Does studying for the ACT or SAT pay? It does at least when merit money is being considered. Colleges use many factors in determining whether a student will be accepted – geography, gender, strength of curriculum, GPA, race, community service, leadership opportunities.
Colleges use these same factors to then determine merit money for accepted students. Scores are probably the simplest — and most visual — measure to understand what colleges value. The chart to the left shows the breakdown at one ‘very selective’ southern college of ACT scores and what appears to be a sliding scale of merit money awarded to 6 different students. Students submitted ACT scores and received a range of merit amounts. The range of money attached to specific scores (SAT or ACT) for each college will vary. For this particular college, the cut-off seems to be a score of 31. For another less selective college, the cut-off would be lower, maybe a 28. For more selective colleges, the cut-off might be a 34. Bringing the score up a point or two might make the difference between a college being affordable for a family or not affordable.