The cost of a college education can be daunting to say the least. Many college hopefuls are deferring applying or, once enrolled, find the costs overwhelming.
Each year the demographics of the applicant pool change and one current trend is favoring applicants. We are in a period in which the size of high school classes is decreasing so that the number of potential college students is also declining.
Colleges need to fill seats and beds in order to have enough income to keep the lights on and the professors paid. Competition for students who will enroll has increased substantially in the last couple of years. The discount rate is the difference between the published Cost of Attendance or tuition and what students are actually asked to pay. Many students are finding that the discount can be up to 50%.
To attract students, financial aid packages have been beefed up and other perks are being offered. Some colleges have frozen tuition. In addition to not raising tuition for this year, some guarantee keeping tuition the same until a student graduates.
In the past it has been difficult to get one of your colleges to increase the merit aid in your package but that may be changing. If you have a better offer from College B but want to attend College G, you can try by showing the award letter from B and asking if G can match.
Prepare to apply to multiple colleges, looking for those where you will be highly desirable. Choose those where your credentials are in the top 25% of the applicant pool or where they need your tuba, experience, your interest in an under-subscribed major or to fill a demographic slot.
Until the number of high school students begins to increase again, college applicants will have more leverage: take advantage of all of your options.