Our College Application journey - Top 1% Engineering student seeking merit

Hi there,

Now that this crazy college application year has finally come to a close, I thought I’d share our journey with you, in hopes of providing info to those just beginning the search…

We live in NJ. DS attends a good public school. He’s worked hard, and was #2 out of 300 in his class, 4.0 unweighted gpa, 1540 SAT(800 math), all AP/honors classes with 5’s on all tests taken so far, co-captain of robotics team since freshman year, LOTS of self-led engineering projects & other activities/volunteering, selected for NJ Governor’s School of Engineering & Technology. Nothing incredibly remarkable, though (i.e. he hadn’t cured cancer) Knew he wanted to study electrical engineering from the beginning. However, he had NO idea of what school he wanted to attend. Our EFC is in the mid $40’s.

First, we researched our state schools, and tried to figure out which were the best fit for engineering, and what the cost would likely be after merit. Then, we looked for private or OOS schools with solid engineering programs that had special merit awards that could potentially get the price down to match or beat those in state schools. It was pretty tedious looking through CC posts from many schools, and digging in the Common Data Sets and college websites, trying to find the average merit scholarships, and which schools had additional ‘big merit’ scholarships(full ride or full tuition) that had separate and additional applications. Then, we also chose some reach schools that didn’t offer merit, but we might consider stretching for if he got into.

For application timelines, he applied to as many Early Action as was available. The only school he didn’t apply EA to was MIT, just because the application was so long and involved, he needed more time(he should have started the Maker Portfolio months ahead, but we didn’t know about it).

After the EA deadline, he had to work on all of the ‘special’ merit scholarship applications - most of which had additional essays. Then, there were the honors college applications, which also had additional essays. Also, the RD applications. It was a lot of work.

Our NJ state schools were very generous with merit awards, making them hard to pass up. For the vast majority of private schools, he was awarded merit that brought the cost down to our EFC or a bit lower, so he wasn’t awarded any financial aid at these schools. He did not win any of the ‘special’ merit scholarships from any schools, with the exception of Clarkson, where he won two awards that lowered the cost an additional $10k. For the schools that didn’t give him any merit(Cornell, GT, Michigan), he was awarded financial aid that made the price pretty much match our EFC. Here’s the list of schools, and their final COA for him(tuition, room & board, and mandatory fees minus merit scholarships & financial aid grants):

Maine 0rono (honors college) $15,184.00
Case Western $42,126.00
Colorado School of Mines $40,482.00
Rowan (honors college) $7,952.00
Rutgers (honors college) $21,834.00
NJIT (honors college) $4,560.00
Pitt (honors college) $28,250.00
Rose Hulman $41,690.00
Clarkson $30,998.00
Georgia Tech (honors program) $44,710.00
Northeastern (honors college) $43,362.00
RPI $44,904.00
stevens $48,520.00
michigan $56,506.00
cornell $47,682.00

He was rejected from MIT and Caltech, and waitlisted at Harvard, then rejected.

His final decision came down to Rowan, Cornell, and GT. He ended up choosing GT, and we couldn’t be happier!

Good luck to the Class of 2022 in your search!


Congratulations on a great result! It’s interesting that Michigan comes in $9K higher than Cornell and $12K more than GT. Honors College too!


U Michigan does not guarantee to meet full need for OOS students. They used to meet full need for any family (in-state or out) making less than $90K/year, but I’m not sure that policy is still in place.


Also, “meet full need” colleges can have their own definitions of “need”, which can result in greatly different net prices between colleges that claim to “meet full need”.


We knew Michigan would be more expensive - its NPC was very accurate. They seem to provide a ton of support to in-state kids, and hardly any to OOS. Seems fair, given that they tell you that upfront.