It’s no secret that college tuition expensive.
Despite the fact that the vast majority of freshmen receive scholarships, and that these awards usually cover more than half of their first-year tuition, many are disappointed in their financial aid. They feel that their academic record should have earned them a more-affordable college education.
The truth is they’re right. Unfortunately, they didn’t apply to schools that felt the same way.
Unless a student has a special skill or talent, a college won’t award substantial merit-based aid (aid above and beyond what it thinks the student’s family absolutely needs to make attendance possible) unless the student’s enrollment would boost its average test scores or high school GPA.
So: the more selective the college, the tougher it is to get this additional aid. Many of the most selective schools—the ones where the students admitted are all super-duper overachievers—do not give merit-based awards at all (only need-based ones).
These circumstances highlight the need to apply to "financial aid" safety schools—i.e., schools where your academic credentials fall in the upper-third of the current freshmen class. Such schools will have greater incentive to provide you with generous aid.
To learn more, check out this post on the College Solution.