What Is Merit Aid? | Luanne Lee, Your College Planning Coach

Va_Woman_Magazine_July_Aug_2016_Page_23‘Merit Aid’ is a Pricing Strategy to Attract the ‘Best’ Applicants Most of the nation’s 1,540 four-year private colleges and universities now offer discounts (grants, scholarships) to some applicants. These “Presidential Leadership Awards” are issued regardless of financial need.

VPs of Enrollment usually love merit aid; it’s an effective tool that enables them to offer financial incentives to the students who are, subjectively, the most attractive applicants. To fill seats and to compete with private colleges, numerous state schools are experimenting with merit aid, offering discounts to honors students or the in-state tuition rate to select out-of-state applicants.

Discounts offered in 2015 were upwards of 50% making many private colleges almost as affordable as state universities.

Be a ‘Star’: 10 Ways Your Student Can Qualify for More Merit Aid!

1. Apply to Multiple Colleges. Submit 6-10 well-balanced applications. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and it is common that your student will be seen as a star at one school but not at another.

2. Invest in an SAT / ACT Prep Course. The SAT and ACT are still the primary measure of college applicants. An SAT/ACT prep course is a solid investment that leads to a greater likelihood of acceptance, more merit aid and less of a gap in the college’s financial aid package.

3. Grades Matter. Pretend you’re a college. Would you give incentives to underachievers? When it comes to merit aid, more As are always better than fewer As.

4. Take AP Courses. More merit aid goes to students who show a willingness to be challenged. Take advanced placement, international baccalaureate, honors, and dual enrollment courses.

5. Complete Applications on Time. No college wants students who procrastinate and don’t turn in work done on time. By missing a deadline, your student creates the impression that the college is certainly not his/her first choice.

6. Interview Preparation. Know the school’s strengths. Know the names of the professors. Be able to articulate why you’re applying to the college and why it’s a good fit. A strong interview can improve the merit award.

7. Essays and Personal Recommendations. This is where you demonstrate your individuality and shine.

8. Geographical Diversity. Colleges want a diverse freshman class, and often give more merit aid to students who live out-of-state.

9. Tweak Your Major. Colleges want diverse graduates, so the intent to pursue a popular major can result in less merit aid. By pursuing a lesspopular major, the merit award is likely to rise.

10. Fill out the FAFSA Form. On the FAFSA form, students specify other colleges where they’re applying. Now, each college knows who the competitors are. This alone can significantly improve awards!

By Luanne Lee, CCPRS, Your College Planning Coach

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