Posts filed under ‘merit scholarships’

Scholarships for Students from Rural Counties

Need money for college?  If you fit this profile, you might apply for a $5000-per-semester 4 year scholarship from the Hagan Scholarship Foundation:

  • High achievers (3.5 GPA)
  • with high financial need (FAFSA expected family contribution less than $7500)
  • from rural counties (less than 50,000 population)
  • in 10 states (AR, KS, IA, IL,IN,MO,NE, OK, KY,TN)

There are more criteria, but I love the idea of targeting high achievers from rural areas with financial need, as, from what I’ve seen in Montana, many of these students have been shortchanged on the kinds of high school classes and experiences that their big city counterparts enjoy.

Apparently, these scholarships have been awarded only in the last 3 years.  Last year, 114 students won awards.

Good luck!

May 15, 2013 at 2:55 pm Leave a comment

Buyer Beware on Fifth Year Free

My daughter’s college, Clark University, offers a “fifth year free” program. (My alma mater, Stephens College, used to do this, too, and there are probably other schools that do it to entice their best students to continue on to graduate school.)  No, it doesn’t mean that, if a student fails to graduate in 4 years, he can keep trying to graduate free of charge.  It means that a successful undergraduate may be able to get a Masters degree by staying for one additional year.

But, we’re finding out that there are some tricky requirements.  Sometimes I feel like the admissions department was writing blank checks that the finance office or the faculty don’t want to cash.

  1. You must have a certain (high) undergraduate GPA.  That makes sense as it is an indicator of how well you will do in grad school.
  2. You must major in certain areas for a certain Masters program.  That makes sense, too.   You can’t shorten a Masters program if you don’t have the foundational courses.
  3. You must finish your undergraduate degree in 4 years.  At first blush, that makes sense, too.  If you can’t finish in 4 years, you probably dropped classes you were failing and therefore are not the caliber of student who will do well in the more difficult graduate level courses.  However, here comes the first big caveat:  you also cannot graduate in less than 4 years.  This happened to one of my daughter’s friends.  She came to college with a bunch of Advanced Placement credit and got a full semester of classes waived.  She planned to spend four full years taking undergraduate classes, but she met all the requirements for general education courses and for her first major within 3-1/2 years.   When they found out she wanted to get her fifth year free, they made her graduate in 3-1/2 years, which meant she had not met the requirement of spending 4 years in the undergraduate program, so she couldn’t get the fifth year free.   Ouch!  I could maybe understand if a college said “you chose to graduate early, therefore we didn’t get 4 full years of tuition from you, therefore you can’t get the fifth year free”, but it seems harsh to say we want to make you graduate early so we don’t have to give you the fifth year free.
  4. You must take certain prerequisites for the graduate program, above and beyond the requirements for your major.  In other words, you’re starting the graduate program before you finish the undergraduate program.  This requires good planning in course selection so you can fit everything into 4 years.
  5. You must have a good answer for the question, “What makes you think you can succeed in graduate level courses?”  Luckily, my daughter had been invited by one of her freshman professors to take a Ph.D. level seminar class from her and she took that class in sophomore year.  If she hadn’t taken a graduate level course by fall of her junior year, this would be a tough question to answer convincingly on the grad school application, which is due in spring of junior year, long before most graduate school applications are due.

Her advice:

  • Ask “what if I…” questions about the requirements for the fifth year free program not only of the admissions department but also of the faculty in that department.
  • Don’t fulfill all of your undergraduate requirements until spring of senior year.
  • Take a graduate level course midway through your undergraduate program…and do well in it.

Caveat emptor.  Let the buyer beware.

October 23, 2011 at 7:07 am 1 comment

Hit the Scholarship Jackpot with the PSAT

Scoring in the top 1% on the PSAT test can be hugely beneficial to high school juniors. In addition to qualifying for the $2500 scholarship that the College Board awards to National Merit Scholars, these high scorers can expect (a) higher acceptance rates at the nation’s elite colleges and (b) lucrative scholarship offers, ranging as high as full tuition, room and board.

How can your child get on this gravy train?

Continue Reading September 3, 2009 at 10:06 pm Leave a comment

My son’s list

As of summer before senior year, here is my son’s short list (in alphabetical order):

  1. Carleton College, Northfield MN – the only small liberal arts college on the list.   A comfortable fit. Size-wise, Carleton is at the bottom of his preferred range.
  2. CalTech, Pasadena CA – Really small, but a fantastic school as long as he doesn’t change direction and decide he wants to major in something other than math or science.  Incredible job placement track record.
  3. Harvard College, Cambridge MA – We were more impressed than we expected.   Strong residential program makes the size manageable.   Financial aid is generous.   Boston is a plus.
  4. Northwestern University, Evanston IL – Has some special programs he wants to explore more.
  5. MIT, Cambridge MA – Like CalTech, but bigger and more widely known.  His original dream school when we started this process 4 years ago.
  6. Stanford University, Palo Alto CA – A little big for my tastes but he loves California and there are more options for majors than at CalTech.
  7. University of Chicago, Chicago IL – The intellectual’s school.   More discussion-focused.
  8. University of Oklahoma, Norman OK – Fantastic financial package for National Merit Scholars and, surprisingly, he feels comfortable at a school with 19,000 students.  Very compact beautiful campus, and he can live on an honors floor and get priority class registration rights.
  9. Yale, New Haven CT – The difference between Harvard and Yale comes down to whether he would take advantage of what Boston has to offer….like pro hockey games.

We’ve visited all of these and now he needs to do more research on their websites to see if he’s still interested in any of the special programs and happy with the course offerings….as well as to get more fodder for the question “Why do you want to attend XYZ University?”.

In case you’re wondering…

  • We never really investigated any other Ivy League schools, other than Penn, so don’t take this as a conclusion that Harvard or Yale are better than the others.
  • The schools with really lucrative merit scholarship programs generally did not appeal to him (which may be why they offer such great scholarships).
  • Originally, he was focused on MIT and CalTech, but, as time goes by, he’s seeing an advantage in leaving open his options for pursuing a non-technical major…even though that’s not what he’s interested in now.
  • My daughter is attending a college that, at one time, was on the bottom of her short list, so I’m well aware that this list could change.

July 20, 2009 at 11:12 am Leave a comment

Olin cuts merit scholarships 50%

One of the best buys in the country has been Olin College of Engineering in Needham, MA, which has been tuition-free for all students.  However, Olin is the latest example of colleges that have had to take drastic action as a result of the hit their endowments took in the stock market.  Here’s an excerpt from the letter my son received:

Olin was founded on the premise that financial considerations should not stand in the way of an excellent engineering education.  That has not changed.  Olin is committed to providing a merit scholarship to every student we accept.  However, due to the ongoing economic downturn, Olin must reduce its full-tuition scholarship by 50 percent beginning in the 2010-11 academic year.

…Moreover, Olin is committed to meeting the full demonstrated need of families seeking financial aid and to restoring the scholarship to 100 percent as soon as financial conditions allow.

Olin is still a good deal for many families.  That 50% off amounts to an $80,000 scholarship.

By no means is Olin the only college making changes…they just are one of the most honest and up-front about it.  It’s ironic that students graduating now are in the midst of the perfect storm….record numbers of students going to college have led to the most frenzied competitive admissions process ever, while colleges – although filled with students – are concerned about their budgets.  Kids graduating in 5 or 10 years won’t have to worry about all this.

If you’re still considering Olin, make sure Olin is truly the right choice for your student.  Engineering is the ONLY  major.  There’s no opportunity to change one’s mind, something that happens with the vast majority of college students.

July 17, 2009 at 7:21 am Leave a comment

College Visit: Carnegie Mellon

Carnegie MellonAre we simply tired from doing 4 college visits in one week, or was today just “ho hum”?

There was no one thing that really stood out at last fall’s Carnegie Mellon information session, yet my son and I both left with the feeling that CMU was worth visiting.  Today’s visit left us feeling that there isn’t anything that stands out.  Period.

CMU does attract academically strong students.  It has a great track record at job placement.  With a theme of bridging the arts and sciences, it may fit a niche for some students. For a fine arts major, it offers a conservatory environment.  But for a basic sciences guy like my son, there was nothing highlighted today that isn’t offered at just about every other place we’re visited.  (The admissions counselor suggested calling the department heads for more details.)

I thought, last fall, that they offered some full tuition scholarships, which got me excited.  But they have been cut back to “at least half tuition” and the admissions counselor advised us to check the website in August or September to find out what would be offered for next year, as there are those in CMU’s administration who advocate cutting all merit scholarships.

July 10, 2009 at 6:44 pm Leave a comment

College Visit: Univ of Chicago

Univ of ChicagoIt was pouring rain when we got to the University of Chicago, but it was beautiful nonetheless. Impressive stone architecture.   As my husband put it, with all the ivy climbing the buildings, it should be an Ivy League school.  The admissions office is in a building with huge rounded wooden doors.  A visit to the restrooms requires a hike up the stone staircase and through the famed Chicago School of Economics.  It gave me chills to think about the people whose footsteps I was following.

[If you’d like a more modern dose of U of Chicago economic thinking, read the book Freakonomics, which was started by a grad student’s research.  You’ll understand the HBO Series, The Wire, much better.]

The curriculum really impressed me:

  • U of Chicago has an incredibly low faculty to student ratio of 6:1.
  • They leverage that low ratio to focus on discussion-based classes.  After all the lecture halls we have toured elsewhere, I was so surprised at being taken into a classroom that was arranged into a circle that I walked up and down the hallway to check.  Every classroom was arranged in a circle!
  • There is a bit of the Great Books approach to learning, similar to what you’ll find at Reed College or St. John’s.  Our tour guide said that students can pretty much count on reading Marx, Aristotle,  and maybe Kant and/or Smith.  Thus, every student has a shared fundamental understanding of philosophy, ethics, and economics.   And by reading Marx, they get their biases and assumptions challenged.
  • Our tour guide talked about interesting classes, engaged professors and grad students, and being challenged to explore big picture themes like war, love & happiness.  Never before have I heard a tour guide talk about a class not wanting the semester to end!
  • I had always thought of Chicago as the brainiac school of Illinois, where the real intellectuals – the ones who love to learn and discuss and debate – study.   So does our tour guide.  So did an admissions counselor quoted in the New York Times recently.   The University of Chicago admissions counselor spoke about looking for “scholarly curiosity”.
  • As evidence that it is truly a liberal arts college and not a pre-professional place, they offered up the fact that there is no engineering program.
  • Of course, the city of Chicago is used as a resource for classes, with all the exhibits, plays, etc. that the city has to offer.
  • There are some accelerated programs (math, chemistry, & med school) and AP credit options that might allow a student to graduate almost a year early.

Drawbacks?  As my son pointed out, if the classrooms are designed to be interactive, you’d better be good at participating in discussions.   And the professors better be adept at preventing one or two people from monopolizing the conversation.

The University of Chicago offers about 12 full-tuition scholarships and 200 1/3 tuition scholarships.  To win one, you have to impress the faculty, not the admissions office.

From a residential standpoint, Chicago has “houses” like Hogwarts.  Students can dine in their house or, in the main dining hall, eat at their house table…or hang out with friends from other houses.

One advantage at Chicago is the availability of research opportunities.  The medical center is next door.   There are strong ties to physics research facilities.  This year they will open a new chemistry building that is designed to implode – after evacuation – if something goes seriously wrong…which makes you wonder what they are working with in there!

Up until now, I have been leary about sending my child to a research university.  My bias has been that an undergraduate student – particularly an introverted one – will get more opportunities and more attention from professors at a small liberal arts college.  But I’m now realizing that, at a research university, an undergrad can get to know some grad students, see what they have to do, and get a sense for whether that is a path he or she wants to take.

By the way, CalTech and University of Chicago consistently send out the most interesting direct mail pieces – at least as far as this nerd is concerned.

July 9, 2009 at 8:27 pm Leave a comment

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