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Why one university is quitting National Merit® Scholarship Program

Dave_BerryDave_Berry 492 replies2569 threadsCC Admissions Expert Senior Member
"... For years now some people have thought the program was unfair. Why? Because while all students take the same exam, they don’t have to get equally high scores to be considered eligible for a scholarship. The initial cutoff scores that separate those who can go into the pool of possible scholarship winners and those can’t are different in each state and the District of Columbia. State semifinalists are named on a state representational basis to ensure broad participation.

But that’s not the only reason the program has been questioned. In this post, the dean of admissions at a private research university in Massachusetts explains why his school is dropping out of the program." ...

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/11/04/why-one-university-is-quitting-national-merit-scholarship-program/
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Replies to: Why one university is quitting National Merit® Scholarship Program

  • MassDaD68MassDaD68 1524 replies24 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Thank you for sharing the article. The cold reality is that any child who would normally get a NM is a fantastic student already. You cannot get into the top 1% of the testers without having done well in HS. To me it really is silly. If your child is in the top 1% of all students in the nation, then colleges will give that person merit aid. It is the other 99% of students that need to beg and borrow to attend school. Nothing new here. Life was never fair.
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  • MassDaD68MassDaD68 1524 replies24 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    One last point. I did find it odd that WPI would be pulling out of scholarship pools. The school is very expensive even by Massachusetts standards. I want to say the tuition rate is about 10% higher than Harvard. IMHO, students looking to attend WPI need all the money they can get from whatever source they can.
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  • halcyonheatherhalcyonheather 8774 replies212 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    So they complain that who gets NM depends on what state they are in, yet still offer the same merit scholarship to valedictorians which not only depends on which state you are in but which high school.
    Yeah, it's weird. Maybe is that high schools are more homogeneous than entire states, so it's fair to judge someone based on their high school but not based on their state?
    If your child is in the top 1% of all students in the nation, then colleges will give that person merit aid.
    For some reason, NMF has prestige that "high PSAT score" doesn't. I got a lot of scholarships just for (presumably) my grades and SAT scores, but I also get a few thousand dollars every year specifically for being an NMF. So it's a meaningful award to get, even though it's just a way of double-counting test scores.
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  • BelknapPointBelknapPoint 4479 replies16 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I did find it odd that WPI would be pulling out of scholarship pools. The school is very expensive even by Massachusetts standards. I want to say the tuition rate is about 10% higher than Harvard.

    2016-2017 Direct Billed Costs for Residential Students

    WPI: $60,730 (tuition = $46,364)

    Harvard: $63,025 (tuition = $43,280)

    Harvard's mandatory fees and room and board charges are quite a bit higher than WPI's.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78247 replies690 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Re: #5

    However, running the net price calculators for WPI and Harvard for a student (all A grades in hardest classes with maximum SAT and ACT scores) from a family of 3 with parental income of $60,000 and assets of $5,000 living in Massachusetts gives the following net prices:

    WPI: $34,735 (after $26,265 scholarships and grants off $61,000 list price)
    Harvard: $4,600 (after $62,300 grants off $66,900 list price)

    https://npc.collegeboard.org/student/app/wpi
    https://college.harvard.edu/financial-aid/net-price-calculator

    So WPI is likely to be more expensive than Harvard for many students.
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  • BelknapPointBelknapPoint 4479 replies16 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    So WPI is likely to be more expensive than Harvard for many students.

    Since Harvard has a much larger endowment than WPI, I completely agree. I was simply putting some facts to MassDaD68's comparison of COA, which is really only applicable to full-pay students.
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  • 3puppies3puppies 1740 replies12 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Thank you for sharing the article. The cold reality is that any child who would normally get a NM is a fantastic student already. You cannot get into the top 1% of the testers without having done well in HS. To me it really is silly. If your child is in the top 1% of all students in the nation, then colleges will give that person merit aid. It is the other 99% of students that need to beg and borrow to attend school. Nothing new here. Life was never fair.

    But even within the top 1% of students in the nation, there is often not enough merit aid anyway, because most colleges are not able to meet full need, and there are too few spots at the few schools that do meet full need. But the kids who would qualify for the top NMF awards are smart enough to figure this out.

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  • suzyQ7suzyQ7 3967 replies55 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    "You cannot get into the top 1% of the testers without having done well in HS"

    @MassDaD68 - Not true. There are many smart slackers. I know several of them... they don't care about school, but test well because they are actually quite intelligent.

    I think the NMS should change and be a hybrid of the current contest... using GPA and essay as a minimizer to get to 15,000 finalists (right now they do that to get from 16,000 commended to 15,000 finalists - so 90% make it to SF) and adjusting the proportional allocation by state. Kids should have to OPT IN to be considered for the SF. There are many kids that win SF that have zero interest in these schools offering scholarships - so NMS is a waste for them.
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  • itsgettingreal17itsgettingreal17 3986 replies26 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    My beef with the NMF scholarship are twofold: 1) that the cutoffs are by state and not national, and 2) the SI calculation. For example, a number of students in D's school became NMSF while she didn't even though she had a higher overall score because they had higher verbal scores than she did. It's all good though. She'll have other opportunities. I think more schools will pull out from the program because of these issues with the program.
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  • LonghaulLonghaul 2616 replies137 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    @MassDaD68 - I disagree with your assessment that top 1% test takers in each state = doing well in HS. My two oldest kids are proof. They go to a private NJ high school with some challenging classes. Each had multiple interests outside of academics.

    DS1 often fell asleep without completing homework, which impacted HS GPA. He made NMF, but did not graduate at the top of his class.
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  • MassDaD68MassDaD68 1524 replies24 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I think I struck a nerve. lol. I am not sure I have ever been quoted so much.

    The cost to attend Harvard was a bad analogy in retrospect. Harvard is one of a few colleges that give fantastic aid to families. I think I remember reading that the price for Harvard will be no more than 10% (or so..maybe 15%) of the family income. So a family of $100K will pay about $10K or $15K. A fantastic deal that most colleges cannot match.

    I am sure there are outliers out there but I stand behind my opinion that the top 1% of the students are good students who do well is HS. I just cannot believe that there are that many slackers who are getting a NMS. And if there is, then I think that is just wrong. To me, I would want a NMS to go to dedicated student that wants to exceed in academics and attend a challenging school. I would hate for a slacker to take the slot of a dedicated student just so the slacker can party for free for four years.
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  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids 84100 replies1025 threadsForum Champion Financial Aid, Forum Champion Alabama Forum Champion
    Usually the slackers who are great test-takers end up with at least a couple of C's on their report cards. A couple of C's usually means you don't make NMF.

    If a student often didn't complete homework and still wasn't given C's, then really that's his school's fault. NMCorp wants to believe in the integrity of the grades given.
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  • GraniteStateMomGraniteStateMom 355 replies11 threadsRegistered User Member
    So WPI is likely to be more expensive than Harvard for many students.
    @ucbalumnus As you know, you are comparing apples to oranges. Harvard does not give out merit scholarships and is one of the few meets full need schools in the country. WPI gives out merit but does not guarantee meeting full need. With the stats that you put into the NPC, my guess is that about 18 to 20K from WPI is merit and will not change over 4 years as long as the student meets their merit aid requirements, which are not too strict (no minimum GPA but the student must pass a certain number of courses per year).

    As far as WPI dropping the guaranteed NMF scholarship, I would encourage any interested student that has the other stats to back up their PSAT score to apply anyway as they will likely be offered similar merit money unless WPI is drastically changing their merit criteria. My completely anecdotal evidence is that my oldest, who graduated from WPI in May, was not a NMF but nevertheless had good stats (3.9 UW GPA, 4 of 350 rank, 33 ACT). She received 18K in merit plus a 5K scholarship for studying abroad. My middle child, who was a NMF, had similarly good / slightly better stats ( 3.9 UW GPA, 1590 CR + M SAT, 2 of 320 rank) was initially awarded 20K in merit. The two had very similar merit offers with no additional financial aid.

    Interestingly, middle kiddo ended up at a meets full need school which he felt was a better fit since he is interested in theoretical math and physics. His school was very affordable until this year when we had the perfect storm of only 1 in college coupled with my husband being laid off at the end of 2015 and receiving a severance at that time that inflated our 2015 AGI. Still sorting that out. As the situation currently stands, WPI would have been much more affordable for us this year with the merit they offered. Youngest is now in the midst of the application process - we have largely limited choices to schools that offer merit.

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  • MassDaD68MassDaD68 1524 replies24 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Interesting. I was not aware that Harvard does not offer any Merit aid. I just figured that all colleges offered something. If nothing more than a feel good gesture. Not sure I ever met anyone who did not feel good after paying less than full price.

    @GraniteStateMom Congrats on your family. It sounds like you raised some very smart children. My son considered WPI and RPI when he was considering engineering. He has ultimately decided to pursue business instead and will not apply to WPI or RPI. This happened after I sent both schools my CSS profile. Learned my lesson there. Haha.
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  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids 84100 replies1025 threadsForum Champion Financial Aid, Forum Champion Alabama Forum Champion
    @MassDaD68

    none of the Ivys offer merit. Stanford and MIT don't either. Many student don't pay full price to those schools because of need based aid.
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  • MadaboutxMadaboutx 1583 replies9 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Part of the problem with NM is that the 1% that win are not the top 1% nationwide. They represent the top 1% in each state and D.C. California and New Jersey have kids with 2200-2300 that don't get NM while a kid with a 1950 from some states does.

    The problem with the article was the sanctimonious attitude dripping from every sentence. I know of no kid that is solely competing for NM. It's an added challenge for academically driven kids to tackle. Also, the award is based on the results of a single test which means that kids aren't agonizing over whether they should retake the test for the 4th time or not.

    I guess the school wants their withdrawal to seem like some morally superior choice made by morally superior people but it's not. It's simply another avenue of opportunity lost.
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  • GraniteStateMomGraniteStateMom 355 replies11 threadsRegistered User Member
    edited November 2016
    I guess the school wants their withdrawal to seem like some morally superior choice made by morally superior people but it's not. It's simply another avenue of opportunity lost.
    Personally, I see the removal of their sponsorship as a definite loss to students
    Nowhere in the article does it say that the school is going to stop giving merit scholarships. Rather, the school is simply going to stop using NMF as a specific criteria. In the past, NMFs were guaranteed at least 20K per year. I suspect that WPI will continue to give scholarships in that range to deserving students, NMF or not. I doubt that there will be anything lost to those students whose other achievements reflect their NMF status. My guess is that WPI wants a little more flexibility with how it allocates merit money. I also wouldn't be surprised if this decision is revisited if the quality of the applicant pool changes significantly.
    edited November 2016
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  • MassDaD68MassDaD68 1524 replies24 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    @oPhilippos Ok. I see what you mean.

    http://www.****/national-merit-semifinalist-cutoffs/

    I can see not where the cutoffs are different for different states.
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