What is merit aid?

Two little kids researching merit aid

What does it mean?

Merit aid is a type of college financial aid. Colleges provide merit aid as an incentive for select students to attend their institution. Generally, these students have academic qualifications that would contribute to raising the college’s academic profile.
 
Often students do not even have to apply for institutional merit scholarships. Students are automatically considered for available merit awards as part of the admissions process. Colleges will often list the GPA and test requirements for these automatic scholarships. 

How does it affect how much you pay for college?

Students can pay substantially less for college by applying to schools where they are likely to qualify for merit aid. This means students need to target colleges where their academic qualifications would place them in the top quarter of the freshman class. Furthermore, this means that students who apply to “dream” schools, where they would fall into the bottom half of the class academically, should NOT expect any merit aid. The most competitive colleges in the country, including the Ivy League, do not provide any merit aid.

Where can you learn more?

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