How High School Students Can Maximize Merit-Based College Financial Aid Smart change: personal finance


Search for “Common Data Set” in a college website search bar or with the school name in a search engine. In the document that appears, look for the sections titled “Number of Enrolled Students Receiving Aid” and “Number of Enrolled Students Receiving Non-Need-Based Bursaries and Grants”. The more students who have received non-need-based aid – merit-based aid, in other words – the more likely you will be eligible if you qualify.

In 2019-2020, for example, New York University provided merit aid to 270 full-time freshmen with no financial need (out of a total of 6,160 full-time freshmen). The University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, on the other hand, provided merit assistance to 1,783 full-time freshmen without financial need, out of a total of 6,632 full-time freshmen.

Knowing when to negotiate for more merit assistance

Colleges that are competing for the same students may be willing to increase their merit aid offers. Say your heart is on a school that offered you an annual $ 10,000 merit scholarship in your financial aid award letter in recognition of your good grades. But a competing school – a school that attracts students with similar test scores and scores, and has roughly the same reputation and level of admissions selectivity – gave you $ 20,000.

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