Merit Scholarships Most parents have little knowledge regarding the criteria and availability of receiving merit scholarship money. I would wager – but cannot prove – that millions of dollars of merit aid goes untouched!

Did you know that:

  • Four out of five colleges use standardized test scores as a criterion for merit awards
  • Students who score in the top 10% (1330 on the SAT and 28 on the ACT) can often expect to be awarded up to $28,000
  • Merit scholarships are also available to students who score lower but whose scores are beyond the median score requirement of that particular school

If you go to most colleges’ websites, you will notice a ‘net cost calculator’ which lets students see how much they would need to pay out of pocket to attend:

  • A student who has entered his profile and changes nothing but his ACT or SAT test score will be able to see the scholarship money increase as their scores rise
  • SAT score increases of 100-200 points or 4-5 points on the ACT can translate into thousands of dollars in merit aid

Take for example the the out of state student who applies to Indiana University – one of the 157 schools that presently superscore the ACT*. (Superscoring occurs when a college takes the highest subscores from various test dates to get a new higher score.) Let’s assume he has a GPA of 3.8 and a 30 on his ACT. This can provide him with $5000 in merit aid per year. If he takes the ACT again and increases his score by just 1 point, that can translate into $11,000 per year – more than twice the difference! (*Most colleges superscore the SAT.)

Another example is the student who had a very strong GPA and was planning on majoring in engineering. On his first attempt on the SAT, he scored 2000 (based on the former SAT score maximum of 2400). He was advised to invest in SAT coaching and when he re-took the exam, he scored 2170. That 170 overall point improvement enabled him to receive a $112,000 in merit scholarship to Tulane University. Wow!

Ultimately, improving test scores can translate into significant merit aid:

  • Colleges believe that students with higher test scores will be stronger students.
  • They are more likely to get better grades and more likely to graduate in four years.
  • Admitting higher scoring students helps the college rank higher, as well as look a lot more selective, thereby potentially attracting more top students. Clearly a win/win.

All schools have their own criteria, but this was interesting to read regarding the criteria the University of Rochester has used – some unrelated to test scores and grades:

  • $3,000 to students who had serious conversations with the financial aid and/or admissions officers. Schools like to feel wanted too!
  • $2000 to students not from NY. Colleges love to have a geographically diverse student body. (The further away the better!)
  • $62 was given for each “A” on the transcript.
  • $400 was awarded for each tough course taken – AP, IB, and honors.
  • $1700 was given for those students or parents who completed the FAFSA application as the school charges a progressive tax on merit awards.
  • $1800 if the recommendations were considered excellent.
  • $115 was given for each 10 point improvement above the median for Rochester freshmen. (The average SAT score was 2040 on the 2400 point scale.)
  • $400 was offered to students who honored the application deadline.

Want to get some merit aid for your teen? Perhaps it’s time to rethink investing in a quality test prep program like BreakThrough Test Prep with over a 26 year track record – literally helping thousands of students get the scores they deserve. As you have just learned, your ROI (return on investment) in a top test prep program is potentially worth thousands of dollars.

In the words of a Very Pleased Holton Parent:

“My daughter, worked with both Harriet and Charles at BreakThrough Test Prep, and I’m so glad she did. Not only did she thoroughly enjoy her sessions with them, but she raised her ACT scores more than we had hoped – enough so that she was offered a $15,000 per year scholarship to one of her first choices, Miami University in Ohio! What an incredible ROI!

So if you are on the fence about investing a little more than you had intended for test preparation, let me say that it’s well worth the investment. Needless to say, I am looking forward to my second daughter beginning her preparation this summer. Also, let me add that not only did she score a 31 composite on the ACT, she also learned invaluable critical reading skills that she will certainly take with her to Miami. I thank you, BreakThrough!”

I look forward to the opportunity of working with your teen!      


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