I finally got around to watching All The President’s Men. For those unfamiliar, the movie depicts the Washington Post’s uncovering of the Watergate scandal. The main source for the story calls himself Deep Throat and tells Bob Woodward (played by Robert Redford) to “follow the money.” Following the money will lead to the real story.
That the case these days with SAT scores and merit money. The sticker price at colleges is not the real price for many. The exceptions: elite colleges do not need to give merit money. They do, of course, give financial aid (but those who live in Old Saybrook, Old Lyme, East Lyme, Madison, Guilford, Essex and other Southeastern, CT towns likely cannot get financial aid.) But, one step below the elite colleges, merit money flows. The simple reasoning is as follows:
Colleges keep their prices as high as possible. The perception of quality being linked with price is one reason. The other reason is that there are enough families willing to pay the full price even for colleges one step below. Wealthy international students who want an American college experience partially creates this reality.
But colleges also need to ensure that their reputations are high. Student quality is one variable that they can affect – more than reputation among other academics etc. – and SAT scores are often considered a measuring stick for student quality. (fair/unfair/whatever/it is what it is). So colleges that are not super elite will almost always give merit awards to students who score higher than the normal range of the college’s admitted students.
Exempting recruited athletes, merit aid is rarely awarded for activities. Student council presidents and all state trumpet players are not getting big scholarships! Surprisingly, grades are not as significant as SAT scores for merit aid. The reason: college admission officers have a very difficult time discerning grade differentiations between schools. The quality of high schools varies radically and the idiosyncratic ways that high schools grade has always made GPA a challenge as a comparative measure. But grade inflation has increased the challenge tenfold. “Everyone has at least a 90 average. Some kids have GPAS over 4.0 due to weighted systems. Some schools won’t rank students. We can’t really tell. So we weight the SAT very heavily, an admissions official told me (at a school that tells students that the SAT is only one part of its consideration!)
So, find the story by following the money. See who gets merit aid/how much/where and, if possible, find out their SAT scores.
Then vigorously prep!
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