workshops, students can play a key role in determining their own academic future. These guidelines will empower students to get a great deal which allows them to attend a dream school — at a price the student can handle.
Byline: Building online visibility for the Negotiation Training Experts is Lilou Hoffman’s talent and passion. Her experience in working with sales professionals has given her key insights, essential when it comes to writing instructive and practical posts.