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My National Merit kid is a freshman at Alabama...feel free to ask questions

Colorado19and22Colorado19and22 84 replies4 threads Junior Member
edited September 30 in University of Alabama
In the spirit of @FrozenMaineMom and considering the help we found here in this forum as DS19 was going through what all of you NMSF students and parents are going through now, I thought I'd try to pay it forward and offer to answer questions you might have.

As part of the application process, I made my son select at least one school that gave a substantial scholarship for NMF to apply to in addition to the other places he was interested in. I know he looked at University of Florida and Florida State, Arizona State, University of New Mexico, and University of Idaho in addition to Alabama. I don't think he looked at the other Florida schools.

Anyway, he picked Alabama as his first NM choice, because of the possibility of the Randall Research Scholars Program and Blount Scholars Program (both have separate applications), as well as the flexibility of the scholarship (5 years of tuition, not limited by a number of credit hours, and can be used for graduate studies--even law school!) We went to visit in October of his senior year, and he came away impressed, thinking that if he got into one or the other of the special programs, it would be hard to turn Alabama down. ***TIP: If you go visit, reach out to your regional recruiter or the Honors College and let them know what you are interested in exploring--they will plan an itinerary for you and you will get so much more out of the visit. For example, when we visited, DS had expressed an interest in Blount Scholars, so the itinerary had a scheduled time to meet with the Director of the Program. I also suggest to plan your visit when there isn't a home football game!***

He ended up being accepted to both Randall Research Scholar and Blount Scholars, and instead of having to pick one, Alabama lets them do both! Even then, it was hard for him to make the choice--it is 1300 miles away from us, and he certainly isn't a fan of the weather--but in the end, he couldn't turn down the opportunity, and is now an extremely happy freshman (except for the weather).

Some more tips:
-- Alabama has very generous AP and dual enrollment credit policies. My DS has his entire core taken care of and was able to jump right into his majors/minors. The AP/DE credits do not count against a set number of semesters or credits. This gives kids with lots of APs/DE classes A LOT of flexibility and the opportunity to do graduate work, co-ops, study abroad, etc. Honestly, I figure DS will graduate with over 200 semester credits, as he came in with almost 100!
--There are a number of special programs to consider--Randall Research Scholars, University Fellows, Blount Scholars, Emerging Scholars, etc. These generally have separate applications, and the deadlines are earlier than you might expect. Do your research early so you don't find out about something too late.
-- The scholarship doesn't cover dining (it covers room, but not board) or class fees, but after the stipend was applied, our bill for the first semester was only about $500.
-- The scholarship has $2,000 to be used for study abroad or summer research, but what you might not realize is that the tuition scholarship can potentially be used for study abroad too! There are students using their tuition scholarship for Semester at Sea and other opportunities.
--The 5th year of tuition could cover the needed time to complete the STEM path to MBA, resulting in STEM undergrad degree and an MBA. My son wasn't interested in this, but it seems to be very popular.
--While greek life is popular, and a lot of kids rush, it is not the majority of students. My DS did not rush and has had no trouble making friends and having a social life.
--While most students want to move off-campus after freshman year, the NMF scholarship includes on-campus housing for 4 years. There are on-campus apartments available to non-freshmen, and they are covered by the NMF scholarship. Based on what I've seen, the housing part of the scholarship cannot be used off campus or in a greek house.
-- Travel to/from Tuscaloosa can be more difficult than for a school with easy access to a major airport. Birmingham is about an hour away, and there are shuttle services, so it is manageable, but always something to consider.

If you have a question on something I didn't cover, ask away! I don't know everything, but I can point you in the right direction at least :)



MODERATOR'S NOTE: Anyone is free to ask or answer questions in this thread.

edited September 30
20 replies
Post edited by MaineLonghorn on
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Replies to: My National Merit kid is a freshman at Alabama...feel free to ask questions

  • Atlanta68Atlanta68 1391 replies254 threads Senior Member
    edited September 20
    Your child was in the UA class with the most ever number of National Merit Scholars. 256! Probably the most in the nation, judging by past years. Also, this September has been a little hotter than avg across most of the South. Should be a little milder next September.
    edited September 20
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  • CincoDadCincoDad 10 replies2 threads New Member
    This is very helpful - Thank You! My DS is considering Alabama. Also, you mentioned $500 bill for a semester so are you estimating ~ $1000 / year out of pocket for tuition, room, and board? Finally, do you have anyone you'd recommend reaching out to for a customized visit? Thank you.
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  • Colorado19and22Colorado19and22 84 replies4 threads Junior Member
    @CincoDad. I'm really glad you found this helpful! The $500 was our out-of-pocket for tuition, room, board, and fees for the first semester, but we are expecting it to be closer to $1000 for next semester because for the first semester they applied the enrollment deposit ($200) and housing deposit ($265) that we had previously paid as credits to the bill before we paid. Since I wrote the post, we also found out that DS's book costs were about $150 more than the book scholarship (which is $250 per semester).

    In terms of who to reach out to for a customized visit, start by finding the regional recruiter for your state at this link: https://gobama.ua.edu/staff/
    This person should be your first contact. They can either coordinate your visit, or recommend who else to contact. If you haven't already been in touch with them, be sure to let them know about NMSF status, because then they can make sure to schedule time to go over the scholarship. The more your DS has a sense about what he's interested in (major or department, special programs, extracurricular activities) the more personalized the visit will be, so encourage him to so some research, if he hasn't already.

    I hope you enjoy your visit!
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  • CincoDadCincoDad 10 replies2 threads New Member
    Super helpful. Thank you.
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  • CCityMomCCityMom 6 replies2 threads New Member
    Super helpful Colorado19and22! Thank you! My NMSF son and I are visiting in October. I'll be contacting our Louisiana recruiter today. What are the most impressive aspects of the school that I should make sure is included in our Honors College/campus tour. I'd like him to be wow'ed as much as my husband and I are by the school! He's not feeling the Roll Tide spirit! He's not a Greek kinda kid, but he is social. What sorts of activities has your son been involved with to make friends that is not Greek-related. Again, I want my picky son to be impressed!! Any must - see tour advice from happy Bama parents would be greatly appreciated!
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  • Atlanta68Atlanta68 1391 replies254 threads Senior Member
    I am sure others have more to say, but check out the new Science and Engineering Complex, the Black Warrior River trail, and maybe get food to go and have a relaxing lunch on the Quad. Most students at UA are not in frats and sororities by the way.

    Also, maybe visit the Student Recreation Center.
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  • CCityMomCCityMom 6 replies2 threads New Member
    Great ideas! Thank you!!
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  • Colorado19and22Colorado19and22 84 replies4 threads Junior Member
    I completely second @Atlanta68, the science and engineering complex is impressive! DS knew he wanted to major in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, so he was really interested in those facilities. He got a chance to tour the Astrobotics and Baja racing extracurricular teams/spaces too, and while they weren't "his thing" they were interesting and impressive as well. If your DS doesn't lean STEM, see if you can see the facilities/meet with a professor or dean in whatever he's interested in.

    My DS also liked the general campus tour, and our tour took us into one of the suite-style dorms and the rec center. He had expressed interest in the Randall Research Scholars and Blount Scholars programs and got a lot out of meeting with the Honors Dean and Director of Blount--these might have been what tipped him to Alabama. After our visit he decided that if he got into one of those programs it would be hard to say no to Alabama.

    I'd also suggest a little people watching on the quad, and encourage him to talk to students. My son asked everyone he met "where are you from" and "how do you like it here," sometimes followed up by "what are you involved in." His overall impression was happy students having fun and doing a lot of different things.

    DS didn't go Greek and has found plenty of social opportunities. He is in Blount Hall, and it is a very social dorm--lots of activities, kids hanging out in the lounge, and group chats for "hey, we're starting a movie" and things like that. I have heard the same about the honors suite-style dorms (Ridgecrest). As far as the social thing goes, I think the real trick is to step outside that comfort zone and just talk to people--say yes to trying new things like joining an intramural team for ultimate frisbee (yes--my son did that! :) ) There have also been a lot of activities on campus open to anyone, planned by University Programs--they have something called "Tide after Dark" that plans activities for every Thursday/Friday/Saturday evening. Check out the Division of Student Life website https://sa.ua.edu for the on-campus activities, and check out The Source https://thesource.sa.ua.edu for information on the campus organizations like clubs and volunteer groups. One of the nice things about such a large campus is that there are activities for everyone, and it might take a little looking, but I think everyone can find their people/where they belong.

    I hope you have a great visit!
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  • Atlanta68Atlanta68 1391 replies254 threads Senior Member
    edited September 27
    Also, drive up to the Bryce Lawn part of campus. It is a very old area that only recently became part of UA's campus. They are renovating the large and soon to be beautiful again, White pre Civil War domed building there with Italianate architecture. It is a very cool contrast with the Greek Revival style on the rest of the campus. There is a beautiful tree lined road that takes you up to the building. When it is finally fully renovated, it will be the school's welcome center. There will also be a huge performing arts center built behind that old white domed building mentioned above. Construction will likely start in a year or so. Bryce Lawn is a huge area, and has its own large grassy area, about the same size if not bigger than the Quad.
    edited September 27
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  • CCityMomCCityMom 6 replies2 threads New Member
    Atlanta68 & Colorado19and22 I'm feverishly writing down all of your suggestions! So excited about our visit!! Colorado, my DS is an avid Ultimate Frisbee player! He's at practice right now! I'm going to definitely look into that! GRACIAS!
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  • kmmordkmmord 8 replies1 threads New Member
    My DD was recently accepted and received the Presidential Elite Scholarship. She was just name NMSF and should make it to finalist based on her scores and GPA. Do you know if you can combine the presidential elite and the NMF scholarship?
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  • Colorado19and22Colorado19and22 84 replies4 threads Junior Member
    @kmmord My son was initially awarded the Presidential Elite based on stats, but it was replaced by the NMF scholarship when he was named a finalist--they don't combine those two scholarships.
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  • amsunshineamsunshine 244 replies3 threads Junior Member
    Thank you for this thread! My NMSF dd was accepted into the honors program and we were wondering if it is advisable to put down the enrollment deposit now in order to make sure her housing in one of the honors dorms is secured. Or would she still be guaranteed honors housing if she waited until the spring when she's able to evaluate all decisions from other institutions?
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  • Colorado19and22Colorado19and22 84 replies4 threads Junior Member
    @amsunshine We didn't deposit early because DS had applied to Blount Scholars, and figured he would be living in Blount dorm as a result. Even so, we were so late (April) that he didn't really have any choice on room or roommate. This year, he put the deposit down the very first day, so he can have a choice for next year. In hindsight, we should have deposited earlier than we did.

    I don't know that you need to deposit right now--but if you think UA is a stong possibility, I certainly recommend doing it before the February 3rd application deadline for kids to participate in online room selection (where they can pick not only the dorm, but the actual room.)
    According to the incoming student housing FAQ, honors housing isn't guaranteed--https://housing.sa.ua.edu/incoming-students/freshman-faqs/ --but I think it would be ok as long as you meet that February deadline. Another reason to apply by that deadline is so she knows where her room will be early in the process. UA assigns kids who apply after the deadline, rather than letting them pick, and last summer they were still assigning kids in July--which makes dorm shopping hard (e.g., do you have a whole bedroom or just a half?)

    If you put the deposits down now, the $200 enrollment deposit and $35 of the housing deposit would be non-refundable if she chose a different school. It may be worth it to you to have the peace of mind.
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  • amsunshineamsunshine 244 replies3 threads Junior Member
    Thank you! I was thinking for peace of mind, it might be worth it, too. My dd was going to probably do the Randall Research app, so maybe after that is done, we will look into it. I appreciate the reply!
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  • FloridaMarcusFloridaMarcus 15 replies1 threads Junior Member
    My son is primarily considering Alabama and UT Dallas.
    Our visit to Bama was great but my son left thinking the school was lacking diversity and maybe too much of a party/greek type college.
    I believe his perspective is somewhat flawed but it stuck out to him for sure.
    What can you say about diversity and the overall atmosphere?
    Thanks.
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  • Colorado19and22Colorado19and22 84 replies4 threads Junior Member
    @FloridaMarcus Diversity was my son's biggest concern when picking Alabama. He came from a large, diverse high school and was used to racial and, to a lesser extent, socio-economic diversity. He's been on campus 3 months now, and we've talked about what it feels like vs. what the numbers say. He thinks that the overall campus feels about as racially diverse as his high school, but that there seem to be differences by programs and/or activities. For example, the research lab he works in, Blount Scholars, and the chemical engineering classes he has seem more diverse to him than the Randall Research Scholars. He thinks , that there might be differences from major to major as well, but doesn't know that for a fact. He socializes with people from a lot of different states and countries--and finds that the differences in backgrounds adds diversity in a way he doesn't normally think about.

    He finds the overall culture/campus really interesting in that there certainly are students that are there for a party, but there are plenty of kids that aren't into that. (The quad on a game day isn't a good representation of day to day life there.) He is not one of the "party" kids (and didn't go greek) but has found a home there. The nice thing is that a campus that large pretty much has a place for everyone to belong. I know it is one kid's experience, but he's been part of an ultimate frisbee team, is doing research already, and has been to numerous concerts, lectures, and social events. He even participated in an open mic night!! The bigger adjustments for him, coming from Colorado, is how friendly everyone is and how religion is part of casual discussion in a way that it isn't here. He thinks, and I agree, those differences are likely more about being in a different part of the country than the campus specifically.

    Picking a college is so hard, especially when the schools are so different, but I will say that Alabama has been great for my son. He told us last weekend that he has grown more in the last 3 months than he thinks he did during the previous 5 years.

    Good luck!
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  • docndonnadocndonna 37 replies2 threads Junior Member
    Hi ! I have a number of questions about becoming a National Merit Scholar and about UA vs other schools. I am very acquainted with Alabama as my oldest boy graduated last year and my daughter is a sophomore. My third child is a boy and received his PSAT scores today and he got a 1490 out of 1520. We figure he is a lock for Semifinalist and I was hoping you could give me some guidance about how he could become a National Merit Finalist and especially one at UA. Since my son is not sold on leaving Pittsburgh I wondered if you also knew of Northern schools giving full rides to National Merit kids. He has not shown a lot of leadership and mostly plays lacrosse, intramural basketball and studies. He has a blackbelt from younger days and was in Boy Scouts for 4 years. He was a Quartermaster is about as much leadership as he has done to date. He took the SAT as a sophomore and got a 1420. He plans on taking it again. Thoughts on what he should do to enhance his chances of becoming a National Merit Finalist?
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  • Colorado19and22Colorado19and22 84 replies4 threads Junior Member
    @docndonna Once your son is named a NMSF (semi-finalist) he will be notified of the application process to become a finalist--the application includes an essay (my son used the same one he used on the Common Application,) requires a school transcript and recommendation (counselor or administrator, I believe,) and requires the submission of a confirming SAT score. (Since your son is already planning on taking the SAT again, have him use one of his free score sends to send the SAT score to National Merit to save some money!) As my son was going through the process, I read a lot on the National Merit sub-forum here on CC (it is under the Financial Aid and Scholarships Forum)--my understanding from what I read there is that if a student has a good GPA, good enough SAT score, and no red flags in the recommendations, then they most likely will become a finalist. From what I recall, 15,000ish of the 16,000ish semifinalists made it to finalist?? Something like that.

    Moving from finalist to scholar is dependent on receiving a National Merit scholarship. There are 3 kinds of NM scholarships--those given by schools, those given by corporations, and those given by National Merit. If your son becomes a finalist, and lists Alabama as his first choice with National Merit, then he will get Alabama's National Merit scholarship and be a National Merit Scholar--it's actually pretty simple. As your son gets further in the National Merit process, be sure to check each school's website for updated information--scholarships and their requirements may change from year-to-year.

    As far as big National Merit at Northern schools, I really haven't heard of much. I think your best resource for that is going to be over on the National Merit sub-forum. Here's a link: https://talk.collegeconfidential.com/national-merit-scholarships/ There are a couple of threads that talk about which schools have scholarships, but sometimes it takes a little digging.

    Roll Tide (and Good Luck)!
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  • docndonnadocndonna 37 replies2 threads Junior Member
    Thanks Colorado19and22 !!
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