More and more colleges offer merit-based versus need-based scholarship aid to prospective students, whether they need the aid or not. A college’s merit scholarship policy might not always be fair. But please keep in mind that colleges, like businesses and branches of government, have agendas.
Why have colleges gone in the direction of offering merit scholarships?
Colleges usually award merit scholarships contingent on maintaining good to excellent grades in college. Most of the time the minimum GPA is a 3.0 (B) average though I have seen minimums that were lower (2.75 or better) as well as higher (3.25 or better). I recall only one school that I have visited, Juanita College (PA), that did not tie renewal of the scholarship to grades.
Is a merit scholarship always a good thing?
It is, of course, if the merit scholarship is an unexpected surprise from your first-choice school. If costs are not an issue, the scholarship is icing on a very nice cake.
In other cases, depending on the amount of the award and your academic interests, it might pose a problem down the road.
How? It’s “free money.” Isn’t it?
If your family truly needs the merit scholarship to help cover four years of college costs, I strongly recommend that you privately consider the answers to these questions:
It’s exciting to know that a college wants you so much, it is willing to offer a significant discount to encourage you to choose to enroll there. But that discount, in the form of a merit scholarship, might come with other prices that a college-bound student will have to pay on the way to their degree. It’s wise to get the answers to the important questions before committing to a school where you might be dependent on that award to help cover costs.
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