All About Preferential Packaging: Edmit Speaks with Greg Mitton, Muhlenberg College

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Muhlenberg College admissions uses a preferential packaging model. 


If you’re not familiar with the concept of “preferential packaging,” it’s time to learn all about it—and incorporate it into your college research strategy.

Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania uses preferential packaging. And according to the Muhlenberg financial aid team, “Preferential packaging means, simply, that the students a college would most like to enroll will receive the most advantageous financial aid packages...Because they have discretion over how much grant aid they choose to award a student, a college can award a bigger grant to a student they would really like to enroll.” As a general rule, preferential packaging financial aid awards typically contain a greater percentage of “free money,” such as grants and scholarships, than student loans.  


To go after preferential packaging financial aid, we recommend a four-step strategy:

  1. Research and find the schools that offer preferential packaging in their approach to financial aid
  2. See if those schools would consider you, the student, eligible for a preferential financial aid package
  3. Inquire about how to submit a successful application for admission and preferential financial aid
  4. Apply, following your preferential packaging requirements and deadlines to the letter

To get more insights on preferential packaging, the Edmit team interviewed Greg Mitton, Director of Financial Aid and Associate Dean of Admisisons at Muhlenberg College, over email. The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.


Edmit: Tell me about the Muhlenberg financial aid department's approach to preferential packaging. Which types of students are considered the "top of the applicant pool" when it comes to receiving more grant aid?


Mitton: Our approach is no different than many colleges that leverage their aid dollars to attract the best and brightest students in our applicant pool. Preference is normally given to students that are profile builders or profile sustainers.


For example: Two students are admitted [to Muhlenberg] with the same $30,000 of need, but one sits in the top 10 percent of the admitted student pool and the other is in the bottom 25 percent. The student at the top would receive $30,000 in gifts and scholarships, and student loans and possibly work-study on top [of that]. The other student would still receive a significant amount of "free money" (e.g., $25,000), but student loans and work-study would be used to help meet need.


Edmit: When did Muhlenberg move toward a preferential packaging financial aid model, and what were the main goals the college hoped it would help achieve?


Mitton: We have used preferential packaging for many years. I have been here for 34 years, and my best guess would be that we started this practice in the early 1990s. The purpose of our [preferential] packaging has always been to extend as much of our resources as we can to maximize the number of students we can enroll and to recognize the accomplishments of our top students.


Edmit: What percentage of Muhlenberg students receive preferential packaging?


Mitton: The percentage of students that are given preference in our packaging can vary from year to year, but would normally fall in the 40 to 50 percent range.


Edmit: What are the specific eligibility requirements for preferential packaging (e.g., can students/families inquire directly about it, or is it an automatic consideration from the Muhlenberg financial aid office)?


Mitton: Currently, all students are looked at one at a time for [financial aid] packaging purposes and are given a very thorough review by the Admissions Office. What drives the scoring of an applicant that puts a student in a preferential packaging situation begins with the high school transcript and SAT or ACT scores, but it certainly does not end there. Given the whole person review that takes place, everything else can and does matter.


Edmit: If direct inquiries re: preferential packaging are acceptable, how can eligible students/families put together a successful application for preferential packaging consideration at Muhlenberg?


Mitton: We will always entertain questions and concerns. We have a formal appeal process that any family can partake in—not meaning that every appeal is met with success, however.


Edmit: Any other insider financial aid tips for potential Muhlenberg students?


Mitton: Apply on time. Meet or beat deadlines. Never assume “I won't qualify.” Show real interest in the college by visiting and, if possible, interview. Don't be afraid to introduce yourself to me—but by all means be respectful.


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