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Scholarships/School Choice

agitationsagitations Registered Users Posts: 1 Harvard Champion
Background: I'm a junior who just got a 34 on my ACT. My dream school is UPenn, but since I live in NC the most reasonable option is probably UNC Chapel Hill, which is also a school I love so it's not a big problem.

I want to go to a school with a record of academic excellence that'll give me a lot of opportunities to do research and experience new things, etc. etc. etc. However, I don't want to incur a huge amount of debt in the process of attending one of those universities.

So, my question is: do you think it's better to go to a school such as Penn, where the population is undoubtedly very intelligent, passionate, and driven, and accept the debt I'll probably have as a result, or would it be more intelligent to go to a less-renowned school (as in, less than Chapel Hill) where I could probably get more scholarship money and probably be one of the top students?

Incidentally, what kind of scholarships does a 34 ACT score grant in this day and age? I know 34s at Penn are a dime a dozen, I'm asking about smaller state schools, etc.
Post edited by agitations on

Replies to: Scholarships/School Choice

  • purpleacornpurpleacorn Registered Users Posts: 25
    edited May 2013
    You need to run the NPCs (Net Price Calculators) at these schools-- large amounts of debt isn't a necessity. Penn is a fantastic school with strong financial aid, based primarily on the amount of money your parents make. Have the money talk with your parents and pin down what they are comfortable paying-- and then compare that to the NPCs of what schools will expect you to pay.

    And yes, a 34 ACT can get you sizable merit awards.

  • rmldadrmldad Registered Users Posts: 16
    edited May 2013
    Apply to a variety of schools so that you will have multiple good choices next spring. UNC-CH sounds like a solid financial safety (although admission shouldn't be considered safe, even in-state). UPenn might be a good reach school for you. Fill in with other schools, perhaps half a dozen or so, that will include: a couple schools where you will likely receive significant merit aid (or one where you have a guaranteed award); a couple full-need schools where you will be able to compare FA offers; and perhaps another reach school since no one can be assured of admission to any Ivy.
  • thumper1thumper1 Registered Users Posts: 125
    edited May 2013
    UNC meets full need for all accepted instate students. UPenn alsomeets full need. UPenn gives NO merit awards. UNC does.

    If you are eligible for need based aid, you might actually net similar costs at both schools. If not, UNC-CH is likely to be your bargain school...and as you noted, it is an outstanding school. I'd save my money and use it for grad school....maybe at UPenn.
  • arabrabarabrab Registered Users Posts: 9
    edited May 2013
    You really, really need to see whether colleges in which you're interested give merit scholarships AT ALL, and if they do, how much they are on average, and what percentage of the freshmen get ANY merit scholarship.

    Luckily, the NY Times did a great analysis of this back on July 22, 2012 "Good Bets for Merit Aid" -- unluckily while I can see the blurb, the chart itself does not seem to be on-line, or at least not where I can find it.

    As an illustration take two schools: Johns Hopkins and Vanderbilt. Johns Hopkins' average merit award was $29,310. Vanderbilt had an average merit award of $24,505. But only 1% of students at Johns Hopkins received ANY merit award, and 9% of students received one at Vanderbilt. You're not likely to get a merit award at Vanderbilt, but you ought to read this data as understanding that getting one at Johns Hopkins would be a lottery ticket chance indeed. Meanwhile, at USC (California), the average award was almost $19K, but a whopping 24% of students got some kind of merit award from USC.

    UNC Chapel Hill is a fabulous school that many out-of-state students would love to attend. Don't dismiss it because it is in your backyard. (And if a college student can't find research opportunities in the Research Triangle area, it is probably from lack of looking, not lack of opportunities.)
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Registered Users Posts: 216
    edited May 2013
    What is your major and career goal?

    Don't assume that you won't be surrounded by smart students at whatever school you attend. Certain majors attract "the cream of the crop" no matter what the campus.
  • cptofthehousecptofthehouse Registered Users Posts: 252
    edited May 2013
    I think applying to both schools as reaches is a good idea. Depending on what goes into your need and the nuances of their fin aid policies, you could get similar or very different bottom line cost from your schools, even UNC and UPenn which both guarantee to meet full need (UNC for instaters which you are).

    But not knowing what your family income and other relevant financial situations, hard to say if you even get anything from either school, but if you don't qualify for financial aid after all of the numbers are run, UNC is priced lower than most private unis, especially if you are in state. I don't know what the current numbers are, but NC prices its colleges well for instaters. You might also want to throw Duke on the list, as it does give a bit of an edge in admissions to those from the Carolinas.

    Penn and the other ivies do not give out merit awards, so even a perfect SAT or ACT isn't going to get you money from such schools. Duke gives out very few merit awards, and a 34 is not likely to do it.

    I do put UNC-Ch way up there, by the way, when it comes to top schools. I know kids who picked it over Penn.
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