Merit Based College Funding

Merit Based College Funding

Today I am going to focus on merit-based funding in order to help you understand how colleges allocate money.

Before we begin I want to make clear how merit-based funding works. Schools will do their best to bring in those applicants that have made it to their ‘I love you’ list. This means that they have to find a way to give out merit-based scholarships to bridge the gap between what a student can pay and how much need-based funding they are offered.  However, it is key to remember that they look at all the funds that they give to a student as an investment, not as a gift.

I am going to provide you with 5 steps for getting the maximum amount of merit-based funding from college.

First: working on your SAT and ACT test. this is the number one thing that colleges look at for enrollment and for financial aid.  You must prepare for these tests so you can get the best score you possibly can.  Your student should begin preparing as early as freshman year because your competition is.

Second: during their second semester of their junior year of high school they need to begin to visit the colleges that they would like to attend.  These visits are more important than just going there and seeing if they like the campus.  You should take the opportunity to meet with a college admission officer and the financial aid officer. This becomes an important part of the process when you begin negotiations of your financial aid package.

Third: you must be aware of the application deadlines for the colleges that you would like to attend. Many colleges now have deadlines that are due before the end of the first semester of a student’s senior year.  If you do not apply before the deadlines you will have to apply a year later.  While this is not explicitly tied to getting funding, your student will not get any funding if they are not accepted.

Fourth: make sure you fill out the FAFSA application on, or as close to, October 1st during your senior year of high school. Again, while this is not directly tied to merit-based funding it becomes very important as you realize that colleges will not assess merit-based funding until they have your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which the FAFSA provides.

Fifth: You need to keep your options open, you should apply to between six and eight colleges and be prepared to shop for your college education as you would for new car.  This means that you should go through the negotiation process with each college that you are admitted to. This is where you are able to use the relationships that you built with admission and financial aid officers that you met with during the second step.

Six: when you get their final financial aid package you are then able to compare the actual cost of attending a college against each of the others that you applied to.  The actual cost of college is when you subtract the funding package that you receive from the college from cost of attendance that they publish.  If you have actively searched out 6 to 8 colleges that will fit your needs, this will take the emotions out of the equation and you will then be able to look just at the numbers and pick the best school.

I know that this is not as comprehensive as I would like it to be, however it is the basis of how schools allocate merit-based funding and how you can maximize your own funding.

Please feel free to give me a call or email me with your questions.

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