High school seniors are currently receiving their admission decisions, and the power is shifting—admitted students are now in the drivers’ seat. We suggest that students take this opportunity to appeal for more merit aid.
Since colleges use merit aid as a way to entice students to enroll at their institution, they may be open to increasing the original scholarship amount, if they believe offering a little more money will seal the deal. The college will consider multiple factors in their review, including evaluating how competitive the student is in relation to others and comparing the dollar amount awarded by peer colleges. This may result in an increase in merit.
Of course, not all colleges allow merit appeals, but for the many that do, there isn’t a downside to appealing the award. The worst outcome would be to have the appeal denied, and then you’re simply back where you began.
We’ve worked with numerous families who have been successful in their attempt to earn a higher award, so we always feel it’s worth trying.
Stories of Success: Receiving Merit Aid
Here are some actual cases:
Student #1: Our student was so excited to be accepted into his first-choice college with a $30K per year merit award. However, his second-choice college admitted him with a complete full-ride scholarship covering his tuition, dormitory, food, books, and even some summer experiences.
His parents were finding it difficult to pass up a free college education even though the other school had the unique program he wanted to pursue. We worked with the family to write a merit aid appeal, and shortly thereafter, his merit was increased to $45k per year! He is happily enrolled in his first-choice school.
Student #2: Another student we worked with was at the low end of the applicant pool, and she was thrilled to be admitted to her dream school, a liberal arts college on the East Coast. Even though this particular college normally provides merit to a large percentage of admitted students, this girl wasn’t given anything, due to her academic performance.
After the parents and student celebrated the acceptance, they decided to inquire about merit. We worked on a letter together, but none of us expected the college to award her anything. We were pleasantly surprised; the student received a letter announcing that she would receive a merit scholarship of $2,500 per year. Basically $10k in FREE money—quite a nice return for 15 minutes spent writing a letter.
Student #3: Last year, one of our students had her heart set on a school in a warm climate, but the school was an academic “reach” for her. Although some colleges provide merit scholarships for every admitted student (in varying amounts, based on the strength of the application), others only award merit to students who stand out (e.g., top 20%) in their pool.
This girl was definitely not one of the stronger academically-accomplished students, but she had unusually strong extra-curricular activities. She was delighted to be accepted, but disappointed that she didn’t receive a merit award. Together, we composed an email asking if there was anything that could be done to make the school a bit more affordable. The admission officer responded positively, stating that there was an Achievement Award that would amount to $4,000 per year.
Although she wasn’t originally chosen for that honor, the admission officer suggested that she submit a resume highlighting her leadership and community service. We spent a few hours refining her resume, and just a few days later, she was awarded the $16k total merit scholarship.
Don’t Be Afraid to Apply for Merit Aid!
Bottom line: if the school allows merit appeals, go for it! Write a strong, cohesive letter emphasizing that the college is your first choice and that you’re ready to commit with a higher scholarship. Be sure to include your other scholarship offers from similar colleges. Best of luck!