Guidance for merit aid

Hello, we are USA citizens with a primary residence in DE and our daughter is studying the IB program in Spain where the grading it a bit tough. She has been working her tail off and has a 4.05 in her first IB/junior year. She just started her senior year and will be applying to colleges this fall. Her SAT is 1420 she will take it again on October 2. Her guidance counselor thinks she will receive merit scholarships in the USA, however, we don’t know much about which schools are generous. Seems like she would prefer a medium to large sized campus around DC, MD, DE, VA maybe northeast as well. She may go undecided, perhaps political science (that is a new idea) and she would like a psychology minor. We read she should “cast a wide net” in terms of catching merit aid and were thinking after she applies to her top choices, she would apply on Common App to those without an application fees and no supplemental questions as she does not have time for those beyond her top pics. Any ideas, suggestions, feedback appreciated. Thank you!

Recommendations will depend on how much merit she needs…What is your budget?

What are the top schools on her list right now, which you referred to above?


My kids who chose colleges with merit applied to safeties, schools where their stats were higher than a lot of students. They’re still paying more than if they stayed in state, 3.9 UWGPA, 33/34 ACT, but they wanted to stay on the east coast. There are better bargains to be had. ETA one is at UDel, for about $35,000 a year OOS.


In the past, Temple University in Philadelphia has been generous with merit aid; but I don’t know whether that still holds today. Definitely run the Net Price Calculator from the Temple website.

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Do you reside in Delaware or Spain?

She would receive decent merit aid at University of Alabama, University of Arizona, University of Nee Mexico, Arizona State.

What can you pay annually for her to attend college?


My daughter was offered enough from temple to get it down to the low $30,000’s. Saint Joe’s came in at $20,000 a year.


U of chicago, Georgetown, Northwestern, Northeastern, UNC at Chapel Hill, U of Delaware. Max budget is $25 a year including room and board.

Both, she goes to school in Spain and we spent a good amount of time in DE during Covid when she could school from home. $25k max including room and board.

You have to run each school’s Net Price Calculator to get an estimate of COA.

Will you qualify for need based financial aid?

Georgetown does not offer any merit aid at all, just need based aid. Chicago, UNC, and NU offer very little merit aid, and I don’t think her stats are high enough to garner merit aid at these schools. NEU offers some merit aid, but again, it’s competitive.

Do you qualify for in-state tuition at U Delaware? If so, would it be affordable?


None from UNC-CH with a 1420 (even getting in from out of state will be a longshot) and probably slim to none from the others on your list except maybe UD

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It is not looking good for financial aid based on the calculators. We have rather low income, however, we have rental properties that are our retirement plan and the equity will likely hurt us. We currently live off of the rents as half of our income so we can’t cash them in for tuition for multiple reasons (won’t have enough income to live, inflated income with each sale, etc.)

If searching for merit, I would first research schools that are typically generous with it (there’s a list going somewhere on here). Many of those will be the larger public universities - quite a few in the South, but also some smaller privates. You’ll need to look at the acceptance stats of each school and determine which ones your child is at the top of (or above a certain threshold set by each school), and apply to those.

Some schools make it easy and tell you what the typical merit awards are for certain stat levels (UofSC, Alabama, Tennessee), others may not. Florida State awards in-state tuition to those with ACT scores above a certain level (32?)

I think it will be very difficult to get down to a max of $25k all in.

If you can’t afford your EFC and/or what the NPCs say, you will have to target schools with lower selectivity than on the current list. $25K will be tough.

Do you qualify for in-state tuition at U Delaware? If not, an option could be to live in Delaware, attend community college for two years and then transfer to U Delaware.


UD makes it pretty difficult to get in state tuition if you are OOS, even if the student lives there full time.

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OP says they have a primary residence in DE, it’s just not clear if any of the family are living there right now, nor do I know the vagaries of DE’s in-state tuition rules, which OP has to figure out.

Great question. We assumed we did because it is our primary home in the USA, I should email them to check. We are aware Georgetown won’t do merit aid and the calculator doesn’t look good.

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Definitely talk to someone at UD to see whether you qualify.

Sounds like all of the schools have to come off the list (with the possible exception of UD at an in-state rate. OOS is $50K, and $25K merit/discount is unlikely to happen).

She won’t get enough merit at any of the listed schools to get the price close to $25K, assuming you are starting as full pay (which is what I assume you mean when you say their NPC ‘doesn’t look good’).

How about St John’s College in Maryland?

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Believe University of New Mexico, University of Arizona, Arizona State and Alabama would likely give her enough merit aid to bring your costs down to $25k per year.

You say you are lower income…how low? Low enough to qualify for the simplified needs test?

New Mexico is likely the most affordable!

Re: residency….usually it’s not where you own a house…it’s where you actually reside. We have family members who live abroad and own homes in the U.S. but they actually LIVE abroad. They don’t have instate residency status anywhere. So…you need to check to see what Delaware’s rules are.


This year we will not qualify for SNT because we sold a rental we shouldn’t have, maybe next year. I wish I had hired a good accountant familiar with aid 3 year ago. I am seeing what you say on U of D website now. Our businesses, USA home (we rent in Spain) and taxes have been based in DE for 7 years. Time is close to split will see what they say.

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