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

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.

You are right. Clemson is large, and in a an ideal world, it is larger than she would like. However, the campus itself is walkable (huge plus), and as a general statement, it feels like a better “fit” overall. Her perfect school would be a campus like Furham with amazing engineering (and large merit aid). However, I am pretty sure that is a unicorn so we are trying to find the best, not perfect, fit for her.

She knows our parameters.

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Thank you! I have actually read that thread from start to finish, and it’s been one of my favorite ones on CC. There is so much helpful information in that thread, and honestly, it’s the thread that really opened my eyes to merit aid (and the limitations of financial aid, etc).

Like Kevin, we plan to cast a wide net.


It will help once you can visit a few more schools. MIT is about as urban as it gets so if she’s open to MIT, I think you can safely consider some other urban places!

Can you clarify the finances- you guys kick in 20K per year and your D takes her federal loans? Or the 20K already includes her loans? And is the 20K a realistic “we can pay 80K total over 4 years” or is it actually an optimistic “if everything goes right but we’re actually able to pay 60K” sort of budget?

It matters. I think viewing a four year, 8 semester plan is the way to go.

A hidden gem for engineering is Missouri M&T. You’ll need to run the numbers to see if it’s viable for you. It’s not close to home, and I don’t think “beats” your instate options. But highly regarded by employers and grad schools even if the woman at your local dry cleaners has never heard of it…


Obviously, if she is determined to apply you can’t stop her. And I know your daughter knows your parameters.

But you do her no favors by not discouraging an application. I have seen students apply to places like MIT, get an offer and then have to turn them down b/c they can’t afford it. It is crushing. Even students who -ahead of time- said that they ‘just wanted to know’, and were prepared to go wherever they need to- found it gutting to turn it down, and harder to love the 2nd (or 4th or whatever) choice.

Saying that there is a chance that it could be possible for her to go- even if you caution that it is ‘miniscule’ - keeps hope alive. MIT only gives financial aid, and it’s easy enough to figure out if you qualify for any at all. If you definitely won’t qualify, and you definitely won’t pay for it, applying is a no-win: she doesn’t get in? sting of rejection. She gets in but can’t go? dream crushed.

Writing application essays is a LOT of work. Better to focus it on choices that are realistic.


However, a no-merit-scholarships college which is too expensive on need-based aid has no chance of affordability, unless she gets a really big very rare outside scholarship. So it may not be worth the time spent on the application.


Have you run the Net Price Calculator at MIT? They have very good FA, so it mught not be as bad as you think. It will still be a lot more than GT though.

Don’t underestimate the time it is going to take to apply to colleges. Most schools have additional essays for honors college and for merit awards. My D applied to 8 schools and had 19 essays to write.

If you know you can’t afford a school, it’s going to be a much better use of your D’s time to knock the essays out of the park for the schools where she has a shot at merit.