09 May Bargains across the border through merit scholarships at USC

By LEE SHULMAN BIERER

University of South Carolina students return to the Columbia campus in August 2015. File photo by thestate.com

“You shouldn’t have to pay sticker price.” That’s music to college parents’ ears, especially when that sticker price is now topping $70,000 per year at more than a few private colleges.

How is a family supposed to make it work? It’s especially hard when families recognize that it isn’t just one year; and in many cases, unfortunately, it isn’t even just four years.

In fact, the national average is that less than 50 percent of freshmen graduate from the institution they started at four years later. When I share that stat with parents, they’re blindsided by the reality of just how expensive their child’s college education will be.

So, looking for scholarships has become a financial reality for most families. Scholarships come in two forms: need-based aid, which is grants, scholarships and loans based on the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid – www.fafsa.ed.gov) and the CSS Profile (www.collegeboard.com); and merit-based aid, which includes grants and scholarships but not loans, or what I call “free money.”

One of the best-kept secrets is the fact that many colleges and universities offer automatic merit money. In many cases, it’s based exclusively off of a combination of a student’s grade point average, rank in class and standardized test scores.

The University of South Carolina provides some sort of financial aid to 88 percent of its students. It has a specific area on its website entitled “Scholarships for Nonresidents.”

Here is a sampling of what they offer North Carolina (as well as all other non-South Carolina) residents:

Top Scholar Awards:

Stamps Scholars – Five recipients. Annual value of up to $20,000, plus tuition reduction, plus $10,000 in enrichment funds; totaling up to $167,000 over four years.

McNair Scholars – 20 recipients. Annual value of $15,000, plus tuition reduction; totaling more than $135,000 over four years.

Horseshoe Scholars – 20 recipients. Annual value of $11,000, plus tuition reduction; totaling more than $119,000 over four years.

Last year, McNair and Horseshoe scholars had an average SAT score of 1545, (ACT score of 34) and an average weighted high school GPA of 4.80. Recipients of these awards qualify for the in-state tuition rate.

Additional Merit Scholarships at USC:

Students who qualify for the following merit scholarships receive automatic in-state tuition rates, plus additional monies, or in the case of the Woodrow and Sims Scholars, a significant tuition reduction.

  • Alumni Scholars Award

Annual value: $5,000 + tuition reduction
Four-year value with tuition reduction: more than $95,000

Sponsored by the Carolina Alumni Association, these awards signify outstanding achievement in academics, leadership, talent and service. In 2016, recipients of this award had an average SAT score of 1514 (ACT score of 34) and an average weighted high school GPA of 4.89.

  • Cooper Scholars Award

Annual value: $4,000 + tuition reduction
Four-year value with tuition reduction: more than $91,000

In 2016, recipients of the Cooper Scholars Award had an average SAT score of 1473 (ACT score of 33) and an average weighted high school GPA of 4.71.

  • McKissick Scholars Award

Annual value: $2,000 + tuition reduction
Four-year value with tuition reduction: more than $83,000

In 2016, recipients of the McKissick Scholars Award had an average SAT score of 1389 (ACT score of 31) and an average weighted high school GPA of 4.51.

  • Flinn Scholars Award

Annual value: $500 + tuition reduction
Four-year value with tuition reduction: more than $77,000

In 2016, recipients of the Flinn Scholars Award had an average SAT score of 1334 (ACT score of 30) and an average weighted high school GPA of 4.23.

  • Woodrow Scholars Award

Annual value: $500 + tuition reduction
Four-year value with tuition reduction: more than $55,700

In 2016, recipients of the Woodrow Scholars Award had an average SAT score of 1264 (ACT score of 28) and an average weighted high school GPA of 4.22. Recipients of this award also receive a significant tuition reduction of nearly half of the out-of-state rate.

  • Sims Scholars Award

Annual value: $500 + tuition reduction
Four-year value with tuition reduction: $36,600

In 2016, recipients of the Sims Scholars Award had an average SAT score of 1237 (ACT score of 28) and an average weighted high school GPA of 3.71. Recipients of this award also receive a significant tuition reduction.

None of these scholarships may be combined with any other General University scholarship offered by the USC Office of Undergraduate Admissions, except for the Lieber Scholars Award.

Students who are interested in any of these scholarships must submit both an application for general university admission and a Top Scholars application by Nov. 15. The best bet is to check out the University of South Carolina financial aid webpage: www.sc.edu/financialaid. If you click on “Scholarships” there are two tabs: “Scholarships for Residents” and “Scholarships for Nonresidents.”

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to: lee@collegeadmissionsstrategies.com; www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com

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