You Can’t Chase Merit and Brand Name (usually)

One of the biggest struggles I face as a counselor is knowing a student can’t afford the tuition at a college they dream of attending. Many of the country’s most prestigious colleges only give need-based aid. As a result, most middle-income families don’t receive much if any aid. This is why these colleges are still overwhelmingly attended by wealthy students.

There are many affordable colleges in this country. Many give aid to attract strong students. You can often find general perimeters about scholarships and aid on a school’s website. Some schools, like the University of Alabama, are very transparent–they publish for both in-state and out-of-state students the stats and test scores you need to receive a scholarship. To be competitive for full tuition scholarships you need to have a high grade point average, test scores above the 1400 SAT/30 ACT range and a rigorous curriculum. You may need to write additional essays as well as interview for top scholarships. But other scholarships do not require such high scores.

Jeff Selingo, best-selling author of Who Gets In and Why labels colleges buyers (they have to give aid to get students). Jeff takes the info colleges provide to the College Board and to the federal government IPEDS database and compiles who gives how much aid. You can access his list (once you regsiter) here. But fundamentally, the harder the college is to get admitted, the less likely you will get aid. They don’t need to buy you. Where lesser known schools will have to give you aid to get you to attend. Most lesser known privates will discount enough to make their total cost similar to attending the local public college as an in-state resident.

Some colleges will negotiate and some will not. It never hurts to send an email to the admission counselor and ask if there is a process to have the aid offer re-evaluated. They may require proof of other aid offers detailing a less expensive out-of-pocket cost. Again, the more selective the college the less likely they will be to negotiate.

If you would like to learn more about building a list based on the possibility of merit, schedule a meeting with us. We will go through tools and websites that help you see where your child falls in the admissions process and what type of aid may be available.

Published by Kate Coffman

Kate has worked in admissions, financial aid, college and career readiness for over twenty years. She most recently served as the Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Franklin College. Kate has also worked in admissions at Butler University and Indiana University. Kate has presented at numerous schools and conferences helping families, educators and those who work with youth understand how to be college and career ready, how to apply to college and how to afford their education.

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