“Most colleges and universities now use a ‘merit’ aid strategy to solicit teenagers. Your eighth grader probably ought to know how it works.” R. Lieber, The New York Times, January 23, 2021
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
Excerpt: High School Grades Could Be Worth $100,000. Time to Tell Your Child? By Ron Lieber, The New York Times, January 23, 2021
“Financial aid is no longer just about what you earn and what you have. It’s also about your children and what they do — and that means that good grades can be worth a whole lot of money.
In the past quarter-century, an ever-growing number of schools — both public and private — have begun using aid as a weapon to try to increase their institutional prestige. In many cases, it is bait for students who can raise the school’s profile in the eyes of the rankings overlords at places like U.S. News & World Report. In others, it’s become so rampant that discounts are necessary just to keep heads in the beds and pay the light bill. It goes by the name merit aid, and it’s not the same as the more limited academic scholarships of a generation ago.
Now, admissions officers often report to bosses with the words “enrollment management” in their titles, and they can spread the money around much more broadly…The result is an elaborate parallel financial aid system that can totally upend the psychology of picking a college.
And because nearly all but the most selective schools now use merit aid at least a little, list prices are increasingly irrelevant for most families…Georgia high schoolers might aim for the Hope Scholarship, where a 3.0 grade point average or above can lead to thousands of dollars per year off the price at the University of Georgia and other schools…At the University of Oregon, there is a range of discounts, and the school lists different tiers of grades as the ‘basis’ for awards…But how — and when — should you tell your child that their high school grades might be worth six figures?…one possibility is this: Have a brief but deliberate merit aid conversation two months into the summer after eighth grade. It does not have to be an extended chat if a child seems reasonably motivated already. You might simply explain that grades don’t just count for admission these days — good ones can make many expensive schools more affordable. That way, rising high school freshmen can begin to consider what sort of marks they’ll need to achieve and other extracurricular goals they might want to set.”
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 60 minutes.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer
Directions: Examine the title of the post and of the actual article. Next examine any photos. Write a paragraph describing what you think this article will discuss. A pre-reading organizer may be used.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Try to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. You use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- Most colleges and universities now use a ‘merit‘ aid strategy to solicit teenagers.
- Both public and private schools have begun using aid as a weapon to try to increase their institutional prestige.
- In many cases, it is bait for students who can raise the school’s profile.
- It goes by the name merit aid, and it’s not the same as the more limited academic scholarships of a generation ago.
- ‘Aid’ is a bit of a misnomer, albeit one that we seem to be stuck with.
- But the merit part actual academic and leadership prowess can also matter plenty.
- The result is an elaborate parallel financial aid system that can totally upend the psychology of picking a college.
- Georgia high schoolers might aim for the Hope Scholarship, where a 3.0 grade point average or above can lead to thousands of dollars per year off the price at the University of Georgia and other schools.
- At the University of Oregon, there is a range of discounts, and the school lists different tiers of grades as the ‘basis’ for awards.
- Now, about the timing. It seems only fair that teenagers ought to know the rules of engagement at the beginning of the game.
Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage
Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical error. Identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.
- Over several year I’ve been talking to scores of college presidents.
- What are you willing to pay for college, and where?
- Be ready to explain why you intend to limit it to a certain amount of money.
- Many teen would be furious if you held this information back.
- Have a brief conversation two months into the summer after eighth grade.
- If you haven’t been talking about money all along, a basic conversation may be in order.
- Try to at least break the news gently to your teen.
- It is tempting to hid the money instead.
- “In seventh grade, you knew which teams you had to make.
Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentencestaken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.
It is a heady___ of money and___ and whatever angst hormonal___might experience if you try to make them ___for a six-figure discount. The___application ___is unpleasant enough; why pile on with more___?
WORD LIST: pressure, process, college, responsible, children, feelings, stew,
III. Post Reading Activities
Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing
Directions: Have students discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards, students share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.
- According to the author, what has changed about ‘financial aid’?
- How have schools begun to use their aid?
- Is ‘merit aid’ the same as academic scholarships?
- According to the article, “grades aren’t just a factor in getting into a first-choice school, but also in what you might pay for a residential undergraduate education”. Explain in your own words what this means?
- When is the best time to talk to teens about the merit aid system?
- How did the private colleges start this war for students?
- Why don’t colleges ask applicants to apply separately for merit aid?
- As a student have you ever encountered the merit aid system in your school?
- If you are a parent have you encountered the merit aid system in your child’s school?
- What do you think of the merit aid program?
1-Minute Free Writing Exercise
Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading. Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.