Giving up a top LAC for a full ride?

Hi everyone! I would appreciate some advice on a dilemma I am currently facing.

I am an international student applying to US colleges and asking for lots of aid. I applied to Brown ED and got deferred and then submitted my ED2 to Swarthmore. I got in! Brown and Swat have been tied for my first-choice college throughout this crazy process, so I was beyond excited.

However, there is a problem - they are asking me for too much money. I would graduate loan-free and my actual financial aid package is very generous and seemingly affordable, however, due to changes in my family’s financial circumstances due to COVID-19, I know that me going to Swat would be a huge financial burden for my family. My parents are saying they would be willing to do it for me, however, I know that it would require some real sacrifices and a very financially tough 4 years ahead of us.

I have appealed my financial aid, however, I will have to decide whether to enroll within 24 hours of me getting back the answer, so, especially with the time zone difference, I want to know what decision I am going to make if my financial aid package stays the same.

I am very blessed to have a great back-up option - I got a full-ride scholarship to URichmond. I was also chosen as a finalist for Emory Scholars and admitted to their Oxford and Emory campuses, but I’m not sure whether I’ll get enough money to attend just yet. Other colleges I have applied to RD are: Yale, UChicago (weak supplement), Barnard, Pomona, Williams, Amherst (weak supplement), Wesleyan, Vassar, Tufts, Grinnell, Wellesley. However, I am not counting on any more acceptances as I am an international who needs a lot of money and I also wouldn’t consider myself an ultra-competitive candidate.

As you can probably tell from my college list, I am quite liberal and I don’t really like Greek life and athletics. I love “intellectual” colleges. This is why I am worried about not having a good experience at URichmond - I’m afraid its culture would make me a social outcast.

So, here is my dilemma - if my expected family contribution does not get lowered, do I pass up on Swarthmore and likely end up at URichmond, where I’m worried I won’t fit in, but which won’t burden my family and give me additional resources as part of the very cool scholarship? Or do I go to Swarthmore, which is my perfect fit and more well-regarded for what I want to do after college (academia), but heavily burden my family for the next 4 years?

I’m honestly lost. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for reading this.

  1. Call the Swarthmore financial aid office and explain the change in circumstances.

  2. Listen to your parents. Many American families make sacrifices in order to send their kids to college and you are very lucky, if your parents are expressing a willingness to do so.

  3. URichmond is not a bad place to go to college. The campus is lovely and it’s not wherever it is you are now. You’ve worked hard to get an affordable shot at coming to America. This is a reason for celebration, not second guessing.


If it helps, this podcast had a long discussion about U of Richmond:

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Hey! I’m in a similar situation to you (we actually applied to 9 of the same colleges you mentioned, believe it or not), and the small LAC are almost certainly a better fit for me too rather than the private research universities, but receiving merit aid to other non LACs is about to make my decision very difficult, knowing my family’s financial situation. Some things I would take into consideration in making your decision: do you have siblings that will be going to college soon, and since you mentioned academia after college I’m assuming that means grad school? if so, perhaps going to a school with better financial aid and/or merit aid will be helpful so that you could have less debt from grad school. The Emory scholars program, even if you don’t receive the Woodruff scholarship, will give you at least half tuition, and in my opinion would definitely give you that close-knit, intellectual environment. A question I have is when will you hear back from the financial aid office? Before or after you get your RD decisions? I really feel for you - Swarthmore is an amazing place (maybe i’ll see you there next year lol) and I hope it all works out!

For what it’s worth, there are more student-athletes at Haverford than Richmond and the percent of student athletes is significantly higher at Haverford.

That’s an interesting observation. If true, it would confirm something someone said on a different thread, that the higher the level of competition, the lower the percentage of participation in college sports. UR carries a Division I NCAA designation for certain sports while Haverford is Division III.

It is true, when I saw eb’s post I verified the data at Equity in Athletics site.

Haverford has a higher number and higher proportion of athletes than U Richmond. I agree there probably isn’t a lot of overlap between athletes who play at Haverford, who might have had DI opportunities. This would be different at some of the NESCACs and certain other D3 schools where any number of those students might have been able to play at DI level, such as in the Ivy or Patriot leagues (but not limited to those).

D3 Haverford: 404 athletes, 1,303 enrollment (31%)
D1 Richmond: 379 athletes, 2,981 enrollment (12.7%)

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Actually, Haverford’s website states that “About 40% of the college’s students play a varsity sport”.

And there are plenty of Haverford athletes that could have played at the D1 level. To suggest NESCAC’s and “certain other D3 schools” have a monopoly on the D1 recruit choosing D3 is simply misleading.

As to circuitrider’s quote “the higher the level of competition, the lower the percentage of participation in college sports” - this is largely due to school size. A majority of your D1 schools are large while a majority of your D3 schools are small. Percentage of population is therefore simple math.

FWIW, unlike most NESCAC schools, Haverford does not field teams in football, ice hockey, skiing, wrestling, and crew. They are a perennial powerhouse in XC and T&F, which make up a significant portion of the athletic population. And let’s not forget the only varsity Cricket team in the US, LOL.


I can’t explain the difference in the 40% and the 31%, the numbers in the Equity in Athletics database come directly from the schools themselves.

AND…I did say probably, didn’t say anything about other schools having a monopoly. I meant no disrespect.

Well…not to put too fine a point on it, but number of teams also has something to do with it. UR can only field about 17 teams at the DI level while Haverford can field about a third more at the DIII level.


Perhaps Haverford is just counting all athletes on every team in their 40%, in effect double counting those that play on more than one team. The number I pulled from Equity in Athletics was number of unduplicated athletes.


The difference between 31% and 40% is kind of irrelevant. And yes, obviously the number of teams available has a lot to do with those numbers. I was simply showing that Haverford has a VERY large percentage of athletes - as do most small LACs with enrollments under 1,500.

Probably one includes the club sport teams and one only the varsity. One student could also be counted as two athletes if he plays two sports.

The OP is really only deciding if she can afford the ED school. If not, she has a lot of good options with the other schools on the list so no bad outcome here.

Decide if you can afford the ED school. If yes, attend. If no, sort through the other schools based on cost and your fit. That’s where you are right now.

Yale and Tufts have Greeks and sports. I don’t think many people are turning down Yale because of the greeks or sports. You don’t have to participate in the sports or Greek life at Richmond (or at any school). You must have liked something about it or you wouldn’t have applied.

Focus on whether you can afford Swarthmore. If you can, great and it’s over. If not, you have a great backup in Richmond and can wait until the other decisions come in March.


I’m not that familiar with U of Richmond so can’t make a comparison with Swarthmore. Many of the other schools on your RD list appear to be more similar to Swarthmore (or Brown) culturally and academically, but since you can’t expect to receive comparative aid figures for a month or two, it’s difficult to make an informed decision. Ultimately, though, you’re likely to have more options than choosing between a school that you don’t particularly like and a school that you can’t afford.

So let’s see how Swarthmore responds to your request for an increase. In the meantime, you should communicate the same financial update to your RD schools.

Few colleges (Wesleyan is a notable exception) publish complete data on international admissions. Any LAC the size of Swarthmore will typically admit only a handful of internationals (as few as 10 to 15) during their ED rounds. The number of those admitted who receive substantial aid varies widely, but compared to some of the other LACs on your list, Swarthmore’s total aid to internationals is on the low end of the range. For example, Grinnell’s total spending on aid to non-resident aliens was $8.1 million (2016-17), Amherst’s was $9.2 million (2019-20), Swarthmore’s (2019-20) was $4.5 million. This year, COVID may impact these numbers, making an unpredictable situation even more opaque.

The fact that you were admitted EDII to Swarthmore with a relatively generous aid package indicates to me that you are indeed a competitive candidate at Swarthmore and will be at other schools as well. To me, it would be reasonable to ask Swarthmore for additional time to consider their final package. You might even ask them to hold the offer until the RD decisions come out (though I doubt that they would agree). But even a week or two might help you and your family analyze your options.

Good luck and let us know the outcome!

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If Swarthmore returns with an affordable package, take it. After all, you applied ED.
If not, you probably have a month till you have to decide whether you attend URichmond or an alternative. A full ride to uRichmond is likely the best Plan B I’ve heard of this year so far :star_struck:
For what it’s worth, URichmond may not be as intellectual as Swarthmore but it’s definitely not a slouch academically nor a rah-rah party school, and, depending on majors, you’ll find plenty of intellectual peers (minor in philosophy if you’re truly worried, but most social science and Humanities majors will be challenging and full of intellectually curious students.)