The Real Story About Student Talent And Merit Scholarships - Association of Certified College Funding Specialists

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The Real Story About Student Talent And Merit Scholarships

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The Real Story About Student Talent And Merit Scholarships
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Do you have high-income, high-net-worth clients? Well, the truth is - the cost of some colleges today is now in excess of $70,000 per year, and even students from families with incomes over $200,000 can qualify for need-based aid. However, just because their high school students have good grades and test scores does not mean they will qualify for academic merit aid.

As a matter of fact, I’ve talked with many parents that have students with excellent grades and test scores who THINK that their child should be able to get a “full-ride” at any college; when in fact they may not get ANY financial aid at all, especially at state universities and highly selective private (Ivy League type) colleges.

The fact is many lesser-known private colleges still do offer academic merit aid of substantial value, simply because they need to be competitive. If you have high-income, high net-worth clients that want to know if their student is eligible for academic merit aid at any college, just go the school’s website, locate their “net price calculator”, and type in the student’s GPA and ACT or SAT score. This should show whether the student is eligible to receive any merit aid money that is not based on financial need.


Of course, even if the college’s net price calculator does show that a student is “eligible” for academic merit aid, it does not mean that the student will actually be awarded the money. Many merit awards are competitive and some awards are for specific majors, usually limited to a certain number of gifted students.

Furthermore, these academic merit aid grants are awarded by the admissions office (not the financial aid office) because they are based on academic talents that only the admissions department reviews. The problem is when the financial aid department receives this merit aid award information from the admissions department, they will more than likely reduce (in an equal amount) any gift aid, or tuition discount, that they were going to award the student in the first place.

Do Your Homework Before You Work Your Butt Off!

The vast majority of private scholarships I've personally seen require particular affiliations, ethnicities, residence areas, or parental employment, etc, and are only one year/one time awards, ie. freshman year. The best and biggest scholarships based on academic merit, typically for all four years, are usually given by the colleges themselves.

In summation, the trick is to realistically figure out how much money the family is willing/able to spend on college and then shop accordingly. State universities and highly selective private (Ivy League type) colleges give very little merit aid at all. A small percentage of high-income families that have no advisor will pay full sticker price, while other high-end families are savvy and will look for the merit aid type schools. Then other families realistically can only afford (qualify for)  stay-at-home state universities, or a community college.

I have taken details from our IPEDS (government) data and Common Data Sets (reported by most colleges) and created a chart that lists the colleges that report the highest percentages of students in the 2015-2016 academic year who were awarded institutional non-need-based scholarships or grant aid. Below is this list that you can use to guide your high-end clients when looking at colleges:


College Location % Non-Need Aid
Cooper Union New York, NY 69%
Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering Needham, MA 54%
Rhodes College Memphis, TN 52%
Trinity University San Antonio, TX 50%
Denison University Granville, OH 49%
Hillsdale College Hillsdale, MI 47%
Samford University Birmingham, AL 47%
New England Conservatory of Music Boston, MA 45%
Birmingham Southern College Birmingham, AL 43%
Gonzaga University Spokane, WA 43%
DePauw University Greencastle, IN 42%
Furman University Greenville, SC 41%
College of Wooster Wooster, OH 40%
Marquette University Milwaukee, WI 40%
Centre College Danville, KY 39%
Westminster College Fulton, MO 39%
Southwestern Oklahoma State University Weatherford, OK 38%
Millsaps College Jackson, MS 37%
Savannah College of Art and Design Savannah, GA 37%
St. Mary's College Notre Dame, IN 37%
Xavier University Cincinnati, OH 37%
Andrews University Berrien Springs, MI 36%
Augustana University Sioux Falls, SD 36%
Creighton University Omaha, NE 36%
Mississippi College Clinton, MS 36%
New College of Florida Sarasota, FL 36%
Willamette University Salem, OR 36%
Eckerd College St. Petersburg, FL 35%
Oberlin College Oberlin, OH 35%
Rose Hulman Terre Haute, IN 35%
Truman State University Kirksville, MO 35%
University of Dayton Dayton, OH 35%
Baylor University Waco, TX 34%
Grace College and Seminary Winona Lake, IN 34%
Hampden-Sydney College Hampden-Sydney, VA 34%
Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago, IL 34%
Illinois Wesleyan University Bloomington, IL 34%
Ouachita Baptist University Arkadelphia, AR 34%
Southwestern University Georgetown, TX 34%
St. Lawrence University Canton, NY 34%
University of Dallas Irving, TX 34%
Abilene Christian University Abilene, TX 33%
Drake University Des Moines, IA 33%
Manhattan School of Music New York, NY 33%
Muhlenberg College Allentown, PA 33%
Southern Methodist University Dallas, TX 33%
Tulane University New Orleans, LA 33%
Calvin College Grand Rapids, MI 32%
Fairfield University Fairfield, CT 32%
New Mexico Institute of Technology Socorro, NM 32%
St. Joseph's University Philadelphia, PA 32%
University of Portland Portland, OR 32%
Washington College Chestertown, MD 32%
Wesleyan College Macon, GA 32%
Worcester Polytechnic Institute Worcester, MA 32%
Clark University Worcester, MA 31%
Drury University Springfield, MO 31%
Hobart and William Smith Colleges Geneva, NY 31%
Iowa State University Ames, IA 31%
Lawrence University Appleton, WI 31%
Transylvania University Lexington, KY 31%
University of Jamestown Jamestown, ND 31%
Westminster College Salt Lake City, UT 31%
Case Western Reserve University Cleveland, OH 30%
Carroll College Helena, MT 30%
Kalamazoo College Kalamazoo, MI 30%
Lindenwood University St. Charles, MO 30%
Miami University Oxford, OH 30%
Ohio Wesleyan University Delaware, OH 30%
Southern Adventist University Collegedale, TN 30%
The Catholic University of America Washington, DC 30%
University of Rochester Rochester, NY 30%
Whitman College Walla Walla, WA 30%
Florida Institute of Technology Melbourne, FL 29%
Florida Southern College Lakeland, FL 29%
John Brown University Siloam Springs, AR 29%
Juniata College Huntingdon, PA 29%
Lesley University Cambridge, MA 29%
Lipscomb University Nashville, TN 29%
Mayville State University Mayville, ND 29%
Prescott College Prescott, AZ 29%
Saint Louis University St. Louis, MO 29%
Taylor University Upland, IN 29%
Beloit College Beloit, WI 28%
Gustavus Adolphus College St. Peter, MN 28%
Randolph College Lynchburg, VA 28%
Rockhurst University Kansas City, MO 28%
Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond, VA 28%



Ron Them

Ron developed and trademarked the CCPS® (Certified College Planning Specialist) designation. For over 20 years, the nation's leading financial advisors, broker/dealers, and major media outlets have been using his research, funding strategies, training, and insight. Ron is highly regarded as an expert in the college funding field.

He is a former Chief Financial Officer of a Fortune 500 company and currently owns his own financial advisory company specializing in cash flow planning for business owners and executives. He developed the Cash Flow Recovery™ process that uses cash flow management principals to increase asset value and build wealth for business owners.

He is also the originator of several software calculators to help advisors and families make college affordable, including:

  • College QuikPlan EFC Calculator
  • "Find the Money" College Cash Flow Calculator
  • College Debt Reduction Calculator

Ron has been quoted in U.S. News and World Report, Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Smart Money, Financial Advisor Magazine, Small Firm Profit Report, Practical Accountant, LIMRA's Market Facts, Senior Advisors Magazine, HR Magazine,, Employee Benefit News Magazine,, Entrepreneur Magazine, Insurance Selling Magazine,, The Christian Voice, and Columbus CEO Magazine.


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