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Big merit packages - observations

PghMomof2PghMomof2 Posts: 564Registered User Member
edited February 2013 in National Merit Scholarships
Mom2collegekids does a great job advocating for U Alabama here on CC (and we visited and were impressed by what's on offer there). My son's recently made the decision to go to U Oklahoma - on another thread I was asked to compare the two and why he chose U Oklahoma; others suggested I post some of that here. I should add that DS was also admitted to U Arizona, which offers a great package as well. He chose not to consider that one b/c they don't allow gap years (DS is taking a year off before enrolling).

OU has about 700 NMF's, which they say is the highest per capita among public universities. It is enough to create a "critical mass" of students in the large campus sea - U Alabama's strategy as well. Both schools are working hard to recruit these students and give them a great experience while there.

Bama is very Southern and very Greek and very Football. #2 and #3 are true of OU also, but OU seemed much more down-to-earth. We've lived in the South, so that's not foreign, but DS didn't want to go to a place where girls felt the need to shell out $100 for a houndstooth handbag to take to the football game (I'm sure this is not universally true, but girls were MUCH more dressed up at Bama). He also wanted a place where it was ok to be a bit of a nerd. At Bama, his tour guide for the honors dorms seemed completely confused by the question of whether there was any "nerd culture" at the school - she fell all over herself explaining that the honors students weren't nerds. DS found a kid with a Star Wars t-shirt on to repeat the question, and the reply was that there was "some" nerd-dom. At OU, our guide pretty much wore the "slightly nerdy" label with pride, and when we visited the dorm, it was clear he wasn't the exception.

Other random thoughts:

Bama's "super suites" honors dorms are much nicer (nicer than any other students' at UA, in fact). OU's are pretty much the same as other dorms - somewhat nicer and larger than the average college, I'd say, but not outrageous. The layout on the main honors floor (there's also a separate dorm in the honors college building that some students choose) is two doubles connected by a bathroom, which I thought was a nice compromise between the somewhat isolating super suite arrangement and "herd" bathrooms.

OU's food is incredible - great variety and quality, and (on the other end of the spectrum) there is an all-you-can-eat Chik-fil-A in the dining hall. :-) We also had excellent BBQ in both Tuscaloosa and Oklahoma City, so that's a tossup...

Bama didn't offer DS' preferred major (linguistics), although he could have done a self-designed thing fairly easily, and the people he met with were very helpful in telling him how they would work with him on that.

OU offers more Native American languages (5) than any other university in the country (this is a particular interest of DS').

Bama has several flavors of honors programs and OU only has one. The # of credits required for honors are about even, although at Bama any course can be made an honors course, and that's not true at OU; they're more prescriptive. They're also equivalent in terms of accepting AP credits (both quite generous).

Bama's geographic diversity is better than OU's, including in the honors program. I was also really impressed with their services to students with disabilities.

OU has a 5th year option, which works like this: there's a "pool" of tuition $ in the NMF package. If you don't use it all in 4 years (which depends on the # of credits you take), you can either spread your program out to a 5th year or use it to continue into a graduate program.

Bama's package includes housing but not food. OU's package gives a smaller lump sum, but it can be used for room and board or any other expense (and if you have a balance it would carry over to a 5th year, although I can't see how that would happen unless you lived at home). Bama's room and board total is also less than OU's.

Bama gives NMF's an iPad; OU gives $1500 credit toward a laptop.

Bama gives NMF's $2k for study abroad; OU gives $1.5k.

At least for us, plane schedules are much easier at OU - it's pretty close to Oklahoma City, and there's a regularly-scheduled public bus that runs between Norman and OKC as well.

Happy to answer any specific questions if I can. Maybe I'll become OU's "mom2collegekids" :-) - the OU presence on CC is dismal, and I think that's a shame. It's definitely worth a look. When we visited I asked DS if it was an acceptable #2, and he replied that it was a "1 and a half" - and as it turns out, it moved up to #1 in the end.
Post edited by PghMomof2 on
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Replies to: Big merit packages - observations

  • squidgesquidge Posts: 197Registered User Junior Member
    This is really great info! I admit that a few years ago, I did not have a very good impression of OU (academically), but in the last 5 years I have seen most of the NMF's and many of the best and brightest from our school (3 hours from Norman) head to OU due to the fantastic packages offered them, and every one of them has had a great experience. The more info shared on this forum, the better for all of us!
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Posts: 61,350Registered User Senior Member
    Bama is very Southern and very Greek and very Football. #2 and #3 are true of OU also, but OU seemed much more down-to-earth. We've lived in the South, so that's not foreign, but DS didn't want to go to a place where girls felt the need to shell out $100 for a houndstooth handbag to take to the football game (I'm sure this is not universally true, but girls were MUCH more dressed up at Bama


    Yes, many of the girls dress very well at Bama. The school does have the most gorgeous girls that I've ever seen. But, they don't all dress that way at all. And the $100 for a houndstooth bag is just an exaggeration. The girls can get them for $20 at Wal-mart. lol

    I'm not sure what is meant by the statement that Bama is very southern. Bama is not "very southern." I've been on very southern campuses (like Ole Miss and Miss St) and Bama is not like them at all. Bama, because of its regional diversity is quite cosmopolitan, many/most of the kids do not have southern accents, and many do not have southern roots.

    However, if the statement is about the "southern friendliness and helpfulness" of the campus, then I quite agree. Even those from the "more standoffish" NE will find themselves adapting to the friendliness of southern schools.

    Since Bama's does have 4 different Honors programs, about 20% of the school is in honors, so to describe them all as "geeks" or "nerds" wouldn't really apply. Yes, there are nerdy types (my two sons might fit that description...lol), especially in STEM and in The Classics, etc, but many of the honors kids are just kids with strong test scores. I wouldn't call the honors kids in Nursing "nerds", the honors kids in the Film School "nerds," or the honors kids in the B-school "nerds" because that doesn't really apply to their personalities.


    Best wishes for your son at OU. :)
  • PghMomof2PghMomof2 Posts: 564Registered User Member
    Oh, Mom2collegekids, I hope I didn't offend with my description - the original post was written as someone asked what the differences were. I liked UA a lot and would have been happy to see him there other than the major issue. The Southern thing is interesting - I think there is a sense in which the students there "become" Southern if they weren't already - it appeals to students who are looking for that friendliness and perhaps even genteelness in their college experience and they absorb it by choice. OU by contrast presents itself as more "western" and a little rougher around the edges. It is ok to say "yes, ma'am" and "yes, sir" at OU, though - LOL - DS started school in the South and still can't break himself of the habit with teachers. Gets teased up here, but won't have to worry about it in college.

    And agree with the "not all are nerds" categorization of UA (or OU for that matter). For some kids that's a plus, others not so much.

    As for the houndstooth bags...they were that much in the bookstore, I think. I'm sure girls pick them up at Walmart as well -whether or not they tell anybody. :-)
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Posts: 61,350Registered User Senior Member
    lol...you're talking about the Vera Bradley bags...yes, they're pricey. I got one for about $40 on sale. Houndstooth bags are everywhere at every price-point.


    I did want to clarify the "southern" attribute because some will think that means that everyone is from the south, speaks with a southern accent, and is very regional in thought. Not the case at Bama at all.

    :)
  • santookiesantookie Posts: 374Registered User Member
    Quick questions how is OU for people that did not make the NMF or NMSF cutoff. Bama seems to offer even amazing scholarships to people have have high stats GPA and SAT wise. I remember looking up OU a couple months back even with the 1400 in math and CR and a 3.8 I don't recall them offering that much. I looked up out of state. Neyond NMF the next highest scholarship is $31k divided over four years. Which barely scratches the surface.
  • stuckintxstuckintx Posts: 17User Awaiting Email Confirmation New Member
    I wondered why OU got no love here ... we visted this past month and my dd loved the campus and the honors program sold it for her. The NM office staff on campus were great. They called her prior to the visit asking what ways they could customize her tour even though we had just signed up earlier in the week as it was a spur of the moment trip up to see the campus. Right now this is her first choice regardless of NMF status.
  • DaisydoggirlDaisydoggirl Posts: 2Registered User New Member
    I've been lurking since my daughter received her PSAT score, but now I feel I must post. I graduated OU and it is 2nd choice for my daughter. (Oklahoma City University is top). Oklahoma is a wonderful place to live - the people are genuine and supportive of each other. While I was not a nms, based on my undergraduate grades, I went to graduate school virtually free. The have many excellent programs.
    My daughter is basing her choices on her desired major. Also, we still have family in OKC and we haven't found a MN college that offers the national merit packages that OU or OCU do. She made a 217 on her psat so we are hoping that makes the cut in MN. :)
  • tommykirkpatricktommykirkpatrick Posts: 543Registered User Member
    I'm going to Bama this fall on the NMF scholarship, but I also looked into OU and thought it was very nice as well.

    Yeah, i'd have to say Bama isn't "very" southern. The student population is very diverse (and increasingly so) and many of the friends I've made that are heading to Bama are from out of state. The students I have talked to who are already at the school say it has a much less southern feel than the other big schools in the south. And of course it is okay to be a nerd at Bama. In such a big school, there's a place for everybody. I think the nerd tag just wouldn't apply to the honors kids at Bama because there are so many.

    And yes, girls (and guys) at Bama dress very well. I'm going to need to do some serious shopping because all I have now are t-shirts and shorts.
  • dramadaddramadad Posts: 185Registered User Junior Member
    My youngest D is headed to OU. We live in Tulsa so OU is close to home and she feels comfortable there. She wants to be a doctor, so getting that fifth year free tuition applied to her first year of med school could be really handy if she ends up at OU Medical Center. Daisydoggirl, my oldest D went to OCU. I think it gives a free ride to NMFs.

    My D applied to and was accepted to Alabama. She applied when it looked like we might have to move to Atlanta. We never did get a chance to visit, but I am sure she would have loved it there, but we ended up not moving so she stuck with OU
  • BobWallaceBobWallace Posts: 1,712Registered User Senior Member
    Both seem like excellent programs. I would love to hear a similar comparison with the Arizona program, which was the only one of the three I could get my daughter to apply for as a "financial safety".
  • gstudent99gstudent99 Posts: 97Registered User Junior Member
    I am not sure I understand the statements about the girls at Alabama being especiallly over dressed , or dressed out of the ordinary. My daughter and I visited a few weeks ago. The weather was warm and the girls were almost universally dressed in shorts and t-shirts. It was a running joke between my daughter and I trying to find someone not dressed in this "uniform." She left thinking she might feel overdressed in her normal attire (jeans). My son is a student at Vanderbilt and I have noticed a bit of a "dressed up" feel at Vandy but nothing like I have read about on CC.

    We are from up north (Chicago) so we weren't sure what to make of what I would consider the deep south. In the end I guess you could say we knew we were in the south but nothing overwhelming. Mostly just an accent thing and lots of "y'alls"

    My daughter is a Junior and likely NMF. We did the basic tour, met with someone at the College of Communications and Information Sciences, the Catholic student center (impressed), and then hung out on campus for a few hours (beautiful, interesting, and peaceful).

    She hasn't even begun to think in terms of first, second, .. etc. choice. She is just taking it all in for now. She liked the campus quite a bit , felt comfortable with the general vibe, wowed by the honors suites dorms, and sees a match in theacademic programs. It is definately staying on her list.

    She is not one to really express strong feelings about anything so the fact that she did not outright reject UA means she liked it.

    We visited a small private school the next day and she immediately took that off the list for a variety of reasons.
  • JensvcatJensvcat Posts: 9Registered User New Member
    D and I visited ASU and University of Arizona last week. UA was too far from home and the tornadoes scared her away from OU, so I can't really compare although I know the NMF scholarship packages are better for those schools. ASU Barrett was very impressive, shiny new dorms and dining hall. We had the feeling that the Barrett students were very well taken care of there. We did have concerns with ASU in general - the admission requirements are minimal, so there is a wide assortment of students with various abilities/ambitions. There are not many classes that are exclusively honors classes, so this could be a problem. However, overall we felt that D could be happy there.

    We also visited the University of Arizona. It's in Tucson, so it's a bit harder to get to than ASU, which is just outside of Phoenix. The University of Arizona has a more traditional looking campus as opposed to the modern ASU campus. As far as the honors colleges, I think most people will agree that Barrett has the better reputation, However, D and I felt that the differences were more superficial than actual. It really looks like the University of Arizona Honors College is trying hard to be more like Barrett - they have a fancy new honors dorm, special 2 day orientation for honors students, and freshman programs. Their admission standards are higher than at ASU and they do not require that students live in the dorms. (Barrett requires that freshmen and sophomores stay in their dorms and buy their meal plans.)

    D has decided on the University of Arizona. She liked the campus better. Not only was the scholarship better, but the overall costs were less since we are not required to purchase the $5200 meal plan at Barrett. We felt like the honors colleges were similar, but Barrett came with "concierge" service that came at a price. We'll save that money for grad school.
  • kjcphmomkjcphmom Posts: 715Registered User Member
    Daisy..., I'm glad you are considering OU. I didn't get a chance to look at it with my sons, but it was always in the back of my mind as a choice. 2nd son chose Alabama, but S1 chose University of Minnesota. If your D is a NMF, take a look at UMN. They do not give as good as a scholarship at UMN, but they are competitive. Both sons were offered the Gold scholarship for NMFs (now $10,000 p/year) S1 was offered the presidential scholarship ($2,500 p/year) but S2 was offered the Bentson scholarship which was $5,000 p/year for the 1st 2 years, $7000 p/year for year 3 and 4. With the NMF scholarship of $1,000/$2,000 per year, these scholarships covered about $16,000-$17,000 of the $23,000 COA. We are out-of-state, but as an instate student she might be even eligible for more. Its nice to have choices, so besides OU, definitely have her check out UMN.
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Posts: 61,350Registered User Senior Member
    [at Bama] The weather was warm and the girls were almost universally dressed in shorts and t-shirts.


    Right...the girls tend to wear the Nike Tempo-style shorts and t-shirts.
  • MaterMiaMaterMia Posts: 1,066Registered User Senior Member
    Daisydoggirl can you explain the fifth year tuition paid line - I'm not tracking. Thanks.
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