Best Schools For Merit Aid Given Profile

Florida is no longer good for National Merit.

But, for National Merit scholarships, look at:

Texas Tech
University of Southern California (though half off tuition of a lot is still a lot)
Texas A&M (for in-state +)


Maybe Miami-Ohio Farmers Business School… auto merit based on GPA plus competitive merit possibilities.

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For the combination of business major and pre-med with potential for generous merit aid, Baylor would be worth a look. Historically strong in biology/chemistry with good med school placement, plus large b-school with lots of majors. They offer a small number (single-digit, I was told) of true full rides w/ all costs paid, plus a somewhat larger number of full-tuition and half-tuition merit awards for which this student would be competitive. SMU and TCU could also be considerations for strong business (esp. SMU in finance), with merit aid possible but probably a little less expansive. Trinity in San Antonio would very likely offer merit and would be great if an LAC-type school works - I believe they have a few very competitive full-tuition awards and the rest of the merit aid tops out at around half-tuition.

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IU Kelley would be another to add.

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Yes, $350-400k out of pocket is no problem for undergrad. However, I am only spending if it is a really top school. If not, I want her to take advantage of a potential full ride at another school. My personal opinion is that there are great opportunities at a lot of schools at undergraduate level. I am only paying up if the school’s name recognition would give her a clear advantage.

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I recently shared these links on a different thread for a National Merit Finalist.

Also, some of the recent posts on this thread linked to scholarships for National Hispanic Scholars: College Board National Recognition Program (includes former National Hispanic Recognition Program) Class of 2022 - #1180 by Pirc

If Florida causes allergy issues, then schools like Alabama, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State might not be much better, but they do offer generous aid to finalists. These are some different ones that have more of a different climate from Florida.

  • U. of Maine
  • U. of Idaho
  • U. of Oklahoma
  • Oklahoma State
  • U. Texas - Dallas
  • U. Texas - Arlington
  • Texas Tech
  • U. of Kentucky
  • U. of Louisville

But just because a place isn’t auto-merit doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a significant chance of getting big merit somewhere. She can pick schools whose teams she likes or are in regions of the country where she would like to live, etc. For med school, she needs a top GPA and high MCAT scores, with much less attention paid to the name of the undergraduate institution. Many employers focus their recruiting on colleges that are geographically close to them. So if there’s a particular employer or area that she’s interested in for after college, see where they’re recruiting. Here are a couple of schools where I think she would receive good to fabulous merit aid:

  • U. of Arkansas (tons of school spirit and close to some major companies)
  • Kansas State (often ranked as one of the happiest student bodies in the country)
  • Syracuse (NY)

But most of the T15ish schools are not big schools. Some possibilities of smaller schools (but at least 5k undergrads) with good school spirit that would give good to fabulous merit aid are:

  • SMU (TX)
  • Marquette (WI)
  • Seton Hall (NJ)
  • Xavier (OH)
  • U. of Dayton (OH)
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But would you actually be able and willing to pay that amount (without parent loans or cosigning student loans)? If not, then those will be wasted applications because even if she gets admitted, she will not be able to attend.

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Yes, I would pay for those all out of pocket. No loans. The only exception would be if she found was accepted to another college that was large merit that she preferred over the others.

Thanks for the input. Yes, I considered that about med school as well. She is in between those options, but I might prefer her to go to a school where she could maintain the As easier and be geographically more conducive to admission if she chooses that route. I like UA as well because it gives credit for the APs so it would give her more breathing room to take the courses she needs/wants. I’m going to look into some of your recommendations. Thanks!

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Have you thought about the scenario where she gets rejected/waitlisted at the top 15 + USC + Emory; accepted with no money at Wisconsin, Ohio State and Richmond; and gets “big” money from Fordham and Alabama?

My DS’20 had very similar stats and list. However, we are in state for Ohio State and that would have been an OK result if everything else fell through. Is she planning on doing an early application at any of the top schools? My DS had an EA acceptance at Georgetown and that changed his RD list and took a lot of pressure off. Lastly, 15 applications at the “top” schools is a lot of work.


You should definitely read this famous thread from a couple of years ago:

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DD received max merit at several schools but the largest was Grinell (over $30,000 + some work study even though we don’t qualify for anything anywhere else). Although are preference was the east coast and that is ultimately where she landed, we found that the mid-west schools were very generous.


i was just thinking of that thread. i think kevin’s daughter was hispanic; had great stats and several good options at the end including full tuition scholarships from competitive competitions. I think** she ended up at south carolina? is that right?
it was a great thread that year

here’s one of his last posts:
(1) The recommended advice for most students is to apply to about 6-8 schools, and surely no more than 10. Well don’t call me Shirley (Airplane!, anyone?) - we applied to 23. This rubbed against the grain of much of the advice here on CC. Knowing what I do now, would I still have had my daughter apply to this many schools? Absolutely, positively, without a doubt, YES! Had she only applied to 8 schools, she would not have applied to South Carolina or Rose Hulman, the two schools that gave her a full ride.

So yes, apply to a ton of schools - as many as practical. Here’s how I look at it : Suppose you could buy lottery tickets for $100 each. Each lottery ticket gave you between a 2% and 10% chance of being a winning ticket, and a winning ticket was worth anywhere from $50K to $200K. Even with the caveats that each lottery ticket is a couple days worth of work and that you could only cash in exactly one winning lottery ticket, given those odds I would still buy as many tickets as I could.

But choose wisely. For example, there are many public schools that offer automatic scholarships. Definitely apply to a few, but you don’t need to apply to all. For us, schools like Alabama, ASU, Utah, Kentucky, Florida State schools, Nebraska, and several others all offered essentially full tuition or pretty darn close based on her stats. We choose several from this pot to apply to (probably too many), but we obviously didn’t apply to them all.

(2) Be open to just about any school anywhere in the country. Don’t have your heart set on any one school, and don’t fall in love with any one school. Be open to schools that are rural, urban, hot weather, freezing cold weather, close to home, far from home, etc. Make your “fit” as wide as possible.

In our case, we only excluded 2 schools from where my daughter would apply :
(1) Any school in New York City - I took my daughter to NYC for a couple days and she absolutely hated it.
(2) UC Berkeley - It’s a great engineering school here in California, but the political drama and shenanigans that go on there would be absolutely intolerable to either of us.
Any other school was fair game.

(3) If applying to a ton of schools, visiting them all (or even most) before applying is impossible. We didn’t visit the vast majority of schools she applied to - our plan was to wait until she got the awards before visiting them. This will eliminate a bunch of schools - no need to visit a school if it is unaffordable. And some schools that offer the big full ride scholarship competitions will have you come to campus for 2-3 days - there can be no better visit than that!

(4) Realize that more “prestigious” a school is, the smaller the chance is that they will give out a significant merit award. Know full well that you will probably have to turn down acceptances to T20 schools and instead attend a T150 school. In our case, my daughter turned down Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Vanderbilt, USC, UCLA, and Northeastern to attend South Carolina. That was initially difficult for me as the parent to accept, but I realize by looking at the entire picture that it was the best choice.

(5) Read up on schools’ websites about merit aid. Some schools make it clear how many awards there are and what the amount of each award is. Many do not.

For example, ASU and Kentucky make it pretty clear what automatic merit awards will be awarded for certain grades, test scores, and/or NMF/NHRP. South Carolina and Miami clearly stated what their big full ride merit award competitions entail.

But on the other hand, many schools are very vague. For example my daughter was awarded a full tuition scholarship to Rose Hulman, and then competed for and won a full room & board scholarship as well, giving her a full ride. But nowhere on their website were these scholarships even listed, nor did RHIT even say that they even had full tuition or full ride scholarships available. Thus, for those where it isn’t clear, you’ll have to investigate further or just roll the dice. A great resource is here on CC - asking questions and searching previous threads.

(6) Look at the number of essays and the prompts required to apply to each school. Figure out how much work will be involved in applying. We applied to some schools only because it was “easy”, such as no additional essays required other than the common app essay, or because some school essay prompts were very similar to other schools, and essays could be reused with very little modifications. On the other hand, there were some schools that we wanted to apply to they but had several essays with unique prompts. We wanted to apply to Kentucky, which in our case had the best automatic merit aid, but the essay prompts were like nothing she had done for any other schools, so because of time constraints we had to eliminate Kentucky.

In effect you have to come up with a “degree of difficulty” for each school’s application. Eliminate schools that are low on the list that have a high degree of difficulty.

ARGH! Looks like it’s gonna have to extend to a 3rd post…"


Very little merit money at Wisconsin

There is about 50 big scholarships at Wisconsin.

50 out of over 30,000 admitted and 8000 enrolled. Like I said very little merit money compared to the other schools on OP list of schools she was looking at for merit money.

The bottom line is UWisc doesn’t need to give merit money to fill its class every year which is a good thing for the University and the State.

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And the big merit scholarships at Wisconsin go only to URM or FGLI applicants. Wisconsin is not a good merit school for upper/middle class white/Asian students

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The OP is Hispanic.

Edit: the applicant is Hispanic

Thanks @Eeyore123. In that case, the odds are much better!

My daughter had very similar stats last year and also a 1530 SAT score although she was national merit commended and not a semi finalist. She received merit money from Northeastern and Fordham based on Hispanic Recognition Program Scholar. She received 18K a year from Northeastern but national merit would have bumped that up to 25K or so I believe.

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