Read for merit: Are there ANY colleges on this list that may be more generous with financial aid?

I know the following colleges are not known for giving any aid to students who don’t qualify based on need, however are there any that seem more generous than others? We are in the category of not qualifying for any aid at all when we run the NPC, but spending $70,000 a year would be a hardship for us, and definitely not realistic, or something we want to do. My son had built a list, and we’ve already told him this list is not doable for us, so he’s built a new one. I told him he can still apply to a few of these, with the understanding that if he gets in, and the FA package doesn’t work for us, he can’t go. He is a very understanding kid, and is fine with that, however I’d like to steer him to colleges that MAY offer something…
Here are some things about him: Rising Senior, GPA 4.5, lots of AP classes and 5 on all exams taken so far
SAT: 1510
Class President, Captain of track team, job as head lifeguard for 3 summers
Would be happiest in a liberal leaning environment, not interested in Greek life, wants to have a opportunities for internships/co-ops
Interested in Government, History, Politics type of major with the possibility of law school.
Schools that he is interested in that he has had to remove from list, but would still like to apply:

If you had to rank them, are any of them more generous than others???

Schools he will be applying to:
University of Maryland College Park (our in-state school)
George Washington
Michigan State (James Madison College)
University of Vermont

Thank you!!

UChicago does have limited merit scholarships–it’s a long shot but maybe worth applying. The ivies+Georgetown offer exactly 0 non-need based scholarships, but it’s worth applying for aid. Of those, Harvard has a reputation for having the most generous aid, but the ivies should match each other. You might be happily surprised and get some, and you can always appeal. At my school, it seems to be relatively common for the admissions package to have no aid, but they’re more generous upon appeal.

@CiaraFin So you can appeal for more aid even if the original offer is zero? I always assumed you can appeal only if they give you some amount of aid initially.

From our experience, UChicago was more generous than Georgetown. But, the direct costs for UChicago is 12k more than Georgetown.

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Princeton has the reputation for being VERY generous- and their NPC is extremely accurate (a family member said that their official package was within $5 of what the calculator predicted it would be).

Has he taken a look at Posse Scholars at Franklin and Marshall? And what kind of merit do you need to make things affordable- 5K (Muhlenberg) or full tuition (is he going to be National Merit?)

Yes, you can appeal if the offer is zero as long as you applied for aid when filling out the application.

Successful appeals- fact based. Medical expenses not covered by insurance (with documentation). Special Ed expenses for another child (with documentation).

Consumer spending- generally not a factor (i.e. “we owe 100K on several credit cards due to home renovations”).

You catch my drift!!!


Note that he could get a bunch of credit from AP’s, which could allow him to potentially graduate in 3 years (at some schools), saving on costs if everything is planned right and he doesn’t change course.

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What is his unweighted GPA? My daughters with similar stats applied to mostly public universities to keep the costs around $35,000 a year, where they would be more competitive candidates. Villanova and lehigh were off the table.

But for politics, UMD is already close to DC. In-state or cheaper may be tough to beat. But he could apply (non-binding) so long as he knows the financial constraints.

I think you will get better advice if you can tell us what your budget is. Levels of merit aid really vary and to be helpful we need to know what # you want to get to. As you know, the Ivies only do need based aid, however, I’ve heard of kids getting aid with parental income up into the low $200k range. In terms of merit, I know GW gives a good amount - your son’s stats would most likely qualify him for around $20k (if not more). UVM gives out quite a bit of merit to kids from our HS (we are in MA) which brings the cost in line with our state flagship, UMASS. Is he a NMF - that opens up more possibilities.

Colgate fits some items of the wish list, and not others, but they just updates their financial aid policies with a sliding scale that bases tuition on income. The new plan has $0 tuition for those making under $80K, 5% of income in the next bracket, and no loans for those in higher income brackets.

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UMD Honors is going to be hard to beat price-wise.
However, he can try…
GMU Honors (really near DC, in case he gets a better package than at UMD since he’d be more competitive there)
AU (long odds but worth trying)

As a young man interested in the Humanities, he may have a shot at Skidmore’s few large merit scholarships.


Blount Liberal Arts Program at U Alabama. Mostly liberal kids, mostly non Greek, although a few join. All residential first year. Lots of history and political science. Small discussion based classes.

With those grades and scores Bama will give him good money and be an affordable safety if he wants out of state.

We were also merit hunting and the only meet needs school that was close to affordable for us was Princeton. Eldest applied but was rejected.

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The OP is from Maryland. Posse recruits from public schools in DC, but not in Maryland.

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These aren’t on your list but, for us, Lehigh and Johns Hopkins were the two most generous schools from a financial aid perspective. Bucknell was next, Cornell was a distant fourth.

One thing to keep in mind - some schools will meet full need without loans, others require loans and/or don’t meet full need. Loan policy can make a big difference in your out of pocket costs.

Another thing to keep in mind, assuming you own your home, is that most private schools consider your home equity when calculating your family’s contribution. Those that do not, from your original list, are Princeton, Harvard, UChicago (and possibly GW.) Other schools that do not consider it are MIT and Hamilton, though I cannot speak to how generous they are in general.


There is your answer… if discounts are needed, the student needs to look for merit scholarships, which would be more likely among less selective colleges that use them to attract students at the higher end of their student academic qualifications range.

Obviously, your in-state public universities have a head start on a lower price.


We were in the same position my son is staying in state going to Florida State in the fall. Even with private schools offering over 50% in merit aid off tuition not worth it for undergrad.

From my daughters experience this year I imagine GW might give you 25K in merit (bringing coa to 50K) American probably similar.