Two of the most stressful aspects of the college process are gaining admittance to the schools that you aim for and then figuring out how to finance it. Working hard to achieve your best possible score on the SAT or ACT has the potential to impact both of these worrisome pieces of the college puzzle in a favorable way. An article by Unigo, clearly addresses these issues and gives us a better understanding of the part that these tests can play in a student’s quest for merit money.
It is not a secret that higher SAT or ACT scores make a student stand out in a competitive applicant pool, especially when applying for coveted spots in popular programs within a university. In addition though, it can open the door to a student becoming eligible at public, private, and out-of-state colleges to receive several thousand dollars to a full scholarship based on a combination of standardized test scores and GPA. Some schools may require a minimum score on the SAT or ACT in order to qualify for these scholarships. Private or company sponsored scholarships may also take into account SAT and ACT scores as part of their decision-making criteria in addition to other factors such as leadership, service, and background. Even the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT), given by the College Board, serves a vital purpose. Students scoring in the top 1% nationally on the PSAT are deemed eligible for the National Merit Scholarship Program.
Two prime examples of schools that recognize and reward achievement on the SAT or ACT are University of Southern California and Vanderbilt University. Through their Admissions Office, USC offers merit scholarships starting at several thousand dollars to full tuition. Other factors besides academics may also be taken into account including special talent and demonstration of leadership ability. Specific examples of merit scholarships at USC include the Stamps Leadership Scholarships and the National Merit Finalist Presidential Scholarship. The Stamps Leadership Scholarships (full tuition paid) require students to score in the top 1-2% nationwide on the SAT or ACT. Other factors are also weighed in the process such as leadership and talent. The USC National Merit Finalist Presidential Scholarship is a 50% tuition award based on the result of a student’s PSAT test. A student would need to have been named a National Merit Finalist and assign USC as their top pick with the National Merit Scholarship Corp. USC also offers a half tuition International Freshman Academic Scholarship which takes into account both SAT and ACT scores along with high academic success in high school. Vanderbilt University offers a similar program to USC for National Merit Finalists called National Merit Scholarships. Students are also required to name Vanderbilt University as their number one pick with the National Merit Corp. Students should pay close attention to published deadlines (check the school website) when considering eligibility for these scholarships or others. Other schools that are known to offer grants based on academics and test achievement include George Washington University, University of Miami, Emory University, Boston University, Lehigh University, and New York University along with many others.
What are the options that can best offer you a chance to improve your scores or reach your goal? The answer to that question depends on how the student is most comfortable learning and financial restrictions. There are many test prep books available, online courses, group classes, one-on-one tutoring, and even high school sponsored classes. All of these are good choices as long as you stick to it and follow through. Strong reading and vocabulary skills are best acquired over a long period of time. Try to read every chance you get. Look up definitions of words that are new to you and keep a journal of them. Over time, your vocabulary will vastly increase! Stay on top of math concepts you don’t understand and seek help when needed.
Registration for these tests can be made on https://www.collegeboard.org/ or http://www.act.org/content/act/en/products-and-services/the-act/taking-the-test.html. Of course, the ACT and SAT are just one part of a student’s academic profile and provide a single snapshot into determining academic promise. GPA, extracurricular activities, recommendation letters, the personal statement, supplemental essays, and community service or work experience are all equally important. However, for the purpose of qualifying for many merit aid programs, SAT or ACT scores can be the edge that makes a student a “yes”.
Pam Ohriner, founder of Helping Hand College Guidance (www.helpinghandcollegeguidance.com) provides comprehensive college counseling on all aspects of the college admissions process. Our top Los Angeles college counselors are here to provide the support you desire in making your college search and application process stress-free and successful. We are here to support you every step of the way. Whether you require help from start to finish in college applications or just need a single hour, we are here to provide the very best in Los Angeles college counseling services.We also offer a free half hour phone or Skype consultation. For further questions, we can be reached at 310-733-8433.