Paying for college on a budget has never been easy, but in today’s economic climate, families of all income levels are focused on scholarships. For students with parents who make too much money to qualify for need-based aid, there are merit scholarships, which some schools award to a significant percentage of students.
You can find out about average merit scholarship awards by looking at a school’s Common Data Set. The CDS is an incredibly helpful (and free) tool to help evaluate whether or not you can afford a college or university.
The Common Data Set (CDS) presents frequently requested institutional information for each participating college or university in a consistent format. It summarizes characteristics of incoming students, demographic and high school preparation data, ACT and SAT statistics, and financial aid data. Student aid data includes statistics on merit awards.
The CDS is produced, and updated each year, by almost all U.S. colleges and universities. It also contains a wealth of interesting information from an admissions perspective including what the institution values when evaluating applicants, the freshmen class profile, freshman retention rates and graduation rates.
The Common Data Set is generally not readily available on the school’s admission web site. The best way to find a school’s CDS is to Google the term “Common Data Set” along with the name of the school (e.g. Common Data Set Yale).
In its Best Colleges feature, US News compiled a list of schools that give merit scholarships to the largest percentage of its students – Merit Scholarships: Finding the Most Generous Colleges.