6. Winning the Financial Aid Lottery

It used to be that you could try for that reach school and if you got in, you didn’t have to worry because everybody who got in, who needed money, got money. Today, however, as colleges are asked to fund more and more of their own operations with less and less assistance from the government, foundations, and families, they are increasingly reluctant to part with their money to enroll students who don’t raise their academic profile.

—“The Real Deal on Financial Aid,” Muhlenberg College Office of Admissions

Sometimes, a school wants a hot prospect so badly that it will twist its financial aid rules into a pretzel. That’s got to be what happened when an elite West Coast school reeled in an exceptional student ...

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