The Cost of Merit Aid

Some people call merit aid free money. And it sort of is. The only investment required to receive this tuition assistance is to apply to a school that awards it.

The hurdle?

Sleuthing out colleges that offer these scholarships based on academic, athletic or artistic performance rather than financial need is not easy. Scholarship deadlines are often earlier than application deadlines though some schools, for example University of Vermont, automatically consider students for merit aid.

Here are a few resources that may be helpful:

Think Local

Many civic groups, churches, temples and hometown chapters of national organizations have funds earmarked to give away. An essay or some sort of “ask” is usually required, but the results can often be thousands of dollars towards tuition.

Special Talent vs No Talent

I had a student tell me she had “no talents at all” so how was she going to get merit aid? I said, apply for it. And by apply for it, I mean research, fill out forms, write special essays, etc. The only way to “earn” these scholarships is to work for them. Additionally, there are scholarships geared for specific areas of excellence, i.e. National Merit, Morehead Cain, etc.

Public vs Private

Public universities are famously generous with merit aid and not just for in-state students. It pays to shop around, comparing the cost and value of different research institutions. Just because a particular state university isn’t mentioned in college counseling meetings at your student’s school doesn’t mean it’s lacking competitive academic, social and extracurricular advantages. In other words, just because you haven’t heard of a school doesn’t mean it’s unworthy of your student’s consideration!


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