Wanted: Small school in SE with engineering, pre-med or pre-dental program 28 ACT need merit aid

My son (junior) wants to go to medical or dental school. He wants to major in either engineering or biochem for undergrad. He prefers a small-to-medium sized school, and would prefer to stay in the states of GA, TN, AL, KY, or somewhere close to the borders of those states. (For distance from home and also because he is very outdoorsy and wants to have recreational things to do.) He would prefer a liberal arts education or a strong honors college. Size of city doesn’t matter as much to him, although he will want to be near an airport (of any size) so he can continue to get his private pilot license.

He has a 28 ACT, 4.0 GPA, including a moderate load of dual enrollment and AP classes (8 total so far). He is homeschooled and is about halfway through getting his private pilot’s license. He has super strong extracurriculars: he has worked a part time job for over a year, he plays two club sports, and he has earned the Congressional Gold Medal.

He wants a liberal arts type of program because he likes the approach to education and also prefers very small classes. However, because of the cost of his long term educational goals, he wants to get as much merit aid as possible. He hopes to have ranked high enough on his pilot’s licensing that he can fly for hire to help pay his way through med/dental school.

So far he has visited many colleges and his favorites so far are Mercer, Samford, Berry, and Lipscomb. He also really likes the honors program at Murray State. I’m a little worried about him qualifying for merit aid at all of those except Murray State.

Does anyone have experience with merit aid at these schools?

Any suggestions for other colleges to consider with strong merit aid for a student like him?

He will most likely need a higher standardized test score for a large merit award. Mercer was the school that immediately popped into my mind, so I think you are on the right track. It’s hard to find engineering at a LAC, so he might need to broaden his geographic area or consider and honors college within a larger school.

What is your budget?

That’s exactly what I am worried about with the merit
aid, because I don’t think he will score any higher than what he’s got. He’s a great student and a hard worker, but he doesn’t test to his actual ability. I realize this will be problematic for him later but hoping he will
improve with experience. :slight_smile:

He’s really worried about getting lost in a larger school even with a more concentrated program like honors or scholars. Any suggestions for specific ones we should consider?

Mercer is top of the list. I wish it wasn’t so expensive! It seems like a perfect fit for so many reasons.

Also…engineering? for a pre-med that is a challenging path- a ‘good’ GPA for an engineering student can be a deal-breaker for med school. Fora an LAC it’s a super-narrow path, as few LACs offer engineering.

Those two things need to be separated: there are colleges in every corner of the US that will suit a very outdoorsy student, no matter what form of “outdoorsy” in on the table! Distance from home needs to be faced up to squarely: who is most concerned about it: parents / student or both? what are the important elements underlying it?

The reality is that most colleges and universities programs are ‘liberal arts’. An LAC is simply an undergrad focused school that is typically much smaller, so more direct involvement with the profs. One of the big exceptions? engineering programs.

Western Carolina?

There are few schools where you can get the LAC experience AND an Engineering degree. Biochem is a more likely LAC major. Realistically, if he’s not a test taker getting into med school could be extremely challenging. I agree with the other posters about “outdoorsy”. You can get that in any state. Merit aid with a 28 could be hard. Good luck.

Western Carolina is not one we have considered yet - thank you for that good suggestion, adding to the list.

I realize that the engineering pathway is unusual, and he might consider bio chem for that reason. But since engineering is a real possibility, I want to be sure he goes to a college that can support that major if that’s what he chooses (or decides to switch to later). His strengths are most definitely in the engineering/science realm so I have no worries about the choice of major. His dad/my husband is a highly specialized physician and we have many, many friends who chose the engineering/med school route. I think it’s doable for him. It’s actually been somewhat helpful to have that parameter as it has narrowed the focus a LOT by factoring out LACs without it. But I am definitely interested to know any we haven’t thought of!

He likes the smaller atmosphere of the LAC college and is very interested in direct involvement with profs. Those would be major reasons for his interest in LAC. My concern with the LAC is more about the merit aid. We can afford outright any state school but the LACs will require merit. We have told him NO DEBT for undergrad and he’s on his own for med/dent school.

I realize the 28 is an issue which is why I am here asking if anyone has experience, possibly knows if anything would be available at those schools with those scores. I have looked at websites but some schools are way more transparent about available scholarships than others, and what the qualifiers are. With 400+ hours of community service, maybe there is a service award that he would be eligible for? Perhaps there is a school that is truly test optional, not only for admission but also for merit? Those kinds of things would be interesting to me.

As far as geography is concerned, we started with far away schools in TX, NC and SC but he has narrowed his search to be within 5 hours’ drive. He spends entire months away at summer camp, so being away isn’t the issue, but being close-ish to home is. Maybe it’s the proximity to his hunting camp, maybe it’s because his dad is now ill and he wants to be sure he is close to home in case something happens (highly likely given the timeline of prognosis). Maybe he just doesn’t want to drive far to get home, maybe it’s because he hates super cold weather. Not sure why exactly but his “donut” has become equal to a 5 hour drive so trying to stay close to that. It’s definitely his decision and probably a wise one given his personality and our family’s situation.

Maybe that helps clarify something things - hard to get it all into one post.

I don’t want to say it’s impossible, but it’s very unlikely he will get meaningful merit aid with a 28 ACT at a LAC. Maybe $5k a year.

He could look for TO schools, but I don’t know of any in the states you listed. I believe test optional and merit will be tough for a home schooled applicant.

Do you think he could add ACT/SAT prep to his regular class routine and raise the score? He has almost a year to do it.

Have you thought about the Colleges That Change Lives? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colleges_That_Change_Lives

Your son isn’t exactly the typical student for those schools, but he ticks a lot of the boxes.

Actually I think most, if not all, of those schools are TO at the moment. But that’s for admission. And who knows what next year will bring! Mercer, his favorite, is not super forthcoming about what happens for scholarships for a TO student. I kind of think they (and some of the others maybe) are looking for a certain fit, and if they find it, they will make it happen. If they do interviews or essays in lieu of tests he would absolutely slay that. (Anyone know?)

I agree the score is important to validate his homeschooling (although the dual enrollment credits and AP scores should help validate it too - he has a super strong class load). He has already done significant ACT prep - with more than one tutoring program - he has made a 27 or 28 every time he has taken it and I just don’t want to be unrealistic in thinking it will get higher. I don’t want to be unrealistic about anything which is why I am here asking - if this is truly not even a possibility I need to tell him Mercer is officially off the table because we can’t afford it and he won’t get a scholarship and he needs to focus elsewhere.

Besides the lack of availability of engineering majors at many smaller colleges, remember also that biochemistry majors and engineering majors may take different versions of courses like math and physics, and there are frosh/soph courses that are require for one but not the other. So a student undecided between those majors needs to (a) take the superset of courses for both majors, and (b) where the majors require different versions of the course, take the course that is accepted by both majors (usually the harder version).

I have read about CTCL here on this forum but it was so long ago I forgot about that - thanks for the reminder - will look!

So sorry to hear of your husband’s prognosis. I’m sure that is a factor in your son’s decision. You haven’t identified your budget, but I will suggest Eckerd College in St. Petersburg. They do offer a 3-2 engineering program-eckerd.edu/engineering-applied-science/, have a strong natural sciences program with a fairly new James Center for Molecular and Life Sciences. Eckerd has a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, honors college, and a high professional school placement-https://www.eckerd.edu/prehealth/.

Merit Aid: https://www.eckerd.edu/admissions/financial-aid/types/ They are also known for generous need based aid as well as merit.
Eckerd is known for the strong professor/mentor and student relationships.
Tampa Airport is 20 minutes away. Flight lessons are available at Albert Whitted Field in St. Pete, about 10 minutes away.https://stpeteair.org/
Eckerd is located on Boca Ciega Bay with free sailing lessons, free paddle boards, kayaks, fishing equipment for students.

@ECmotherx2 - wow - this could be a major possibility. My husband’s medical team is at UF. We had not considered FL schools really but this actually might be do-able because of our frequent visits close by…thanks for this suggestion.

ETA, I just glanced at costs and aid and this is definitely doable and he would receive good merit aid with his scores. THANK YOU for adding one to our list!

However, 3+2 programs are rarely completed by transfer to the “2” school, perhaps due to added cost (one more year and uncertainty for financial aid and scholarships). If engineering is of interest, better to go to a college which offers it natively.