midwest17 wrote:kraffcook wrote:Most aid is need-based, so that's what they focus on.
Is this really true? My understanding was that outside HYS, schools like to say they take need into account but in actuality it's never a major factor.
Need is always taken into account. Actual need-based aid from the Financial Aid office is given out without putting significant weight on things like grades and is just based on income/tax information you supply. The awards from them can be substantial (I've heard awards as high as 80% tuition). Merit-based awards are way less predictable or substantial. Need and merit tend to always overlap though; Vanderbilt, for example, gave me a merit-scholarship then told me that counted as my financial aid as well. They'll consider need because law schools are always concerned with their yield statistics. My scores weren't good enough for a merit award, but I got one anyway because I convinced them money was my biggest concern and I would withdraw if I didn't get one (I used softer, subtler language, but you get the picture). Basically, if you have two admitted students and one is rich but has higher scores and one is poor but has lower scores, who are they going to give a scholarship to? The rich kid may deserve it more, but chances are money won't affect his decision, so they may move that money down to the poor kid. That's how need comes into play.