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Get Accepted–with Scholarships

The word scholarship written under a piece of paper
How do you get accepted to college with scholarships? If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me this question…!

Get Accepted – the First Step

The first order of business is to get accepted to university. The issue is that the bar for admissions is very different at different universities. The question of how you get accepted to the Ivy League is not the same as the question of how to get into UCLA, which is still different from how do you get accepted to community college.

You first need to understand the admissions requirements for the schools you are targeting. If you want to get accepted, you have to follow these requirements very carefully.

Bear in mind, however, that at the top tier universities, there are unstated, subjective factors in the admissions process that are not easy to discern. For example, to get accepted to Harvard or any of the other Ivy League schools, you not only need outstanding grades, test scores, and teacher recommendations: you also need to demonstrate things like motivation, energy, curiosity, leadership ability, and special talents.

Therefore, as you prepare for college during high school, you need to concentrate on your academic performance. No matter where you want to go to college, you must do well academically. But the more ambitious you are, and the more you want to get accepted to the Ivy League or other top tier university, you must also cultivate these subjective characteristics.

Get a Scholarship – The Next Giant Leap

It is more difficult to get admitted with a scholarship than just getting accepted.

First of all, any university will reserve its scare scholarship dollars for its top performing students and applicants. You don’t automatically earn consideration for a college scholarship just because you show up. And you don’t automatically win a college scholarship because you and your family have financial need.

Universities award scholarships to the top students in the their applicant pool. College admissions professionals look at the applicant pool and separate out those top performers. They then look at their total scholarship budget, which is not infinite. Then they decide who will get scholarship money.

The higher your high school performance, the better the odds that you’ll win a scholarship. For example, a place like Bucknell College will award merit-based scholarships to a very small percentage of its incoming class. Bucknell reserves most of its financial aid budget for students with high financial need. So it you want to win one of Bucknell’s Presidential Scholarships, for example, you need to be among the cream of the crop within the applicant pool at Bucknell. In other words, only the top performing applicants will get a scholarship–whether or not they exhibit financial need.

Need-Based Scholarships

But how about those need-based scholarships? Doesn’t pretty much everyone get one? In some cases, that’s true. At the University of Puget Sound, for example, 100% of students in 2017-2018 received some sort of financial aid, and 99% received institutional grant money from the university as a form of merit scholarship. But at Bucknell, only 51% of students are getting any sort of financial aid from the institution, while 49% of Bucknell students will pay the full price of admission. (Bucknell’s tuition was $56,092 in 2018-2019, and the total cost of attendance at Bucknell was $72,750 according to College Navigator).

As a side note, it is also interesting to note that a greater percentage of students at the University of Puget Sound receive federal Pell Grants (for students from families with limited financial means) was 17% in 2017-2018. At Bucknell, the percentage of students with Pell Grants is only 12%. However, the total financial aid budget at Bucknell was larger at Bucknell $16.3 million, compared to $12.8 million at University of Puget Sound. Which school would you say is being more generous with its limited funds? (Source: CollegeNavigator)

Get Accepted to the Ivy League With A Scholarship

How do you get accepted to the Ivy League with a scholarship? Can you get accepted to Harvard with a scholarship?

In phrase, “with difficulty.” The first issue is that unlike Bucknell or the University of Puget Sound, Harvard and the rest of the Ivy League do not offer any merit based scholarships. All of their financial aid budget it reserved for students who exhibit financial need.

Harvard is very generous with the students it accepts. But I don’t have to explain that getting into Harvard is difficult. This is especially true of you have financial need. Again, let me be clear: Harvard is very generous to the high-need students it accepts. But like Bucknell, a significant percentage of its students will pay full price. in 2017-2018, 45% of all students entering Harvard were paying full price (which was $71,135 in 2017-2018, of which $48,949 was tuition).

And while Harvard offered 17% of its slots to student eligible for Pell Grants, this is not that impressive compared to the University of Puget Sound which offered the exact same percentage. This is especially disappointing when one considers that Harvard gave away $47.3 million of its own money to support Harvard students, which is almost 4 times the amount of money that the University of Puget Sound gave away in the same year (Source: CollegeNavigator).

What’s the point? While Harvard is very generous to students who qualify for need-based aid, only the most exceptional high-need students in the world will receive full financial support at Harvard. Harvard is a great deal for those who get accepted to Harvard. But the number of high-need students who get in is tiny.

What Are the Odds?

So what are your odds of getting accepted with a scholarship to an Ivy League school?

Not very big.

But what are your odds of getting accepted to college with a scholarship? They could be pretty good, if you are strategic about where you send your applications.

What Should You Do?


If you want to get accepted to university with a scholarship, you first need to understand how different schools allocate their scholarship dollars. This article is the first step on the road to that understanding.

What Scholarship do you want?

Second, you need to make sure what sort of scholarship you are aiming for? Will you be eligible for a need-based aid? If not, you need to hunt for schools that offer merit-based scholarships.

Who is going to give you a scholarship?

Third, you need to look at which schools are more likely to offer YOU a scholarship. You need to carefully assess where you fit in the application pool. If you are going get accepted to university with a scholarship, you need to be realistic about which schools are going to shower you with money. As we have seen, the University of Puget Sound is mostly likely–of the three schools we have examined–to give you a merit-based scholarship.

Fourth, if you a student with high financial need, do not be complacent. Students with high need are the most “expensive” students for colleges and universities to support. So if you are eligible for a Pell Grant, you need to ALSO be a high performer if you want to get accepted to college with scholarships.

College education is an investment, and college admission to selective colleges is very competitive, especially Ivy League admission. So how can you invest college dollars wisely? How can you get accepted to college with scholarships?

Many families find that they need professional assistance to help their children get accepted to college.

Families may have other important questions about getting into college. For example, why is college tuition expensive? How can I save money on college tuition? How can I get a scholarship to my dream school? These are questions that Mark Montgomery and his team of college admissions experts can answer.

Consider getting some Great College Advice.



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