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Merit Aid: Using Academic Success To Pay For College

Merit aid to pay for college

Some good news about paying for college: your child might earn merit aid.

More good news: if you are a Connecticut parent, you probably make a lot of money.

Some bad news: if you live in Connecticut, you likely don’t feel like you make a lot of money. Why? Many reasons. But, most likely you are comparing yourself to your affluent neighbors. Still, the fact is your income is most likely far higher than the median American income. (Median Household income is a shade over $51,000)

Really bad news: you likely will not qualify for financial aid. Financial aid is based upon the financial status of the applicant. Unfortunately, for those living in expensive areas like Fairfield County or Shoreline, Connecticut, most parents of college bound students have income levels that exceed the parameters required for financial aid at most colleges.

That’s a problem because many Connecticut families have bills so high that significant college saving is nearly impossible.

I was recently working with a family that by most standards was doing wonderfully well financially. Collectively, the two parents earned $180,000. That is squarely in the top 5% of the country. But, this family lives in Fairfield County. They indicated that they had a sizeable mortgage. While I didn’t dig into the details of their spending, I got the sense that they tried to keep up with the Jones of Fairfield Connecticut in other ways as well. They were saving very little for college and were panicked. I sympathized with the father whose face was contorted with stress.

I shared my thoughts about merit aid. This was good news since their two children were very bright and hard working kids. The father noted that his niece, who was from an even more affluent family, recently received $20,000 merit aid per year from her college and she did not have grades or test scores as good as his older daughter. A look of hopefulness spread across his face.

It turns out that preparing for the SATs or ACTs might end up being your child’s most lucrative part time job.