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My National Merit kid is a freshman at Alabama...feel free to ask questions

Colorado19and22Colorado19and22 77 replies4 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
edited September 30 in University of Alabama
In the spirit of @FrozenMaineMom and considering the help we found here in this forum as DS19 was going through what all of you NMSF students and parents are going through now, I thought I'd try to pay it forward and offer to answer questions you might have.

As part of the application process, I made my son select at least one school that gave a substantial scholarship for NMF to apply to in addition to the other places he was interested in. I know he looked at University of Florida and Florida State, Arizona State, University of New Mexico, and University of Idaho in addition to Alabama. I don't think he looked at the other Florida schools.

Anyway, he picked Alabama as his first NM choice, because of the possibility of the Randall Research Scholars Program and Blount Scholars Program (both have separate applications), as well as the flexibility of the scholarship (5 years of tuition, not limited by a number of credit hours, and can be used for graduate studies--even law school!) We went to visit in October of his senior year, and he came away impressed, thinking that if he got into one or the other of the special programs, it would be hard to turn Alabama down. ***TIP: If you go visit, reach out to your regional recruiter or the Honors College and let them know what you are interested in exploring--they will plan an itinerary for you and you will get so much more out of the visit. For example, when we visited, DS had expressed an interest in Blount Scholars, so the itinerary had a scheduled time to meet with the Director of the Program. I also suggest to plan your visit when there isn't a home football game!***

He ended up being accepted to both Randall Research Scholar and Blount Scholars, and instead of having to pick one, Alabama lets them do both! Even then, it was hard for him to make the choice--it is 1300 miles away from us, and he certainly isn't a fan of the weather--but in the end, he couldn't turn down the opportunity, and is now an extremely happy freshman (except for the weather).

Some more tips:
-- Alabama has very generous AP and dual enrollment credit policies. My DS has his entire core taken care of and was able to jump right into his majors/minors. The AP/DE credits do not count against a set number of semesters or credits. This gives kids with lots of APs/DE classes A LOT of flexibility and the opportunity to do graduate work, co-ops, study abroad, etc. Honestly, I figure DS will graduate with over 200 semester credits, as he came in with almost 100!
--There are a number of special programs to consider--Randall Research Scholars, University Fellows, Blount Scholars, Emerging Scholars, etc. These generally have separate applications, and the deadlines are earlier than you might expect. Do your research early so you don't find out about something too late.
-- The scholarship doesn't cover dining (it covers room, but not board) or class fees, but after the stipend was applied, our bill for the first semester was only about $500.
-- The scholarship has $2,000 to be used for study abroad or summer research, but what you might not realize is that the tuition scholarship can potentially be used for study abroad too! There are students using their tuition scholarship for Semester at Sea and other opportunities.
--The 5th year of tuition could cover the needed time to complete the STEM path to MBA, resulting in STEM undergrad degree and an MBA. My son wasn't interested in this, but it seems to be very popular.
--While greek life is popular, and a lot of kids rush, it is not the majority of students. My DS did not rush and has had no trouble making friends and having a social life.
--While most students want to move off-campus after freshman year, the NMF scholarship includes on-campus housing for 4 years. There are on-campus apartments available to non-freshmen, and they are covered by the NMF scholarship. Based on what I've seen, the housing part of the scholarship cannot be used off campus or in a greek house.
-- Travel to/from Tuscaloosa can be more difficult than for a school with easy access to a major airport. Birmingham is about an hour away, and there are shuttle services, so it is manageable, but always something to consider.

If you have a question on something I didn't cover, ask away! I don't know everything, but I can point you in the right direction at least :)



MODERATOR'S NOTE: Anyone is free to ask or answer questions in this thread.

edited September 30
12 replies
Post edited by MaineLonghorn on
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Replies to: My National Merit kid is a freshman at Alabama...feel free to ask questions

  • Atlanta68Atlanta68 1389 replies253 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited September 20
    Your child was in the UA class with the most ever number of National Merit Scholars. 256! Probably the most in the nation, judging by past years. Also, this September has been a little hotter than avg across most of the South. Should be a little milder next September.
    edited September 20
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  • CincoDadCincoDad 7 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
    This is very helpful - Thank You! My DS is considering Alabama. Also, you mentioned $500 bill for a semester so are you estimating ~ $1000 / year out of pocket for tuition, room, and board? Finally, do you have anyone you'd recommend reaching out to for a customized visit? Thank you.
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  • Colorado19and22Colorado19and22 77 replies4 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    @CincoDad. I'm really glad you found this helpful! The $500 was our out-of-pocket for tuition, room, board, and fees for the first semester, but we are expecting it to be closer to $1000 for next semester because for the first semester they applied the enrollment deposit ($200) and housing deposit ($265) that we had previously paid as credits to the bill before we paid. Since I wrote the post, we also found out that DS's book costs were about $150 more than the book scholarship (which is $250 per semester).

    In terms of who to reach out to for a customized visit, start by finding the regional recruiter for your state at this link: https://gobama.ua.edu/staff/
    This person should be your first contact. They can either coordinate your visit, or recommend who else to contact. If you haven't already been in touch with them, be sure to let them know about NMSF status, because then they can make sure to schedule time to go over the scholarship. The more your DS has a sense about what he's interested in (major or department, special programs, extracurricular activities) the more personalized the visit will be, so encourage him to so some research, if he hasn't already.

    I hope you enjoy your visit!
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  • CincoDadCincoDad 7 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
    Super helpful. Thank you.
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  • CCityMomCCityMom 6 replies2 threadsRegistered User New Member
    Super helpful Colorado19and22! Thank you! My NMSF son and I are visiting in October. I'll be contacting our Louisiana recruiter today. What are the most impressive aspects of the school that I should make sure is included in our Honors College/campus tour. I'd like him to be wow'ed as much as my husband and I are by the school! He's not feeling the Roll Tide spirit! He's not a Greek kinda kid, but he is social. What sorts of activities has your son been involved with to make friends that is not Greek-related. Again, I want my picky son to be impressed!! Any must - see tour advice from happy Bama parents would be greatly appreciated!
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  • Atlanta68Atlanta68 1389 replies253 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I am sure others have more to say, but check out the new Science and Engineering Complex, the Black Warrior River trail, and maybe get food to go and have a relaxing lunch on the Quad. Most students at UA are not in frats and sororities by the way.

    Also, maybe visit the Student Recreation Center.
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  • CCityMomCCityMom 6 replies2 threadsRegistered User New Member
    Great ideas! Thank you!!
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  • Colorado19and22Colorado19and22 77 replies4 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    I completely second @Atlanta68, the science and engineering complex is impressive! DS knew he wanted to major in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, so he was really interested in those facilities. He got a chance to tour the Astrobotics and Baja racing extracurricular teams/spaces too, and while they weren't "his thing" they were interesting and impressive as well. If your DS doesn't lean STEM, see if you can see the facilities/meet with a professor or dean in whatever he's interested in.

    My DS also liked the general campus tour, and our tour took us into one of the suite-style dorms and the rec center. He had expressed interest in the Randall Research Scholars and Blount Scholars programs and got a lot out of meeting with the Honors Dean and Director of Blount--these might have been what tipped him to Alabama. After our visit he decided that if he got into one of those programs it would be hard to say no to Alabama.

    I'd also suggest a little people watching on the quad, and encourage him to talk to students. My son asked everyone he met "where are you from" and "how do you like it here," sometimes followed up by "what are you involved in." His overall impression was happy students having fun and doing a lot of different things.

    DS didn't go Greek and has found plenty of social opportunities. He is in Blount Hall, and it is a very social dorm--lots of activities, kids hanging out in the lounge, and group chats for "hey, we're starting a movie" and things like that. I have heard the same about the honors suite-style dorms (Ridgecrest). As far as the social thing goes, I think the real trick is to step outside that comfort zone and just talk to people--say yes to trying new things like joining an intramural team for ultimate frisbee (yes--my son did that! :) ) There have also been a lot of activities on campus open to anyone, planned by University Programs--they have something called "Tide after Dark" that plans activities for every Thursday/Friday/Saturday evening. Check out the Division of Student Life website https://sa.ua.edu for the on-campus activities, and check out The Source https://thesource.sa.ua.edu for information on the campus organizations like clubs and volunteer groups. One of the nice things about such a large campus is that there are activities for everyone, and it might take a little looking, but I think everyone can find their people/where they belong.

    I hope you have a great visit!
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  • Atlanta68Atlanta68 1389 replies253 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited September 27
    Also, drive up to the Bryce Lawn part of campus. It is a very old area that only recently became part of UA's campus. They are renovating the large and soon to be beautiful again, White pre Civil War domed building there with Italianate architecture. It is a very cool contrast with the Greek Revival style on the rest of the campus. There is a beautiful tree lined road that takes you up to the building. When it is finally fully renovated, it will be the school's welcome center. There will also be a huge performing arts center built behind that old white domed building mentioned above. Construction will likely start in a year or so. Bryce Lawn is a huge area, and has its own large grassy area, about the same size if not bigger than the Quad.
    edited September 27
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  • CCityMomCCityMom 6 replies2 threadsRegistered User New Member
    Atlanta68 & Colorado19and22 I'm feverishly writing down all of your suggestions! So excited about our visit!! Colorado, my DS is an avid Ultimate Frisbee player! He's at practice right now! I'm going to definitely look into that! GRACIAS!
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  • kmmordkmmord 8 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
    My DD was recently accepted and received the Presidential Elite Scholarship. She was just name NMSF and should make it to finalist based on her scores and GPA. Do you know if you can combine the presidential elite and the NMF scholarship?
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  • Colorado19and22Colorado19and22 77 replies4 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    @kmmord My son was initially awarded the Presidential Elite based on stats, but it was replaced by the NMF scholarship when he was named a finalist--they don't combine those two scholarships.
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