Parents Won't Let Me Apply ED to My Top School Because of Location

I live in the NYC metropolitan area. My top school is Grinnell; I love the way academics are structured (MAP and open curriculum), the culture, and the community/student body/social scene. I run cross country and track and talked to the head coach of the team and really liked her and the way she described the team. I have a pre-read coming back soon that I am optimistic about. As for the cost, the school is one of the most giving of financial aid in the entire country, and if I get accepted ED, I would get an additional $10,000 as a merit scholarship.

My parents don’t like the idea of me moving so far away from home. They used to have an issue with applying ED anywhere because they were cautious about what we could afford. Now that I explained to them that Grinnell will probably offer us the most out of any school, their really only hold out is the location. They want me to stay in the Northeast, but I really am not high on any of the liberal arts schools in the region. Grinnell seems like the perfect fit for me, and the difference in acceptance rate from ED to RD is drastic. How do I convince my parents that ED is the right choice? Any other advice is appreciated. Thanks in advance.

If you are a recruited athlete, I think that you will need to apply ED, and if you are not, ED may not offer much of a boost in admissions.

So the choice is not whether you should apply ED for a minor boost or not, but whether you should apply as a recruited athlete for a major boost.

That being said, Grinnell will not offer more financial aid than most of the NE colleges. Colby, for example, will offer better aid. You need to run the colleges EFC calculators to get a better idea. What Grinnell will offer, as a recruited athlete, is one of the best chances you have at admissions to a college with low acceptance rates.

However, you could also get recruited as an athlete to other colleges.

This site can be especially convenient for estimating costs: Merit scholarships that decrease the cost of attendance beyond that under need-based financial assistance tend to be rare, even at a well-resourced school such as Grinnell.

Note that Northeastern LACs Hamilton, Amherst and Smith offer curricula with even greater flexibility than that of Grinnell.

“the school is one of the most giving of financial aid in the entire country…”

And yet they offered my young friend the least of any college. Surprisingly paltry.

At least have a balanced list of affordables. Other than the possible recruitment tip, if you’re good enough to get in ED, you’re good enough for RD.

That’s the real central question: do you match what they look for?

In this new Covid world, your parents may have seen and heard about schools closing suddenly and students having to vacate within 24-48 hours. They may have a point when it comes to putting a limit on geographic area. In the case of an emergency, being farther from home may cause difficulties in being able to adhere to that mandate. The other thing is they may want to be able to see you compete in a meet and the distance is a hinderance.

We pulled the parents choice last year because of Covid. S20 had a very nice offer from SMU which would’ve worked pre-Covid. However, given the info we had at the time we narrowed his list to anything within a day’s drive which still covers a lot of area. Basically 10 hours in any direction.

Google schools like Grinnell and see what pops-up that’s closer. Maybe Oberlin?

My son graduated from Grinnell and we live on the East Coast. Travel was the only down side and at times it was a very big downside and this was pre- Covid. One trip took 23 hrs, flight cancellations, delays and waiting for the shuttle to Grinnell. The school is very good about helping students with travel issues and lots of families will take in kids for the holidays. Son never came home for Thanksgiving, not worth the travel hassle, but did come home for a week of fall break. Winter break is also long, between 5 and 6 weeks.

With that said, he had a fantastic experience, got into his 1st choice graduate school. He also got better aid from Grinnell then Hamilton and did not like Oberlin because the social justice was too in your face (saying a lot coming from a Grinnellian).

A decent number of NYC students attend Grinnell. I would suggest asking the coach or the admissions office if they could arrange for your parents to speak with a current student or family. Grinnell is a special place and college is a great time to experience a new location as well as Iowa nice.

Grinnell rates high in terms of endowment per student, in case you are looking for more selling points.

Did your parents give you geographic limitations at the start of your search? Or when covid started? If so, it is hard to argue.

We are also in the northeast and my D wanted at attend a LAC. When she asked about a midwest LAC (it was a fine school that a friend was attending) I said that she would have to explain to me why that was a better school/had a better program for her than one of the many LACs we could drive to before I would consider the additional travel time and expense to attend (and that was pre-covid). She could not do that and ultimately found a number of east coast LACs that turned out to be better matches.

Before you assume that Grinnell will be cheaper, see if the coach can get a financial aid pre-read for you. It also looks like any merit aid will be considered a “resource” when calculating financial aid:

“While scholarships are awarded on the basis of merit, they are considered a resource when determining eligibility for need-based financial aid. For example, if a student has $22,000 of calculated need and receives a merit scholarship for $25,000, this student would not receive need-based aid since the scholarship exceeds the need.”

This sounds like to me that any need based aid would be reduced by this $10,000 scholarship, so I am not sure you can accurately call this an “additional” $10,000 unless you would be full pay otherwise. Best to get a definitive answer on this from the financial aid office at Grinnell if you are trying to sell Grinnell to your parents based on cost.

This page seems vague in terms of what components of FA are reduced first by Grinnell scholarships, although it later says that outside scholarships first reduce student work and loan expectations.

^Yes, exactly why the OP needs to get clarity from someone in Grinnell’s financial aid office, preferably using an example assuming an estimated financial aid package before the $10k auto ED scholarship and tracking the impact of the scholarship on the base aid package.

Usually for financial aid purposes, merit scholarships (whether internal or outside,) will not stack on-top of need-based aid. This is because NEED-based aid cannot replace your parents’ contribution (EFC as calculated by the school,) but you can utilize the merit scholarships (amount varies from school to school) to count towards your student contribution (expected pay from working during the school year/summer, some schools will allow for a 1-time computer purchase etc.)

Like most other top-LACs, Grinnell meets every student’s full demonstrated need ( ) but the definition of this need varies WIDELY from college to college, based on the school’s own resources, the formulas they use etc.

The only exception to this would be if you received a merit scholarship award that was higher than your need-based aid award, meaning you will receive the full amount of the scholarship award and likely none of the need-based aid (because the scholarship award counted against it.)

While you don’t usually have a say in how internal merit scholarship aid will be disbursed, you DO have a say in how outside merit-scholarship aid will be sent to the college. If you receive more outside merit scholarship aid than you can waive your contribution with, it would be beneficial to ask the scholarship provider if they can defer their payment to a later year (or spread it over multiple years,) in-order to maximize your benefit from it.

Ex: Bob receives 25K in need-based aid from his college, and his parents are expected to pay $55K. He also receives a $5K merit scholarship award. Bob’s school allows him to waive the entirety of his student contribution ($3K,) but he still has $2K left. As this cannot count towards his parent’s payment of $55K, $2K of his need-based aid is REPLACED with merit scholarship, leaving him with $28K of aid in total, NOT $25+5K.

As other posters have commented, while the financial aid calculators on school websites are a helpful ESTIMATE of expected aid awards, they are not a guarantee. The Fianancial Aid Office at Grinnell has the last word on how much and in what manner aid is offered to you, but you can always appeal your award if admitted ED and the offered award is vastly different from that of the calculator.

Hope that helps! Good luck with admissions!

Students do not generally have a say in how outside scholarships are disbursed. Many schools require outside scholarships to be paid directly to them.

At the schools that don’t stack scholarships, the outside scholarship may reduce the financial aid awarded to the student.

It is critical to understand each school’s rules, as asking an external organization to defer payment on an earned scholarship may not be inline with the expectation of the school and/or the organization that provided the scholarship.

“While you don’t usually have a say in how internal merit scholarship aid will be disbursed, you DO have a say in how outside merit-scholarship aid will be sent to the college.”

Pikachu, this is incorrect. I have sat on the scholarship committee of a foundation, and our recipients had ZERO input in to how or when the funds were disbursed.

Zero. We had students end up with none of the funds because a parent or family member cashed the scholarship check to pay the electric bill… so we no longer sent checks made out to the student. We had students not show up for orientation-- with the funds already disbursed into their account- and a hassle tracking down where is the kid, how do we get the money back so we can give it someone else-- so-- we no longer paid the funds in August.

I can’t imagine an outside scholarship organization (usually a 501 C-3 which has many, many rules governing how charitable funds are used) allowing an 18 year old kid to dictate how the funds get disbursed. That seems like an investigation from an Attorney General waiting to happen.

I’d agree with your parents that you shouldn’t apply ED to Grinnell. It doesn’t sound like you have visited, and going from NY to Iowa is a culture shock. You might like it, you might hate it, but you should not lock into Grinnell with an ED application.

Make an agreement with your parents that you can apply RD and see what the financial aid is. You will, of course, apply to other schools too and be able to compare the schools and the FA.

@Mwfan1921 @blossom I stand corrected. :sweat_smile:

Grinnell is a fantastic school, with a very different vibe from some of the Northeastern schools that have been listed here. I can absolutely understand why it would be someone’s first choice (in fact if I were applying now it might be mine). But the distance issue is real, and the COVID issue is real, so I think it’s risky for ED. If you are a strong candidate who might get in ED, and can demonstrate genuine interest, your odds are probably pretty decent for RD as well, which would give the pandemic some time to shake out, and you the opportunity to compare aid packages.

OP is a recruited athlete so s/he has to apply ED or the coach will thi k s/he isn’t serious.
Grinnell meets full need and it sounds like OP has run the NPC and determined it’s the cheapest of the options where s/he can compete.
It’s a good fit (the vibe is *quite * different from Colby’s - the closest might be Bates??)
So, basically, it all comes down to “it’s far from NYC”.


  • ask to be put in touch with current team players as well as current students from the NYC area.
    Once you’ve chatted a bit with the NYC area students, ask them if they’d be willing to chat with your parents.
  • Be open with Admissions about your parents hesitating due to the distance from NYC, ask if they have ideas to help you convince them that Grinnell is your #1 choice! You cant be the first one with that situation.
  • Research the college more so you can show your parents how, exactly, Grinnell is a perfect match for you and your personality.

Note that on the one hand you will not go home often anyway, typically only for Winter Break (which is quite long at Grinnell), perhaps Spring Break (freshman/sophomore year?), and at the end of Spring semester before the start of summer internships. On the other hand, you’ll have a long plane ride, so three times a year it’ll be a pain.

Coming from NYC, another reason to choose a NESCAC over Grinnell, is that schools like Williams and Amherst pull a ton of students from the NYC area generaly. This means you will be “in the flow” of students and have a greater opportunity to meet and get to know students from all over the NYC region, share rides, hang out together during Thanksgiving break, etc. That will not happen as much at Grinnell. Of course, if your goal is to get away from your existing world, then Grinnell would be an interesting choice. Others include Washington & Lee, Lehigh and Colgate.