How Test Scores Can Lower College Costs

Financial Aid, Saving Money, Testing

You probably already know that college is expensive. But, did you know that applicants can often lower their college costs by raising their score on the SAT or ACT? It’s true – at many colleges, higher test scores can lead to more scholarship money!

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 – a majority of colleges list “standardized test scores” as an important admissions criteria. So, not surprisingly, standardized test scores also play a huge role in determining who gets offered more merit-based financial aid. Even test-optional colleges like students with higher test scores, and amongst the applicants who do choose to submit scores, those with higher scores are more likely to be awarded merit aid.

Of course, test scores won’t help at all when applying to test-blind or test-free colleges! It’s also important to be aware that many of the most popular and highly-ranked colleges don’t offer any merit aid at all.

But in the case of many colleges, 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 the cost of professional test prep gives you pause, remember that it just may result in lower tuition bills later.