Non-Need Families and Merit Aid

I see that very few non-need families full pay at Denison. It looks like they are one of the most generous schools in the country when it comes to merit aid. A very high percentage of the non-need families get merit aid, and the awards average about $23k. Do the awards come with the admission letter? Do you have to apply for specific scholarships?

Also, I see below that applying early decision doesn’t impact merit aid? How can that possibly be? Doesn’t the school have an incentive to make you full pay if you are agreeing to go there if they admit you and you don’t have demonstrated need? Seems too risky to apply early decision unless you are willing to full pay. Someone said you could just walk away, but I think that would be frowned upon both by the school and by your own school’s admission office?

Current parent of full-pay kid with merit aid who applied ED, so maybe I can answer some questions. Yes, Denison is reasonably generous with merit aid, and that is particularly appealing to full pay families like mine. Merit awards vary between, I believe, roughly $16k and $27k a year, and we were impressed with the generous conditions of the award – a 3.0 at the end of sophomore year, and even if that is not met, then the student drops down a tier in merit rather than loses it completely – at least when my kid was admitted. It is important to read the fine print, as some EA merit awards my kid got before his ED2 acceptance at Denison specified that the award required a specific gpa by the end of first year or disappeared altogether. While we all like to think our highly capable kids will flourish and of course meet a minimum gpa, it was a relief to know there was time to ease in to college and that, even if it was a bumpy transition, the consequences were not so dire at Denison.

And yes, everything we have heard officially and unofficially is that merit aid is the same at ED and RD stages, including full pay families. My kid was predicted, as an ED2 applicant, to qualify for a range of merit and came in at the high end. We talked with other families who had also been predicted a certain merit award, considered whether to apply ED, then applied RD, and got the exact same merit as predicted for ED. Denison does not seem, at least now, to use merit just at the RD stage, but rather as a tool for all families to use in deciding, whether to apply ED or RD. As a full pay family, we did worry while waiting for the merit decision, because there was not a financial need reason to walk away from ED acceptance because we had not even applied for financial aid. But, we felt that we had frank conversations with Admissions reps about what the minimum merit award would be for ED2, and knew that we could make it work if the merit award came in at that level. The higher award was just icing on the cake and cause for celebration.

For what it’s worth, applications were up significantly again this year, we hear. Denison is really quite an amazing school, still under valued and under appreciated, in our minds. My kid has had incredible professors, mentors, and opportunities, in a warm, diverse, community where kids really engage across difference. It may not be the right, or best school for everyone – no place is – but it has been phenomenal for my kid.

Nice to read about your experience with Denison. Our son was accepted last week, with very generous merit, and we will be visiting after Spring Break. (We are also full pay and he applied RD.) It seems that, back in the day, Denison was something of a party/frat school. I went to a school like that (by accident, back in the days before CC) and didn’t like it, but it seems that Denison is really in a different place these days. Certainly the facilities are amazing for both theater and athletics, which are both interests for our kid, but I am really interested in seeing and meeting the students. Our son is a US citizen but he has grown up overseas, so your comment about kids engaging across difference really resonated in a good way.

Thank you for the super helpful info.

I see that at wooster the admission. Office will review your info and will give you an estimate of your likely merit aid award in the summer/fall before your student applies to the school.

https://www.wooster.edu/admissions/aid/estimator/

Is there a similar program at Denison? I think this would make the ED decision much easier.

@cleveland132 — Wooster has a formal review of merit, by an actual person which was very helpful, since I thought it was just an online calculator when we filled it out!

Denison does not have a formal, online procedure as far as I know, but when my kid was going through admissions process as a recruited athlete, his admissions counselor and the coach both identified a range of merit they predicted, based on his academic portfolio. The actual award was higher. We felt everyone had been as open as possible, but did still worry until we opened the actual award and breathed a sign of relief.

@tkoparent Diversity – economic, racial, ethnic, political, religious – was important to my kid. He has been very comfortable with the community there – while there are frat bros/lax bros, there are bearded bluegrass-playing folks who live on the organic farm which is part of the Bioreserve, arts and theater kids, intense kids, laid back kids,. As I understand, this year’s entering class was about 20% first gen, 17% international, and 23% domestic students of color. Greek life is non-residential so even greek life kids wind up spread around, particularly as housing is clustered by year, with first years on the west quad, sophomores and juniors mostly on east quad, and seniors mostly on north quad in the senior apartments. We’ve been very impressed by the commitment to civil discourse and engagement. The emphasis is on interacting and intersecting, rather than “silo-d” groups co-existing. I’ve mentioned the example from last year, when Reince Preibus and the plaintiff in the marriage equality case were on campus back-to-back days – there were not protests to shut either voice down, but kids from “opposite” spectrums attended both. Again, these are 18-22 year olds so it’s imperfect, but we’ve been very impressed with the community.

Daughter was accepted at Denison, Alumni Scholarship - $27K…we heard there is a higher tier $40K…has anyone heard or been awarded this one?

For what’s its worth – and my kid was admitted a few years ago – the $16-20 range was the most typical award. My kid got $24 which is the now-equivalent of $27. We had not heard of an interim tier between that and full tuition, though maybe they’ve shifted the tiers a bit. Several years ago, when he was a high school senior, he met a few of the full tuition award kids at an Admitted Students overnight, they were impressive kids – one was choosing between full tuition merit award at Denison and full pay at Stanford, she did choose Stanford; another was full tuition award at Denison vs. Columbia or Chicago, I can never remember, and there was another one in at Brown as well, as I recall – the Chicago/Columbia one and the Brown one chose Denison.

Congrats on your student’s acceptance, and merit award. Admission this year was more selective than last year.

What kind of GPA / test scores do you need for the $27k merit aid? My daughter is a junior with a 3.8 unweighted GPA, lots of AP and honors classes and 33 ACT, which she might be able to bring up to a 34. We are trying to decide if this is one to keep on the list. We will not receive any need based aid, and are trying to figure out her best shot at merit aid.

@ajc1966 I would definitely keep in on your list-100%-I think she has great stats for merit aid next year

Yes, keep it on your list. Mine just got accepted w $27k merit plus $2800 work study - 3.8 unweighted gpa and 6 AP classes. He’s going out for admitted student overnight in April. Still waiting to hear from one more school but Denison is tied for 1st place on his list.

Denison seems very generous with merit aid compared to similar schools.

@pn24601 Denison is generous because 1) they have a huge endowment (alumni are obsessed with their college and give a ton AND they have hired incredible money managers). Their endowment blows away most of the LACS that outrank them. 2. Denison recognizes that middle class families who don’t qualify for need based aid still feel the pain of paying for college and they want that demographic represented on the campus. Adam Weinberg addressed this in one of his talks stating that most selective private universities and colleges are full of either two groups of kids -those in the top income brackets and those in the low -and exclude middle class kids. As a result of the merit aid, Denison enjoys a much more economically diverse student body than their peers. They intend to keep the policy even as they climb the rankings chart (which they are doing rapidly) for this very reason.

@lococollege My S was awarded a $30,000 merit scholarship at Denison last year, but I’m not sure what it was called. We too had heard that there was a higher tier of merit, at least on the books, but the admissions rep said that S’s offer was the highest they could offer. S had extremely high stats: 36 ACT, 4.3/3.9 GPA, Nat. AP scholar, NMF and very good ECs.

It sounded like there may have been higher merit possible for specific scholarships, with very specific criteria.