Any Colleges I should think about? Reverse Chance Me?

I don’t if this is the right place; this is my first post. Mainly looking to build a college list. I have already done a lot of this but just curious to hear some other opinions on if I’m shooting too high, too low, or just the right balance of target, safety and reach. Also looking for good schools I could get into that would give good merit aid (more info below)

Demographic: Upper middle class (~100k family but fluctuates by year and good savings), white male, all-boys catholic school


  • Crappy PSAT; will likely go test optional but ~1350-1370 if I try
  • 3.95 UW / 4.31 W (after this year if everything stays kinda steady)(Down from 4.0 / up from 4.26)
  • 5-6 APs by end of HS (Lang and Econ this year)
  • 10 Honors by end of HS
  • NHS / German NHS
  • 1 Club
  • 2 JV sports
  • NHS Tutor
  • No leadership

School Preference:

  • Major: Econ
  • Possible minors/second majors: Philosophy, Enviro Studies, Poli Sci
  • Size: 2000-15000
  • Cost: Ideally less than 50,000
  • Location: Anything near one of the coasts or near mountains (West, Mountain West, Northeast, Mid-Atlantic), don’t really care about setting just need to have some type of campus because I like doing stuff outdoors
  • Schools I like: CC, UVM, Santa Clara, Lehigh, Whitman

Interested in hearing schools that are possible as safety, targets, or reaches. Also curious to see schools I would like that I could get merit aid from.

Thank You!

Are you sure about that out-of-pocket 50k number?
Did you check with your parents?
Families that earn 100-200k are kind of in the toughest position,
as it’s too much for a significant need-based aid, but yet not enough
(after taxes) to afford a large college bill.
Also what state are you from?


Technically we shouldn’t be going over $47,000/yr. That’s why I am interested in schools that might give merit aid. I am from Massachusetts. Will probably end up applying to UMASS.

Families that earn 100-200k are kind of in the toughest fiscal position
as far as college expenses are concerned.
A family making $120k pre-tax ends up keeping what $85k?

I think UMASS would be a sensible choice … and a fantastic one at that.
Amherst is beautiful college town!!!


Where does that GPA place you in your class? Rank? Percentile?

UMass Amherst. You will probably get honors college. You will probably qualify for the John and Abigail Adams scholarship, which is based on your MCAS scores. I think it’s 2K/yr, but the website is down now. UMass Amherst is great, and the honors college makes it even better. Plus you can take classes at any of the other schools in the consortium.

You could apply to some lesser schools, that you’d get merit at. Are you willing to continue at a Catholic college? There are many that would probably be very happy to have you, would give you merit money. How far are you willing to go? Urban? Rural? Suburban?

Even at UMass, your entire 4 years is going to cost your family 120K, in state. I don’t see how a family making 100K/yr could manage 50K/yr for four years, for college for you, unless you’re an only child with grandparents helping and a lot of college savings. You need to have a VERY frank discussion with your parents about money for college.

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St. Lawrence, Hobart William Smith, UMaine for admission and financial safeties.

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Go west, young man!

Seriously, there are fantastic bargains to be had at colleges and universities in Western States. Off the top of my head - U of NM (you would qualify for instate tuition with those stats and your total COA would be less than 20K. Big mountains are a half hour drive away). Similarly U of Utah would be likely for significant merit, right near the mountains in Salt Lake City. I have a vague recollection that there is merit money for OOS at U WY and Western Washington and possibly Colorado State in Fort Collins. For safeties, take a look at Northern Arizona and Western Colorado (both in smaller towns, beautiful outdoor locations). Whitman maximum merit tops out at about 25K, but U of Puget Sound (Tacoma, WA) has higher awards, up to full tuition. UPS has well regarded Econ and PS majors. Finally, as you are Catholic - maybe try Gonzaga, in Spokane, WA. Signficant merit awards are possible there. Ditto for University of Denver.

Colorado College is a reach for all - for best chances apply nonrestrictive early action. Maximum merit award there is 10K, so you’d have to qualify for signficant need-based aid to get it to your budget.

In your neck of the woods, U Mass Amherst, of course, UVM, and U Maine (reciprocal instate tuition). Ithaca College offers sizable merit scholarships (25K or more).

Regarding test scores, it looks like many schools might continue with TO for next year, but sometimes schools will still want to use SAT/ACT for merit scholarship consideration. So you might try to take the SAT, or the ACT - many students do better with one format or the other. It might be worth a few hours of your time to take a practice ACT under timed conditions to see how your results compare.

Finally, in case you’re not familiar, every college has a Net Price Calculator on its website to get an estimate of the amount of aid you’re likely to get and the form it will take (loans, grants, etc.) Make use of these upfront; it will save heartache later on. They are less likely to be accurate if your parents are divorced or if your parents own their own business or real estate for investment, etc.

Good luck!


Do in state applicants have a better shot at honors? Both of my daughters applied and got top merit but no honors 3.9 unweighted, 33/34 ACT, 9 AP’s.

I agree with a PP, test s ores are still used for merit. My daughter applied to Pitt, UMASS, Rutgers, Temple, UMD, UCONN, and Binghamton, only UMD didn’t give merit, Pitt only $5000.

If you’re open to going south, take a look at Appalachian State in NC. Beautiful campus and great mountain location with lots of outdoor opportunities. It’s known to attract students who are looking for hiking, skiing, kayaking, etc. to add to their college experience.

Your stats (if you’re trying :slight_smile: ) are similar to my daughter’s and App State gave her a merit award (we are in-state). They also have additional competitive scholarships that you could apply for.

Also south-ish, with a lot of opportunities for outdoor activities, is Virginia Tech.


@parentologist As a parent living in MA, I am very surprised by this statement. Do you have some insight into UMass Honors? In our experience it has been kind of random. Some high stats kids get in, other do not, and then there are the random students with good but not exceptionally high stats, like the OP, that may get in. In my experience, OP probably has an outside shot at honors.

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Income and payroll taxes can be estimated at Free Income Tax Calculator - Estimate Your Taxes - SmartAsset .

For married parents with one kid (3 personal exemptions) and $120,000 (presumed labor) income in Boston, MA, it estimates the following:

$12,524 federal income tax
$9,180 FICA (Social Security and Medicare tax)
$5,510 state income tax

$27,214 total of the above

$92,786 income after all of the above taxes

Of course, now is the time that many people are calculating their income taxes, so many people will see their more exact calculations.

Yes, I do. And I believe that someone applying test optional with his stats and his major (although I admit my eye skipped Econ and saw Philosophy) would get into the honors college. OP, if you’re reading this, the less popular the major, the more likely I think it is that you would get honors college, which is mostly nice for the lovely new honors campus. If you’re applying for Comp Sci, forget it. I don’t know how it would be for Econ. Philosophy? You’re in. And once you are in, you can switch majors. All you have to do is do well in the intro level courses for that major, and you can switch into it. Hard to switch into Comp Sci. Easy to switch into less popular majors. But they do seem to take into account one’s major when awarding honors college - otherwise, it would only be Comp Sci people!

What majors were they applying for? That really seems to make a BIG difference, since they don’t want an honors college community composed of only their most selective majors.

This kid has excellent grades. He doesn’t have to worry about his less than fantastic standardized test scores, because he can go test optional.

Actuarial science, and my daughter has the same grades as this kid except 7 AP’s, the rest honors, my other daughter same except 9 AP’s. My daughter just got her offer from UCONN, $22,000 a year, no honors (she had one B+, about 5 A-‘s, the rest straight A’s. Not all honors are based on grades alone. From what I’m seeing, 3.9 UWGPA and TO tends to get less merit than those with a 1500+ SAT. ETA, since actuarial science isn’t a major at all colleges, there is a good chance she applied to UMASS as an economics major, which is probably more popular than actuarial science.

My kid just finished there. Kid was only top 25% at a good suburban public school. Mostly honors/AP, but dropped to regular math. I think 780E/710M on SAT. Applied for a liberal arts major for which UMass Amherst is tops in the country. Was given honors and maximum OOS merit money. I am sure that those applying for majors like Comp Sci with those stats did not get the same. It has a lot to do with what major you’re applying for.

The funny thing was, it was possible to move into any major, as long as you did well in the intro classes for that major.

That’s why I think it’s more holistic. My 19 year old was 8th in her class of over 300, I’m guessing my 18 year old is in the top 10. AP stat, AP ab/bc calculus. I’ve heard you can apply as a freshman and it’s easier to get in that way.

Honestly, the only thing it was good for was the beautiful honors campus, which was also a bit more civilized than the regular freshman dorms. Kid HATED the mandatory honors class kid had to take first semester - bad teacher. That was the only thing the kid had to do for honors. Kid moved out of honors college to a very nice area on the north side of campus, with good apartments and good proximity to engineering and science, so it was pretty quiet. Not to mention the proximity to the dining hall that had really good Asian food every day.

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How set are you on the 2,000-15,000 preference?

I can think of at least a couple that meet your other criteria (good guaranteed merit $, outdoors coast/mountains, and major and minors options), but they are larger state schools).

One possibility that also is just within your 2,000-15,000 range is UNCW. The econ major is through the b-school vs arts & sciences, so not sure how you feel about that, but they have the others you listed too. Your stats should put you into the honors program. They offer some merit, but OOS tuition is under $19k even without merit. It’s 5 miles from the beach and has a coastal vibe. It’s pretty common for kids to head to the beach. Pretty decent weather much of the year. Wilmington is a nice size. Full disclosure though, they have had occasional issues with hurricanes.

Should have made it more clear but my parents have college savings that allow tuition up to $47000. Disregard income up there since some years we have higher income. We probably won’t get financial aid which is why I’m looking for schools where I would get merit scholarship. The savings are separate from income and 47k/yr is what the savings can afford.