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Ivy League/Top Schools or Lower tier with Merit Aid

WatchfulEyeWatchfulEye 49 replies27 threads Junior Member
My son currently is a junior in HS and is of mixed heritage. He is predominately African American but has some Filipino, Thai and Caucasian blood as well. He currently attends a 90% or greater Caucasian public high school. The overall SAT score for his school is currently ~1670. His score is as follows: CR 770, Math 730, Writing 750 10 E (2250). He was recognized as a GATE student in the third grade and received a 1980 on the official SAT when he was in 8th grade. His GPA is strong, extracurriculars are average. Like most parents with high achievers I always had Ivy league aspirations for him. Now for my dilemma, we are planning a college tour trip in a few weeks and I asked him where and what types of colleges he wants to visit. His answer was that he wants to leverage his SAT scores/grades to try to get a full ride and he would consider small class size to be optimal. I did some research and he qualifies for Presidential Scholarships at HBCU institutions, meaning full tuition, room/board,meal plan, and in some cases $1000/year for books and a laptop. Our Income is in the $180k/ year range so financial aid is not a reliable option for us, but we are far from rich in the area where we reside. He is considering dental school but he is only 17 therefore he may change direction. Two or three of the HBCu's have accelerated dental programs that he qualifies for and seem like a great fit in terms of merit aid and class size. Question: what would you do if you we're in his shoes? Apply and possibly matriculate in Ivy League school or other top 25 institution with a parent/student loan contribution $20 to 30K/year or matriculate at an HBCU in an accelerated dental program and have zero debt until he matriculates in dental school. Please note: he and his younger sister both have a 529B accounts that can cover 2 years at a top 25 school at this time. My son stated he does not want to spend it for undergrad as he would rather save it for professional school or use it for his sister. I really could use some advice it is his life, but it is a family decision overall. Thank you in advance CC'ers!
edited July 2013
10 replies
Post edited by WatchfulEye on
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Replies to: Ivy League/Top Schools or Lower tier with Merit Aid

  • Erin's DadErin's Dad 34104 replies4820 threads Super Moderator
    With $180K of income you'll be full pay at most Ivies. How do YOU feel about that? That's your call. There are other schools that are not HBCU he could apply to. Alabama comes to mind, for one. Look here for other options:


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  • HoggirlHoggirl 2059 replies210 threads Senior Member
    I think your son is very wise. :)

    I agree with Erin's Dad about looking at other places that are not HBCU. If that's what he wants, that's great, but I would throw some non-HBCU schools where he will get money into the mix. Given your financial situation (and kudos for you for saving so well!), it doesn't have to be full-ride v. full-pay. He might like an Honors College within a larger university where he might get tuition, but not housing. Alabama is one such place as Erin's Dad suggested.

    Good luck!
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  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Forum Champion Financial Aid, Forum Champion Alabama 84339 replies1049 threads Forum Champion
    Is your son a rising junior? If so, then his PSAT that he takes this October will be very important. Make sure he takes it and is prepared for it (and takes it seriously).

    With that income and (it sounds like) about $200k saved for your children's college costs, you will very much likely be full pay at need-only schools.

    My younger child opted for the big merit scholarship for undergrad, and now he's starting med school in 3 weeks. The money saved from undergrad will cover med school costs. He went to Alabama on a near full ride.
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  • MassmommMassmomm 4221 replies85 threads Senior Member
    If he is looking for smaller classes and merit money, he should definitely consider some second tier liberal arts colleges. Though he'd likely get into the top tier schools, they don't give merit money. My D is also full pay and received some great scholarship offers (she didn't even apply for these) from several colleges. Of course, she turned them down to go to Wellesley, so we're eating that tuition bill for the next 4 years.....

    But I know that she would have received a great education at any of the other schools.
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  • tk21769tk21769 10710 replies27 threads Senior Member
    You have many good options. If he's strongly leaning toward dental (or med) school, the Ivies (/T25 universities) wouldn't be at the top of my list. Professional schools are expensive. If he wants small classes, consider the HBCU (nearly free) v. an in-state honors college (~$15K-$25K depending on the state) v. a LAC with merit aid (maybe ~$35K or more for a selective school like Grinnell). I don't think an Ivy is a good value for yet another $20K more.
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  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Forum Champion Financial Aid, Forum Champion Alabama 84339 replies1049 threads Forum Champion
    Warning, even at many smaller schools, the frosh and soph classes can still have large lecture halls for basic classes such as Bio, Chem, History, Psych, Sociology, Poly Sci, etc.

    That said, many colleges (both large and small) have smaller classes once students are in upper division courses or if the student is taking the Honors versions of various courses.

    Very few schools have a promise that all classes are small.
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  • midatlmommidatlmom 1686 replies7 threads Senior Member
    I think that your son might qualify for significant merit money at some excellent schools and, if possible, I would try and visit some of them to see whether he believes an application is worthwhile. For example, Wake Forest offers the Joseph Gordon scholarships, which cover tuition, room and board, for students from constituencies that are traditionally underrepresented at WFU, Duke offers the Reginaldo Howard Scholarships (full tuition plus a summer stipend) and Wash U. offers the John Ervin Scholarship.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 83308 replies740 threads Senior Member
    For actual class sizes, try going to the school's on-line schedule of classes to see if the number of students in each class is listed.
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  • tk21769tk21769 10710 replies27 threads Senior Member
    Here's a listing of class sizes at Williams going back 4 years:

    100-200 level Biology: 15-77 students (4 yr averages)
    100-200 level Chemistry: 30-66 students
    100-200 level History: 4-38 students
    100-200 level Psych: 22-108 students
    100-200 level Sociology: 10-35 students
    100-200 level PoliSci: 6-34 students

    (Spring 2013 Class Size Info)

    Williams seems to have one of the more comprehensive listings of enrollment numbers for specific classes. I can't be sure these numbers are very typical of selective LACs. Williams is among the richest, most selective. However, its 3.6% does not place it among the LACs with the smallest percentage of "large" classes (>= 50 students). LACs with smaller percentages include Amherst (2.4%), Swarthmore (1.9%), Middlebury (1.4%), Carleton (1.1%), Davidson (0%), Hamilton (0.8%), Grinnell (0.3%), Colorado College (0%), Bard (0.2%), Pitzer (0%), Gettysburg (0.3%), Centre (0%) ... but not, as far as I know, any national universities.
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  • CreeklandCreekland 6869 replies93 threads Senior Member
    I agree that there is a middle road that I suspect he would do very well with. Keep a safety college (financially), then enter the hunt for competitive scholarship schools. Wake Forest, U Miami, Vanderbilt, U Rochester, WUSTL, and most likely others I'm not thinking of this morning all have competitive full ride options. Find some he feels would be a good fit and go for it with a few.

    Do stay inexpensive. No school is worth major debt, esp when you're likely to have great options otherwise. At a higher level school (such as the competitive scholarship places) he's likely to find more academic peers. I suspect he'd like that much more than at a lower free ride school.
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