Financial Aid For The Upper Middle Class

How does your child become a candidate for merit scholarships?  They must stand out academically. Here is where the test prep pays off.


We advise all our students to participate in some form of SAT/ACT test prep.

There is too much at risk to not get some personalized, expert help, and often just a bit of  time spent with a tutor can make a significant difference in how a student tests.  We’ve seen it time and time again – a student believes they’ve hit a “testing wall” but needs to increase their score in hopes of being competitive at their dream school. They spend some time with a high quality tutor and the smallest tweaking in testing practice adds points here and there. In addition, the SAT is quite different from the ACT, so understanding what to expect, how the tests are timed and whether you should leave a question blank, are all crucial to success. And spending even more time with a high quality tutor can help students ramp up their scores considerably. No matter where your student falls on the standardized testing scale, there is NO question that test prep should become part of their college admissions repertoire.

However, despite this advice, many parents (and often students) make the argument that if their child has already scored higher than the national average, why spend extra money on test prep before embarking on four years of college tuition? The answer is simple:

Spending the money on high quality test prep can make a significant difference in how much you spend per year in tuition.

And given that the investment in four years of college could cost more than $250,000, this truly matters.

Families who have worked with us know that one of the most valuable parts of our process is identifying where you fall on the financial aid spectrum. Many of our clients will qualify for need based aid and their student will be given financial aid based on the family income/assets in the form of loans, grants, and work study. But the rest of our families are caught in a precarious position; they make too much to qualify for need based aid, yet there is NO way they can come up with the $65-75,000 per year – (more than $280,000 over 4 years) that is necessary to fund a private college tuition bill.

Multiply this phenomenon by two or three children, and many clients have a major hurdle. This is why it is unbelievably important to know where your family stands early in the process so you make decisions based on facts, not fiction or emotion. There is a great deal of “noise” out there in the “parent-sphere,” which is why it’s important to seek the advice of a qualified college admissions/financial consultant rather than relying on what your neighbor’s nephew’s son experienced 7 years ago. We are masters at identifying schools that still award merit scholarships to students who have excelled academically. And, the beauty of a merit scholarship is that unlike a loan, it does not need to be paid back.  

Spending the money on high quality test prep can make a significant difference in how much you spend per year in tuition.  

Not every school provides merit scholarships and the list shrinks every year. The Ivy League universities do not, many of the prestigious (and pricey) small liberal arts schools do not either, but there are dozens of hidden gems across the country that do. In fact, many of the nation’s large universities isolate top scorers and lure them with “Presidential Merit Awards” and Honors College offers.

So, how does your child become a candidate for merit scholarships?  They must stand out academically. Here is where the test prep pays off. Although it might seem expensive to spend thousands of dollars to increase your child’s standardized test scores, the return on investment can be huge.

Presidential scholarships range in value from a “full ride” to between $10,000 and $35,000 off the full tuition, room and board cost per year, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Northeastern University, St. Lawrence and Rhodes College are just a few of the many top notch private schools that still award merit scholarships based primarily on a student’s GPA, SAT/ACT scores and often on the quality of their admissions essay/application as well.  These colleges will not require your family to file a FAFSA. However, your student needs to be at the top of their graduating class and have extremely strong SAT and ACT scores to receive these scholarships. The best chance in getting those scores is via test prep.

Regardless of the type of college your child dreams of, test prep has become important on many levels. It increases admissions options and it often reduces cost. Almost every family will struggle with college tuition; test prep opens doors that might have been closed otherwise.  This is yet another example of spending money to make money. We sometimes refer to test prep as “Financial Aid for the Upper Middle Class.”  It just makes “cents.”

Author: Deb Coco. Deb Coco is an admissions coach with The College Advisor of New York.  Her  company helps high school students and their parents navigate the complex, expensive, competitive, and often overwhelming college admissions process by guiding students to colleges that are a great fit socially, academically and financially.  

Related Topics:
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SAT vs. ACT: Which One Should I Take?

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The SAT Subject Tests: What Are They? Do They Matter?

Noodle Pros SAT And ACT Specialists

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