The Endgame to College Funding

In a world where the cost of a college education is rapidly escalating, families are looking for ways to improve their students’ chances for scholarships to offset tuition costs. Maintaining a competitive GPA (grade point average) and improving test scores (SAT or ACT) is the easiest way for students to put themselves in the best possible light for scholarship money. Many scholarships are tied chiefly to GPA and test scores, so it’s worth asking how to take advantage of this correlation!

The qualifications for scholarships consist of at least two major components — GPA and testing scores. Other factors for some scholarships include public service, recommendations, and personal essays. We’ll first explore the most important component for college counselors when considering students for admission — high school GPA.

A student’s GPA can be a two-edged sword. It is built up over time, so each student has the benefit of an eight-semester average. A lower fall semester can be redeemed with a stronger spring semester. However, if students fail to put in the time and energy to keep their grades up to begin with, it is more difficult to play catch up and drastically improve their GPA during their junior and senior year. Thus, maintaining a competitive GPA throughout high school is just as important for scholarship success as the SAT/ACT score, if not more so. Ideally, a student’s freshman and sophomore year is the perfect time to push for that A or A+ for a class in which the student is already excelling, as well as trying to raise a C to a solid B. If students succeed in achieving a solid GPA through their sophomore year, they have created a cushion for their junior-year classes.

When junior year rolls around, a student’s GPA becomes even more crucial for the admissions and merit aid process. Most students begin juggling AP classes and applying to colleges at this time, making for a potentially stressful fall semester. Homework assignments or test content may slip through the cracks, so students must work extra hard to keep everything on track. With the support of a solid freshman and sophomore GPA, juniors have more breathing room if they do have an off-day. Senior classes are an opportunity for students to finish strong and boost their GPA even higher. Having narrowed down their colleges to a manageable list and gotten their test scores for their applications, seniors can focus their attention on improving their fall GPA, as colleges will take that semester into consideration in their merit aid application.

How about test prep scores? Let us backtrack to the summer before junior year. This is the perfect time to start test prep for the SAT or ACT. Now that students have a foundation for high school mathematics, they have most of what they need to begin conquering these standardized tests. When students begin test preparation that summer, they will be able to register for three of the six test dates available to them that year and conclude standardized testing before their senior year. The first step in achieving this goal is the student taking a mock test the spring of his or her sophomore year or soon into the following summer. From there students can make a game plan: Where am I? Where do I want to go? How do I get there?

Determining the student’s starting point puts everything in perspective and allows families to formulate goals — reaching a better score range for more selective schools, reaching scholarship range for schools or even going that one step further to a full ride. Check out a few schools below that provide significant scholarship to students based on their GPA and test scores! For a more extensive table of 100+ colleges/universities that tie scholarship to GPA/test scores, see our up-to-date table. For example, the Collegiate Scholarship at the University of Alabama provides $4,000 per year ($16,000 over four years) and requires a 28 on the ACT or a 1250 reading and math score on the SAT, as well as a 3.5 GPA. If the student could improve his/her ACT to a 31 or 32, that would open up the opportunity for more scholarship (UA Scholarship or Presidential Scholarship). A 3-4 composite point increase can increase the funds per year from $4,000 to $16,000 or $24,000 for those more selective scholarships. That is quite a significant jump for some extra ACT test prep!

In short, the results of focused attention on raising ones GPA and improving SAT/ACT scores can open the door to significant financial aid. A higher GPA and test scores can dramatically increase a student’s return on investment, thanks to scholarships tied to those numbers. The more funds students can bring in through scholarship, the more they can set themselves up for success, not only during their 4-years of college, but beyond. Studies show significant savings that a debt-free education can reap vs. a college education that culminates with the national average of $26,000 in student debt. With that destination in mind, you can approach your high school GPA and SAT/ACT test prep: the endgame of college funding.

The University of Alabama
Scholarship GPA SAT Score (CR + M) ACT Score (Composite) Funds per Year Funds over 4 Years
Capstone Scholar 3.5 1210-1240 27 $3,500 $14,000
Collegiate Scholar 3.5 1250-1280 28 $4,000 $16,000
Foundation in Excellence Scholar 3.5 1290-1320 29 $12,475 $49,900
UA Scholar 3.5 1330-1390 30-31 $16,715 $66,864
Presidential Scholar 3.5 1400-1600 32-36 $24,950 $99,800


The State University of New York
Scholarship GPA SAT Score (CR + M) ACT Score (Composite) Funds per Year Funds over 4 Years
All-American Scholarship 3.5 1210-1240 27 $3,500 $14,000
Presidential Scholarship 3.5 1250-1280 28 $4,000 $16,000
Excellence in Education Scholarship 3.5 1290-1320 29 $12,475 $49,900


Eastern Illinois University
Scholarship GPA SAT Score (CR + M) ACT Score (Composite) Funds per Year Funds over 4 Years
Commitment to Excellence Scholarship – Tier 3 2.9 1150 24 $1,500 $6,000
Commitment to Excellence Scholarship – Tier 2 3.25 1250 28 $2,500 $10,000
Commitment to Excellence Scholarship – Tier 1 3.35 1330 30 $3,500 $14,000
Commitment to Excellence Scholarship 3.7 1460 33 $4,500 $18,000
Honors Award 3.5 1250 28 $3,000 $12,000
Presidential Scholars Award 3.5 1330 30 $11,000 $44,000


Marymount University
Scholarship GPA SAT Score (CR + M) ACT Score (Composite) Funds per Year Funds over 4 Years
Academic Success Scholarship B+ 1000 21 $13,500 $54,000
MU Freshman Scholarship B+ 1050 23 $14,500 $58,000
Presidential Scholarship A- 1150 25 $15,500 $62,000


University of Oregon
Scholarship GPA SAT Score (CR + M) ACT Score (Composite) Funds per Year Funds over 4 Years
Appex 3.65 1150 25 $3,000 (in-state)$4,000 (out-of-state) $12,000 (in-state)$16,000 (out-of-state)
Summit 3.8 1200 26 $5,000 (in-state)$8,000 (out-of-state) $20,000 (in-state)$32,000 (out-of-state)
Presidential  3.85 1240 28 $9,000 $36,000
Stamps 3.85 1240 28 $27,500 $110,000

Applerouth is a trusted test prep and tutoring resource. We combine the science of learning with a thoughtful, student-focused approach to help our clients succeed. Call or email us today at 202-558-5644 or