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76 Best Bets for College Merit Scholarships

Money from faucet representing best bets for college merit scholarshipsThe best bets for college merit scholarships aren’t necessarily schools you have heard of. But if you’re serious about looking for an affordable education at a good college, does it matter? Don’t think you’ll qualify for any significant need-based financial aid? Then it’s time to begin looking beyond the rankings and paying attention to the data that tells you how much money schools are giving students.

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How Schools Made the Best Bets for College Merit Scholarships List

I created this list based on data from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) available as of July of this year. IPEDS lists the percentage of freshman who are receiving institutional gift aid and the average amount. If over 90% of freshman are getting institutional aid, it can’t all be need-based. That means that it’s very likely these schools are awarding a significant amount of merit money to students without need.

The amount of merit scholarships counts

The merit money isn’t going to be very helpful if it doesn’t even cover the cost of books. Therefore, I took into account the average institutional award and the average net price. The best bets for college merit scholarships list only includes schools where the average award was 30% or more of the total cost of attendance. I also excluded schools where the average net price was over $34,000. This prevents schools that charge $80,000 and offer $20,000 in merit scholarships from making the list.

Increased opportunities for merit money should decrease the need for PLUS Loans

Another consideration was the percentage of undergraduates that had PLUS loans taken out on their behalf. Parents looking for schools with college merit scholarships are trying to avoid having to take out PLUS loans to pay the bills. While I don’t necessarily know why schools with generous merit aid would have a large percentage of parents with PLUS loans, I excluded schools where there percentage was more than 15%.

Which schools have incentives to offer merit scholarships?

Merit money is about providing incentives for students to attend the college. Schools with low yield rates (the percentage of accepted students who actually enroll) would seem to have more incentive to provide merit aid. The colleges that made the list all have yield rates below 20%.

As always, graduation rates matter

Finally, on the premise that the most expensive college is the one you don’t graduate from, I checked graduation rates. After all, college merit scholarships don’t do you any good if you don’t have a decent chance of graduating. Therefore, I only included colleges with 4-year graduation rates of 50% or better.

What Kind of Schools Made the List

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The colleges that are the best bets for merit aid are all private and located in 28 states. Illinois and Massachusetts have the most with six each followed by Indiana, New York and Wisconsin with five each. You’ll notice the mid-west is heavily represented on the list.

Best bets for college merit scholarships come from smaller schools

Not surprisingly, most of the schools are small with only four having 5,000 or more full-time undergraduates. Over half of the schools, 46, have less than 2,000 full-time undergraduates. Why is this not surprising? Because there are a lot more smaller colleges to begin with. Furthermore, most students seem to have a preference for schools of 5,000 or more which mean those colleges have less incentive to offer generous merit money. It’s the basic laws of supply and demand.

Given the size ranges, you would expect a concentration of Liberal Arts College. A total of 29 schools on the best bets for college scholarships list are classified as LACs, 29 are Master levels schools and only 12 are Doctoral level institutions. However, 14 of the schools are classified as Division 1 in the NCAA, including one FBS school, Seton Hall. Only 12 are in Division 2 and 42 are in Division 3.

The colleges on the list have acceptance rates that range from 46% to 93%. For those concerned about academic challenge, at least 33 have Phi Beta Kappa chapters.

Not best bets for financial need

Over half of the schools, 47, are free to apply to. Twelve have 40% or more freshman receiving Pell Grants with another 22 having percentages between 30 and 39. Only 10 schools have less than 20% of freshman receiving Pell Grants. However, this doesn’t mean these schools are good bets for need-based aid. Only two schools, Beloit and Centenary have an average net price of less than $10,000 for students with family incomes under $30,000. Twenty-one of the colleges had average net prices over $20,000 for this income category.

Of course, there are no guarantees these colleges will offer you a merit based scholarship–it’s all based on averages after all. But with 76 possibilities, surely one or two will meet your basic requirements and will be worth a try. (The following list is based on information available in the DIY College Rankings Search Spreadsheet.)

76 Best Bet Schools for College Merit Scholarships

Name

State

Full-time Under-graduates

4 yr Grad-uation Rate


 % Admitted

% Freshman Receiving
Institutional Grants

Avg Amount of Institutional
Grants for Freshman

Under-graduate Application
Fee

Mills College

CA

566

57

91

99

$14,762

$50

University of Redlands

CA

2,424

63

69

97

$33,165

$50

Westmont College

CA

1,224

71

70

100

$28,752

$0

Nova Southeastern University

FL

5,366

54

76

100

$17,892

$50

Rollins College

FL

2,456

74

61

92

$29,532

$50

Stetson University

FL

3,082

57

81

100

$31,996

$50

Berry College

GA

1,982

63

77

100

$23,120

$0

The College of Idaho

ID

1,085

59

48

100

$22,621

$0

Dominican University

IL

2,001

53

76

100

$18,987

$25

Elmhurst University

IL

2,687

58

66

100

$21,627

$0

Illinois College

IL

1,129

63

75

100

$21,219

$0

Knox College

IL

1,119

61

71

99

$34,402

$0

Lake Forest College

IL

1,526

69

58

98

$31,860

$0

Lewis University

IL

3,484

51

66

100

$19,527

$40

DePauw University

IN

1,719

85

68

99

$35,323

$0

Earlham College

IN

733

61

59

98

$33,740

$0

University of Evansville

IN

1,716

55

64

100

$25,025

$0

University of Indianapolis

IN

3,863

51

84

100

$18,044

$0

Valparaiso University

IN

2,678

56

87

100

$28,664

$0

Coe College

IA

1,356

55

80

100

$33,938

$30

Cornell College

IA

993

67

82

100

$31,082

$0

Luther College

IA

1,775

69

64

100

$30,129

$0

Wartburg College

IA

1,523

64

72

95

$29,471

$0

Bellarmine University

KY

2,369

55

82

100

$28,157

$25

Loyola University New Orleans

LA

2,955

50

72

99

$27,560

$0

Hood College

MD

1,132

50

71

99

$27,918

$0

Assumption University

MA

1,970

70

81

100

$25,798

$50

Bay Path University

MA

1,092

55

78

100

$23,159

$25

Clark University

MA

2,185

70

47

95

$25,625

$0

Gordon College

MA

1,390

65

68

100

$22,946

$50

Simmons University

MA

1,609

76

83

99

$29,514

$55

Wheaton College

MA

1,660

72

77

99

$40,124

$60

Albion College

MI

1,492

58

74

100

$38,910

$0

Cornerstone University

MI

1,024

54

87

97

$12,585

$0

Kalamazoo College

MI

1,426

72

74

98

$34,304

$0

University of Detroit Mercy

MI

2,214

59

79

100

$16,578

$0

Gustavus Adolphus College

MN

2,220

75

71

98

$28,809

$0

Hamline University

MN

1,861

55

69

100

$24,759

$0

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

MN

1,052

59

84

100

$23,774

$25

Rockhurst University

MO

1,845

66

73

100

$29,777

$0

Saint Louis University

MO

6,847

73

56

98

$32,545

$0

Creighton University

NE

4,330

71

64

100

$23,260

$0

Saint Anselm College

NH

2,005

81

76

100

$27,085

$50

Centenary University

NJ

1,032

50

93

98

$19,998

$0

Drew University

NJ

1,603

64

73

97

$24,499

$40

Fairleigh Dickinson University-Florham Campus

NJ

2,517

53

86

100

$29,478

$50

Seton Hall University

NJ

5,724

65

78

99

$22,988

$55

Canisius College

NY

1,915

64

76

99

$16,953

$0

Clarkson University

NY

2,845

63

78

100

$36,967

$50

Le Moyne College

NY

2,369

70

75

100

$22,707

$0

Niagara University

NY

2,654

71

92

100

$23,774

$0

Siena College

NY

3,200

76

81

96

$26,415

$50

Marietta College

OH

1,110

50

74

100

$26,649

$0

Ohio Wesleyan University

OH

1,418

60

68

100

$33,592

$0

The College of Wooster

OH

1,921

70

65

99

$36,634

$0

University of Dayton

OH

8,314

63

81

95

$26,818

$0

University of Tulsa

OK

2,819

56

69

99

$31,172

$50

DeSales University

PA

1,930

56

82

99

$22,671

$0

Gannon University

PA

2,723

54

79

91

$21,852

$25

Juniata College

PA

1,264

70

67

100

$34,595

$0

Ursinus College

PA

1,484

71

80

100

$36,625

$0

Rhodes College

TN

1,788

79

51

94

$32,312

$0

Abilene Christian University

TX

3,297

53

63

99

$20,396

$50

Austin College

TX

1,281

66

49

100

$28,749

$0

Saint Edward’s University

TX

2,820

55

91

98

$28,287

$50

University of Dallas

TX

1,424

62

54

100

$28,325

$50

Westminster College

UT

1,345

57

87

100

$21,359

$0

Saint Michael’s College

VT

1,492

72

88

100

$29,626

$50

Regent University

VA

2,376

50

50

99

$10,286

$50

Saint Martin’s University

WA

1,253

50

94

99

$23,807

$0

Whitworth University

WA

2,307

66

91

99

$29,393

$0

Beloit College

WI

924

68

58

98

$37,638

$0

Lawrence University

WI

1,393

63

69

100

$33,869

$0

Northland College

WI

545

50

64

100

$26,705

$0

Ripon College

WI

801

60

74

100

$31,125

$30

Saint Norbert College

WI

1,851

69

84

100

$21,761

$0

 

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76 Best Bets for College Merit Scholarships