Show Me The Money

Summer is speeding by and the time for our incoming high school seniors to make their list of potential colleges is quickly approaching.  Many students choose colleges randomly or based on where their friends are looking.  I am constantly telling parents to choose colleges strategically…especially if you are seeking financial aid.  No one wants cost to be a factor in their child’s decision, but for most of us, it just is.

Many parents will assume that since the sky is not the limit for them, their child should only consider state colleges and universities with the seemingly lower cost. What many parents don’t realize is that many of the private colleges and universities offer considerable grants and scholarships bringing down the cost dramatically. Quite often, students can attend the pricier private schools for less than the state schools.

The bottom line is, many of these schools have money and lots of it! Princeton has an endowment of over $17 billion, Yale over $19 billion… just to name a few. It’s not just the elite schools sitting on a lot of cash and some of that money is made available in scholarships and grants. Yes, when we think of financial aid, we think of need-based aid and there is plenty of it available for those who qualify. For those families who are on the borderline for need-based aid, there is hope.

Many schools offer scholarships that are not widely publicized. They are usually offered by the admissions office, the office of the President, or the trustees as a way for the university to entice top talent to their institution. Typically, they’re based solely on academic merit, and sometimes cover full tuition. One way for smart students to improve their chances for merit aid is to apply to schools where they will be in the top 10% – 20% of the incoming freshmen class. The bulk of merit aid funds are distributed to this top tier of students.

It is worth it to spend the time, do the research and make the calls to find out who is offering what. Really look at the college’s website, especially the financial aid section and carefully read each page. Few people take the time to do this. Just take this as example… Johns Hopkins awards two 4-year tuition scholarships by the Dean of Engineering.  Top candidates for this scholarship will have success in science fairs as well as an excellent academic record.  Another is Boston College.  BC awards 15 full-tuition Presidential Scholarships every year to students who can demonstrate leadership potential, participation in community service and high test scores.

Look for colleges that offer these academic scholarships and get started early!