Merit Scholarship Strategist Nancy Paul Urges Families To Do Their Homework to Win the Most Institutional Merit Aid

Nancy Paul, author of the Amazon best-seller The Little Book about Scholarships, encourages families to take the time to study the opportunities that exist for their student to win both private and institutional merit scholarships – money for college based on achievement. Institutional merit aid comes from colleges while private merit aid is offered by businesses, individuals, and organizations.

“Most families are unaware of how to use merit scholarships to their full advantage,” Paul shares.  She adds, “Schools offering institutional merit aid to their list of prospective colleges, while also pursuing a range of local and national private merit scholarships, position students to win more money for college that doesn’t have to be paid back.”

“Institutional aid is often renewable and larger than private scholarships,” Paul reveals. “The best way to win institutional merit aid is to be overqualified in terms of GPA and standardized test scores,” Paul shares.  “Schools vary on how – and whether – they award merit scholarships, and a good rule of thumb is to apply to some schools where the student’s GPA and test scores are at least 25% higher than the average at that school.”

Paul clarifies one point in the recent Wall Street Journal article  which says, “In most cases, students don’t need to actively seek merit scholarships from colleges and universities which tend to determine who will get help when reviewing applications and transcripts.”

“While institutional merit aid is often awarded without a separate application,” she explains, “families can miss out on large amounts of money by not fully researching all the requirements as well as the opportunities available at a given school.”

There are institutional merit scholarships that do require a separate application, such as UCLA’s Alumni Scholars Award, which currently provides as much as $ 20,000 over four years. Paul’s eldest daughter, Rebecca, won the top Alumni Scholar Award for the State of California in 2010.

There may also be merit scholarships open only to upperclassmen.

“Furthermore, some colleges have admissions deadlines tied to automatic consideration for merit aid,” Paul continues. “Students may still apply for admission after that date; however, they forfeit consideration for merit aid.”  Indiana University, as example, requires student to apply by November 1, to be automatically eligible for merit aid as an incoming freshman.

Paul has first-hand experience of the pain of missing such deadlines.  Following the advice of their private college counselor, her youngest daughter waited to apply to Indiana until her latest ACT score was available, and missed the scholarship deadline.  Kayla was admitted, but missed out on as much as $11,000 per year.

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Remember “Getting into college is one thing. Paying for it is another.®”