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

You could also look at Oberlin. They offer merit (their online calculator has a place to enter GPA and test scores to see what they offer). They also seem to be offering a renewable 10k commitment scholarship to every student who attends as a freshman in 2021. It’s not on your list, but might be worth considering. A really good LAC with an attached conservatory – although it is more than “liberal-leaning” – it is extremely liberal.

Thanks for all the feedback. To clarify, we have run all the NPC and I know we won’t qualify for any need based aid at any school, unless I’m doing it wrong. Most likely he will go to Maryland- and hopefully as an honors college student so it can seem a little smaller. He has a 4.0 unweighted GPA. We are lucky to have a prestigious state option, especially one that is right by DC. I think he just thinks it is a little “mundane” because lots of people in Md. go there (obviously). If we were out of state, and not all of his high school was planning to go there, I think he’d be more excited about it. I think I will encourage him to apply to Chicago and Princeton as well as his “affordable if he gets merit aid” list, just to see what happens. I personally like Maryland, but he has to be happy with his choice- he has to go there, not me, so we have to come to a choice that meets his checklist and our financial checklist. My personal feeling is having extreme financial debt after undergraduate school when there is a good option to not have any debt is crazy, which is why I am pushing for Maryland. Just getting wait listed at a T20 school will make him happy, I think!

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Tulane offers some half and full tuition merit scholarships. Tufts offers some merit scholarships. With his credentials, he might get a full ride at certain state schools in the south and southwest.

My kid got into Harvard early action, told me that the word on the student chats was that people were pleasantly surprised at how good the fin aid awards were. However, we found out the hard way that business assets were counted (essentially, Harvard expected us to tap the equity in the business assets in order to pay for college, even though that would have dropped our income low enough to make us eligible for financial aid… after he’d graduated).

If you are sure that you would get no financial aid whatsoever. and you do not want to pay 75K/yr for college, I really question whether you should encourage him to apply to schools that are out of your financial reach. Consider what you can pay, and make a list together of schools that he would want to attend, that are likely to give him enough merit money that you can afford the school. Consider how you and he will feel if he gets into Princeton, but cannot attend because of money.


The potential problem with applying to a T-20 is if you know it isn’t affordable then would being accepted there just cause pain if he’s unable (and wants) to attend in the end? It would be nice on the one hand to say look I was accepted to top X school, but then would there potentially be a depressive moment when it had to be declared a non-option?

UMD is a great school and certainly will be hard to beat price wise since you’re instate. If you’re full pay I guess it comes down to whether you get sufficient aid elsewhere to make other options comparable or since you’ll not be getting need based aid whether it makes sense for you to kick in funds for a more expensive top option since you probably do have the.means (bring full pay).

Just because someone has the ability to take a 300K HELOC on their home, or mortgage their farm land, or their business’ equipment, or mortgage their rental property, or take PLUS loans, doesn’t mean that they should! People who have high incomes often also live in very expensive areas of the country, pay very high taxes, may have all sorts of expenses that college financial aid offices don’t take into consideration.

If you’re in an income/asset bracket where you are sure you will get no financial aid, it probably also means that you’re paying, between federal, state, and local taxes, as much as 50% income tax on the last dollar you make each year. That means that to pay 300K for college, you have to earn 500-600K, to pay 300K after taxes. It is TOTALLY reasonable for you to be upfront with your son, explain to him that his college list has to be focused on merit money, and that he’s looking for schools that he would be happy to attend, that would likely cost (after merit aid) about the same as in-state at U Md, or less. In fact, with his stats, I’d be encouraging him to chase a full ride, so that there will be money for grad school, or maybe to help him buy his first home, or travel, or buy a car.


I found kevinfromoc’s thread interesting when D20 was applying and chasing merit; they had similar stats and some overlapping schools. His daughter was chasing merit as well. Although many schools weren’t a good match for DD, there’s some good info in here that may help your S22. [Edited to add; his summary of the process/outcomes starts at post 1579]

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Most people overestimate the taxes they pay. Free Income Tax Calculator - Estimate Your Taxes - SmartAsset estimates income after income and payroll taxes for $300k income (married, 3 exemptions) in various places:

Location Income after Income and Payroll Taxes
California $186,240
Connecticut $193,008
Hawaii $183,999
Illinois $196,253
Massachusetts $196,078
New Jersey $194,029
New York*, New York $181,244
Philadelphia*, Pennsylvania $189,776

*Has local income or payroll taxes beyond state income or payroll taxes.

Note that these assume all labor income, rather than favored (with lower income tax rates and no payroll tax) income from such things as capital gains and dividends. But note that even the after tax incomes are high compared to the income levels found in expensive cities or suburbs in the expensive states.


The Ivies and Gtown give only need based aid. No merit. So run the NPCs - but there’s no merit.

Your next batch - UMD yes but limited. GW yes, but it’s still expensive.
Macalester Yes as does Michigan State and UVM.

It’s an eclectic list.

If you seek money, there are wonderful opportunities that top students seek such as U of SC (Honors), UTK (Honors), Alabama (Honors), Arizona (Honors) and Arizona State (Honors). Florida State and Miami of Ohio give aid as well.
You’d get money at all.

You might try Washington & Lee - 10% of their students earn the Johnson Scholarship - so tuition, room, board, and $7K. They also have full tuition scholarships. The public Honors colleges give that smaller college feel. UMD has one and the Scholars program - UMD is a wonderful school. My daughter got in - no aid (OOS). Two years ago, my son got in - $5K.

btw - at the privates - $70K is rare now - some top $80K - and they all cost more than they say because these are kids and they spend on extras - trips, clubs, Greek, pizzas, whatever - you will spend more than the school says.

Good luck.

Oh right, Richmond and W&L offer some big scholarships. You’ll want to see if they are a good fit, though. Especially W&L.

Vanderbilt also has some big scholarships (also Duke, Emory, and UNC). JHU has some big merit scholarships too. Those are all very tough to get.

UT-Dallas would offer big merit scholarships that would be easier to get.

I don’t believe Tufts has much non-need merit scholarships (they seem to only be tiny ones).

If open to abroad:
McGill, even at International rates, would be only a little more than in-state for an Arts/Arts&Science degree (but it’s a big public and probably even more underfunded and sink-or-swim than comparable top American publics).
He could also consider TCD in Dublin, the 3 year English undergrad degree programs (like Oxbridge) or the Scottish unis. They would all be cheaper than full-pay at an American private but obviously it’s more difficult to land internships in the US from them. The academic system would be pretty different too, though it may not be so bad for someone who gets 5’s in all APs.

But UMD (especially with a scholarship and honors) may still be tough to beat. I personally would explain finances to him. And also promise him the same pot of money for education wherever he goes. Which means if UMD gives him a big scholarship, that means a big chunk of money can be applied to law school. Sure, a bunch of kids from his HS will go to UMD but not all of them will get a big scholarship and not all of them will get in to honors. These days, getting the Banneker-Key is akin to getting in to a good private.

Oh, and for colleges at the same level as UMD, Pitt and Miami also have some big scholarships. GaTech too (and they would like kids who aren’t focused on engineering/CS/business since that is probably close to 90% of their applicant pool). Because GaTech has so few social science majors, in those departments, he’d enjoy the low student-faculty of a LAC and may actually get more attention from faculty than at some high-priced privates.

In the “difficult” category (up there with getting in to HYPSM, like the full-tuition scholarship at Vandy, etc.), UVa has the Jefferson Scholarship. UMich has a few big scholarships too. Also USC. Also WashU.

Maybe look at schools in capital cities. Florida State in Tallahassee, NC State in Raleigh, South Carolina in Columbia. All have honors programs and offer merit.

And yes, even schools in the south are leaning liberal. NC State is one of my favorite campuses. S21 is going to FSU with in-state tuition scholarship and Honors program. Cost will be half of our PA in-state options.

If he’s interested in law Alabama, UGA and Florida have good law schools.

I am reading all these responses with an open mind and looking at every college you’re recommending and thoughtfully considering all of your responses, so thank you all so much. The only comment I have right now is that Washington and Lee is not a contender. We looked at it together and were so excited about the Johnson scholarship, however after delving further into the college itself, he does not see himself there.

For a very able student interested in politics who would be full pay, but isn’t able to spend $300K, it seems like an obvious option to throw in an Oxford PPE application, given the three year cost would be closer to $150K (depending on exchange rates).

But there is a bunch of prep to do, firstly for the TSA in early November, and secondly the reading required to do well in the interview (plus of course finding someone to write the reference in the format required for the UK). Have a look at this list of pre-course reading for freshmen and see if it appeals (you would be well advised to read a bunch of it this summer before applying): Philosophy, Politics and Economics Reading List | Balliol College, University of Oxford

My S18 had (still has) very similar interests and constraints, he would have loved Georgetown, instead focused on merit (GWU, American and similar) plus state flagships and Oxford (unfortunately didn’t get an offer after interview). We found most of the merit offers only brought the price down to $45K-$50K and our in-state options in CA at $30K were much more compelling. We’ve been very happy with that decision and it hasn’t been at all limiting.

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Northeastern is known for being terrible with aid, mostly because they will not negotiate at all. They do give merit, though, so that’s worth noting— I got a Presidential scholarship with very similar stats to your son, so I assume he’ll get one, too. UChicago is known for being pretty good with aid. Best of luck, and remember to ALWAYS negotiate (write letters of appeal) for more money, because you never know!

At UMD, AP credits may lead to your S22 having sophomore status. That could expand possibilities for graduating early, or getting two undergrad degrees, or a double major, or start a masters, - see new data science & politics masters M.S. in Applied Political Analytics | GVPT l Government & Politics Department l University of Maryland

Or public policy Joint Bachelors/Master of Public Policy Program | BSOS-Undergrad | BSOS Undergraduate | Behavioral & Social Sciences College | University of Maryland


You missed the point. I said that one may be paying 50% on the LAST dollar made. Between top federal tax bracket, and state income taxes, and local payroll taxes, it is possible that income above a certain point for high earners is taxed at as much as 50%.

So let’s say you ave a family living and working in NYC or the Bay area, in a very expensive area for housing, food, other necessities. Their high income doesn’t buy them much after they pay for housing and food and other necessities. Yet in order to pay for college, they have to earn more - but they pay high tax on every one of those “extra” dollars they have to earn to pay for college. So yes, for those extras, above and beyond their basic living expenses which consume every penny of, say, the first 200-300K they earn in order to have what would be considered a middle class lifestyle in any other area of the country, they DO have to earn two dollars for every dollar that they spend. This means that effectively they have to earn 600K to pay that 300K for college.

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$200-300k is far more than the median household income in expensive places like San Jose, California (about $110k). Why would someone need to spend every cent of $200-300k to live decently even in expensive places?

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Take a look at Florida State University they offer an Out of State waiver he may qualify for and pay instate tuition. If he doesn’t qualify they offer a study abroad for your first year at one of their four study centers in London, Florence, Valencia or Panama City and after that you pay instate tuition for the remainder of your degree. We are in State and my son is going to Florence in September. Links to both programs
FSU Admissions | First Year Scholarships FSU International Programs Freshmen


I think you will be hard pressed to find a better option out there than UMD. But you may ant to think about what type of Politics/Govt your son is interested in. If he’s drawn toward US Govt than being in the DC area will certainly offer the broadest opportunities for exposure/internships, etc. If it’s more on the World Politics stage than he might want to cast a net and explore programs in NYC (internships at UN, large City Gov’t). You have a range of schools that with his grades might be within the range of UMD (Fordham, Manhattan College, St Johns, NYU, Rutgers).

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If you can’t afford Princeton, don’t let him apply. No matter what you say, he’ll believe and hope you’ll let him attend if he’s among the 5% admitted. It’ll be cruel to see him get in and then tell him it’s not possible, knowing ahead of time it never was in the cards.