Receiving Merit Aid from Colleges

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.

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