I know this will not be of much help to the seniors trying to decide which acceptance letter to send back, but if financial aid will play a part in your college decision; you need to compile a list of colleges with available scholarships in mind. Just as it is with most things, there is more than one way to go about this. Are you most likely to qualify for need or merit-based aid? Will achieving your education goals require a professional degree or graduate school? Do most colleges offer your major or can it be found at only a relatively small number of schools? These are only a few of the variables that can affect your ability to receive financial aid.
Just so we don’t get the cart ahead of the horse remember that minimum admission standards don’t only need to be met, they need to be exceeded. Your grades, class rank and test scores need to be competitive at the schools that end up on your short list. To find colleges with the right combination of requirements and financial assistance is a question of placing your unique needs into your preferred search engine and applying your preferences to the results. This can be done using anything from Google searches to the CollegeBoard website. Job one is to make sure the college offers the major you desire. If need-based aid is required, a good second condition would be percent financial need met. The number of colleges meeting 100 percent need is tiny. Your list will have progressively more colleges as the required percentage of need met is decreased.
If there are other needs that have to be met, they should be added one by one, in level of importance, until your list shrinks to a manageable number. Once all the needs are met, begin to apply your wants. Things like; the part of the country you find most interesting, whether the town surrounding the college is to your liking, is the college near an area that offers recreational activities you enjoy or if the seasonal weather is within your comfort zone. These and any other preferences you have should be a part of choosing the colleges that make your short list.
Don’t get too caught up on whether the colleges on your list are household names. Consider how many of the fortune 100 companies you can name and how much we depend on each of them to support of our standard of living…