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. Some applied to schools that either don’t give merit or only give very competitive awards to a small number of targeted students that those schools want to poach away from elite schools. I can only guess that they're all 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.