Receiving Merit Aid
By Claudine Vainrub, EduPlan
Finding merit aid has become harder as colleges focus in providing need blind admissions, and merit aid becomes secondary to need-based aid. However, there are some useful websites and other sources to earn merit aid. One of these is the site www.meritaid.com, which allows students to quickly review scholarships offered, searching through states and higher education institutions.
A list of schools offering merit aid is hardly available. Something that gets a bit close to that, although not complete, is a ranking found on the US News & World Report College Ranking Issue. This ranking shows the largest percentage of students having earned merit-based aid. Although this is not precise information on which colleges offer merit aid, it gets us close when we imply that those colleges where a larger percentage of the student population receive merit aid, will be able to sponsor more students and thus, offer this type of awards. This list can be found by searching “students receiving merit aid” on the usnews.com site.
Another sources to learn more about colleges offering financial aid is by Inside College, which has a list of schools, although again, not a complete one. Although some schools might not directly say they offer merit aid, often times, through private institutions supporting the school, they do. Inquire with schools what opportunities to gain privately funded merit aid are available to students.
As expressed by colleges throughout, most schools do offer some sort of merit-based scholarships. Depending on endowment and college policy, the amounts will vary. If your family does not qualify for need-based aid, but you would like to receive some form of assistance, merit aid might be your only option. There are many families in the U.S. with this situation, middle income, enough to support the family in full but not enough to sponsor a $200,000 education for 2-3 children. If this is your case, it is worth a try to seek merit aid.
My advice is – Ask! If you are respectful when asking, formal and diligent, trying to connect with admissions committees, financial aid offices and other institution directors can help you when seeking merit aid. Offer to do your part and become part of a work-study program, to show that you are willing to go the extra mile to support yourself, and not that you pretend the school to do everything for you while you sit still. Express how you could qualify for merit aid for specific ethnic groups, for specific majors or specific career paths. Try to help admissions offices by making their job easier and research on your own to bring knowledge on what merit aid opportunities are already out there in the school you will be attending and how you could qualify for them.
The merit aid process might not always be straight-forward, but it is manageable if you are committed to search and work to earn the funding you need or desire. Be prepared to work hard, and the reward will come!