Help Finding the Right School for Top 1% Student - Engineering & Needs Merit Aid

We are having a hard time finding the right fit for my D22. We have run our EFC, and it far exceeds what we can/are willing to pay. Based on our numbers, I don’t expect to see a penny of need-based aid from any school. We are willing to spend up to $20K per year (assuming that she will need at least a full tuition scholarship). While she loves learning and all subjects, she ultimately wants to be an engineer (undecided) or computer programmer. Ideally, she would like a medium-sized school in a non-urban environment. For reference, she absolutely loved Furman’s campus (not a school we are considering because we have no interest in a 3-2 program).

Academic Stats:
Class Rank: 1/300 (private school)
Unweighted GPA: 4.0 (our school does not provide a weighted GPA)
SAT: 1590 superscore; 1550 on a single sitting
Expected NMF (SSI of 225 in GA)
13 APs by graduation
Several school, state, and national awards

Drama - acted in several plays
Tutoring - math, writing center, & NHS (as well as in the community)
National Honors Society
Also a paid Latin tutor
Founded and President of Mu Alpha Theta - also created and runs a math tutoring program as an extension of this (90 tutors and about 40 tutees)
Latin Honors Society
Math Club
Music Ministry
Lector at church
Internship at Lupercal Legit (Latin based)
Selected for Georgia’s residential Governor’s Honors Program as a sophomore in math - canceled due to COVID but is expected to attend this summer
Opened a library in Malawi (provided all books and funding)
There are others, but these are the main ones.

I expect excellent teacher recommendations as she has wonderful relationships with several faculty members. When she applied to a college for dual enrollment last summer, the admissions counselor described my daughter’s recommendation as “glowing” and “one of the best she’s ever read.”

We are from Georgia, and she will qualify for Zell Miller (free in-state tuition). Here’s our current running list:

Notre Dame
Georgia Tech (too close to our house and too urban according to my DD)
UGA (too big, does not like having to use buses)
Clemson (loves)
Baylor - probably will take off the list because they do not have a full engineering department

Our list is missing the most important thing - a school that excites my daughter and one that we can afford! GA Tech and UGA are both in the affordable column, but she’s not excited about either. Without merit aid (and I know it is scarce at those schools), the other 3 options (not counting Baylor) are too expensive. Ideally, DD would prefer to stay closer to home, but she’s open to to any place. We are also expanding our search to include the schools with NMF packages. I would love any suggestions, especially for schools with great Honors Colleges. DD is an academic at heart and would love to be around other students who enjoy learning as much as she does. She’s not into the party scene.

The big southern and SW schools are where the money is - ASU, Alabama, FL…

That said, you have amazing instate options and if they affordable, it’s going to be hard to beat the combination of quality of the program and cost.

MIT and ND are not going to be affordable if you don’t qualify for need based aid. (And for what it’s worth, my D was very underwhelmed with ND’s engineering program and facilities.)

Run the NPC for Miami of OH. She may see enough merit there to get it close to your budget and size/feel wise it may be more of what she’s looking for. I just don’t think it’s as strong for engineering as your instate options and ultimately, college is about the academics.

U of S. Carolina has a great honors program but merit has gotten more competitive there so I’m not sure it would hit your budget.


I think that GA Tech will be hard to beat in terms of academics and cost, but it’s not a place that she wants to go. And honestly, I understand it. We can see the campus from the top floor of our house, and from a safety standpoint, it is not in a good part of the city. All things being equal, I would love to see her at another school, and she feels the exact same way.

With respect to MIT and ND being too expensive, I know that the odds of receiving any aid are minuscule. However, we are not going to rule out any school based on cost. We plan to apply and let the chips fall where they may. Honestly, the odds of Clemson being affordable as an OOS applicant are equally as small. Last year, the largest OOS merit award was $12K, which puts the COA around $40K, but they do have 10 full COA scholarships.

We will take a closer look at Miami as well as the other schools you mentioned. It’s been a struggle putting together a list because the schools she loves are too much money, and the ones that we know we can afford aren’t her cup of tea. It will be interesting to see how everything shakes out, and hopefully getting to tour a campus with students on it will help her feel better about some of the choices!


Ohio State has an Eminence Fellows full ride (20ish) scholarship and a handful of them are selected as Stamps Scholars.

Although right now she might not like large schools, a lot can change for her. A few years ago some one posted about the right fit in the beginning of senior year and spring of senior year changing dramatically. At least one big school option is nice to have on the list.

I’d make sure she applies to Georgia Tech. Spring of senior year that may end up being her best financial option. It’s one thing to get away from parents geographically but much more independence can be gained by ending a financial reliance for school if she happens to land a Stamps scholarship at Georgia Tech.

Miami has a Presidential Fellows full ride program.


I think you need to give your D the $20k a year budget and let her find the perfect fit. She’s not going to get everything she wants, so it’ll either be a big merit school like Utah, Arizona, or Alabama, or it will be GT for academics.


So for certain schools you ARE willing/able to pay more than $20K?


You say medium sized school but she loves Clemson which is pretty big with about 20k students. So is it medium schools in overall student population or not spread out that busses are required? What about it does she love to try to find other examples like that?

She sounds like a great kid and will likely succeed anywhere!


If she wants to be an engineer but doesn’t know what type (situation I was in), Georgia tech isn’t the best option since the major you apply in the application is the one you get. Furman has beautiful campus, but no engineering. Based from her academics, I would tell her to look at Harvard and Princeton’s interdisciplinary engineering programs. I know money is a problem, but if I was in her situation, I would take some loans out for a Princeton’s engineering experience instead of Gatech’s very specialized engineering degrees.

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You are really setting up DD for hard feelings if you apply to schools you can’t or won’t afford and no that you want be offered aid. Are you only willing to pay more super prestigious schools? Seeking a vanity admission but then say no, with hard feelings?


If she gets NMF status, she would be eligible for the Benecquisto award in florida which is at all FL publics, I believe, and is a FULL FREE ride plus perks.

I would suggest she look at these options.

@twoinanddone can you elaborate and perhaps say which schools in this group have strong engineering? And maybe an honors college?

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Bigger, Richer schools? NYU? BU? Vandy?
Or a school like Cooper Union (in nyc)?

With her stat and If you are chasing merit, then you should add Fordham and Temple to the list. She will most likely receive full tuition scholarship. She probably will get at least in-state tuition rate and potential more including full ride from UofSC.


Read this thread. It’s pretty long but has some advice in it that will very likely help you.


I think you should consider applying for a combination of national and school related merit awards if you only want to pay 20K and her stats really fall in line with the possibility to receive quite a bit of merit award money.

@Dis3456 , definitely look at UF, FSU, UCF and U of Miami, FL. UF has very good engineering and is a top ten public school. FSU’s engineering program is making big jumps, and it’s a top 25 public. Both are not far from GA and are a full ride with the Benacquisto OOS NMF scholarship. FSU has a great honors program, as does UCF. At U of Miami she’d get about $22,000 a year for Benacquisto, but other scholarships stack and she’d very likely at least get full tuition. Good luck!


Just adding…@KevinFromOC daughter received a full ride to University of South Carolina, and that is where she matriculated. I hope she likes it!

If you look towards the end of that long thread, you will see a summary of the merit awards she received.


The Florida schools with big engineering are also going to be the big schools (UF, FSU, UCF). They all have honors programs, they all have engineering. I know a lot of those interested in medical engineering go to USF, in Tampa, which would be my choice as it is by the beach. It also is broken up into two main campuses so not quite as big on one campus (still very big). Two private schools, UMiami and Embry Riddle, also are in the Benacquito program, but only give what the student would get at a public school, or about $22k. Both Miami and ERAU have a lot of other scholarships that they will stack. ERAU might be worth looking at as it is smaller and not in a big city (Daytona). Miami is pretty urban.

To me, Alabama with ‘only’ 20k students is not that big (not like Ohio State or UF or Arizona). I don’t think OP will be able to beat Georgia Tech for the price or the education. If OP lived in Cambridge would they avoid MIT or Harvard because those schools are too close to home? I went to school about 45 minutes from home and NEVER went home. I went for Thanksgiving dinner and didn’t even stay overnight. My nephew liked that his parents could drive up for Sunday brunch and he could send them home by 1 pm. Even though he knew about 200 people at the school when he started (some from hs, some from youth sports, some from his neighborhood), he met plenty of new people as knowing 200 out of 30,000 is a drop in the bucket. It is NOT High School 2.0.


Well…if the OP gets the Benecquisto, that would beat all the other merit awards available on your list, right? And at a full ride, it would be valued a lot more than $22,000 a year for an out of state kid (and I do understand that that is what those privates get from Benecquisto).


Thank you so much. My daughter will definitely be applying to both GT and UGA. It never hurts to have options, and as you said, a lot can change between now and then! I am really hoping that campus tours (with students) will be helpful.

No, we are not willing to pay more than that. We are not going to rule out APPLYING to any school because it may end up costing more than we are willing to pay. I apologize for the confusion.