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An Athlete's Guide To Lowering The Cost of College

You’ve got the perfect college picked out.

You like the team and the coach, it has strong academics, and campus life is just what you were looking for. Best of all, you got in and there’s a roster spot waiting for you. Just one problem: even with your financial aid package, it’s too expensive. What do you do? Don’t panic – this situation doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Here’s a few steps you can take to see your way through it and end up at your dream school.

Read the Situation
Make sure you have a firm understanding of the position you’re in. Were you a top recruiting target, or did you barely sneak onto the team? The more the team wants you, the easier it will probably be for you to get the aid you need to attend the school. Do you know anything about the reputation of the school in handing out financial aid? Most Ivy League schools, for example, will provide generous financial aid to any admitted student who needs it.

Appeal Your Aid Offer
Ask the Financial Aid office to appeal your offer – they may find you are eligible for more aid than they realized originally. No matter what, your aid will not be reduced.

Talk with the Coach
Explain your financial situation to the coach of your prospective team – he or she has probably seen it before. Your coach may be able to help you secure more aid or point you towards other financial resources.

Use Your Leverage
This is where your preparation comes in handy. Did you keep your options open during the recruiting process and receive offers from multiple programs? Now may be a good time to discuss that with the coach. Be polite, honest, and direct. A simple explanation might be: “I am very interested in this program and it is my top choice. The only thing holding me back is the financial aid offer. I can afford to pay [amount] and hope we can put together a financial aid package that will allow that. If we can’t,  I will have to play at [school] which has offered me [financial aid package].” Don’t approach the conversation as if you are making demands – you are trying to work with the coach to solve a problem.

Look for Other Scholarships
Even if the coach can’t offer you more financial aid, there may be other non-athletic scholarships available. Almost all colleges offer academic scholarships (eligibility requirements will vary from place to place). Many schools also offer alumni, leadership, or interest-based scholarships. Ask your financial aid office whether a higher ACT/SAT score would qualify you for additional scholarships – if so, it may be worth retaking the test. If you are exploring additional sources of financial aid make sure to check out possible alternatives here.

Athletes are great at overcoming adversity, and this a real-life example of how that can come in handy off the field.

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