How To Fund College Without Saving A Dime

December is a busy month with all of the activities of the holidays, but it is also a huge month for seniors in high school as well as their parents. I am not big on living backward or living with regret, but I am an advocate of learning from mistakes and passing on information that will help others. Since I am the oldest of four boys, that is something I have tried to do as often as possible with my brothers and their friends along with those who follow my content. This doesn’t always include financial information, but other tidbits, especially on things that I could have done better. I don’t want others to make costly mistakes. One such important area concerns the ACT and SAT.

I did not take these tests as seriously as I should have or could have. I was a good student, but I didn’t spend time preparing for the ACT as much as was needed. I had a bit of a one and done attitude about it. In retrospect, I didn’t translate the test and test scores to money. Others who took the test multiple times and who were using prep books, online prep help, and even prep classes had an advantage on me. I know now how important the ACT and/or SAT were for college admittance and the money connected to them.  

How these tests translate to money is simple, but it is often overlooked. Most of the time, emphasis is placed on getting the score needed to get into college, or, more particularly, into certain colleges and majors. This score is contingent upon each college, and scores have changed over time. The list is extensive, so it is imperative to pay close attention to the college or university to which you or your child hopes to attend. For example, at the University of Louisville, my alma mater, the basic score with a GPA of 2.5 is a 20 for the ACT or 1030 for the SAT. Keep in mind that the ACT scores and the SAT scores are usually convertible, so it is not necessary to take both tests. However, it may be helpful to take both tests because individually people generally do better at one test compared to the other. You will want to know which test is best for you or your child. Regardless, that is the basic score to get admitted to the College of Arts and Sciences at U of L. But if you have aspirations of going into engineering, for example, to be admitted to the J.B. Speed School of Engineering at the University of Louisville, the scores are higher as well as the GPA. For engineering, with a 3.0 GPA, you or your child would need a 25 for the ACT or a 1200 for the SAT with a 25 subscore in math and a subscore of 25 in science or a 590 in math for the SAT. For students who have a 3.5 GPA, the scores on the tests drop to a 24 on the ACT and 1160 for the SAT with subtest scores of a 24 in math and 24 in science for the ACT or 580 in math on the SAT test.

But all of that just translates to admittance to the programs and colleges. That is NOT immediate money. The money comes in with the scores translating into scholarships. I will stay with the University of Louisville for consistency, and you will see in the following chart, the higher the score, the more money awarded. This particular information applies to the University of Louisville’s Trustees’ Scholarship that is offered to incoming freshmen.  Of course, each college and university has a plethora of scholarships and awards available, but many are contingent on the scores for these standardized tests.   

The following information is from the University of Louisville Office of Admissions. 

GPAACT/SATTypeAnnual Award Amount
3.526-27/1230-1290 or comprehensive academic review*Renewable $2,500
3.528-29/1300-1350 or comprehensive academic review*Renewable $3,500
3.530/1360 or comprehensive academic review*Renewable $5,000
3.531-35/1390-1560 requiredRenewable $7,000
3.536/1570 requiredRenewable$8,000

Just looking at this chart, and remember each college has its own scholarships and awards, there is a considerable difference between an ACT score of 26 to 27 compared to that of a 36. It translates to $5500.00 for a year, and, overall, $22,000.00 for four years of study. I know that $22,000.00 would have been helpful to me financially. And this is only the beginning of scholarships offered and available to students. But that is perhaps a blog for another day.  

Bottomline, taking high school seriously to secure a good GPA and investing time and effort into the ACT and SAT tests, is vastly important. Not only can it prevent a student from getting into a certain college or university, but it can also be a very costly mistake. Personally I know how costly of a mistake this can be. I didn’t take these tests seriously and came out of college with debt, but my wife did. She funded her college through scholarships, graduating debt free. Easy to see which was the better situation. Learn from me. 

So for all of those who are in high school or have children in high school, keep in mind that these tests along with a good GPA translates into money. December is a busy month for seniors who are trying to get the last tests taken before the cutoff dates for scholarships. For many universities all of the scores need to be submitted mid-December for their honors scholarships.  Keep in mind that these tests can be repeated, trying to better the scores of the previous tests. The scores supersede the previous scores, applying a higher score to a previous lower subscore. I recommend taking the SAT and/or ACT a first time just for familiarity and then subsequent times, each time attempting to improve the subscores. Believe me, it is worth the effort and can prevent making a financial mistake. 

For all of you in the throes of testing, sending off transcripts, and submitting college applications, I wish you the best. Do your homework about colleges you wish to attend, so you know what is ahead of you and can best prepare for your future or the future of your child. Come out ahead, not behind. It really is not that difficult, but it does take some time and effort but will be worth it. Honestly and sadly, I know. Also, it would be irresponsible of me to not remind you that college is not for everyone and there are other paths. The most important advice I can give you is to only invest time and money into things that get you to where you want to go in life. Do your research. Know your options Best of luck.

Published by Budgetdog

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