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Early Decision - Impact on Merit Aid

Saint68Saint68 Registered User Posts: 22 New Member
Hi everyone - I realize there are lots of pros and cons of applying ED, but I want to focus on just one for the moment: Merit Aid. The question is whether applying ED could hurt a merit aid award since the college knows that the student/family are bound to attend if accepted.

A plausible situation would be a student that is a strong candidate at School X (a school that awards merit aid), and where School X is the candidate's clear first choice. Assuming all other considerations favor ED (such as affordability with or without the aid), does the student risk a lower merit award by applying Early?

If so it's sort of sad - one would hope it was the other way around, that colleges would be more generous rather than less generous with strong students that apply Early Decision. But I can see why they would be incented otherwise.

Thoughts? Thanks.
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Replies to: Early Decision - Impact on Merit Aid

  • Jlcd2000Jlcd2000 Registered User Posts: 8 New Member
    Wondering the same thing and looking forward to the replies to this.
  • CU123CU123 Registered User Posts: 1,296 Senior Member
    At some school it does hurt you and some schools it can help, it really depends on the school. There are schools that require ED to be eligible for some merit aid. If they don't have merit aid tied to ED then it will probably hurt you.
  • intparentintparent Registered User Posts: 29,509 Senior Member
    I don't think it helps anyplace. I think it is neutral at some schools and hurts at others. Schools have limited amounts of merit and use it to tempt students who might not come otherwise. ED students are committing. It doesn't make a lot of business sense for schools to be more generous with merit to ED students.

    @CU123, there are schools with early application deadlines for merit -- but can you name a school that requires an ED app for merit? I can't.
  • CU123CU123 Registered User Posts: 1,296 Senior Member
    @intparent you are correct ED does not give merit aid, EA can.
  • billcshobillcsho Registered User Posts: 16,686 Senior Member
    Not really. Tulane does, for both EA and ED.
    https://admission.tulane.edu/tuition-aid/merit-scholarships
  • sahmkcsahmkc Registered User Posts: 214 Junior Member
    It depends on the school. At American ED students have an equal or slightly greater chance for merit and grant aid. One of AU's top criteria for entrance is level of interest. AU's financial aid officer and our own school guidance counselor confirmed this. In fact the last student of our GC that got into AU said he wished he had applied ED as he felt the ED students got more merit.
  • intparentintparent Registered User Posts: 29,509 Senior Member
    That makes no economic sense at all. I'd like to see a school produce the details to prove it. ED itself is the ultimate "interest shown". The school has pretty much no doubt about their yield for ED students (and merit is very much a tool to manage yield).
  • billcshobillcsho Registered User Posts: 16,686 Senior Member
    Offering merit scholarships does not make "economic sense" anyway.
  • momofzagmomofzag Registered User Posts: 600 Member
    This is only one data point but a friend's son applied ED to Vanderbilt and was accepted. He then competed for and received a full tuition merit scholarship. If colleges want top applicants to continue to apply ED then they have to make merit scholarships available to them. Otherwise the top applicants would stop applying ED.
  • billcshobillcsho Registered User Posts: 16,686 Senior Member
    There is no way to generalize it as there are definitely examples of schools offering more or less merit scholarships to ED admitted students.
  • sahmkcsahmkc Registered User Posts: 214 Junior Member
    @intparent It does make sense because the only reason the admissions officers say that you can decline early decision is financial. Early Decision is not a legally binding contract. They can not force you to go to their school and pay for it if it is not financially feasible. In addition, if students who apply ED consistently get less merit, less students will apply ED and that also has an effect on yield. @Saint68 Is there a particular university you are considering? You might try asking in the individual college's threads.
  • intparentintparent Registered User Posts: 29,509 Senior Member
    I think schools are very cagey in general about giving out information on their merit award process. A few have hard and fast guidelines, but they like to keep their options open and their process opaque. How would anyone even know if ED students got better or even equivalent merit? There is no transparency, and little incentive for the college. Don't assume too much altruism on the part of colleges -- it is big business, and they generally run it accordingly. Agree that they can't take you to court on the ED agreement, but they can punish your school in the future if you skive out on your ED commitment, and you certainly can get in trouble if you accept a similar financial offer at another school just because you thought your ED school would come in cheaper. We tell students out here, don't count on merit if you apply ED. If you get it, gravy. But if you can't afford to attend without it, don't apply ED.
  • sahmkcsahmkc Registered User Posts: 214 Junior Member
    Trinity University and Lake Forest are two schools that I can think of that have merit grids. It's very clear - you find where your GPA & SAT/ACT meet and that's your merit. Both are private universities with ED options. It is really something you have to research for each school.
  • CU123CU123 Registered User Posts: 1,296 Senior Member
    ...well I guess I was wrong twice, they do give merit for ED. :-$
  • InigoMontoyaInigoMontoya Registered User Posts: 1,510 Senior Member
    edited September 10
    @CU123, there are schools with early application deadlines for merit -- but can you name a school that requires an ED app for merit? I can't.

    ...well I guess I was wrong twice, they do give merit for ED.
    The reality is, schools may give merit aid to ED students, they may not. There is a general feeling that, by applying under a (mostly) binding agreement the school might be less likely to give merit aid. Instead aid might be saved for other students who are very attractive to whatever mix of students the school is shooting for but who might need more enticement to attend. As mentioned above, there are no available stats and no one aggregates this data, plus there is a lot of subjectivity in the admissions and merit process, so it's hard to imagine anyone could demonstrate a particular school gave more or less for ED and influence subsequent applicants.

    There are a number of schools that require applications be in by the Early Admission deadline to be considered for merit scholarships. I think every private school my kids applied to did this. There are also scholarships that are invitation only, or that the student must be nominated for, and often these require applications be in early as well. Very few private schools publish handy dandy little grids, as the cutoffs for aid change every year based on the strength of the pool of applicants.

    There's also a difference between competitive merit scholarships - which may be open to everyone regardless of when they applied - and merit aid that comes as part of your acceptance package, which may be different depending on whether you applied ED, EA, or RD. Schools also sometimes deplete their pool of available money later in the application process, so at some schools it pays to get that application in early.
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