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Need help with college list, several limitations

HeartofDixieHeartofDixie 309 replies11 threads Member
I am trying to help come up with a list which includes safeties, matches, and reaches. There are a couple of issues that are causing some difficulty. First is the fact that most of the schools that we are familiar with and most of our friends and family have knowledge of are most likely not economically feasible. My son would likely get lots of aid at a meets-full-need school, however most of those are very selective and definitely a reach, plus since most are not in our region I am not sure how well he would fit in if he were lucky enough to be admitted.

Class of 2019 at a small, rural high school
GPA is listed at about 3.95, it doesn't specify and I am assuming is UW
Numerical GPA is 95.5
Current rank is 7/62
ACT taken twice and made 24 both times(with different section scores)
Plan to take ACT in August and SAT in September
On advanced diploma track, taking highest level courses, no honors or AP at our school
Lots of EC's, though nothing groundbreaking. Officer positions, clubs, job, church and community involvement.
White male, not first generation college
Parents divorced, neither remarried
very low income, food stamps and Medicaid
father is on disability and kids draw a check which stands in place of child support
Alabama is state of residence
2 younger siblings which will not be in college at same time
Undecided but considering engineering or nursing
The most I could possibly contribute is around $1,000 per year, and that would be a huge stretch. Probably wouldn't get anything more than that, if that much from his father.

I have ran the NPC for several state schools in Alabama and Mississippi and they are all unaffordable.

Reaches: Vanderbilt, possibly Notre Dame, there are several others that are full need and very selective but I'm not sure what the campus culture is and whether they would be a fit.

I'm having a hard time with matches and safeties because while there are plenty that would fit academically they don't fit financially.

I'm thinking that he will fill out the HBCU application and see what merit money he gets from those schools. Alabama State, Alabama A&M, Jackson State University, and Prarie View A&M are possibilities, especially if he raises his scores a little bit.


The closest schools to where we live are Northwest-Shoals Community College and University of North Alabama, about 45 minutes and 1 hour away respectively. Commuting would involve quite a bit of expense(gas, vehicle insurance and repairs) which would need to be figured into things.


Are there any possibilities that I have missed?
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Replies to: Need help with college list, several limitations

  • intparentintparent 36291 replies644 threads Senior Member
    edited July 2018
    If he is going to apply to some meet need schools, you would want to look at the lower ranked schools, not ND or Vanderbilt. A significant problem is his low test scores. Not sure how much prep he did, but I’d assume some if he took the ACT twice already. He should do as much test prep as he can, as higher scores would open up more options. If you Google the Common Data Set at ND or Vanderbiilt, you will see that he would need a huge test score boost to be competitive for admission at those two. Look at Holy Cross, for example (but he will still need higher scores).

    One school that comes to mind is Dickinson. They are test optional, so he could skip sending test scores, and they meet 99% of need — BUT they don’t have either of the majors you mentioned. Can’t remember who, but I feel like someone out here had a nephew from a rural area in the south attend there, and I think it is going well. Check out their website. They also have an EA round — he should consider applying EA if he decides to apply, they like early applicants.

    I’d assume that he will plan to take out his federal loans and would have work study to earn a couple thousand during the school year. And can he find work in the summer to save a bit for the school year, too?
    edited July 2018
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 83467 replies741 threads Senior Member
    edited July 2018
    Presumably, he is prepping to try for a higher ACT or SAT score. It looks like Prairie View A&M is the school with his desired majors that has the lowest score needed for an automatic full ride (26 ACT or 1260 SAT); some others may also be available at higher test scores.

    Alabama State does not have engineering or nursing. It needs a 26 ACT or 1240 SAT. Mississippi Valley State needs only a 24 ACT (which he has), but also does not have engineering or nursing.

    Both divorced parents will complete financial aid forms for the reach schools, right? Many of them require both parents (Vanderbilt is an exception in most cases).
    edited July 2018
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  • HeartofDixieHeartofDixie 309 replies11 threads Member
    Yes, he will take out the student loans if necessary and I would imagine he will have work study(though that won't be available at the beginning of the year). He has been working since he was 15 so working in the summer shouldn't be a problem, though currently most of it is going for gas and other typical expenses since I am unable to provide funds for all of his activities.

    The reason I said Vanderbilt and ND is because those are schools we are familiar with, Vandy is only about 3 hours away and he has been a huge ND fan for years(he has gotten a lot of ribbing about that) and has been to the campus. He has received information from several schools like Colby, Mcalester, Tulane, and others but I was afraid that some of those places might be a bit of culture shock for him, being raised in a rural Alabama town with very conservative Christian values. I also noticed that several of the LAC's don't have engineering or nursing and most of the majors didn't sound like something he would be interested in, math and science are definitely his strongest subjects.

    I believe that he should be able to raise his scores(though I'm not sure how much) but he doesn't seem very confident in his ability to do so. His first ACT was right after 10th grade and he did not prepare, plus it was the day after he returned from being gone for a week for FFA convention, he actually fell asleep during the English section. He was very disappointed with his 2nd score because he had prepped some for it(not enough obviously) and had the same composite score. It was administered at his school and he said he was a lot more nervous than the one at the testing center. I paid the extra $20 to receive his test and answers from the first time and I think he spent too much time practicing that test instead of the practice tests in the ACT book. His English score went up but his math went down, science stayed the same, and I think there was a very slight change in reading. He also had the writing section which he didn't take the first time.
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  • HeartofDixieHeartofDixie 309 replies11 threads Member
    Yes, I don't foresee any issues getting his father to cooperate with the financial information requirements. We filed bankruptcy in 2015 while we were still together and he is now on disability(though he is trying to get another teaching job), so not a lot of income and no real assets. Total income for me, his disability, and the checks which the kids draw, is going to be under $40,000 per year. If he can get into a full need school then he should receive significant aid, but most of those schools are long shots.

    He applied for Questbridge last year and I am going to encourage him to try again this year. His class is very competitive and always has been but his ACT is one of the higher scores, so I'm wondering if they just aren't being prepared well compared to schools in other places.
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  • CenterCenter 2204 replies66 threads Senior Member
    Your son's ACT is very low and somewhat undermines his excellent GPA. Has he considered trying the SAT? The SAT might be a better test for him as it is a little bit of a slower test. Given that finances are a concern I suggest he create a (free) account on KhanAcademy.org. It is a wonderful site--everything is free. Create a study plan leading up to the next feasible test date. Take a practice test and then the system will start adjusting to his areas of weakness. He should study every single day--the system allows to customize a study plan with as little as 20 minute increments. Even 20 minutes a day really adds up. Getting his scores up whether ACT or SAT might enable some merit aid to come his way as well.
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  • HeartofDixieHeartofDixie 309 replies11 threads Member
    Yes, I recently got an SAT fee waiver from his guidance counselor and plan to register him for the next test date which is September I think, but registration wasn't yet open last time I checked. I had discovered Khan Academy, though he hasn't been home enough when I'm home to get him to take a look at it. I didn't realize that you could create a study plan or that it would adjust to his areas of weakness, that sounds great and I will definitely see if I can get him started on that. I might can sell him on 20 minutes per day, that doesn't sound so intimidating and should be very doable.
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  • aquaptaquapt 2438 replies51 threads Senior Member
    edited July 2018
    Sorry you're in such a tight spot.

    Since he got different subscores each time on the ACT, what is his "superscore" (sum of the best scores he's gotten on each section)? Some colleges superscore and others do not.

    Here are some schools to look at:
    Union College in NY - has engineering, meets full need, and is test-optional https://www.union.edu/admissions/apply/test-policy/
    Trinity College in CT - has engineering, meets full need, and superscores
    Lafayette College in PA - has engineering, meets full need, superscores
    Bucknell U in PA - has engineering, meets 91% of need on average, superscores
    Lehigh U in PA - has engineering, meets 97% of need on average, superscores
    Syracuse University in NY - has engineering, meets 93% of need on average, superscores
    University of Miami in FL - has engineering and nursing, meets 89% of need on average, superscores
    Tulane in New Orleans - has engineering, meets 96% of need on average, superscores
    University of Rochester in NY - has engineering, meets 95% of need on average, superscores
    Trinity University in TX - has engineering, meets 93% of need on average, superscores
    St. Olaf in MN - no engineering, but does have nursing as well as strong math/science https://wp.stolaf.edu/nursing/application/ , meets 98% of need, superscores (If you're worried about culture shock at larger more urban schools, St. Olaf is small, rural, and theoretically a "dry campus")

    Hope that's helpful. If he's not 100% set on engineering, definitely look at how easy it is to switch majors at a given school and consider going in as a non-engineering major. Admissions can be more competitive for aspiring engineers, and if it's not even something he's sure about, it might be better for him to have to work his way into the major than to miss out on the school altogether. Applying as, for example, a physics or math major can be a less steep path, depending on the school.

    (Edit - sorry, removed diversity references above - I'd seen the part about HBCU's and missed the "white male" part.)
    edited July 2018
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  • aquaptaquapt 2438 replies51 threads Senior Member
    I would particularly suggest taking a close look at St. Olaf. While it doesn't have engineering, it does have a very strong department of math, statistics and computer science, as well as physics, chem, etc. *and* a nursing program. Unlike most of the others I listed, it is small and rural. The stats are not out of line; they superscore the ACT, and their 25th percentile ACT is 25, so your son's superscored ACT would have to be at or above that threshold. And his GPA is above their average.

    Most notable: while their overall admit rate is around 40%, the Early Decision admit rate is 80%! Your son seems like a solid candidate to make that cut, at the school states strongly that they're committed to helping students admitted ED to attend: https://wp.stolaf.edu/admissions/early-decision/

    If their Net Price Calculator yields a favorable result, I'd say this school would be worth close consideration.
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  • twoinanddonetwoinanddone 24832 replies20 threads Senior Member
    How about FAMU? He'd have big time football with FSU.
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  • AlmostThere2018AlmostThere2018 1896 replies62 threads Senior Member
    edited July 2018
    You're getting good advice here. In terms of ACT, could it be a pacing issue? Did you notice he had pretty good accuracy but didn't finish the sections? ACT is a very fast paced test. SAT math is a bit hard but fewer questions but it may be better, as others said. Encourage him during practice tests to time himself so he can figure out ensuring he's on track. My daughter took off her watch and had it next to her so she could check her pace periodically. Sometimes you gotta cut bait with a problem in order to make it through the whole section.

    Otherwise agree with St. Olaf and the testing optional schools. In particular, Wake Forest is test optional, Southern so may be good culture fit, and does very well with need-based aid. They have an almost brand new engineering program so it might not be as competitive as some other schools' engineering, but I'm not sure about nursing.

    I have a good feeling he's going to end up somewhere awesome!
    edited July 2018
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  • BuckeyeMWDSGBuckeyeMWDSG 1070 replies14 threads Senior Member
    Hiram College is need blind for admissions and usually (94.9% need fully met) meets need. Great choice for nursing.
    Run the net price calculator. Remember most schools will expect the student to contribute, so student savings, a percent of income if he has been working a lot and student loans can make up what the school calculates for the EFC. They do have a 2+3 engineering program with Case Western, but I would steer my student away from this school if he ends up wanting engineering not nursing or another major Hiram offers. I just think picking a school with the intent to finish elsewhere isn't a good strategy (it takes longer and costs more). I'd really work hard to find an affordable school that he can complete a degree he'd be happy with in four years. https://www.hiram.edu/academics/undergraduate/

    It can be very expensive to change schools - and he is a strong enough student academically that missing out on freshman awards may cost him more in the long run. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/05/17/starting-out-at-community-college-seems-like-a-really-good-idea-until-its-not.html

    University of Toledo (has engineering with mandatory co-op and nursing plus many other majors) would offer him $14,000 in automatic merit aid. http://www.utoledo.edu/admission/freshman/scholarships/2018/out-of-state.html

    29,000 approx OOS cost
    -14,000 auto merit
    15,000
    - 6,000 approx need aid (pell/work study)
    9,000
    - 5,500 student loan
    3,500
    - 1,000 mom's contribution
    2,500 <- with a summer job he should be able to cover this, if he can't save this kind of money where he is, he should be looking at resort work for the summer after hs that includes housing where he can make enough to save for college and picking a school with good co-ops

    The key to getting an affordable education is being flexible and willing to take advantage of the opportunities he'll be offered.
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  • AlmostThere2018AlmostThere2018 1896 replies62 threads Senior Member
    edited July 2018
    @milee30 -- yes, I think of Vandy and Wake Forest as pretty similar vibe but prolly even more $$ at Vandy. I do know that Wake is doing more to support first gen students (which is not OP's student), and in general they are small enough to provide a lot of attention to all students. Culturally -- I have no idea if it'd be good fit but if he likes, Vandy.. . Based on my interaction with them they are trying to be less of a wealthy enclave -- how that translates to a student's experience, I don't know.
    edited July 2018
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  • CenterCenter 2204 replies66 threads Senior Member
    I agree with @Creekland-his scores would concern me--meaning I would want to know more about why the disparity between the score and the grades. One other suggestion: khan has practice tests. Perhaps do a baseline practice test first--and really see where he lands. (thats what we did). Then their system can adjust to the results. I cannot more highly recommend Khan Academy. It is beautifully designed-super functional--instant feedback-unlimited practice and offers test preparation for a number of tests as well as all of the basic topics in school for extra help or preparation.
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  • mamommamom 3704 replies24 threads Senior Member
    You are getting great advice. I agree with Greekland, As an engineer, I can attest that the major can be cutthroat, difficult and stressful. If he has less than stellar math scores on the act or sat he may find himself at a disadvantage. He may also have difficulty getting into an engineering program. Direct entry nursing programs also seem very competitive. Has he taken Calculus?

    You may want to look at Catholic U. They have engineering and nursing and according to my daughter, who did an overnight visit there last fall, very conservative. Regis College in MA has a great nursing program, is about 20 miles outside Boston, and seems to offer great money to male applicants. It is also Catholic. Marquette U also offers both engineering (incredible relatively new building) and nursing. It is a Jesuit school. Not sure about money at any of these schools, except a couple of my son's friends got a lot of money from Regis. My son got full tuition from Marquette, but because of test scores and a subsequent dept competition. My D has a friend who got great merit money from WPI in Worcester MA, not sure how they are with need based aid. Another major he may find of interest, considering his interest in nursing, is Public Health. I don't know much about it, but it may be less competitive than nursing.

    Best to you and your son.
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  • mamommamom 3704 replies24 threads Senior Member
    Keep in mind what milee30 said. Your son will not want to be the kid who cannot afford to go out for a coffee, a movie or whatever with his classmates. He will need some spending money, like that from work study. Probably more money if he is attending a school in the city. You want to budget for that.
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  • happymomof1happymomof1 30768 replies197 threads Senior Member
    For a full list of test optional institutions visit FairTest.org. He is first gen and low income, his grades are good, he's from a rural area, some places might like that diversity a lot.

    He also can look at the list of work colleges at WorkColleges.org He is precisely the sort of student those places were founded to help.

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  • evergreen5evergreen5 2013 replies38 threads Senior Member
    edited July 2018
    To emphasize, if he was running out of time on the ACT, he should try the SAT. Some kids score remarkably higher on one test vs the other, just due to individual differences like speed.

    The same 8 free SAT practice tests are available on both Khan Academy and College Board websites. I strongly suggest significant practice before taking an official test, especially since he won't have a lot of time for a retake before early applications are due in the fall. Practice should include going over every single problem wrong on a practice test and understanding why the selected answer was wrong and why the right answer was correct. I would stress to him the tremendous importance of test scores for his college financing, either via scholarships or via competitive schools that offer good financial aid.

    Note that colleges post on their websites the test score ranges for their most recently enrolled classes and these can help gauge fit and likelihood of admission. The middle 50 percentiles for ND are 32-34 and for Vandy, 32-35.
    edited July 2018
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