I was told that about 42,000 applicants were considered for the 2019 USC merit awards.
One of my kids who i will call Kid#2 with a 4.6 GPA; 1560 SAT, 35 ACT, impressive community service worldwide, member of highly regarded wind ensemble etc, ect. He was not selected for this great award. Over 80 applicants from his high school were also eliminated.
Two years ago my other child who I will call Kid#1 was awarded a presidential merit award (50 % off tuition). Kid #1 had lower GPA and lower test scores, similar community service.
I would say that kid #1 may have articulated her experiences a bit better.
So what is the secret? is it luck?
If you are to be selected from 42k applicants then I would expect that if you are lucky whoever reads and evaluate your application will find you unique and deserving.
There is not a formula, otherwise they will input your numbers into a database and select the highest scores. It is clearly subjective and I am sure that kids who you may know with lower grades and lower test scores could have been preselected to interview for a merit award.
My kid #2 was eliminated from the awards interviews and kid #1 two years ago received one. I know them very well and I can say that Kid #2 has more merit I should have been selected. BUT he was not. I am sure thousands of applicants have what it takes to be given the awards but they received the same bad news.
It is so difficult to get into a good college and even the perfect grades and test scores may not get you there.
Congratulations to all the ones who were chosen, I am sure you deserve it and I hope you will treasure and be thankful for how fortunate you are. You won a jackpot!