Yesterday I wrote a post about a teenager with a 3.4 GPA who failed to capture a scholarship from any of the schools where he applied.
This is hard to do when you consider that two-thirds of college student don’t pay the sticker price for college.
If you missed yesterday’s post, here it is: Getting Stiffed by Colleges
After reading the post, two blog visitors asked the following question, which prompted me to decide to revisit this issue for a second day:
First, I want to say that it’s a sad commentary on the college admission process that parents and students fret that a teenager with a quite respectable 3.4 or 3.5 GPA has few options. I appreciate that I might be reading too much into the questions posed by these moms, but I have known a lot of kids with these kinds of GPA’s and lower who worry that they are doomed. My own daughter had an unweighted 3.4 GPA as a sophomore and junior that she barely nudged to a 3.5 GPA by the time she began applying to college so I’ve been there.
Eighty five percent of students at private schools receive some type of scholarships or grants so obviously it’s not just the students with the 4.0 GPAs who are hogging the awards.
Scholarships and grants are plentiful because its’ a buyers’ market – despite what the media says. Most schools need to hustle to fill their freshman slots. Schools offer merit scholarships because the institutions are fiercely competing against each other for good students. It’s understandable that families don’t appreciate this because the media focuses primarily on the tiny fraction of schools that can turn away almost all comers.
Here’s a recent post that touches upon this subject: Who Is Stressed Out About College?
Who Gets What
It is true, however, that colleges are most interested in giving their best awards to the students they covet the most. Students with higher grades and test scores. And that often – but not always – means students who have done the best academically at their schools. At one school, for example, a student with a 3.75 might get a $15,000 a year scholarship, while a student with a 3.2 GPA might get a $10,000 a-year award.
Muhlenberg College has an excellent (and candid) explanation of this phenomenon on its website that I would urge you to read. I applaud Muhlenberg’s candor on this topic and wish more schools would be honest with students:
One of the main points of the Muhlenberg essay is that students who are in the top quarter to third of a school’s freshman class will typically enjoy better financial aid or merit scholarships. What kind of academic profile a student will need to get into the top third will vary by school.
A Scholarship Calculator
Some schools post scholarship calculators on their websites that you can use to see what kind of money a student might earn. Public universities, in particular, are more likely to use strictly numbers (GPA, test scores and class rank) to award scholarships because of the sheer volume of applications.
As an example, here is what Baylor University’s scholarship calculator looks like:
Another Scholarship Calculator
Michelle Kretzschmar, who runs a wonderful website called Do-It-Yourself College Rankings posted this example on my site yesterday for a student with a 3.4 GPA who is interested in Southwestern University, a lovely liberal arts college in Texas. A 3.4 GPA applicant at Southwestern could get $9,000 a-year scholarship for a total of $36,000.
Net Price Calculators
The definitive way to find out what kind of price break a school will provide is to use its net price calculator. I wrote a post recently for my CBS college blog that discusses these calculators:
Use a College Search Engine
Another strategy for finding schools based on the academic profile of your teenager is to use a college search engine. At the College Board, for instance, you can look for schools based on SAT and ACT scores. Here is a peek:
One More Tip
If your child’s GPA isn’t as strong as you’d like, you could also consider focusing on schools that use a holistic admission process. The GPA will be important, but other factors will also be weighed like a student’s coursework, extracurricular activities, gender, state of origin, demonstrated interest in the school, recommendations and interview.
That’s the route that I took with my own daughter Caitlin. She qualified for a $12,000-a-year scholarship from Juniata College. Students with her academic profile began getting $15,000 scholarships the year after she applied. She also won a scholarship from Juniata for foreign language majors.
The No. 1 way to cut the cost of college is to become an educated consumer. You can learn how by attending my popular online course, The College Cost Lab. I’ll be relaunching the course in June 2016 and if you’d like to be notified when I have more details, please click here!