Qualifying for Merit Aid

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Other than need-based aid for which many do not qualify, the next best source for covering the cost-of-attendance is merit aid. Merit aid can reduce the cost-of-attendance by a significant amount.

So, how do you qualify for merit aid?

Merit aid is “free” money (e.g., grants, scholarship, tuition discounts) awarded by the school to certain applicants based on the value they’ll bring the school. As the money comes from the schools, they can set any criteria they choose.

Merit aid typically is awarded for a variety of non-need reasons, such as academic achievement, athletic talent, or musical/artistic ability. Furthermore, the school simply may be looking to attract students in order to meet enrollment goals.

What’s the secret?

Applying to schools that want you and that have the money to give. Be sure to look for schools that:

  • Offer merit aid (not all do);
  • Have a history of awarding generous grants and scholarships;
  • Will consider you a top student (you’d be in the top 25% of the recently admitted class);
  • Will consider you valuable based on major, gender, home state, musical talent, athletic ability, background, or ethnicity; and/or,
  • Will award you for your exceptionally strong desire to attend that institution.

While applying for admission may qualify you for merit aid, there actually may be a separate application process (at least for certain awards). And, there may be additional requirements.

Be sure to confirm the process with the school’s admissions department.

Be careful…

At most schools, merit aid counts toward meeting your financial need. And, these awards usually come with requirements, such as maintaining a certain GPA. Finally, some may be for freshmen only, designed to entice an applicant to enroll at that school.

If you need help finding the schools that award the most free money for your particular student, contact our Professional College Planners for assistance with your family’s college planning campaign.

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