8 Rules for Maximizing Merit Aid

Apply to schools where you’re at the top; ask about renewal terms.

By + More

[Read 7 Steps to Finding an Affordable College.]

8. Negotiate. If you have received admission letters from two or more universities, and your first choice has a higher net price than a competitor, "Don't be afraid to 'bargain,' " says Don Heller, director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the Pennsylvania State University. "It's a not-so-well-kept secret that some institutions may be willing to match a merit grant offered to the student by another school," he adds. But the schools that do consider bargaining typically only match offers from colleges they consider as good or better than their own. Carnegie Mellon University, for example, doesn't generally try to match awards from much lower-ranked schools. Also, students generally only have negotiating leverage before they send in their deposits May 1. 

Searching for a college? Get our complete rankings of Best Colleges.