Merit Aid and Standardized Testing

Thanks to the Covid-19 Pandemic and the financial fallout that followed (not to mention the year of college waiting lists), people are more uncertain than ever about how to approach their college applications. Will merit aid scholarships still work as they did? How do they work? Are standardized tests still worth taking in a test optional world? We covered a few of these questions in our previous blog about standardized testing, but here we’re going to focus specifically on merit aid.

So What is Merit Aid?

Merit aid is one type of college financial aid which students can receive. This aid does not consider a student’s financial need, but instead rewards students for excellence in academics, athletics, art, or special interests.

Average merit awards in 2019-2020 amounted to approximately $11,000 per year per student. Some merit aid can cover a student’s entire tuition, some are yearly additions at smaller sums, and some can even be one-time awards of a few hundred dollars. 

So How Do You Get Academic Merit Aid?

Most of the scholarship money offered to students comes directly from the colleges themselves. Usually academic merit is determined through a mix of GPA, course rigor, and ACT/SAT scores. 

Obviously, test optional applications have changed up that last factor a little bit. If a student chooses to apply for merit aid without a standardized test score (or simply couldn’t manage to schedule an exam because of multiple test date cancelations), colleges will simply determine whether to award merit aid or not based on GPA and course rigor.

However, it has been shown that providing a high standardized test score can increase not only the likelihood of being offered merit aid but also the amount offered. 

Helpful Facts to Know While Applying to Colleges:

  • Out of state students generally receive more merit aid at public schools than in state students. Basically, the schools want to be able to boast a geographically broad student base, so if you’re from out of state they’ll want to give you an offer you can’t refuse. Helpful to know if you’re looking to get the most merit aid possible.

  • Look into the merit aid requirements for each school you apply to. Most of the time it’s just GPA, but some schools will require something else: certain courses, extracurriculars, essays, etc.

  • Most schools enroll all applicants into consideration for merit aid, but some require a specific form be filled out by a deadline. Do your research and check in with your school college/guidance counselor!

We hope this helps clear up a few things for you. And as always, we’re here to help you achieve your standardized testing goals.

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