Many colleges offer “free” merit aid money to students they want to attract to their college. This money is not based on your family’s financial wherewithal. It is a scholarship meant to entice you to accept their offer of admission, which works because everyone likes to feel as though they are getting a special deal. Most offers are four-year scholarships, and almost all are dependent on the student keeping up a high GPA throughout those four years.
What makes a student attractive to a college?
Colleges want students that enhance their school’s profile by having high grades, test scores, strong athletic, musical, or other talents, unique and meaningful extra-curricular activities, and strong interview skills where required. Students that are engaged in meaningful extra-curricular activities usually have higher graduation rates and make the school more vibrant and exciting. Students who actually start an organization, a fund raiser, or have a leadership qualities are very attractive because this shows strong initiative, while students who do not get involved in college activities tend to have a higher attrition rate. I work with students to find unique projects to spearhead within their area of interest and to help implement them. Some examples are a student who started a peer mentoring group at her high school, another who made posters about going to college which were hung in every public high school in his county and translated into Spanish, and a student that started and ran a dance camp for children.
What do you need to do to receive this merit aid?
The beauty of this scholarship money is that at most colleges you do not need to do anything more than have an excellent application, activities list, teacher recommendations, and essay. Your competently completed application will automatically determine whether or not the school considers you a candidate worthy of merit aid. No extra essays or forms are usually requested.
Which schools offer merit aid to a significant number of students?
Colleges and Universities Offering Generous Merit Aid *
|School||% Undergrads w/ Merit Aid||Avg. Merit Amount|
|Furman University||44||$ 20,472|
|Oberlin College||41||$ 14,434|
|Creighton University – Business||39||$ 15,136|
|Creighton University – Arts and Sciences||39||$ 15,136|
|Creighton University – Nursing||39||$ 15,136|
|Millsaps College||38||$ 20,354|
|Tulane University||36||$ 25,779|
|University of Dayton – Business||36||$ 15,516|
|University of Dayton – Arts and Sciences||36||$ 15,516|
|University of Dayton – Education and Health Sciences||36||$ 15,516|
|University of Dayton – Engineering||36||$ 15,516|
|Butler University||33||$ 13,570|
|Goucher College||30||$ 17,200|
|Berry College||29||$ 12,728|
|Whitman College||29||$ 10,314|
|Fairfield University – Nursing||28||$ 14,445|
|Fairfield University – Engineering||28||$ 14,445|
|Fairfield University – Business||28||$ 14,445|
|Fairfield University – Arts & Sciences||28||$ 14,445|
|Santa Clara University – Engineering||26||$ 14,378|
|Santa Clara University – Business||26||$ 14,378|
|Santa Clara University – Arts and Sciences||26||$ 14,378|
|Clemson University – Education||26||$ 5,216|
|Clemson University – Engineering, Computing and Applied Science||26||$ 5,216|
|Clemson University – Science||26||$ 5,216|
|Clemson University – Business||26||$ 5,216|
|Clemson University – Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences||26||$ 5,216|
|Clemson University – Architecture, Arts and Humanities||26||$ 5,216|
|Clemson University – Behavioral, Social and Health Science||26||$ 5,216|
|Quinnipiac University||25||$ 15,389|
|University of Arizona (Resident)||21||$ 8,164|
|University of Arizona (Non-Resident)||21||$ 8,164|
|Arizona State University (Resident)||21||$ 7,968|
|Arizona State University (Non-Resident)||21||$ 7,968|
Please be aware that only a percentage of students are given this offer. Just applying without making a strong case for what you can bring to a college will make you far less likely to receive merit aid. Also this table shows the average amount of money, which means many students will receive more or less than these amounts. To be a candidate to receive this money every part of your application should be done well.
*Source for data is College Kickstart.