Get more money for college with higher SAT and ACT scores

By Dennis Urban

College is expensive, and it's not getting any cheaper. Which is why there are billions of dollars in merit-based grants and scholarships available. Doing well on your SAT and ACT can increase your eligibility for these awards from schools, states, and private companies.

College scholarships

Hundreds of public and private colleges and universities offer merit scholarships based on students' standardized test scores. Higher SAT and ACT scores not only increase your chances of getting accepted, but can also increase the amount of financial aid you're eligible for. Depending on the school, students with good test scores can earn anywhere from a few thousand dollars to a full ride.

For example, at The University of Arizona, merit-based scholarships are offered to in-state and out-of-state residents based on GPA and SAT or ACT scores. If you’re an in-state resident with a minimum GPA of 3.25 and CR&M SAT scores of 1110, or ACT scores of 24 or higher, you could get a scholarship award of $2,000 or more per year. Out-of-state residents will receive a minimum scholarship award of $8,000 per year. Keep in mind, these are the minimum requirements  if you have higher test scores, you can receive even more financial aid, exceeding $13,000 per year.

At private institutions, such as Villanova University, the average merit scholarship is around $10,000 with a minimum SAT score of 1310 or ACT score of 30. At Emory University, the average merit scholarship is about $21,000 for a minimum SAT score of 1365 or ACT score of 31. A simple Google search for your top college choices along with the search term "merit scholarships" will generate useful and money-saving results.

State scholarships

Many states across the country also offer scholarships based on SAT and ACT scores. Louisiana, for example, offers the TOPS Performance Award and the TOPS Honors Award for students who score at least 23 or 27 on the ACT. Missouri's Bright Flight Program offers $3,000 to students scoring in the top 3 percent of the state on the SATs or ACTs. So definitely check out your state's education department website to see if it offers similar merit scholarships.

Private Scholarships

One of the most famous and prestigious private scholarships is the National Merit Scholarship Program, which requires students to score in the top 1 percent nationally on the PSAT. Even though the PSAT is practice for the real SAT, it counts for a lot.

Many private merit-based scholarships are specific to students' backgrounds or areas of interest. Search the Internet, use personalized scholarship matching tools like our Scholarship Match, and get yourself some private merit scholarships for college!

Invest in your future  use Unigo Test Prep to raise your SAT and ACT scores.

About the author

Dennis Urban

Dennis Urban has been teaching and tutoring for over 13 years. He holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University, and co-owns Long Island Regents Prep, a New York test prep company, and Writerly Essays, a college essay consulting firm. Dennis is co-author of Gruber's Essential AP United States History. He can be reached at