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CURRENT/FORMER COLLEGE STUDENTS: Which school gave you the best financial aid?

SgtDonutSgtDonut Posts: 857Registered User Member
edited November 2012 in College Search & Selection
Finances are a huge deal for my family, and I'm mostly applying to small liberal arts colleges, most of which have fairly reliable net price calculators, but I'm hoping that there will be a couple surprisingly good deals. I'm wondering which schools you applied to gave you the best financial aid packages and whether or not you decided to attend those schools.
Post edited by SgtDonut on
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Replies to: CURRENT/FORMER COLLEGE STUDENTS: Which school gave you the best financial aid?

  • happymomof1happymomof1 Posts: 19,633Registered User Senior Member
    What someone else got may have nothing to do with you at all. What are YOUR grades, and what are YOUR test scores? Where in the country are YOU willing to go to follow the money? How much do the NPCs indicate that YOUR family is likely to be expected to pay? How much can YOUR family actually pay? Do YOU have any special job history, community service experience, artistic, musical, or athletic talent that woul appeal to some schools?

    The best need-based aid is to be found at the Work Colleges (Berea, Ozarks, Warren Wilson, etc.) where everyone has free tuition, and at the most selective LACs. The best merit-based aid is to be found at lower-ranking places that want to admit more students with higher GPAs and test scores. How "low" are you willing to go? Would you be happy to attend a place that is never ever mentioned here?

    There are umpteen threads on these topics in the Financial Aid Forum. Pop over there, and scroll down to find them.

    I know a former Bonner Scholar at Guilford, and a student who turned down Elmhurst for Juniata because of the money. If her ACT score had been higher, and she had qualified for the next level of guaranteed merit at Elmhurst, her decision might have gone the other way.

    There are umpteen threads on these topics in the Finanial Aid Forum. Pop over there, and read through them.
  • happymomof1happymomof1 Posts: 19,633Registered User Senior Member
    Sorry for the duplicated text SgtDonut! But please do check that forum, and the websites of the not-so-famous LACs. You may find something that works well for you.
  • KKmamaKKmama Posts: 1,796Registered User Senior Member
    Sgtdonut: don't let happymomof1 frighten you off with "How "low" are you willing to go? Would you be happy to attend a place that is never ever mentioned here?" This site tends to be pretty elitist - just check the threads that condemn private schools for offering need-based scholarships and now even federal aid. Many parents (and students) consider anything less than the top 100 schools as unworthy of consideration.

    That being said, there are many schools where you can get a good education. As happymomof1 said, search on this site for the list of schools that offer good merit aid, if your grades and test scores are high enough to qualify. Sometimes it is much cheaper to go to a private school than a public one if you can get the merit scholarships.

    Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), your best option may be to look at community college for your first two years, and work while you are in school. Here in PA, if you graduate from one of the cc's, the state universities will automatically accept you as a junior.
  • siliconvalleymomsiliconvalleymom Posts: 3,711Registered User Senior Member
    When you say "surprisingly good deals", I am thinking that you are looking for merit aid beyond need-based financial aid, especially since you are familiar with using the NPCs on college websites. You may find it helpful to review the merit aid threads at the financial aid subforum.
  • kwukwu Posts: 4,759Registered User Senior Member
    I applied to Amherst, Middlebury, and Haverford, and all three schools awarded me more or less the same amount of need-based aid.

    I agree with happymomof1's generalizations--you'll have to aim high or settle, if aid is important to you.
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Posts: 64,194Registered User Senior Member
    Happymom is right. What one student got has nothing to do with what the OP might get. Aid is often based on a variety of variables....income, assets, grades, test scores, diversity appeal, etc.
  • santookiesantookie Posts: 374Registered User Member
    LAC wise when you mention good deal. Truman State and Minnesota-Morris come to mind. Truman state I think has guaranteed merit too. Morris just has a low sticker across the board.
  • SgtDonutSgtDonut Posts: 857Registered User Member
    Okay, I appreciate the advice, and I have applied/will apply to a wide range of schools, some from which I expect decent need-based aid, others where I am guaranteed merit, etc etc. What I would really appreciate is more posts like kwu's.

    "I know a former Bonner Scholar at Guilford, and a student who turned down Elmhurst for Juniata because of the money. If her ACT score had been higher, and she had qualified for the next level of guaranteed merit at Elmhurst, her decision might have gone the other way."

    I would like to hear more anecdotes like this. I don't understand why what I'm asking is so wrong. And as for the "good deals" I'm hoping for, I'm thinking that maybe some schools (matches/safeties) will be more generous than their NPCs indicate (and some will of course be less) because they want me to go there. Is this an unreasonable assumption?
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Posts: 64,194Registered User Senior Member
    will be more generous than their NPCs indicate (and some will of course be less) because they want me to go there


    ??? How would we know that a school would want you to go there? What are your stats? What is your hook?
  • happymomof1happymomof1 Posts: 19,633Registered User Senior Member
    The problem is that while X may be more generous than Y in the case of student A, Y may be more generous than X in the case of student B, and the only people who know why that happened are the people in the admissions committees and financial aid offices at X and Y. Maybe Guilford and Juniata really wanted students from the state that these two people were from, or in the majors they indicated interest in, or some other random talent/interest that these students had. Maybe if the either of them had actually cracked open an ACT prep book just once, they could have scored better on the exam and had a completely different set of options.

    There are too many variables for you to be able to easily predict whether or not you will be the lucky one to be wanted a bit more than someone else. What might have got you a boost last year, might not this year. At some point you just have to close your list, and send your applications.
  • BeanTownGirlBeanTownGirl Posts: 2,726Registered User Senior Member
    What is really more valuable than anecdotes are data such as Kiplinger's Best Value lists -
    Best Values in Private Colleges, 2012-13
  • SgtDonutSgtDonut Posts: 857Registered User Member
    m2ck: Okay, I'm not asking you to TELL ME which schools will randomly be more generous than their NPCs. I am under the impression that most NPCs are not entirely accurate and that some colleges will offer better deals than their calculators predict. Is this that unrealistic? I'm merely asking for people who have recently gone through the same process that I am currently going through to tell me what their experience was like.
  • happymomof1happymomof1 Posts: 19,633Registered User Senior Member
    "what their experience was like"

    Several parents have written about this in the Financial Aid and Parents forums. LACs that look very much alike from the perspective of a parent or student do indeed offer wildly different aid packages - as in tens of thousands of dollars different. You read that correctly, tens of thousands.
  • MoreoverMoreover Posts: 1,158Registered User Member
    I think you are also forgetting to find out about you personal aid (merit/need based) you actually have to apply to that college first. If you are in the running, you probably will be asked to interview, supply additional information, or go to a scholarship weekend etc. Then they will let you know maybe in March what level of scholarship you are awarded or if at all. The old analogy about dating is used because it is a back and forth process in most situations. Many posters on CC work tirelessly to highlight the clear cut guaranteed merit programs because they are rare. The lottery analogy is also useful.
  • SgtDonutSgtDonut Posts: 857Registered User Member
    Okay. I thought this was a relatively straightforward question. happymomof1, I would really appreciate you perhaps linking me to some of those threads or just telling me what I should search to find these threads because I all I really want is a comparison of different offers. For example, although I know there are many variables and all that, if someone says that one of the schools that I might not apply to because I don't predict a good aid package from them gave THEM a good package, that sort of information would be very helpful. Is my logic that flawed?

    And I'm not really counting on any merit aid, nor am I really interesting in a dog and pony show for hundreds of kids where only three get the scholarship... Many of my schools may offer me some merit aid, but it would probably not cover my EFC and thus end up in my grants (thereby having no effect whatsoever on my actual family contribution).
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