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Not everybody who aspires to do so and who has the financial resources will make it to the best universities. They are very selective and their resources, although abundant, are not limitless. But financial aid is not the only path towards a top-tier college.

Besides need-based scholarships, which tend to be “color-blind” in regards to race and ethnic origin, there are merit-based scholarships awarded to students based on their grades and test results.

Not everybody who aspires to do so and who has the financial resources will make it to the best universities. They are very selective and their resources, although abundant, are not limitless. But financial aid is not the only path towards a top-tier college.

Merit-based scholarships awarded by universities, including some of the most selective, are based on the results of the PSAT (Preliminary SAT) Test.

Students take this test in their junior year of high school. It is sponsored by the College Board and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC).

Many students view it as preparation for the SAT that they will take one year later, and don't pay much attention to it, but the reality is that it is very important.

Most of the 400 universities that sponsor the program offer scholarships to the students that achieve the best scores. Many of those scholarships cover all expenses and offer the scholarships without requiring a separate application.

For Hispanics in particular, there is a program called the “National Hispanic Recognition Program” that is sponsored by the College Board. It is also based on the PSAT but with slightly different scoring (See College Toolkit).

Renowned institutions such as Northeastern University in Massachusetts, Tulsa University in Oklahoma, and the University of Connecticut offer full scholarships to Hispanics with an outstanding performance on the PSAT.

Besides the universities, there are corporations that support the National Hispanic Recognition Program and offer scholarships under their corporate name to the student with the best scores (some are full scholarships, some are partial).

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In the U.S., there is a culture of support for education, and the biggest corporations partake of it, offering generous scholarships either themselves or through institutions like the “Hispanic Scholarship Fund.”

There are also many non-profit foundations and entities that offer financial assistance and that also help the students prepare themselves for college such as the “Gates Millennium Scholars Program.”

Most of the privately sponsored scholarships have their own application processes and are highly competitive, therefore it is very important to begin the search as soon as possible to fulfill all the requirements in a timely manner.

The most selective universities do not offer merit-based scholarships, but in those cases in which the aid from the university is insufficient to cover all expenses, there is the option of obtaining supplemental scholarships from private sources.