The cost of college has gone up exponentially over the last several years and, for some, it is totally out of reach unless the student gets some sort of financial aid, loan, scholarship, or other funding to pay the bills.
ACT & SAT scores’ influence on financial aid awards
In the financial aid world, there are two types of aid: need-based and merit-based. Need-based aid centers around a student’s ability to be able to cover all of the costs associated with going to college. If they are still a dependent, then the parents’ income and assets are closely analyzed to determine how much they can afford. If a student is deemed in need of financial assistance, then they will most likely qualify for need-based aid in the form of loans, grants, and/or work study.
Merit-based financial aid is awarded based on a student’s academic accomplishments, which would include their grades and ACT & SAT scores. Students are also considered for merit-based aid if they can offer a special talent to the university like athletics or music.
According to a study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), nearly four out of five colleges use standardized test scores as an eligibility criterion for merit aid. The study also noted that the ratio of need-based financial aid and merit aid is leveling out. In the past, merit-based aid made up roughly one-third of the aid being handed out. Now it’s closer to half. This is important to note if your chances of getting need-based aid are slim to none. Now, boosting those grades and properly prepping for the ACT & SAT become higher on the priority list to cut college costs.
The truth about scholarships: How ACT & SAT scores play a role
Many public and private schools require a certain ACT or SAT score for students to even be considered for a scholarship. These scores are usually looked at in conjunction with a student’s GPA; each college or university has its own “formula” for calculating who will receive a scholarship. Some will openly display their criteria on their websites or admissions materials, but if you can’t find that information, we recommend speaking to an admissions counselor and ask them how they determine who receives merit-based scholarships.
The National Merit Scholarship Program requires that students submit their PSAT scores (among other materials) to be considered for a scholarship. Each year they award roughly 7,500 of those students with a Merit Scholarship® award and an additional 1,300+ with special scholarships for having a strong academic profile. So even the preliminary SAT test has clout when it comes to scholarships.
One student’s story: How a poor SAT score cost her a free year of college
Eva Baker was planning on completing a year of college classes during her senior year of high school in a dual enrollment program—a program that allows high school students to take courses at a local community college tuition-free. Her goal was to knock off a whole year of college classes, and tuition costs, in her senior year.
Baker took the ACT to initially qualify for dual enrollment and did well on the English portion of the test, but not so well on the math. Her English score and stellar GPA were enough for her to be able to take a couple of college courses, but in order to continue, she needed to get her math grade up.
The following summer she took the SAT. When she got her scores back, she was just a few points shy of where she needed to be on the math section of the test. She was devastated. So much so, she started a blog called TeensGotCents to share her experience and other financial tips for teens.
This is just one more way ACT & SAT scores can have a dramatic impact on college costs and why students should take them seriously. Fortunately, Testive offers a FREE online test prep platform to further help cost-savings with the option to add a paid coaching package.