You probably already know that college is expensive. But, did you know that one of the most effective ways to lower your cost is to raise your score on the SAT or ACT?   It’s true – by raising your scores, you can secure more scholarship money, which in turn will reduce the amount you have to pay and the amount you might need to take out in loans.

Here’s how it works: Most colleges offer financial aid in two categories – need-based and merit-based. When a student applies for financial aid, the college looks closely at the family’s income and assets to determine how much they can afford to pay. If they determine that the student is in need of financial assistance, they might offer need-based aid.

Merit-based aid, on the other hand, is awarded based on a student’s achievements. Most commonly, colleges reward academic achievements, but merit-based aid can also be awarded for special talents such as music or athletic ability.

Most colleges don’t have a specific formula or cut-off to determine which test scores a student must have to be offered merit-based aid.  Through the holistic process, admissions offers look at many factors, including grades, test scores, extracurricular involvement and the essay, just to name a few. But one thing is for sure – the vast majority of colleges list “standardized test scores” as one of the most important admissions criteria.  So, not surprisingly, standardized test scores also play a huge role in determining who gets offered more merit-based financial aid.

In other words, the higher your test scores, the more desirable you will be to the college. And the more desirable you are to the college, the more likely they will offer you merit-based aid to entice you to attend.

So if you want those tuition bills to go down, get those SAT and ACT scores up!