Prestige vs Price and Athletics

I am a senior in HS looking to major in Mechanical Engineering and about to apply to college and stuck between applying ED to my #1 safety (get additional 2k+ per year for applying ED) or pressing my odds and maybe accepting a acceptance from a more prestigious school.

I am mainly stuck between Clarkson University and Cornell or RPI.

Clarkson University has guaranteed me 15k/yr in scholarships junior year and I get another 2k/yr if I apply ED (other scholarships possible as well). I would compete on the D3 ski team (which is a rare commodity in colleges). And I am happy to go to school in rural Potsdam (which is a problem for many). My only hesitation on this school is that is a decent “safety” for me.

The other options I am weighing are additionally applying to Cornell (reach) and RPI (match) Here I would be giving up the 70k+ in scholarship and D3 skiing for higher prestige / “better” schools. Both colleges do have a club ski team so I wouldn’t have to completely give up sport though.

Anyone have any opinions on these decisions or how much prestige matters in the field of mechanical engineering?
Additionally is it worth maybe accepting an acceptance to a school like Cornell at the loss of an additional guaranteed 8k in scholarship for applying ED to Clarkson?

It is less prestige than the opportunities that a well established Engineering school can provide.

While the differences between different engineering programs is not always that great, in a rare exception for my general advice, I would highly recommend Cornell, if the difference was only $2,000 a year.

In fact, I would say that it would almost be a no-brainer.

It is not a difference of $2k per year, but that if he doesn’t apply ED to Clarkson he loses $2k per year. Cornell could cost $70k per year and Clarkson $30k with all the merit scholarships.

I think Clarkson offers more than RPI. Cornell is a harder call. If you can afford Cornell full price, apply there ED.

sorry I should have been clearer, the 2k/yr is only for applying ED, I have already been guaranteed an additional 15k/ yr merit on top of financial aid. Even without ED the combined difference between Clarkson and Cornell between aid and scholarships would most likely be 22k+ per year.
Still, Thank you for your response!

It sounds as if your question is ‘is it worth gambling $2K to see if I get into Cornell or RPI?’

But I think the bigger question is more like 'if I gamble the $2K, and get into Cornell (and we have no idea how strong a candidate you are- just that you must have some strengths to already have a scholarship in the bag), can I afford it? We don’t know whether you can afford Clarkson, and Cornell is 2+x as expensive (for you), so where does the extra $88,000 come from?

If it’s debt, imo it’s not worth it- and if your parents can write the check, the $2K difference won’t matter.

Clarkson is a great school, you’ll have a blast on the ski team, and you’ll save a ton of money. If the ski team is a big deal to you, then take the Clarkson deal. If not, then you always gamble the $2k to see if you get into Cornell but still have the much cheaper Clarkson in your back pocket. I’d take Clarkson in this scenario over RPI just based on the scholarships.

So it’s roughly 80K additional? I don’t think the extra 2k/year makes it worth it to lock yourself into that school. Why not apply to all three and see what happens. You don’t know what Cornell will offer you by the way of FA.
Additionally, while I dont’ suggest taking on lots of debt, I do think that some schools offer higher starting salaries. You can often check starting salaries for each. These can be considerably different for the same major. So over time, might be worth going one way or the other. Higher starting salaries out of the gate are like saving in your 401K in your 20’s ( very positive).
I’d also look closely at which program you like best. Decide which is best for you (devoid of prestige), then add in costs and go from there. Does one have a better internship program or approach?

The question that jumps out at me…is it common for a school to offer additional guaranteed scholarship money as an incentive to apply ED???

Don’t know how common, but yes, it is allowed due to the DOJ settlement with NACAC last year.

That settlement also allows schools to offer other perks to ED applicants including early course registration and preferred housing.

I saw my D’s SLAC offering $1k for ED football players as well. Crazy!

Grinnell gives $10k/year for ED.

I know the policy is new but, with this incentive is it safer to say that they won’t try and lowball other merit scholarships / financial aid packages while applying ED because of the binding nature? Even if I’m slightly overqualified for the school.

That’s a good question and I don’t know the answer. You could do a virtual admissions session and ask this question anonymously. The only school I know that admits they give lower merit awards to admitted ED applicants is Tulane. I am sure there are more.

Thank you for the clarification!