I’m sure this will come as a shock to a lot of people here but college is ridiculously expensive (yes, I’m sarcastic by nature). My daughter is graduating in 2020, and we are looking for schools to apply to, with the concern not being which colleges she will get accepted to, but instead which colleges we can afford.
Most college calculators tell us our EFC is anywhere form $30K to 40K per year, which is about 1/3 of our after tax income and more than double our annual mortgage payment. There’s no way we can afford that, and there’s no way we’re taking out loans and mortgaging our (or our daughter’s) future to cover that cost. We need that number to be around $15K.
Fortunately, it looks like our daughter will qualify for merit aid, so we are targeting schools with generous merit aid that also have great engineering programs (right now she’s looking to major in Chemical Engineering). I’m hoping to get advice from folks who have gotten merit aid and/or can offer suggestions on schools to target.
Her stats :
ACT : Taken once, scored a 35 in her junior year
SAT Subject tests : A perfect 800 in both Math II and Chemistry
Grades : Has never received a grade lower than an A in almost exclusively honors, AP, or post-AP classes
Classes : Senior year, taking AP Computer Science, AP Physics, Post AP Calculus 3, AP English Language, and Honors Spanish 3. She has already taken AP Calculus BC, Post AP Calculus 2, Honors Chemistry, AP Chem, and Honors Physics.
AP Tests : scored a 5 on all 3 tests taken so far – Calculus BC (taken as a 15 year old sophomore), Chemistry, and English Literature. We expect a 4 or a 5 for her 2020 AP tests for Physics and English Lang.
PSAT/NMSQT : Scored a 1490/1520 (Perfect 760 Math, 730 RW), for a selection index of 222. 98% of the time, this score would qualify her as a NMF. But in her case, she lives in California which has a cutoff of 223. So if she lived in 47 other states, or even if her Math and RW scores were switched (RW is weighted higher than math, so this would have given her a SI of 223), she would qualify. But it looks like the perfect storm hit and she will not. Yeah we were both very salty about this!
National Hispanic Recognition Program (NHRP) : Thanks to my wife, our daughter is between 25% and 50% Mexican, which qualifies her for the NHRP
Extracurriculars : Ice hockey – she has been playing for 13 years now, and has flown over 120,000 miles in the last 4 years for tournaments and showcases. Just missed going D1 and possible athletic scholarships. Was recruited by several D3 NESCAC schools, but we had to turn them down for 2 reasons – (1) They are liberal arts schools that don’t offer engineering, and (2) they only offer need based aid – no athletic or merit aid. She also plays 2 other varsity sports.
Finally, her current school is a private prep school in Massachusetts – thanks to a very generous merit/athletic/financial aid scholarship, we only have to pay about 15% of the cost of attendance there.
We’re bucking the “only apply to no more than 10 schools” advice and planning on applying to many schools (25-30) to increase the chances of a good merit aid award from at least one of them. Our daughter is not picky at all about where she attends college. We have identified 6 reach schools, 3 safe schools, and 15-20 target schools, where I’m using these terms not in her chances of getting in, but in our chances of affording them. For us, a $2500 investment in college application fees is worth it if it saves us well more than that in merit aid.
Reach : Harvard, Princeton, Cornell, MIT, Cal Tech, Stanford. None of these schools offer merit aid, so if she gets into any of these schools the chances of us being able to afford them are very small and we will likely have to turn them down. But you never know.
Safe : Three UC schools (UCLA, UCSD, UC Irvine). If all else fails she can get in-state tuition at UC Irvine and live at home which will meet our $15K target.
Target : Here’s where I’m looking at schools with good engineering programs that seem to offer lots of merit aid. Our list is narrowed down to (yes narrowed down) : USC, Harvey Mudd, Franklin Olin, Colorado School of Mines, Rose Hulman, Virginia, Rochester, Boston University, Northeastern, Johns Hopkins, RPI, RIT, Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt, Stevens Inst. Of Tech, Miami Ohio, Ohio State, Illinois, Purdue, Maryland, Kentucky, and Arizona State. We have omitted several good engineering schools (such as Carnegie Mellon) because they don’t seem to offer much merit aid.
So, if you’re still with me at this point, I’m hoping to get advice from those who might have experience in this area. How generous are schools with their merit aid? I read that she might qualify for a full ride at several schools, but how real is that?
Another big question, do schools stack financial aid and merit aid? For example, if after the school’s financial aid offer our COA would be $30K, and she gets $20K in merit aid, does that really mean that it would cost us $10K to attend? Or would the school simply reduce their financial aid offer and it would still cost us $30K to attend?
Also, has anyone had luck with outside scholarships, such as those found on Fastweb? Or getting merit aid with the NHRP?
And, perhaps most importantly, what am I missing that I haven’t thought of?
Thanks in advance. Unless the replies to this post are crickets chirping and tumbleweeds, I’ll try to keep it updated with our outcome, which we’ll slowly discover during the next 8 months.