Scholarship Negotiation Letter for Grad School

Philippe Barr, PhD
7 min readMay 30, 2023

Graduate school is a formidable venture that requires a tremendous amount of effort and resources, especially financial resources. While scholarships can help ease the burden, they can be competitive and may not cover all costs. However, an effective scholarship negotiation letter can provide a viable avenue to secure additional funding.

Crafting a persuasive scholarship negotiation letter can be an intimidating task, but with the right strategy and approach, you can effectively increase your chances of receiving more funding. In this blog post, we’ll share comprehensive tips on how to write a winning scholarship negotiation letter that can potentially help you attain additional funding for graduate school.

Know Your Worth

It’s critical to research and understand the value of your work and contribution to your chosen field. Familiarize yourself with the typical rates for tuition, living expenses, and other related costs. If you’ve received offers from other schools with similar programs, use them as leverage and establish your value. Knowing your worth will help you tailor your negotiation letter effectively and persuasively, making it easier for the school to grant a higher amount of scholarship.

Build a Relationship with the Financial Aid Office

Just like any relationship, building a rapport with the school’s financial aid office can be a significant advantage. Early in the admissions process, don’t hesitate to reach out to them with genuine interest and questions about the application process, the program, and what scholarship opportunities are available. Get to know them, their needs, and how they can help you with your goals. Once they know you better, they’re more likely to advocate for you and even allocate more funding than initially offered.

Check if the school offers a scholarship appeal process

Before drafting a negotiation letter, make sure the school has a scholarship appeal or negotiation process. Reach out to the financial aid office and inquire about the process they follow for scholarship negotiation. You don’t want to spend hours drafting a letter only to realize that the school doesn’t accept them.

Understand the scholarship terms and eligibility requirements

Before starting your letter, make sure to read and understand the scholarship conditions and eligibility criteria. Study the scholarship terms and appreciate exactly what you are entitled to. This way, you can identify any gaps in coverage that may arise and construct an argument for your negotiation.

Gather Relevant Information

After examining the scholarship guidelines, it’s time to collect significant information to support your negotiation letter. Be prepared to show your academic credentials such as awards, honors, achievements, new GRE s cores, and impact in the community and field of study. Furthermore, consider the cost-saving measures such as living off-campus, internships, and part-time jobs. Ensure that you gather research that supports your case such as the cost of tuition at other institutions, housing costs in the area, and additional scholarships the school offers.

Identify and Address Potential Barriers

While negotiating a scholarship, anticipate possible roadblocks that your university may encounter. Identify the most common barriers and address them before addressing your requests. For instance, a university may have already allocated all available funds to students, or the institution might have received a low volume of applications, and therefore there will be no extra funding.

Articulate your Request

After gathering all relevant information, it’s now time to draft an effective scholarship negotiation letter. Address the financial aid officer by their name and explain that you received the scholarship offer and appreciate the school’s investment in your academics. Make a clear request for more funding, stating how an increase will enable you to focus on your academics, travel for research and conferences, or undertake internships without worrying about supplementary job funding.

Don’t Play the Victim

While you may feel like your scholarship offer is not enough, it’s essential to avoid sounding like the victim in your scholarship negotiation letter. Avoid making emotional appeals and instead focus on the facts and why you deserve more funding. It’s also essential to be professional and respectful in your letter, regardless of how you feel about the initial scholarship offer.

Provide Options

As you write your scholarship negotiation letter, be prepared to provide options for the scholarship committee to consider. For instance, you can offer to take on additional responsibilities or participate in a research project in exchange for more funding. Being creative with your suggestions shows that you’re willing to work with the scholarship committee to find a mutually agreeable solution.

Present your case in a professional manner

When writing your letter, keep it formal, and treat it like a professional business letter. Introduce yourself, state your current academic status, and express your gratitude for the scholarship amount offered. Next, explain your financial situation, and how the scholarship amount doesn’t fully meet your needs. Lastly, ask for an increase in the scholarship amount and be clear about the amount you are requesting.

Be Clear and Concise

When writing a scholarship negotiation letter, be clear and concise about your request. Keep your priorities in mind, attach supporting documents as needed, and make the benefits of granting your request clear. Address the recipient by name to personalize the letter. Also, keep in mind that the financial aid office often has a limited budget. Work with them to find a solution that works for both parties.

Be humble

To negotiate graduate school scholarship options successfully, it’s important to approach the process with humility. Remember that this is a human process, and people are more inclined to advocate for those who show that they are taking everyone’s needs into account. If you come across as arrogant or demanding, your request is more likely to be denied.

Thank the school for their consideration

Close your negotiation letter by thanking the school for their consideration. Keep the tone positive and respectful, stressing that this is an opportunity to further your education, not an obligation. Provide your contact information and indicate your willingness to supply any additional information if needed.

Provide Adequate Time

The average response time for scholarship negotiation letters is seven business days, but some universities may need more time. Therefore, you will need to give your institution ample time to consider your request. Ensure you submit the letter promptly. A rule of thumb is to send your scholarship negotiation letter before the deadline for accepting the award.

Follow-Up

After sending the scholarship negotiation letter, it’s important to follow up and communicate your interest regularly. A simple email or a call to the financial aid office can make a big difference. Be polite, friendly, and professional, and inquire about the status of your request. Your follow-up demonstrates a strong interest in the program and may remind the decision-makers of why they should invest in you.

Template: Asking a Graduate School for More Money

Here’s an example of negotiating a graduate school scholarship between two top 10 schools:

Dear Admissions Committee,

I am writing to you to express my excitement about being admitted into the *name of the program* at *name of the school* class of 2023 and would like to thank you all again for the scholarship!

As I will be financing my graduate studies, I would like to know if there are any other scholarships for which I can be considered? I was fortunate enough to be awarded a scholarship from *name of school* for X dollars and had begun to plan my studies based on this award. Since your program was my top choice, I would like to know if there is any possibility of matching that offer? If it would be helpful, I would be more than happy to send you the documentation I received from *name of other school* or provide any additional information.

Thank you again! I’m very excited about the possibility of attending X school.

Conclusion

The scholarship negotiation process is not about being coercive but about strategically advocating for yourself based on sound reasoning. Remember that the financial aid office has the responsibility of ensuring they allocate funds effectively and should be open to discussing options that best fit your financial obligations. With careful preparation and an appropriate approach, you can persuade your institution to award you more funding greater.

Remember, the key to crafting a successful negotiation letter is to always put your best foot forward — never settle for less and be confident about your goals. If you still feel overwhelmed by the entire process of writing a negotiation letter, do not hesitate to reach out for assistance and check out our grad school application hourly service. Got questions? Sign up for a consultation, or send us your draft for an estimate. It’s FREE!

With a Master’s from McGill University and a Ph.D. from New York University, Dr. Philippe Barr is the founder of The Admit Lab. As a tenure-track professor, Dr. Barr spent a decade teaching and serving on several graduate admission committees at UNC-Chapel Hill before turning to full-time consulting. With more than seven years of experience as a graduate school admissions consultant, Dr. Barr has stewarded the candidate journey across multiple master’s and Ph.D. programs and helped hundreds of students get admitted to top-tier graduate programs all over the world.

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Originally published at https://admit-lab.com on May 30, 2023.

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Philippe Barr, PhD

I am Philippe Barr, founder of The Admit Lab, a graduate school admissions consultancy that helps students get admitted into grad school: https://admit-lab.com/