Mid-sized private colleges in Northeast/Mid-Atlantic/Midwest with merit aid

My daughter (rising senior) is searching for mid-sized private colleges in the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic/Midwest with good academics and importantly (for our family’s finances) considerable merit aid.

We are from NJ and my daughter is interested in pursuing a biology related degree.

Her stats:

  • 5.1 weighted GPA (3.9 unweighted)
  • All classes were Honors and AP–pretty rigorous
  • Competitive high school magnate program (focused on Law)
  • Top decile ranking in her class
  • 8 APs (5 passed so far through junior year, taking 3 more senior year)
  • 1480 SAT (760 math, 720 verbal)
  • 3 sports (basketball-4 years of varsity, volleyball-2 years of varsity, track-2 years of varsity)
  • Good, but not great other ECs including NHS, Science League, Culture Club, etc. (but she was mostly busy with school and sports year round), and some volunteer roles (with her temple mostly)

She is applying to some larger schools including Indiana, Purdue, Pitt, Virginia Tech, FSU, South Carolina, Miami (OH), and SUNY Binghamton but is worried about being “lost” in a big school environment. She is applying to Rutgers as well, which would fit in the preceding category, but would prefer to be at a school outside of NJ. The larger schools she is applying to would be particularly affordable with merit aid (tuition would be anywhere from $7k to $20K with expected merit scholarships from these schools). She plans to pursue graduate studies so finances are an important factor for her/our family (she is a middle child with an older sibling attending Indiana-Kelley with a partial scholarship and a younger sibling still not yet in high school).

What mid-sized private schools (3,000-15,000 students) are good choices for her to pursue? She will likely apply to Lehigh, Bucknell, and Richmond, but I’m not sure how generous they will be with merit aid (we can’t afford to pay $60K per year in tuition even if FAFSA says otherwise). With $30+k in merit aid it would be a consideration. She is a pretty “down-to-earth” kid so these schools may or may not make sense from a cultural standpoint (she is not at all preppy and many students that go to these schools are from “country club” families). She is also taking a shot in applying to Brown.

Are there other mid-sized schools that may be a bit less “selective” but would offer her a lot of merit aid that she should be applying to?

Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

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Have you tried net price calculators for Quinnipiac or Scranton? Their various health/ pre-med/ health sciences with auto admit to physical therapy grad programs could be of interest.
Edited to add: or Adelphi.

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What exactly is your budget? Run the NPC for her schools. I would think Bucknell, Lehigh, etc probably wouldn’t provide enough merit/FA.

S20 with very similar stats got COA for most schools to around the $40k/year range. These were private schools in the T40-100 range. No full-pay schools. Goes to Georgia Tech and will graduate in 3 years so overall cost isn’t bad.

S21 is at FSU. Honors program and OOS tuition waiver made it a no brainer. Loves it. Large Jewish population from what I can tell (you mentioned temple in your post). Honors programs at big schools can be a great help but not all are equal.

Pitt is great for pre-med types but merit has been decreasing so most likely full pay or close to it.

Would Catholic schools be a no-go?

Maybe Dickinson or Delaware? Vermont?

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My S was looking for a midsize urban college and (although we were not particularly looking for a religious college) a number of Jesuit schools fit the bill. He got merit aid from every school. If a Catholic college is OK you can google the list. He also applied to Marist and Quinippiac (even though they were not urban locations).


It would be helpful if you give your all in budget.

You could look at the Midwest LACs they tend to be better with merit. Places like Oberlin, Grinnell, Denison, Lawrence, etc May get you in your range.


Not all privates but

College of Charleston…go for Honors and Charleston Scholar. Amazing experience, great Hillel and at least for my kid merit more than tuition. Delaware. Miami Ohio. Few Jews but Alabama Huntsville or Birmingham will be solid academically and dirt cheap. Denver could be mid 40s for private. So the last three out of geography but may work.

Bradley and Hofstra are both generous and list your scholarship on the NPC. good luck.

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Not interested in Catholic universities or small liberal arts colleges. I don’t think they would be a cultural fit frankly.

The tuition budget is $30k for very good private schools or as close to zero as possible for a slightly less selective private school with a decent biology department.

I am a fan of FSU (OOS tuition waiver, honors program, AP credits) but my daughter is a bit apprehensive of going to a large Florida school (or any large southern school for that matter). But it is definitely in the running (she will apply) as the financial cost is very compelling.

Looking for what is perhaps a “diamond in the rough” mid-sized school that would meet the cost budget/quality education matrix I laid out above.

Thanks for everyone’s responses…please keep sharing ideas!

I was going to suggest Fordham as a mid-sized school with merit aid. My D22 received 26K in merit from them. But they are Jesuit, so might not appeal.

UVM also offers a decent amount of merit. D22 received 18K from them. It might get close to your preferred budget, but I don’t remember what their OOS tuition is.


Just above 3,000 students and maybe slightly too far, but St.Olaf has a terrific biology dept (and is in the same town as Carleton, and you can cross register.)

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If Brown is a cultural fit then Wesleyan might be a slightly less reachy reach. There’s a great deal of overlap between their applicant pools and Wesleyan tips the scale at ~3000 students, if you include grad students.


From NJ, my daughters had an UWGPA of 3.9 (1 b), 33/34 ACT, 7/9 AP’s, the usual EC’s (honor societies, AP with distinction, varsity captains…). UMASS, UCONN, UDEL, Scranton, Quinappiac, Temple, URI $35,000ish after merit, UMD and Pitt $40,000+ after merit, Bing $28,000, no merit from Rutgers or Lehigh, Bentley $40,000 after merit, 20+ applications with Saint Joseph’s coming in the lowest around $22,000. I think you might be expecting a bit more than will be offered (#4 and #5 graduated HS in 2021 and merit has been decreasing for years).


Less “selective” mid-sized schools with merit are somewhat limited with the Jesuit schools out of consideration, but you have a great start to your D’s list. I agree with running the NPCs since some of the schools you have mentioned do not offer merit or it is very competitive.

Would you please clarify the $30k tuition budget… is that tuition only or total COA including R&B?

I agree with many of the other suggestions. I will add Elon. It may lean too preppy but is popular with many kids from the northeast and has a lower COA than most privates. There is some merit available to potentially get in your budget range, especially with your D’s stats.

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It would probably be $40,000 after merit.

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Not private…but SUNY Genesco may be an idea to consider. If larger is OK then look into SUNY Binghamton as well. SUNY rates are good even for OOS students.


My daughter had higher test scores, but pre-covid, so not sure how they factor in nowadays. She received $30K from both Case and University of Denver - neither Jesuit - although Denver might be too far west, both midsized. She was in the running for University of Richmond’s Richmond Scholar - I believe the invite guarantees 1/3 tuition, and if she’d won would have been full COA - she withdrew when she was accepted at her ED school. I hear RPI gives good merit, especially to attract women, my daughter didn’t find it a fit, but perhaps it’ll be interesting to your daughter.

Case is a good suggestion but will be difficult to get full COA to $30k with merit.

Hopefully the OP will clarify budget… $30k tuition or $30k full COA?

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Above he stated budget was $30K for tuition.

Purdue, Lehigh, and Bucknell are not going to come in at your $30K budget.

Editing because I’m reading the clarification that the $30K was for tuition only. Purdue will be in budget but likely not Lehigh or Bucknell.

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I was just making sure that wasn’t a typo or misstatement. :grinning:

So that means total budget is $48-$50k which means a greater possibility of finding a financial fit. In that Case, I agree with the suggestion of Case. :grinning:


Sorry…to clarify, $30K is our tuition-only target for more selective schools (after merit). I’m not counting room and board, etc. (that I will be paying no matter what).

For larger schools:

Indiana: Tutition is $38K, expecting $10-12K in merit aid = $26-28K

Purdue: Tuition is $30K, expecting $10-16K in merit aid = $14-20K

Pitt: Tuition is $34K, expecting $10-15K in merit aid = $19-24K

Virginia Tech: Tuition is $34K, expecting $8-10K in merit aid = $24-26K

FSU: Tuition is $19K, expecting OOS waiver (in state tuition is $7K) = $7K

South Carolina: Tuition is $34K, expecting OOS waiver (in state tuition is $13K) = $13K

Miami (OH): Tuition is $38K, expecting $15-34K automatic merit scholarship) = $4-23K

Binghamton: Tuition is $29K, expecting $10-15K in merit aid = $14-19K

Rutgers: Tuition is $16K, expecting $2K in merit aid = $14K

I will add Temple to the list:

Temple: Tutition is $35K, expecting $15-20K in merit aid = $15-20K

I may be overestimating aid for some of these but I think I’m in the right ball park.

So I am looking for mid-sized private universities that are not as large as the public universities listed above and that would cost about $30K per year in tuition (for the more selective schools) and as close to $0 as possible for the slightly less selective schools (“diamonds in the rough”). 3,000-15,000 students in size, decent biology program.

Thanks again for your input. Very much appreciated!

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