It might seem like a quick fix now, but a massive student loan isn’t always a great idea — just ask Suze Orman, or the 44 million students who collectively owe more than a trillion dollars in debt.
However, not wanting to take out a $200,000-plus loan doesn't mean that you can't attend a pricey school. There may be hidden money just waiting for you to find it.
Stop looking under your couch cushions. The money I'm talking about is scholarships. A few students may be advised of scholarship opportunities by colleges. Some may even be awarded scholarships without specifically applying for them. However, we can't all be so lucky.
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However, using your SAT scores to help with scholarships can give you a big leg up. While super high scores on the PSAT qualify students for National Merit Scholarships, there's no equivalent scholarship for the SAT. But that doesn't mean the money's not out there.
Criteria for Scholarships Based on SAT Scores
You may not realize that your (or your child's) SAT scores are a qualifying factor in most scholarships (though the ACT may also be an option). In many cases, you must meet a minimum score and other qualifying criteria.
The Hamman Foundation, for example, awards 70 $20,000 scholarships a year to Houston-area students. It sets the minimum SAT score at 1000 — around the 50th percentile. This means that more than half of students in the area would (theoretically) have a chance to win one of these generous awards.
Other scholarships may focus on areas of study, gender, national or ethnic background, and/or counties of residence, but still use SAT score cut-offs. This is why if you score a 1050 on the SAT, it's still a good idea to work on polishing your application, according to test-prep company Magoosh.
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“Plenty of scholarships are based around other attributes, such as overcoming adversity, your background, your summer job, or simply how well you write an essay,” writes Thomas Broderick, a teacher and test-prep blogger.
Guaranteed vs. General Merit Scholarships
Broderick distinguishes between guaranteed scholarships — those automatically awarded to accepted students who have earned a certain SAT score — and general merit scholarships, which have the same SAT requirements, but the student must compete with other accepted students for a limited number of awards.
In both cases, the higher the score, the better the chances of landing a given scholarship, or even getting a bigger award.
For general merit scholarships, organizations take SAT scores as a measure of academic ability along with grades and other factors. At colleges providing guaranteed scholarships, more points can also translate into more money.
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At the University of Arizona, an SAT score of 1230 (combined with a top-notch GPA) leads to awards of around $8,000 for in-state students, and $12,000 for out-of-state students. But a score of 1390 or higher results in awards of either $12,000 or $18,000 (in-state or out-of-state). That's $4,000 to $6,000 more for 160 points!
If someone cut you a check for $4,000 to invest a few hours a week studying for the next month, would you do it? Most of us would. If you're on the fence about studying to retake the SAT (or even studying for it in the first place), know that there are a lot of free and cheap options out there, like free practice tests for the SAT that can help you boost your score. Just think about the time you spend as an investment in your postcollege life!
About the Author
Rachel Kapelke-Dale blogs about test prep and admissions for Magoosh. She has a B.A. from Brown University, and did her own graduate work at the Université de Paris VII (Master Recherche) and University College London (Ph.D.). She has taught and written about test preparation and admissions practices for more than a decade.