High School student from Michigan applying to t20s and others [3.95 GPA, 1520 SAT, chemical engineering, <$10k]

White male from small, rural public school
Domestic applicant
From Michigan

ChemE major

GPA, Rank, and Test Scores
Unweighted HS GPA: 3.95

  • Weighted HS GPA: 4.155
  • Class Rank: 10/220
  • ACT/SAT Scores: 1520 SAT

*13 AP classes (school offers 17), including A’s in Ap Physics C and AP Calc AB (received a 5 on test)

National Rural/Small Town Recognition Program
Honor Roll 4x
AP Scholar
National Merit Commended List

3 year varsity soccer captain, placed in Science Olympiad, part of an elected Student Leadership Community across the county, MyLead Leadership Conference, 75+ hours community service and outreach, chosen as School Student Section leader, work a paid job


  • 2 strong LORs (1 from STEM, 1 from English)
    Essays would be considered competitive with that of a t20

Michigan Tech (in-state)
Penn State
Virginia Tech
Illinois (Champaign-Urbana)
Texas A&M
Umich (in-state)
Notre Dame
Ga Tech

Applying all EA, except ND (only offer REA)

If you guys have any suggestions/matches, my choices aren’t finalized so let me know! I will have to carry most/all of the financial burden for my education while not qualifying for reduced costs due to my parents saving most of their salaries to retirement, so cost is a definite concern but not something I can’t get past.


I suspect you’d get into all but I’d add Delaware and Minnesota.

Since cost is an issue and I’ll assume no need based aid, I’d add the two I mentioned and lose Vandy and Notre Dame and likely Wisconsin and Texas although that depends on budget and then Penn State and Va Tech - if you want to be unde $50k.

No reason to bankrupt your folks when there are lower cost and solid opportunities.

PS - given your need to carry most the financial burden, then Alabama is your standout financial if you don’t choose Michigan or M Tech. Why no Michigan State? Bama will be less than $20K a year - if you’re not getting significant help, go for the dough. You’ll likely get a similar job - my son just graduated MechE and works with Purdue (where he turned down) and Michigan grads. His highest offer was a chemical company - although he was a MechE.

Never go where you can’t afford - regardless of reputation.

Good luck.


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This is pretty relieving. Thanks.

At Alabama (due to the Rural/Small Town Recognition Program) I’d be eligible for free tuiton up to 4 years with one year free room. This only sweetens the deal!!!

I have been leaning Alabama but UMich may be tough to pass up.


You need a net price of under about $10k, since you can borrow $5.5k and earn perhaps $4.5k in the summer and part time during the school year.

So you need a full ride or close to a full ride. This makes most of your list high reaches (if they have competitive full ride merit scholarships) or out of reach (if they do not).

Here are some full rides with chemical engineering that may be easier to get:



Then why apply to the others? Or so many others?

Based on https://afford.ua.edu/cost/ , that would still leave billed costs of about $5k first year, $15k other years, plus about $7-8k additional estimated expenses per year, which could be a stretch on the budget that you can afford with direct loans and your work earnings.

I understand. But unfortunately, UMich is expensive and probably unaffordable given the financial constraints you’ve stated.

At current rates, UMich costs $35.5k for each of the first two years and $37.5k for each of the last two years.

That is the out of state COA. This student is instate for Michigan.


Sorry, my bad. I’ll edit my post.

It will be important to have a frank talk with your parents about money. Along with your parents, run the Net Price Calculator (NPC) for some of your schools if you haven’t done so already. Is this amount affordable? Students themselves are only able to borrow ~27K total over the 4 years. More than this amount would need to be borrowed in your parents’ name.

I think you can get rid of most of your OOS publics. Except for Alabama, most OOS publics will be very expensive (and won’t be a better option than your in-state choices.) Sometimes privates end up being cheaper than OOS publics, even if parents have savings, so it is worth running the NPCs at your private schools too.

The good news is that you have excellent choices in state.

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If you’re responsible for the entirety of your college costs, then I think most of the schools on your list will be unaffordable.

As you’re a recognized National Rural/Small Town Scholar, I’d look at schools that offer big merit aid for that. Also, if a school offers big merit for National Merit, but doesn’t mention the other national programs (Hispanic/Rural/Achievement), I would email the admissions office and ask. Sometimes, it’s just an oversight and you would be eligible for one o f the big packages. And with respect to big packages, I’d be looking for a full ride.

This thread may have some helpful info for you: Big merit NMF/NMSF schools and their specialties

Additionally, have you looks into the STARS Network? It’s for students from small towns and rural schools and Brown, Cal Tech, Case Western, MIT, Northwestern, Ohio State, and others take part in it. The free college counseling available may also let you know of where the potential for a full ride is greatest.


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Even Alabama would be a stretch on the budget, unless perhaps an additional scholarship were gotten to add to the four years of tuition + one year of room. Basically, the student would have to have frugal spending habits in the first year, followed by (after the scholarship coverage of room costs goes away) slight increase in direct loan borrowing and better paid jobs in later years (i.e. would have to try to get chemical engineering related paid internships and such that become more likely, but not assured, as one progresses through the curriculum). I.e. things have to land the right way on the job front to make Alabama affordable.

Congratulations on an excellent academic record. Since it sounds like you won’t be getting much financial support for college expenses, would you consider a local community college for two years and then transfer to a 4 year university?

I would ask OP - is there no family funding? Since they’ll get no need based aid, there is a possibility that they are helping - just not to an aggressive level.

Have you actually run any NPC with your parents? I think people often have a skewed view of financial aid until they actually run the numbers.

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Also Michigan state honors gives you a decent amount of money. Check into it. Go where it’s most affordable. Your internships will pay you some also which can be used to pay down your debt. I wouldn’t not count on it but just saying.

No debt is good debt to have. Michigan does give financial aid so if you get accepted I would see where your payout is. If it’s affordable I would lean towards that. The opportunities and connections /alumni are a real thing. But first… You gotta get accepted then see what the actual costs are. Good luck.

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While that can be an effective money saving technique in many states, it may be more difficult coming from some Michigan community colleges, due to University of Michigan’s often incomplete acceptance of Michigan community college courses for transfer subject credit, according to https://transfercredit.ugadmiss.umich.edu/ . The OP may want to check how well the local community colleges’ courses transfer to University of Michigan, particularly important prerequisites like math, physics, and chemistry. Attending a local community college also typically has an implied parental contribution of continuing to live with parents at no extra charge (which some parents are willing to do even if they are unwilling to contribute money for college otherwise).

However, that also leaves the question of how to fund the last two years at University of Michigan or other Michigan public if there is no parental contribution. If there is a local four year Michigan public university with chemical engineering, and the parents will continue to let the OP live at home at no extra charge, that may be more doable.

I’m pretty sure he could find less expensive housing for years 2-4. And the $7-8k additional is super high. Even with flights home for breaks, my son only spent maybe $2500 extra. He also dropped a level of the meal plan and did some groceries instead and that worked to less for the food part.

Looking here: https://afford.ua.edu/scholarships/national-recognition/ It also says you would receive a $1000 supplemental scholarship each year.

Finally, there is an engineering scholarship for $2500/year. From what I read on the Facebook group for engineering, it stacks with everything except National Merit. Someone asked specifically about the Rural Recognition and was told it does stack. I’d confirm with your recruiter to be sure though.

My son has the NMF package there and it covers tuition, room, $500 in books and a $3500 stipend, so slightly different. But close for your first year. Without travel costs, he spent about $2k on extra in books, class fees, and food.

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Agree and this link only shows the NMF replacement so you’re likely correct and the student can easily find out.

Here is a thread for people to list CBNRP scholarships: College Board National Recognition Programs scholarship list . Maybe someone will find one big enough to be of interest to the OP.

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