How one school calculates merit aid

by Grace

Jonathan Burdick, University of Rochester Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid,  writes very candidly about the factors that matter in awarding merit scholarships.  Although his revelations are specific to his particular school, they offer a window into the black box of merit financial aid.

I already posted about how family income does matter for “merit” awards, and in a Washington Post column Daniel de Vise offers a useful summary of the factors.

  1. Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses. Burdick found that merit awards increased by $400, on average, per AP or IB course taken by an applicant.
  2. Grades. Every A grade translated to $62 in merit aid. Lower grades chipped away at the award.
  3. Test scores. An upward variance of 10 points on the SAT was worth $115 in merit aid, and each additional point on the ACT was worth $425. In other words, “a student with three 750s on the SAT on average received $1,725 more in scholarship than a student with three 700s.”
  4. Earnings. Merit awards increased by one cent for every four dollars less in family income.
  5. Personal appeals. Students who had “serious conversations” with admissions and aid counselors earned $3,000 more in merit aid than those who did not.
  6. Timeliness. Students who completed their application on time reaped $400 more in merit aid than those who did not.
  7. Recommendations. Applicants with very strong letters of recommendation earned $1,800 more in merit aid than other students.
  8. Age. Older students received more merit aid than younger students, at a rate of 82 cents per day.
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