After I posted a list of reasons that students should continue to consider passing up the new SAT in favor of the ACT, I received messages from a couple of readers who said that they shared my misgiving about the redesigned test, but that they had a very practical concern regarding that exam: namely, the PSAT and qualification for National Merit Scholarships.
In both cases, they indicated that their children would be dependent on scholarship money to attend college, and that they could not afford to pass up the opportunities offered by the National Merit program.
I confess that this was the last thing on my mind when I wrote the list, but it is a very real concern, and I appreciate having it called to my attention.
I do want to address the issue here, albeit with the caveat that I am not a financial aid expert, and that you should check with guidance counselors and individual colleges because policies and guidelines and vary from school to school.
I’m going to go into a lot more detail below, but in a nutshell: If you are unable to afford college without a full scholarship and are focusing on a group of less selective public universities, primarily in the (Mid)west and South, that offer large amounts of aid to students with high stats in order to boost their rankings, then yes, National Merit can count for a lot. But otherwise, it may have little to no effect on the amount of aid you ultimately receive. (more…)