Ivy League Admission Tips: How to Approach Financial Aid,
Part 1

The costs of an education at a top college can be sizeable. For many families, paying a quarter of a million dollars for their child’s education is an insurmountable obstacle. However, it is important to note that some of the most selective schools are also very generous toward their students.

Even though each school is different, generous financial aid in the form of scholarships and grants is fairly common for low-income applicants. Before starting the college admissions process, you need to have a frank conversation with your family about finances. If you determine that you need financial aid, then you’ll have to research the specific financial aid opportunities available at each school to which you plan on applying. If you follow these Ivy League admission strategies, you may be able to mitigate some or all of your college expenses.

Select the Right Colleges

If cost is an important factor to you, you’ll have to craft your list of potential colleges very carefully. When selecting potential colleges, you should be sure to consider the following questions:

  • Is the college need-blind (that is, it does not consider financial need when making admissions decisions)?
  • Does the college offer merit scholarships? If so, are these scholarships awarded based on the college application, or must additional materials be submitted?
  • Does the college offer need-based grants or student loans?

From a financial aid perspective, you should consider selecting at least one safety school that is also fully within your price range. In case you aren’t offered enough financial aid by other schools, this school will serve as a backup option.

Apply for Application Fee Waivers

Depending on your level of financial need, you may be eligible for application fee waivers. These waivers can be obtained through the Common Application, the College Board, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), or even the colleges to which you plan on applying. In general, if you qualify for free or reduced-price school meals, you will also qualify for an application fee waiver.

Seek Merit-Based Scholarships

Many colleges offer merit-based scholarships for applicants with exceptional academic, leadership, or extracurricular achievements. As part of your application strategy, you should consider applying to at least some schools that offer merit-based financial aid. Merit scholarships vary in size. Some scholarships pay for a portion of tuition, and others cover all tuition costs, room and board, and other fees.

Many merit scholarships are awarded based on a student’s application and do not require applicants to submit additional forms, essays, or other material. If you are applying to such a college, it will be even more important to develop a compelling admissions profile. The stronger your application, the higher your chances of receiving merit-based scholarship funds.

At some colleges, merit-based financial aid requires an additional application and, possibly, an essay. If you are accepted to such a school and need additional financial aid, you should certainly take the time to apply for a merit scholarship. When applying to receive a merit-based scholarship, you should keep in mind all the principles of developing a compelling admissions profile.

Some colleges offer scholarships to athletic recruits. If you are a highly skilled athlete, you will definitely want to consider these opportunities.

Take Advantage of Need-Based Grants

A need-based grant is based solely on the applicant’s level of need and does not require repayment. Many top colleges offer generous need-based grants that may cover most if not all the costs related to your education. Unlike merit-based scholarships, need-based grants are solely based on family income.

As we’ve seen, U.S. colleges and universities offer a wide variety of financial aid. The key is to research each potential school carefully, note its financial aid offerings, and craft a compelling admissions theme and narrative—if you are a truly exceptional applicant, the admissions officers are very likely to accept your applications. Visit our Ivy League admission blog to learn more about how to craft a unique applicant profile.