Thoughts on my list? Need merit aid

Hi! I’m a current year 12 student (junior) from south-east England who is hoping to study in the US. Like with lots of international students, finances are an issue. I have run NPCs and our EFC is $55000 but this is too much for my family. I have spoken in much detail regarding finances with my parents and they have agreed to pay equal to what it would cost to attend one of my home institutions which is roughly $30000. I will be getting a summer job to pay for travel costs and I have enough money saved up to pay for all the application fees.

I received four 9s, four 8s, and two 7s in my GCSEs. I took Maths, English, English lit, core science, additional science, German, history, religious studies, geography, German, and Latin.

I am predicted four A*s in my A-Levels. I am taking English lit, history, religious studies, and politics.

I got a 1550 on my SAT (790 CR, 760 M) and a 22 on the essay. I have a 790, 780, and 780 on three SAT subject tests (Literature, Latin, and US history).

ECs wise, I have about 400 volunteer hours at this point (with some leadership), I am a member of 3 clubs in my HS (all with leadership), I am a deputy-head girl of my HS, and I currently run a theology-themed blog with about 7000 followers.

I currently plan on majoring in religious studies and double-minoring in political science and either history or classics.

My current list is:
Ole Miss
Michigan State
Florida State

Three of these schools (Ole Miss, Arizona, and Alabama) are both academic and financial safeties.

If you have any other recommendations I welcome them with open arms. If you can’t tell, I like medium to large sized schools with a big sports scene.

Really I just want thoughts on whether I’m being realistic or not, considering how much money I can afford to pay. My guidance counsellor has never had a student apply to the US before, and since admissions are not as holistic in the UK and merit scholarships are not a concern, I thought that it would be best to ask for some more experienced opinions.

Thanks :slight_smile:

You do realize that your list is largely composed of public universities? These are funded by their states, so dollars are limited as are seats.
You cannot assume that getting into some of these schools is a shoo in.
Also, is that $30K for tuition only or does it include the yearly budget? (room and board, fees, transportation, spending money?)

Check each of your schools for availability of merit money for international students. If they don’t have a number of awards that can meet your gap, take those of your list. Many of those schools do not guarantee to meet need for US citizens. And have little money for out of state students if public schools.

@whodatnation Your list is fine for a $30k budget. Some will be a competitive merit process, but I think you already know that. You should end up with some good options.

@“aunt bea” That 30k is for the whole budget (well, the direct costs to the university - I have inheritance money thank will be used for indirect costs)

@cptofthehouse All of these schools on my list offer at least one merit scholarship (although some are VERY competitive) that will make it affordable for my family. Thank was the first screening process.

Thanks for the advice

Do you think my list is too reach heavy for merit? Which ones specifically do you think will be tougher just admit wise?

That doesn’t seem like a bad list. But you could probably add a few private schools that offer full tuition scholarships too. Certainly USC (California) would be an obvious one to include.

Also look at this thread from an English girl in a similar situation last year (albeit with less financial constraints). You could PM her for advice:

OP, if you have TCU on your list, also add SMU in Dallas. They have wonderful merit opportunities but I am not sure if they are offered to non-US citizens.

So you have only $30,000 total for four years? Or $30,000 per year?

@intparent Sorry for the confusion. I have roughly 30k per year.

@GnocchiB Thanks for the recommendation. Their website is a little vague about international students’ eligibility for scholarships so I’ll drop them an email.

@Twoin18 I always assumed that USC would be out of reach so there would be no point in applying. Do you think it is worth adding as a lottery school, then?

I think you should balance the number of full tuition scholarships offered against the overall competitiveness of the school. USC offers more scholarships than many other places, so it’s worth a try. UNC, Duke and Vanderbilt could be other ones. With a predicted 4 A*s and an obscure but interesting academic focus that could make for some good essays, you should at least try for some more reachy schools, while recognizing your chances aren’t that high.

Big name sports is all very well, but have you thought about the sort of intellectual environment you are looking for? The schools on your list would be very different from Oxbridge, which is one reason I’d look for some more reachy options too. My D opted for a full ride at a lower ranked school. She loves it there, but chose it for ballet not for academics and you can see it’s sometimes harder to find the smart/nerdy/intellectual kids. Fortunately she’s in a cohort scholarship program where the top kids all room and take class together.

@Twoin18 Thanks for the advice. I definitely do want to have some friends I can have ‘intellectual’ discussions with, but I figure that at a large enough school, I can join clubs to find similar people with similar interests to me, as well as other religious studies majors. I also plan on applying to honours programs if the school has one. If I was accepted to a school with honours housing and priority registration, that would be a big plus for me.

I’ll definitely take a further look at Duke, USC, UNC, and Vanderbilt, thanks.

Do you think that it is worth looking at Notre Dame, too? With the school spirit and the fantastic department for my major, it seems like a great fit. I always assumed that it would be too out of reach, but do you think it could be worth looking at?

The first issue you need to address is that you are an international student who is looking for money for colleges. You need to vet every college you are considering as to whether they will give international students financial aid and/or merit money.

If you really want to study in the US, you should be looking at schools that you can manage at $30k a year as a baseline. Anything else is going to be a game of chance with slim odds in terms of getting a lot of money towards your costs.

Norte Dame doesn’t offer any merit aid, so unless the EFC tells you it’s affordable then there’s little point in applying. Most of the Catholic schools are like that. Fordham is an exception but probably not what you want in terms of sports etc.

As an out of the box option for religious studies, have you looked at what BYU offers? It falls within your budget even without any aid, but I don’t know how much the LDS focus would conflict with what you are looking for.

@Twoin18 That isn’t true. ND offers some competitive merit only scholarships, including full tuition scholarships.

@Twoin18 Huh, I thought I saw on Notre Dame’s website that they did. I thought that they were one of the schools to offer stamps, but maybe I’m wrong. Or maybe all of their merit scholarships have need components.

I have looked into BYU actually! But weirdly enough, they don’t have a religious studies major - just the mandatory church doctrine and history classes - so I ruled it out. I definitely want to major in religious studies and not Joseph Smith studies, haha.

@cptofthehouse What do you mean by ‘schools I can manage by 30k as a baseline’? Do you mean schools where that is the COA? Or schools with guaranteed merit to bring the cost down to 30k or under? I already have three schools for the latter. And yes, all of the schools on my list definitely offer ample merit to international students; it’s getting it that will be the hard part.

  What is your career plan? Why religious studies? 

Oh sorry. Yes then I’d try for Notre Dame while still acknowledging it’s a big reach.

@Sybylla I just absolutely love the discipline. I’m always reading about it, watching documentaries about it, and just trying to learn more. I do understand it’s not the most employable discipline, however. At the moment I’m thinking that I’ll probably go into teaching, either at the secondary school level or the university level and become a lecturer. But I’m also considering going into journalism and being a religious affairs correspondent or becoming a priest.

Also do you think that I’m applying to too many schools? I think I’m willing to go up to 20, and my reasoning for that is just the sheer competition as an international student in need of money and the fact that a lot of the big public schools don’t have additional essays. But do you think this is a mistake? I can afford all the application fees and am willing to put the work in.

I think 20 wouldn’t be at all unreasonable given that any application requiring a large amount of non automatic merit aid (especially as an international student) is a reach. It depends how upset you’d be if you didn’t get anything you wanted - I assume your backup is to take a gap year and stay in the U.K.? If you need to start winnowing the choices (e.g. to add a few more reaches) then focus on the size of the department (particularly the number graduating each year with your major) and whether the course catalog appeals. My concern is that at some colleges, religious studies will be such a small department that you won’t find an appealing intellectual peer group.