Follow the scholarship money to see how to pay for college

By College Advice

If you are figuring out how to pay for college, you likely have been bombarded with challenging news.  Here’s some good news: you might have a weapon at your disposal: test scores.


Colleges are in competition with one another.   The biggest competition is not on athletic fields but rather in attracting top students.  Like it or not, there is a perception that there is a correlation between the college’s median test scores and the college’s strength of student body.   I’m not debating the validity of the correlation.  I’m merely describing perception.  One glance at US News & World Report’s rankings will illustrate a near lock-step correlation between rank of school and median test scores.

I will use “Kayla’s” story to illustrate a common paradigm.  When students are accepted to colleges that have test range scores lower than the student’s, then the student has suddenly shifted the power dynamic.  The college is now vying to ensure the student accepts their admission invitation.

This was the not so old SAT – 2015 – when there were three scores.

Kayla’s PSATs were 620 reading; 590 math; and 620 writing.   Kayla took our SAT Mastery Seminar and followed with individual tutoring.  Ultimately, her SAT scores were 690 reading, 650 math, and 670 writing.  Kayla attended a strong public school in Southeastern, Connecticut, had solid, but not spectacular grades, and similarly had activities that were solid but nothing too exceptional.

Kayla was admitted to several schools but I will focus on three that demonstrate my anecdotal observation about tests scores and merit aid.  This is not literal but we’ll call School A – Top 50 school; School B – Top 75 school; and School C – Top 100 School.

Kayla’s SAT scores were basically in line with School A.  School A offered almost nothing.  I don’t mean to diminish a few thousand dollars.  But, I can’t help but think that the “scholarship” she was offered was designed more so that the student could claim to have a scholarship than it was to help her pay for school.   Every little bit counts but paying 58,000 versus 60,000 a year would likely not have a significant impact on a student’s decision to attend the school.

Kayla’s scores were about 10% higher than School B.  School B offered Kayla $12,000/year.

Kayla’s scores were about 20% higher than School C.  School C offered Kayla $25,000 year.

Pay for college