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Getting Accepted does NOT mean that a Merit Scholarship will be forthcoming....

mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Forum Champion Financial Aid, Forum Champion Alabama Posts: 84,224 Forum Champion
In fall, many students pay little attention to the financial aspects of paying for college. Many assume that "grants and merit scholarships" will make their dreams affordable. Many don't even bother to find out if their schools give merit awards or if their stats are high enough to qualify for consideration. Many just assume the money will be forthcoming. Period.

Now, in late winter, is when we see parents and students posting questions like: "I've been accepted to XXX University, when will I get my merit scholarship?"

They will then often post stats that are quite average for the school, or stats that are often quite LOW for the school...but they assume that a merit scholarship will be awarded. I can only guess that they're thinking: "I was accepted, therefore I will get merit."

Many think that the fact that they "did many ECs" or "wrote a great essay," means that they'll be rewarded with thousands of dollars.

Does this thinking come from the T-ball years where "everyone gets a participation trophy"?


I recently was talking to a parent whose average-stats-child was accepted to the family's favorite OOS public. The parent told me that they need a merit award that will cover 50-75% of COA, which is approaching 50k per year...and will hit $50k sometime during child's college time. They are expecting an award of $25k-33k PER YEAR! Really? Do they think that no one should be paying most/all of the costs?

I was speechless. Where does this sort of thinking come from? At this particular school, the very high test score students are getting about $25k per year, yet this family thinks their modest stats child should get that amount and MORE?? A 75% award is approx the amount that the NMFs get.

There seems to be a disconnect between "want" and reality. Wanting to go to a school doesn't equate to the school bankrupting itself to make itself ultra-cheap for everyone thru merit.

The student's stats qualified for the lowest award...about $3k per year. The family is expecting another (MUCH larger) award to come in the spring.


Schools that are "generous with merit," are rarely generous with EVERY student. They are RARELY generous with most students. They are mostly generous to those well-within the top quartile for test scores. Merit scholarships are supposed to serve a purpose....entice high stats students to enroll. Schools aren't just being nice and benevolent when awarding merit....they're rather self-serving....they're buying top test scores with strong GPAs.

Sure, the schools like the "just good students," too, but schools are not going to hand over mega-bucks in merit to entice them to attend. (The exceptions to this seems to be those small privates that are desperate for warm bodies in the seats, so they've raised tuition so that they can flatter acceptees with a token merit...maybe $10k per year off an overly-inflated COA of $55k.

Also...usually high GPAs along do not warrant much/any merit. Test scores are primarily important, in most cases. Getting more high test score students on campus raises the "reported middle quartile test scores", which raises the school's profile.

Here is a brief run-down of how merit is awarded....


There is a HUGE pool of students with high GPAs (this is due to grade inflation, easier curriculums, etc).

There is a smaller pool of students with high TEST SCORES (top 25% of the college)

There is an even smaller pool of students with BOTH high test scores and high GPAs. These are the students who typically get the merit awards. These students may be the top 30% at the college or maybe the top 2-5% of the college. Just depends on how much merit the college budgets to give away.
Post edited by fallenchemist on
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Replies to: Getting Accepted does NOT mean that a Merit Scholarship will be forthcoming....

  • sensation723sensation723 Registered User Posts: 497 Member
    @Midwest67 I agree with you about the college counselors. The one at my daughter school wasn't really helpful either.
  • billcshobillcsho Registered User Posts: 18,405 Senior Member
    While the government mandated the NPC from every colleges, parents and students are still treating it as optional. Indeed, not many students can apply to any school they want without considering the cost. More interesting, they would post here and ask how much aid other students got from a particular school instead of punching in their own data to check. The same school can be very generous for one student but gives no aid to another one.
  • GnocchiBGnocchiB Registered User Posts: 2,065 Senior Member
    edited February 2016
    Great thread and way to really lay it all out there @mom2collegekids.

    I've been on CC for a couple of years now (DD is a senior). DS (current 9th grader) has a few friends whose parents have their heads in the sand about how much college will cost. Honestly, from what they are saying and doing (one just purchased a new house that was 2X as expensive as the one they just sold - kids are in 9th and 7th grades - they've mentioned having a huge mortgage) and their ages (they graduated from Big State Us in the 1980s) they have NO IDEA how much our state flagship is going to cost their kids. I think they're in for a rude awakening.

    Of course I can't point blank tell them that they're clueless .... but I hope they will find CC on their own.
  • TomSrOfBostonTomSrOfBoston Registered User Posts: 14,279 Senior Member
    They are usually referred to a minimum criteria.
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