A few questions about National Merit





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Discus: College Admissions: 2002 - 2003 Archive: October 2003 Archive: A few questions about National Merit
By Gammon (Gammon) on Tuesday, September 30, 2003 - 11:02 pm: Edit

I'm a Semifinalist with a perfect 4.0 GPA, 1580 SAT, etc. so I think I can faily easily make it to Finalist and maybe to Scholar.

1st Question: If I don't make it to Scholar and get money from the National Merit Corp, will I still be eligible for the scholarships given by the particular university I will attend?

2nd Question: If I make it to finalist, will this make a significant impact on my application?
UChicago is my top choice.

By Thedad (Thedad) on Wednesday, October 01, 2003 - 02:54 am: Edit

Being a Finalist seems to be a minor plus. If you read a lot of college websites & brochures, many like to brag about the number they have and many will give at least a token amount of financial aid they would not otherwise have given, e.g., UCLA will give you $500 even if you don't qualify for needs-based aid.

I once read someone's crunching of the old Academic Index thingy versus admissions stats and coming up with a calculatoin that NM Finalist was worth about 90 points of SAT I or 130 points of total SAT II's (for three SAT II's).

By Aparent (Aparent) on Wednesday, October 01, 2003 - 08:28 am: Edit

Gammon, I am confused when you say if you don't make it to Scholar and get money from National Merit Corp. The only way I know to get money from them is to make it to Scholar.

At every university I know, if you receive need-based financial aid, they will subtract from your package any outside awards you get, such as National Merit. A few outside merit scholarship givers are starting to wise up to this practice and are stating in their rules that they will not allow universities to use their funds to replace any part of a financial aid package, but until more of them do that, students who receive merit money from outside sources will pretty much bask in the honor rather than ending up with any extra funds. Last year Ds made it to Scholar and wrote various essays to win various other scholarships, only to discover that all he had done was erase his whole financial aid package.

If you are talking about colleges that give *merit* money, I imagine that's a different story.

By Wisconsinguy (Wisconsinguy) on Wednesday, October 01, 2003 - 12:46 pm: Edit

The grim picture that aparent shows is not always true. While it is true that over a certain threshold, your scholarships will do you little good, you can usually only help yourself by getting them. For instance, your aid can only go down to the level determined by FAFSA--if your institutional determination is higher than the total determined by FAFSA, you can usually go to the federal line with no penalty (for me, the variation was about two thousand dollars per year). Secondly, much of what is considered "additional educational expense" can be paid for with scholarships. I got my computer for free, all paid for by a surfeit of scholarship money. So scholarships can help.

By Aparent (Aparent) on Wednesday, October 01, 2003 - 01:21 pm: Edit

Wisconsinguy, what do you mean by "your aid can only go down to the level determined by FAFSA"?

By Wisconsinguy (Wisconsinguy) on Wednesday, October 01, 2003 - 03:31 pm: Edit

Basically, FAFSA determines how much need-based aid a college can give you according to a federal methodology. However, most institutions that people on this board concern themselves with also have institutional methodologies, which means they'll usually have you fill out the financial aid profile from the College Board (forget what the name of that is...the CES??). But anyway, their institutional methodology can place your level of need at more than the federal methodology. This is your window. At most colleges, though I cannot say for all, any difference between the institutional and federal methodologies (provided that the federal level is lower) can be made up with outside scholarships without penalty. After you reach the federal level, at most institutions (but not all) you can cut your loans and work study before you have to cut your grant. Some will not allow you to do this. But most should allow you to go down to the federal level.

For example, if my FAFSA says my EFC is $13,000, but my institution declares my EFC at $17,000, then that $4000 usually can be payed off with scholarships without penalty. If, however, I have $6000 worth of scholarships (after buying computers and whatnot), I can lower my EFC to the federal level with $4000 of it, then the remaining $2000 comes off either loans, work study or grant.

Hope that helped.

By Bucki (Bucki) on Sunday, October 05, 2003 - 01:48 pm: Edit

Wisconsinguy,
Am with you on the methodoligies. However, must share this: had conversation with admissions at certain very prestigious school which definitely uses the IM for aid. Was told flat out that should my child get an outside award, that would in fact be taken away from any need-based $$ she would be awarded. There was no window to slip though. In fact, I reiterated to the person this statement "Let me get this straight. My kid finds the scholarship; she does the work, she wins it, yet instead of saying great job, you actually take away $$ from our package?" She replied "unfortunate, but true." So, there ya go!

By Geniusash (Geniusash) on Sunday, October 05, 2003 - 09:54 pm: Edit

It is important to know the difference between NM *scholar* and NM *Finalist*. Finalists are eligible for all scholarships from Universities, companies, etc. wheras scholars actually recieve money from NMSC.
Question 1: Yes
Question 2: Marginally


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