MERIT SCHOLARSHIP & TEST SCORE STRATEGIES
The sort of merit scholarships that a student receives from colleges will often partially depend upon a teenager's SAT or ACT scores. Solid test results can ultimately slash tens of thousands of dollars or more off the cost of a bachelor's degree.
This reality can be a tremendous source of frustration for those of you parents who have a teenager with solid academic transcripts, but struggles with these all-important standardized tests.
Here are four ways to either boost scores or make mediocre ones irrelevant.
1. Many schools don't care about test scores
There are plenty of schools that will make admission decisions without ACT or SAT scores. More than 900 colleges and universities do not require students to submit their scores for admission. This is great news for teenagers who are good students, but struggle with the standardized tests.
Many of these testoptional schools maintain relaxed enrollment policies, but there are a significant number of prestigious schools that have embraced the testoptional policy. Liberal arts colleges represent the largest percentage of these selective schools. Fifty percent of the top 100 liberal arts colleges, as measured by U.S. News & World Report’s rankings, are test optional.
Sampling of test-optional liberal arts colleges
2. It's easy to locate test-optional schools
You can find the names of all testoptional schools by heading to the website of FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing.
I’d recommend using FairTest’s list of 275+ testoptional schools that are ranked in the top tiers of their respective U.S. News & World Report categories.
Once you've found some testoptional schools to research, pay attention to the testoptional fine print of each school. In the vast majority of circumstances, need-based aid is typically not impacted by a lack of test scores. However, merit aid can sometimes be impacted depending on the policy of the school in question. For those reasons, you should contact the admission office at a school and ask these two questions:
3. Check a schools net price calculator
Using an institution’s net price calculator is often the best way to form a good idea of what kind of an award a child might receive based on his/her academic profile and test scores.
When using a school’s net price calculator (assuming it’s equipped to calculate merit scholarships), plug in your child’s ACT and/or SAT scores and grade point average when generating potential awards.
You can also turn to these calculators if you’re wondering if taking the SAT or ACT again is worth it. Let’s say, for example, that a child received an ACT score of 27. You could use the calculators of schools on the teenager’s list to see if getting a 28 or 29 would boost the award.
Net price calculators can also be valuable even if a child hasn’t taken the SAT or ACT yet. Parents can plug in different score scenarios to see how they could impact the awards at various schools.
4. Not all bad scores have to count
Schools benefit when applicants score as high as possible on the ACT or SAT. Prospective families will be more impressed if the student body at a school performed well on these tests. Consequently, it's in a school's best interest to generate the best scores possible for its applicants.
A popular way that schools enhance their applicants' scores is to cherry-pick their best subscores from the SAT or ACT when they've taken a test more than once. The practice is called superscoring.
Using the ACT, let's compare how traditional scoring works with superscoring.
Historically, college admission offices have used a student's composite ACT score that's made up of these four underlying categories:
The testing service averages the four subscores (maximum score for each is 36), to create one composite average. Schools have traditionally only used the composite score rather than cherry-picking the best subscores. This practice penalizes teenagers who score better in some categories when taking the test more than once.
When superscoring, a college will select a student's highest ACT subscore in each of the four categories when looking at all the tests a student took and create what could be a more impressive superscore.
1st ACT test
Composite score: 26
2nd ACT test
Composite score: 26
The overall scores for both testing dates is the same, but the composite score goes up with superscoring.
Composite score: 27
SAT superscoring is standard practice at most colleges and universities. When a student takes more than one SAT test, colleges routinely pick the best scores from each SAT category.
In contrast, fewer schools have cherry-picked ACT scores, but that is changing with a growing number of schools now doing so. One thing you can do as a parent is to check with the colleges if they superscore the SAT and ACT.
Q: How are merit-based scholarships calculated?
A: Every school will have its own requirements for merit scholarships. Beyond the very most selective schools, private colleges routinely discount the price via merit scholarships and/or financial aid to almost all students. You can use a net price calculator from a specific school to get an estimate of what your cost will be – minus any type of aid. You can Google net price calculator and the name of the school to find it.
This research material has been prepared by Horsesmouth.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.