HomeArticlesNeed-Based, Merit Driven Financial Aid

Dear Estelle,
We are a middle-income family barely able to afford sending our high school senior to a public university here in Colorado. We’ve been diligent about saving but frankly it’s been a struggle. Our son, a superior student, would love to attend college in New York City. He’s visited there with his high school band and feels the environment would suit him well. He’s identified several schools, two in Manhattan and one in the Bronx, and wants desperately to apply. Naturally we’re concerned about our ability to pay the tab. He’s an all-A student with excellent SAT/ACT test scores. He’s a leader and has been responsible for planning several diversity projects at his school. We’ve heard about all sorts of financial aid and scholarships but don’t want him to graduate with significant debt. I forgot to mention that his older sister attends CSU.
– GW, Littleton

Your concern is matched by millions of parents across the country that are caught between wanting to satisfy their children’s college interests and being able to afford it. Truly your daughter’s college plans are the most reasonable economically. She will graduate from an excellent state university with less debt than a student who attends a private out-of-state or in-state institution. Your son, on the other hand, has several attributes, which might benefit him in the financial aid process. His exemplary grades and test scores plus an interesting profile may make him eligible for some outstanding scholarships at fairly selective schools. As he submits his applications, remember to complete the Profile, a financial aid form, which will qualify him for institutional aid from many selective colleges. Don’t forget the FAFSA, which is mandatory to receive government aid. All colleges pledge they are “need-blind” meaning they don’t know who needs aid when reviewing applications. In addition many colleges are also “merit-driven.” Stronger students tend to receive better financial aid packages especially at colleges that are not in the top tier. Your son may be a candidate for a Dean’s or Presidential scholarship, which frequently pay a significant portion of tuition. Encourage him to apply. It may be more affordable than you think!

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