College Suggestions in the West at $33K annual budget after merit

Hi, my HS Jr. is making an initial list of colleges. We are looking for a diverse school which is not super religious, west of the Mississippi where she could have an all in cost of $33K a year or less.
Current GPA is 3.8, she does have some accomodations due to ADHD which may help with testing. I would think she could be 1150-1250 on SAT but don’t really know at this point. Currently taking an AP History course and a University of Washington German class. Other courses are Chemistry, Mentor for a study skills class, English, Advanced Algebra. She has expressed an initial interest in Forensics but really does not know which major she would like to pursue so a school with limited options/needing to declare upfront would not appeal. She also Irish dances competitively and would like somewhere near an Irish dance school if possible (not a deal breaker but somewhat important).
A very preliminary list: Western WA (in state), Univ of Washington (in state), Seattle U (not sure but has good forensics program, need merit), Arizona St (we visited and she liked it plus good forensics program), Boise St (possible WUE/other scholarships), Santa Clara (might be tough and needs merit), Gonzaga (needs merit), Univ of Portland (needs merit), Rice (big reach and needs merit), Texas A+M (nephew got a lot of aid albeit his #'s might wind up being a bit better), Univ of Texas. She said Texas was ok which is why a few of those schools are on here. Chapman, Willamette, Lewis and Clark and Chapman are others maybe. I have some experience going through this with my older daughter but just hate how much of a guessing game it is with scholarships and even admissions to a lesser degree. Any info on what was actually offered in regards to merit scholarships or other insight would be great!

From going through this process with my other daughter, assuming no aid. Our EFC was lower then (2 plus years ago) and it was still a silly #. If she was a National Merit finalist and could get into Stanford or Harvard then maybe there would be financial aid possibilities but don’t think that is possible at what would be available.
Thanks for any help in advance.

If the 3.8 is unweighted, you actually want U of Arizona, not AZU - also excellent - but you of A will hit your budget. ASU will be over I believe. They don’t factor in the test.

Assuming you don’t have need, with his stats, you likely need to go the public school route but with the WUE and others that have auto merit, you’ll have lots of choice.

UW is going to be a hard get but apply of course. Rice - there’s literally zero chance - but again, you have 20 Common App spots so doesn’t hurt to apply. I’m all for reaches - and go ahead - but that’s a huge huge huge reach in this case. Maybe a Case Western for a reach school (but won’t hit budget).

UT Austin - no shot as well - sorry. and honestly, you wouldn’t hit the target because if you got in, tuition alone is $40K and you wouldn’t get aid.

You may also look at the WUE - as you show with Boise State.

Wyoming could work as could maybe Utah and Nevada (Reno). Most your schools you need are East of the Missisippi - like UAH, Ms. State. Schools like Arkansas (really pretty), Nebraska and Mizzou could work after scholarships and are West of the MS. Iowa St and Kansas St. with scholarships may work as well.

But Az is a safety - and it’s cheap - and if you could like it (it’s gorgeous), it’s a big win. You can price ASU on their scholarship calculator as well. Here’s the auto merit for U of A - it’s for unweighted, not weighted which they don’t use.

2022-2023 Incoming First-Year and Transfer Tuition Scholarship Awards | Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid (

Wyoming is definitely a safety and will come in way under $33k. She’ll get the Brown and Gold (it is the WUE for Wyoming and everyone with a certain gpa/score get it). It is overall very inexpensive to live in Laramie.

My daughter liked it so much she’s back for grad school.

Personally I’d pick Western Washington because of the location, but it would be nice to have a safety in Wyoming. They’d probably give her an application waiver too if she just asks.

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Interesting our daughter went to Wyoming. You don’t hear about too many Cowboys. Awesome that she liked it.

They were on my son’s initial list - and we were really impressed with every interaction we had. They and Oklahoma were the two most impressive from admissions and marketing - of course, he applied to neither.

The crazy thing about Wyoming is that you think you’re in the middle of nowhere - well you are - yet you’re only two hours to Denver and an hour to Ft. Collins.


My BIL went to Wyo (from Cleveland) so I’ve always known a lot of Cowboys (mostly engineers), and we live in Denver so run into them all the time. It’s a lot cheaper to go to Wyo than to CU, even as an OOS student with all the discounts. My nephew was instate for CU but I paid less for D at Wyo. Nephew could have gone to Wyo as a child of alum for 150% tuition, or about $5000 in tuition per year (before scholarships).

True - two hours away - i guess they may have more Coloradans than anything - but for all those that love CU Boulder from OOS, I wonder why more don’t go to Wyoming. I’m sure the overall vibe and area are quite different.

Laramie is fun, inexpensive and a great option for some, but it is no Boulder (says the CU alum).

Run Ralphie Run

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The reason ASU is on the list is due to the Forensics major and that my daughter really liked the campus.
Agree that U of A is an option. Thank you.

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Not sure if my daughter will go for Wyoming but this is an initial big list we are going to work on so agree it works from an affordability and academic stand point.

University of New Mexico is within your price range. UNM has several levels of automatic scholarships

LUE requires a 2.8 GPA OR 18 ACT/960 SAT
LUE offer instate+50% tuition
LUE Plus requires 3.0 GPA OR 20ACT/1030 SAT
LUE Plus give you instate tuition
AMIGO scholarship requires 3.5 GPA and 23ACT (1130 SAT) OR 3.0 GPA & 26 ACT (1240 SAT)
AMIGO gets instate tuition plus a $200/year stipend

UNM instate tuition, fees, housing & meals comes in at just under $20K/year.

UNM has a very diverse and welcoming campus. Students do not declare a major until 2nd semester of sophomore year.

No forensic science major, but the anthropology department offers courses in forensic anthropology. The OMI (Office of the Medical Investigator) is across the street from the undergrad campus and students do sometimes intern there. The OMI part of UNM Hospital & Medical School.
One cool thing–UNM offers human cadaver lab to undergrads. Few colleges do that.


Thanks for the info WayOutWestMom. My wife and I have talked about visiting New Mexico some time and haven’t done it (older daughter and this daughter have not wanted to go). I know UNM offers some attractive merit $.

Oh and we would be WUE since we live in Seattle area.

I would give ASU a shot. I know a number of students who have applied there who got more merit than the calculator would suggest.


Some other thoughts are: Laverne, Whittier, Xavier (Ohio), and Wooster. Anyone know about merit aid at these schools? Unsure if she would be ok with Ohio. My older daughter considered Ohio Wesleyan: great people, more diverse than one would think and great merit package but couldn’t get her head around “being in the middle of nowhere” even though it is 30-45 minutes from Columbus.

Merit aid at Wooster goes up to 50% COA, or at least it did a couple of years ago. At Ohio Wesleyan there may be a few full tuition awards, which are probably fairly competitive, as well as other merit scholarships.

My older kid attended school in Ohio. Long gray winters but otherwise fine.

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Yes, Ohio Wesleyan is great for merit. After speaking with my younger daughter, Ohio seems to be a no go and she also does not like the idea of Wyoming.

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Anyone have input on merit aid at Laverne in particular?

My older son received gift aid/scholarship for $10K several years ago when he applied as an early incentive but we did not qualify for any need-based aid. We were local (lived in La Verne for 35 years) and within commuting distance but tuition costs were still more than the UC’s where he was also accepted.

A nice small campus in a quiet town but really did not offer his preferred major but he had several HS friend’s that did attend with better need-based aid and academic scholarships but I cannot give you the specifics of their financial situation.

What kind of costs did you get on the NPC?

It said $42 k before loan and did throw a loan in which we wouldn’t want. However, did not enter in any test scores and no idea how important that would be. Merit would be $17k according to her current unweighted grades which also could not hold steady.

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Oh and we are in Seattle so UC’s don’t make sense for us even if she was able to get in.