You already know that taking the SAT or ACT is pretty much inevitable because you need the scores for many of your college applications. But do you know the other very important reason to take the SAT or ACT? Two words: Free money!
Many scholarships for college are merit-based, meaning that they are based on your academic record. The scholarship selection committees will need to see your GPA and your standardized test scores, so this is where putting in the time and effort to study for your SAT or ACT can make a huge difference. A good score will you get into college, but a great score will get you free money.
There are thousands of scholarships out there from colleges, regional governments, companies and other private organizations that are eager to help fund your college journey -- you just need to know where to look.
Start Your Search
So how do you find these merit-based scholarships that require a solid SAT or ACT score? Believe it or not, searching for SAT- or ACT-based scholarships is as easy as doing as an online search for the words “merit scholarship" along with the name of a college you're interested in. Usually, the top results will lead you straight to the school's merit-based scholarship page, where you'll find info about GPA and test score requirements.
Of course, applying with any old score won't cut it if you're competing with hundreds or even thousands of students for just a few merit scholarships offered by your target college. Jolyn Brand, educational consultant and owner of Brand College Consulting, says “there isn't a certain score that guarantees more scholarships, but students should be aware of the average test scores of accepted students at the college that they hope to be accepted to. Students who get scholarships to that college will be on the high end, if not above, the average range."
Should You Follow the Money?
One of the biggest issues with college scholarships is often that you might be eligible or even selected for a scholarship at a school you aren't particularly interested in. But if you accept the scholarship, your cost of attending college could be dramatically reduced.
Brand points out that since the majority of merit-based scholarships you'll find are coming from the colleges themselves, as opposed to private organizations, “it's important to plan the student's college list thoughtfully and with financial aid in mind. Students and families who are trying to get scholarships should have more safety and match colleges on their list, and check each college's scholarship website and net price calculator carefully. College selection depends on the student's preferences and budget, so each student and family should take into consideration the total cost of attendance at each college given the student's potential future salary."
Timing Is Everything
If you are hoping to win some of this merit money, you have to take test prep seriously during your junior year. Plan to take the SAT or ACT during the end of your junior year at the latest, since most of these merit-based scholarship applications will be due during your senior year.
“I suggest doing as well as possible on the tests during junior year, focusing on college essays over the summer and applying to college during early fall of senior year. That allows students the remainder of senior year to submit scholarship essays," Brand says.
When you're getting ready to apply, you'll also want to put together a student resume, which lists all of your extracurricular activities, community service, honors and awards. This will make it easier to remember and focus on one or two of your activities in the essays you'll have to write for the scholarship applications.
If you're lacking motivation to study for the SAT or ACT, just remember: This test score could be your ticket to some serious college cash.