36 Best Bets for Test Optional Merit Aid
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36 Best Bets for Test Optional Merit Aid

dollar signs on chalk board representing best options for test optional colleges merit aidThink because you’re a miserable test taker, you don’t have a chance at merit aid? Maybe not. If you’re willing to step away from the limelight of prestige and top 50 college rankings, you can find some excellent opportunities among the growing number of test optional colleges. With just a little digging into the data, I came up with 36 possible test optional colleges for merit aid.

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How to find best bets for test optional

Let me explain how I came up with the list. I started out with all colleges where at least 90% of freshman receive institutional aid. When this many students are receiving institutional aid, they can’t all be receiving need-based aid.

Next I kept only schools where the average institutional grant was 40% or more of the total cost of attendance. This means that even though a college may have a lower average award, it still qualifies since it also has a lower total cost. For example, which is a better deal, a $30,000 award from a school that costs $60,000 or a $20,000 award at a school that cost $40,000?

Any schools with a 4 year graduation rate of less than 40% fell off the list. Not much point in attending a school you aren’t likely to graduate from.

Finally, I eliminated any schools where the ACT or SAT was required. That left me with 36 schools where the test is either only recommended or neither required nor recommended.

What kind of schools make the test-optional list?

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The majority of the list pretty much consists of small, Liberal Arts Colleges. There are six Master’s level schools but these are still small in size. Only two had more than 3,000 full-time undergraduates.

All but three are located in the northeast or Midwest. Graduation rates range for 41% to 83% and the acceptance rate from 43% to 90%.

Remember, these are just potential test optional colleges for merit aid. Some of them still have fairly high percentages of freshman taking non-federal loans or a high percentage of PLUS loans for their undergraduates.

And these are not necessarily good options for students looking for need-based aid. Over two-thirds of them have an average net price of over $15,000 for students with a family income under $30,000. Seven actually have averages over $20,000.

This list of test optional colleges for merit aid are meant to serve as options for people who are looking to expand their college list. If you’re interested in learning how to target colleges most likely to meet your needs, be sure to subscribe for access to more free college lists and resources.

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Best Bets for Test Optional Colleges for Merit Aid

Name State Full-time Under-grads 4 yr Grad Rate % Admitted SAT/ACT Required % Freshman Receiving Institutional Grants Avg Amount of Institutional Grants for Freshman
Stetson University FL 3,037 57 63 Recommended 100 $24,950
Agnes Scott College GA 876 61 62 Recommended 100 $23,608
Briar Cliff University IA 792 41 99 $16,872
Augustana College IL 2,460 70 49 Recommended 99 $23,161
Illinois College IL 948 62 61 Recommended 100 $18,596
Knox College IL 1,368 69 64 Recommended 98 $24,669
Lake Forest College IL 1,553 66 55 Recommended 98 $24,289
Earlham College IN 980 60 62 Recommended 96 $29,004
Stonehill College MA 2,376 83 75 Neither required nor recommended 96 $22,488
Kalamazoo College MI 1,434 77 72 Neither required nor recommended 97 $24,937
Gustavus Adolphus College MN 2,342 81 67 Recommended 98 $24,454
Colby-Sawyer College NH 1,157 44 90 Neither required nor recommended 99 $26,018
Drew University NJ 1,412 63 70 Recommended 98 $27,461
Cazenovia College NY 943 55 81 Neither required nor recommended 99 $22,046
Elmira College NY 1,123 52 76 Recommended 100 $24,307
Manhattanville College NY 1,714 51 74 Recommended 97 $22,637
Siena College NY 3,006 72 76 Recommended 99 $21,314
St Lawrence University NY 2,348 82 46 Neither required nor recommended 96 $28,935
The Sage Colleges NY 1,417 50 54 Recommended 100 $19,064
Wagner College NY 1,715 55 68 Recommended 99 $25,169
Denison University OH 2,252 77 48 Recommended 99 $28,598
Ohio Wesleyan University OH 1,655 64 75 Recommended 99 $26,358
Wittenberg University OH 1,760 59 77 Neither required nor recommended 99 $23,153
Albright College PA 2,219 50 49 Recommended 96 $22,958
Allegheny College PA 1,890 68 68 Recommended 100 $25,108
Chatham University PA 667 50 55 Neither required nor recommended 93 $22,465
Juniata College PA 1,512 67 77 Recommended 100 $23,084
Mercyhurst University PA 2,402 64 80 Recommended 98 $22,241
Susquehanna University PA 2,118 67 76 Recommended 99 $23,299
Ursinus College PA 1,632 74 83 Recommended 99 $29,304
Washington & Jefferson College PA 1,342 73 43 Recommended 100 $23,217
Furman University SC 2,624 79 64 Recommended 97 $25,217
Bennington College VT 680 61 63 Neither required nor recommended 94 $33,667
Norwich University VT 2,282 47 57 Recommended 100 $21,954
Beloit College WI 1,296 70 69 Neither required nor recommended 98 $23,900
Lawrence University WI 1,515 63 68 Neither required nor recommended 97 $25,535
36 Best Bets for Test Optional Merit Aid

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