Students do not earn a scholarship to an Ivy League school based on their academic or athletic performance. Instead, the schools base the scholarships and grants on the financial situation of the student's family. In a sense, you win a scholarship if you gain admission to the school. Due to the cost of an education at an Ivy League institution, many middle-class, and not just low-income families, qualify for some type of financial assistance.

Grades and SAT

Ivy League schools attract the best and brightest college applicants, so competition to get into the schools is fierce. The schools typically expect high grades in honors and AP courses, as well as top-level SAT scores and participation in extracurricular activities. For students admitted in 2009, a majority -- more than 75 percent at each school -- scored at least 630 on the reading section of the SAT, 660 in math and 670 in writing. The averages for each school were higher than this. Even if you have a perfect 800 on each section, you're not guaranteed admission.

Unusual Achievements

In addition, you need to have solid, if not spectacular essays, extracurricular activities and recommendations. Leading a student organization, such as the student council, or serving as chief editor of your school's yearbook or newspaper can showcase your leadership skills and distinguish you from other applicants. The Ivy League admissions committees look for extraordinary achievements to differentiate applicants. Even though athletic recruits do not get athletic scholarships, they can receive special consideration, which allows them to qualify with lower grades and SAT scores.

Admission List

Each Ivy League college makes a list of the applicants to admit and awards them funding for school based on the applicant's family finances. Some students receive the whole cost of their tuition, including room and board, and possibly money for transportation and books. Others only get a partial scholarship. Between 45 and 60 percent of Ivy League students receive need-based financial aid, depending on the school. The average aid package as of August 2013 was around $40,000 annually for each of the schools.

Ivy League Costs

Attending an Ivy League school costs an average of $55,000 a year. With financial assistance, low-to-middle income students pay much less. For example, Harvard provides 100 percent of the attendance cost for students whose families earn less than $60,000 a year. If the families make between $60,000 and $150,000, they pay from zero to 10 percent. By offering scholarships to all admitted students with demonstrated financial need, Ivy League universities ensure that the most-qualified applicants can afford to attend.