kitchen table math, the sequel: chemprof on merit aid, part 2

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

chemprof on merit aid, part 2

chemprof writes:
[M]erit aid is all part of "enrollment management." The goal is to attract strong students, partly because that helps with rankings but largely because of cohort effects. Schools with a core of strong students are more attractive to other strong students, who want to be in classes with other students at their own level. For less competitive schools, managing this is a tricky problem.

...I'd agree that knowing the [specific] criteria [for merit aid] would be interesting, but I don't know that you'd be able to make much use of it. ... [W]e are typically told we can offer 8 scholarships and there might be 30-40 students who admissions has targeted as possibilities (based on stated interest and their general ranking). Picking the 8 is a matter of reading the files and talking to admissions, and nothing about criteria or the decision making process is ever written down!

Oh, and our admissions department ranks every file on a 1-5 basis where 1 is highest. However, the faculty have often thought they overlooked strong students (as 2 or 3 ranked), because those students had fewer extra-curriculars or were otherwise less interesting to admissions. 


Lisa said...

My dd received quite a bit of merit aid. I really felt for all the other straight A kids who did not. The formula seemed to be some mysterious mix of grades, extracurriculars and personal interview. That puts my mathematical but Asperger's ds at a disadvantage.

Anonymous said...

The amount of merit based aid may also have been a function of family income. Years ago I qualified for a National Merit Scholarship. Qualification was by test scores (and maybe grades?), but the *amount* was based on my parent's income.

I can imagine a lot of merit based aid today also having a need component.

-Mark Roulo

Grace Nunez said...

There is so much confusion among parents about "merit" vs. "need" aid, including hybrid awards that include both. Many "merit" scholarships have a need component, sometimes making it hard to understand exactly what combination of need and merit goes into determining who will receive the funds.

Over at collegeconfidential, there are many discussions expressing annoyance with parents who brag that junior received a "scholarship" from Harvard or some other school that only offers needs-based aid.

It's so complicated.

ChemProf said...

Merit aid can involve need, but doesn't always. Again, it depends (which I know is frustrating to parents). The best strategy is probably the one someone else (VickyS?) mentioned in the earlier thread -- apply to at least some schools where your student is in the top 25%. You can figure this out for SATs pretty easily, since US news reports the 25% and 75% SATs for all the schools that are listed.

Even then, you may have higher odds depending on where you are in the country, the student's gender, and a host of other intangibles.

VickyS said...

Yes, that was my son, applying mostly to schools where he was in the top 25% based upon the data on the college board website. He also focused on schools that showed a higher than average amount of non-need based aid, per the college board site. It was a successful strategy. We did not fill out the FAFSA so any offers my son received were truly merit aid; they did not know our income. As I think I mentioned before, I was pretty sure he'd only qualify for work-study and loans, and I figured we'd arrange for that on our own, outside the federal system, if we needed or wanted to. We are in the unusual situation of single mom with good income and 2 kids near college, with mom wanting to quit her day job and teach full time! So if I do that, in a couple of years it might make sense to move into the federal system for financial aid, but not currently.

Catherine Johnson said...

I'm going to sound thick -- but why the top 25%?

In other words, are you saying don't just apply to schools where you're in the top 5 to 10% of students? (Apply to schools a bit 'below' your group?)

Catherine Johnson said...

Vicky - that's so exciting about your teaching!!

I'm jealous!