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While the Ivies and other elite schools put their resources into need-based rather than merit aid, a majority of private colleges, in an effort to attract top students, award substantial scholarships or grants based on merit.
Merit scholarships are especially helpful in attracting students whose families don’t qualify for need-based financial aid but are unable or unwilling to pay more than $50,000 a year for college.
At highly selective colleges that offer merit scholarships, students need to have outstanding academic records. They may be required to write additional scholarship essays and may need to interview on campus. Some scholarships also consider leadership and community service.
Other colleges offer guaranteed scholarships, so if you have met a specified grade point average and test score, you will get a scholarship. National Merit Scholarship finalists are guaranteed scholarships at some schools. If you have reasonably good grades and test scores, and are willing to consider colleges that are not as well-known, you are likely to end up with some scholarship offers. Scholarships are generally renewable for three additional years, as long as you maintain the required grade point average.
Students who can afford to attend a private college without taking on huge debt may find that the educational experience is much more personal and engaging, and well worth the extra cost. You are more likely to find a student-centered environment, more meaningful interactions with professors and more access to support services at a smaller private college than at a large public institution.
At private colleges, most students successfully complete their degree requirements in four years. So don’t let the sticker price of private colleges keep you from applying; merit scholarships may make them more affordable than you think.
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