Merit Aid for College Applicants: High School Grades Could Be Worth $100,000

Merit Aid for College Applicants

Today’s New York Times has a fascinating article about merit aid for college applicants. All but the most selective colleges entice students to attend with financial help based on grades, NOT family income. Need-based aid is determined by income and assets. Merit aid is different.

As we know, paying for college is one of the most daunting issues for the majority of families. With tuition plus room and board often approaching $75,000 A YEAR for many private colleges, today’s families face bewildering choices. 

Unfortunately, Ivy League and other highly selective colleges and universities (ie University of Chicago, MIT, Tufts) offer only need-based financial aid.  To learn more, check each college’s NET PRICE CALCULATOR (Google name of college + “net price calculator”) for a sense of the aid that might be available to you. These colleges are in such demand, they don’t need to offer “merit aid.” 

By contrast, state universities and less selective colleges are now offering it.  Today’s NYT article is an overview of the subject, not a step-by-step guide. 

Start Early for Merit Aid

Take note: The key is getting students on board early in high school. Explain that good grades can mean financial rewards when they apply to college. The article is a great starting point. Here are a few paragraphs that get to the heart of the issue, with a link to the rest:

“It started innocently enough, with private colleges seeking a bit more prestige a few decades ago. They hoped extra money for high-achieving students might attract others who wouldn’t need inducements.

“Instead, a full-on arms race broke out, slowly, and then seemingly all at once. If one school started offering a discount, similar colleges vying for the same kids had to do the same.

“A few savvy families began to realize that they could ask for a better deal — and reject offers from schools that would not play along. And so on, up the food chain, until tonier brands like Oberlin and Connecticut College had to hold their noses and enter the game too.

“Students with straight-A averages were surprised to find themselves the subject of occasional outright bidding wars.” READ THE REST 

Finally, the phenomenon of widespread merit aid for college applicants is relatively new and unpredictable. Please keep it in mind as you apply if you do not qualify for need-based financial aid.

If you have questions about your college application essays or any aspect of applying to college, including what has changed since COVID, please shoot me an email or pick up the phone.    1-855-99-ESSAY.

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