You’ve worked hard to keep your GPA thriving, staying involved in your school and town communities. You’ve made it through a pandemic and a year of global unrest. Oh, and now comes standardized test prep… we hear you!  It’s a lot!  The good news is that this hurdle can come with big rewards if prep is done effectively and with foresight. As you may have seen in our recent student spotlight with Alec Kazlauskas, merit scholarships that are partially based on PSAT, SAT and/or ACT scores can bring in big bucks for a student’s college fund. We like to call this the Return on Investment – ROI – of standardized test prep. As the NYTimes recently cited – this number can be close to $100k!

SAT and ACT scores

There are a few different scholarships offered by colleges themselves (similar to the College-Sponsored PSAT scholarships). Schools consider SAT scores alongside students’ overall GPA and/or class rank. Each college has its own policies and scholarship amounts – so it’s best to check each individual website for more information. Dollar amounts can range from $1,000 to $21,000+ in scholarships. A few examples of popular schools that offer scholarships considering SAT/ACT scores are: Southern Methodist University, University of Denver, Texas Christian University, Clemson University, University of Arizona, and Colorado State University.

It’s a good idea to start the process of researching early!  By finding out any GPA and/or test score requirements, you can spend some time working towards goals to increase your chances. To find college and university scholarships, make sure you start by doing your research! Call their financial aid office, or search a college’s website. You can also try googling [COLLEGE NAME] financial aid. More often than not, you’ll be led to a page for entering first-year students, which is exactly where you want to be. Some scholarships automatically consider students, while others require a separate process. Find out the deadlines, mark your calendar, and start planning.

In addition to college and university scholarships, there are also a few other scholarships offered by local and national organizations, each with their own set of requirements. Most of these are operated at the state- and community-level, and can range from $500 up through a few thousand dollars.  For more information on Connecticut-based scholarships, please click here. For more information on New York-based scholarships, please click here.

PSAT Scores

Whether or not you had the opportunity to take an official PSAT with your school this fall, you may be qualified to enter the National Merit Competition, which recognizes the top PSAT scores in every state.  If you are a finalist in the competition, you not only earn the prestigious title to add to your resumé, but you also become eligible for three different kinds of monetary scholarships.

The first is the National Merit scholarship worth $2,500. Students need to apply and decisions are based on the merit of those applications. About 2,500 finalists receive these scholarships each year.

The two other types of scholarships available through the National Merit Competition (NMC) are Corporate-Sponsored Scholarships and College-Sponsored Scholarships. Finalists are automatically eligible for Corporate-Sponsored Scholarships, though most are offered to students whose parents work for one of the sponsoring companies. About 1,000 finalists receive these scholarships. To view a full list, please click here.

Finalists who do not receive the NMC scholarship nor a corporate scholarship are eligible for College-Sponsored Scholarships. While not all colleges participate (e.g., Ivy League schools, Middlebury College, MIT, Stanford, and Williams College), there are many popular college sponsors and this is worth taking into consideration!  A few examples include Boston College, Bowdoin College, Colby College, Tufts University, and the University of Chicago. Students must choose one of the sponsor colleges as their first-choice on their application to be considered for a scholarship. And it’s nothing set in stone!  Even if you might not be sure at this point, there’s no harm in writing a top choice down for this consideration.  And, you can even change your first-choice college all the way up until May 31st of your junior year. About 1,000 students receive these awards each year, with scholarships ranging from $500 – $2,000 annually.

To learn more about the National Merit Scholarship Competition, please click here.

Finally, you can also be considered for a number of National Recognition programs that are often related to a student’s background or other involvements.

The following organizations are serving as advisors for these programs:


To learn more about National Recognition Programs, please click here.

So, even if the schools you’re applying to are test-optional, there are potentially significant financial advantages to earning and submitting top test scores. You might be surprised by the opportunities that await on the other side.

To find more avenues for merit-based funding that consider your test scores, don’t be afraid to tap into local resources, such as your school counselor.  School guidance offices are very knowledgeable about the different kinds of merit awards available for students and can help point you in the right direction. At Carnegie Prep, we also have a number of college counselors available to help you plan your strategy, too!  If you have any questions, you are welcome to contact us at 203.352.3500 or [email protected].