Daddy Needs a Full-Ride Scholarship
January 4, 2013 4:11 PM   Subscribe

Talk to me about college scholarships.

My daughter, who is a junior, got her SAT scores back just before Christmas. They are in the "Hello, this is Harvard. Can we interest you in our school?" neighborhood. We are not surprised she did well. We are a little surprised she did that well.

A few other pertinent facts.

- She will be named a 4-H All-Star this year. (4-H equivalent of Eagle Scout)
- She plans to study equine science.
- She is a state champion in hippology, horse judging, and horse bowl.
- She has won several national championships in horse judging.
- Her goal for this year is a national championship in hippology, and I don't think I would bet against her.

Also, she is a good rider (dressage / hunt seat / judged trail riding) but she is sort of burnt out on the horse show thing right now and isn't sure she wants to ride competitively in school. So riding scholarships are not what we are looking for. This is all about academics.

I would think schools that care about equine science should really, really want my daughter to attend. And we've identified most of those schools.

Beyond doing a good job on the application and essays and getting good recommendation letters, what else should we be doing this year and with her applications to improve her odds of landing at least one full-ride offer? I feel like we left scholarship money on tables that we don't even know existed with my son, and I don't want to repeat the mistake.
posted by COD to Education (25 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You're probably aware, but if you mean that pull quote seriously, Harvard and Princeton offer very good financial aid. It is need- as opposed to merit-based.
posted by en forme de poire at 4:34 PM on January 4, 2013

There are some very good schools that offer no-loan financial aid--which generally means they will look at your financial situation, substitute your expected contribution (based on your income) and make up the rest with grants, scholarships, and work-study. You don't necessarily graduate totally debt-free--students will sometimes have to take out loans because their parents choose not to contribute the entire estimated family contribution, or for other expenses like books and fun money. But you graduate with much, much less debt (or debt that can be discharged with a summer job) than you might otherwise.

Vanderbilt, Rice, and University of Pennsylvania are three Top-20 schools that offer this.
posted by elizeh at 4:48 PM on January 4, 2013

Most ivy schools offer parent-income based tuition, but the exact figures are different for each school. Off the top of my head, I know that UPenn & Yale have well known vet schools and Dartmouth & Stanford have good pre-vet schools.

If your income is above the threshold, you may also want to consider well known state schools in your region. They can offer in-state rates or give her large scholarships based on academic performance and extracurricular activities. You might even have more options with this route, as animal sciences tend to be favored at "aggie" schools.

Also keep in mind that students change majors often. If the grades are there and the income is low enough, I would send to an Ivy regardless.

Disclaimer: I went to a state school.
posted by NYC-BB at 5:10 PM on January 4, 2013

Response by poster: A couple of additional notes:

Our son is at a state school and all we qualified for is loans. So I don't imagine we'll do any better this time around. I'm looking for insight into merit scholarships - particularly for ag/equine science as she absolutely 100% plans to make a career our of working with horses. They have been her entire life since she was 7. It's not a passing fancy.

There are 3 in-state schools ranked in the top 20 for equine science. She will be applying to all 3. Most of the other top schools for equine science are big state schools such as Penn State, Colorado State, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, etc.

Maybe do a good job on the application and essay and hope for the best is all there is, which is fine. We'll cast a wide net and see who really wants her :) I was hoping somebody here on MeFi had been through a similar situation and could tell me that going to meet with the Ag Dean at the schools this summer will make a huge difference, or something like that.

Her score really is in the Ivy League neighborhood (2210). Cornell used to have an equine science program but they apparently discontinued it. That said, given what she wants to do, I don't really see her going to an Ivy. She doesn't want to be a Vet, she wants to eventually have her own farm and breed and train. However, she'll obviously have to put in some years in industry first to build up some capital to afford the farm!
posted by COD at 5:34 PM on January 4, 2013

FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America) and Race for Education both do college scholarships.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:46 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Race for Education and FFA websites.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:50 PM on January 4, 2013

Our son is at a state school and all we qualified for is loans. So I don't imagine we'll do any better this time around.

I wouldn't expect that without verification. 1) Private schools usually give much more need-based scholarships. Princeton, for example, only gives out grants and work study, not loans. 2) Since you already have a child in university, your expected contribution will probably be calculated differently.
posted by ethidda at 5:51 PM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

This is a line of thought that rarely crosses people's minds when it comes to undergraduate studies, but...

In my case, particular professors used discretionary departmental funds to offer me scholarships beyond what was offered by the financial aid office (merit scholarships fall under that) and after a couple of weeks after the offers, I had professors representing two universities competing against each other. Can she identify any particular professor/lab whose work she is interested in and that she would like to do research for (it would start as work/study or even unpaid volunteer work in her case)?
posted by halogen at 5:56 PM on January 4, 2013

I think what you want is a book like this where you go through all of the scholarships being offered and apply to the ones that are relevant to your daughter's background and interests, along with applying for all the available 4-H scholarships in your region.
posted by deanc at 6:02 PM on January 4, 2013

You seem to expect her SAT scored to open doors, which is not the case at all. (Obviously she has more than that going for her!) I scored similar on my SATs and only got into my safety school. So step 1 is doing anything else she can to strengthen her application -- maybe volunteer work over the summer or some such. And doing well on her application essays. Her accomplishments and academics can get her into the pool, but it's the essays and interviews that set people apart.

The other thing you should look into is departmental scholarships. If she has a list of the schools she's looking at, you should be able to find info on possible scholarships on the department's page. (Also people have mentioned UPenn/PennVet, but I don't think equine science is a thing in the city, and PennVet is I believe a graduate program.)
posted by DoubleLune at 6:13 PM on January 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

You are more likely to qualify for more financial aid from a private school than a public school. Private schools, generally, have more money, and some (i.e., Harvard) have a lot more money.

It's great that your daughter did so well on her SAT's, but I aced mine and didn't go to an Ivy League School. I was also very extra-curricularly involved and so on - accept that it's a crapshoot and don't get too invested in your daughter going to a prestigious school. I turned down a presitigious (not an Ivy, but whatever school) for another (well-regarded, but not a top-twenty school) because one gave me $25,000 in grants, and one gave me $4,000 in loans.

This whole process is insane. Good luck!

Fastweb has a lot of scholarship options (essay contests and the like). I found the site to be a giant timesuck and didn't get much out of it, but it's a thought.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 6:20 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't expect that without verification.

Not to belabor this but me either - I would at least enter your numbers into the calculator in the "Princeton" link upthread. Even at non-Ivies, top private schools can often afford to give wayyy more need-based aid than state schools, even flagships. Not a wonderful system, but there you have it.
posted by en forme de poire at 6:27 PM on January 4, 2013

Best answer: Check out alumni clubs at the various schools you're looking at, especially if there is a branch for your geographic area - many offer scholarships (though usually not full rides), and they may require a separate application from the admissions application to the school.

Also, be very aware of application deadlines. The deadline for scholarship consideration may be earlier than the final deadline to apply for admission to a school!

Finally, look into your local community organizations - Lions, Elks, Optimists, Rotary, Kiwanis, American Legion, etc. They may offer scholarships to students in the community, even if they have no other connection to the club - probably not a full ride either, but if you pick up $500 here and $1000 there, it starts to add up, and you can take the money to any school. Your daughter will have a much better chance at standing out in a local pool than in a nationwide scholarship competition (although those can be worth a shot too).

My (large, public, not particularly affluent) high school had one particular guidance counselor who was really on top of the scholarship information. He used to put together a weekly list of all the local opportunities that students could apply for, and he was open to meeting with students one-on-one to talk about ways to maximize their chances at scholarships and financial aid. Maybe there is a counselor or teacher at your daughter's school who is similarly well-informed?
posted by sigmagalator at 6:40 PM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

Did she take the SAT or the PSAT? The PSAT is what qualifies you for a National Merit scholarship. Many colleges will give you a hefty or full ride scholarship for being a national merit finalist.
posted by nakedmolerats at 7:00 PM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: It was the SAT. She is homeschooled. I don't know that we can take the PSAT in our state. Honestly, it never occurred to me that she would be scoring at the 98th percentile.

My son scored 92nd percentile on the SAT and that got him some nice scholarship offers from private schools, and one opportunity to interview for a full ride. That is why I was thinking my daughters scores plus the achievements in a somewhat esoteric area like hippology and horse judging could be setting her up for a full ride at those schools where equine science is important.
posted by COD at 7:07 PM on January 4, 2013

Disclaimer: I applied for undergrad more than a decade ago, most of my recent knowledge of this is based on fascinating/horrifying conversations with a friend who is highly placed in a liberal arts admissions institution.

The unfortunate news is that perfect SAT scores are not all that uncommon (I'm assuming she had a perfect score, anything below that she joins the herds of high-performing, extremely bright kids). If she has a 2300+ and a history of very good academic achievement, my friend says she might have a chance at merit-based scholarships at some schools. If the 2300+ score is an outlier, and your daughter is more of an average student, chances go way down.

Equally unfortunate: full ride scholarships in general at the US schools I'm familiar with are most often awarded for need, or special ability. Full rides at Ivy League and Big 10 schools in particular are not generally awarded for academic achievement - that sort of record is expected. Mr. Arnicae got a 1480 SAT score (back in the olden days) and did receive a full ride to three schools, but it was very clearly based on his musical ability only.

Your best bet may be the "second tier" schools who do more frequently offer generous scholarships based on academic achievement, if she does have the double threat of 2300+ SAT and great HS grades. But, honestly her best bet is bolstering her application with some more volunteer work/etc. to make her a more well-rounded candidate. She sounds like she already has a very interesting background.

Good luck - from what I hear the college application business is crazy these days.
posted by arnicae at 7:09 PM on January 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

Honestly, it never occurred to me that she would be scoring at the 98th percentile

I'm sorry, I just saw this - not to be more of a wet blanket but I scored in the 98th percentile on the SAT, had great grades, and didn't get offered any merit-based scholarship funds in undergrad.

According to my friend, the bad news with Ivy League/Big 10 is that at the 98th percentile, it just means that your score isn't working against you, but it isn't working for you, either. She repeated - it might be very good at 2nd/3rd tier schools, though, so that is always an option if she is willing to cross Harvard off the list.

I would personally not focus too much on her score, and spend your time working on bolstering her application in other ways. Good luck.
posted by arnicae at 7:13 PM on January 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

As a student, I worked at the admissions office at my small, private, fairly well-ranked (#17 nationally) but not all that recognized university. I got to see the applications of people who were published authors, had movies shown at international festivals, had come up with inventions that probably saved lives – anything you could imagine. The ONLY people, and I mean that, who got full ride scholarships were athletes. Musicians got pretty good scholarships, but nowhere near full rides. Also, I had the same percentile SAT score as your daughter and it may have been the lowest amongst my friends there, so don't count on that.

Having said that, this private university, like many others, covers 100% of need (my parents are middle class with ~$90-100K income but they support parents and siblings) and I graduated with approximately $4,000 in student loans.
posted by halogen at 7:22 PM on January 4, 2013

UPenn & Yale have well known vet schools

I don't know about Penn, but you're very wrong about Yale, and probably thinking of Cornell.
posted by availablelight at 7:41 PM on January 4, 2013

Best answer: I don't think getting scholarships is as crazy as people make it sound. I scored in that percentile, had an excellent GPA, and a very, very diverse activities list. I applied to 10 schools ( I know- it was a lot, but I'm an over-planner), got into 9 (3 Ivies, 3 "Ivy equivalents," 1 pretty good private, 1 top level state, and 1 private safety school) and waitlisted at 1 (Harvard). The pretty good private gave me a full ride scholarship. The top level state gave me about a half scholarship, but I also to work study and a private scholarship. The safety gave me about 75% scholarships. The other 6 were need-based, so they covered essentially what I needed covered (a fair amount of grant funding and some loans, but the same schools basically give no loans now).

Look for:
- schools that meet need. If what they say you need is smaller than what you do need, you can negotiate.
- specialized scholarships- there are scholarships only for tall people or for people who are into duck calling (seriously). I'm sure you can find one related to horses.
- scholarships from the state you live in- there are some scholarships for staying in-state for school. Look into those ones.
- agree on the Rotary, Lions Club type scholarships. Check those out
- check for more details on what might be available
- get into the world of college applications- no offense, but if you already went through this with one kid,but didnt have your child sit for the PSAT this year (don't have to be in a brick and mortar school to do this) and this child is a junior, you're behind where many parents with similarly talented students are at this point. College-bound kids really should be sitting for that test regardless of how they are expected to do- its good practice and you never know. Anyway, read as much as you can- don't buy into all the private college counselor nonsense, but understand the system.
- I see people above are promoting your child getting involved in more activities, but keep I mind that colleges and popular scholarship review committees are adept at figuring out when kids just joined things in the last year or two of school to beef up applications and those who are really invested in an activity. So, have your child do what she likes and go from there. Keep in mind that leadership within her current activities will be helpful though. So, if she gets a leadership position in 4-H or an equine society (or better yet, starts an equine society!), that will be useful.
- has she worked at any labs? If she's interested in equine science, an Ivy or equivalent is going to be looking for some indication she's done lab work outside of school, job shadowing, science fairs, etc. Note that major science fairs provide college scholarships to winners!

Best of luck and congrats to your daughter on her great start!
posted by superfille at 7:47 PM on January 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Checking Wikpedia just now, I apparently scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT (I thought I hadn't--ACT yes, SAT no). I had a Regents' scholarship at a UC, which covers something approximating full financial need (more precisely the Regents' award covers the gap between other scholarships and full need or something--I forget the details). People from California get invited for interviews. People not from California are selected by an 'alternative process' (which turns out to be reading your UC application). While I think I'm pretty awesome, I don't know what won me the scholarship. I don't have a special talent or skill. My 'leadership' positions were obtained basically by seniority/default and most of my activities didn't have 'leadership positions' (because we weren't cynical enough to invent them just to put on college applications). I wasn't a member of the National Honor Society (funny story, that, but not relevant). To be honest, being serious about equine science is way more interesting than anything on my college applications (or my brother's, who got into a multiple Ivies with worse grades than me--he writes a really good application essay and interviews well; I left my Harvard interview not wanting to go to Harvard). This is a way of saying that there are certainly (good) universities who give substantial scholarships for being generally awesome. There's an element of lightning striking, but it certainly happens to nontrivial numbers of people.

If she's set on equine science, this isn't a question of 'Ivy-equivalents' (whatever they are), it's a question of who has the best equine science programs. Dig around on their websites and see what scholarships they offer. For some, you don't have to do anything (see the Regents' example above), or maybe you have to do something after you get in, or maybe with your application. (For example, this is the relevant page for Minnesota, found by googling 'university of minnesota scholarships'. You'd also want to check the ag college's website, as they might have ag or horse-specific scholarships.)

My high school had a file of local scholarships, of the $500 or $1000 variety. Your local high school probably does, too. Even though she's not a student, they'd probably let you look at it if you asked nicely. For the most part, these were not very competitive because no one applied. I won one because I bothered to get my math team results from the teacher, so I could give an accurate list of what I'd won. (You can win a lot of medals at the regional and state competitions pretty easily.) I was told that this was why they picked me and not my friend, who had essentially the same 'profile', but hadn't given exhaustive detail.
posted by hoyland at 8:35 PM on January 4, 2013

It might be worth your money to invest in a private college counselor. My parents did, and the lady helped me find schools (and get my essay/app up to snuff) that would give me merit scholarships. Basically she recommended top but not top-10 schools as the ones that would be competing for students like me. I don't know exactly how SAT scores work now that they are out of 2400, so I can't say for sure how impressive your kid's score is, but I had a 1490 (of 1600) and I got a 50% merit based scholarship to a top-50 school.
posted by radioamy at 10:09 PM on January 4, 2013

The most generous merit scholarships that are renewable for all four years usually come from the colleges themselves. Thus, I suggest you/ your daughter go to the financial aid and department websites of each of the universities you are considering. See what scholarships are available at each school and note if there are any applications/ early deadlines for these scholarships.

What you experienced with your son was preferential packaging. (That link was the first one to come up via google search).

You should be aware that most colleges have less money to throw around these days, so personal experiences about scholarships (even from only a few years ago) may not be relevant to your daughter's situation. On the bright side colleges are now required to have net price calculators.
posted by oceano at 10:21 PM on January 4, 2013

Is your daughter even interested in going to a school like Harvard, or is she pretty focused on a school with a good equine science program? The approaches to aid will be very different depending on whether she wants to go the best general university she can get into, or a specific program at a state school.

A lot of rich private schools, as mentioned above, meet full demonstrated need with grants. My high-ranked small liberal arts college did that, although I ended up with loans anyway because what the school thought my family could afford was not what my family could actually afford. A lot of these schools give no merit aid or very little, or only in exceptional cases (my school had a semi-secret scholarship program for a handful of crazy geniuses every year). The concept I heard when I was there (graduated in 2012) was that the school wants to make it possible for everyone student they want to be there to be able to attend regardless of their financial circumstances. One caveat with this approach to aid is that they can subtract the amount of any outside scholarships from your grants, because they can't/don't want to meet more than your demonstrated need (this happened to me with a small scholarship I won senior year of high school).

For state schools, I think the situation is different. A lot of my friends in high school went to our giant flagship state university, and they applied for various merit scholarships from that school through an online system that was completely separate from the application system and I believe had different deadlines. This is where all the little random local or highly specialized scholarships can make a difference; even a few hundred bucks is helpful, and if your daughter can find a good source for finding out about these kinds of scholarships she should definitely apply for as many as possible. Like other people above, my high school told us about them; being home schooled might make it harder to access this information but maybe she could get in touch with a guidance counselor at the local high school anyway?

It sounds like your daughter isn't actually interested in Ivy League/high ranked private schools, but anyway: From what I understand, her SAT score is absolutely not what is going to get her into those schools. For Ivy-type schools, applicants with perfect scores are basically a dime a dozen, just very very good scores (which is what your daughter got) even more so. I've heard the application process at small schools described as crafting the perfect class, rather than looking at specific applicants in a vacuum.

-Interesting stories help; this is what the essay is for.
-Unique characteristics help; being home schooled probably helps your daughter at least as much as her SAT score for schools like Harvard.
-Uncommon skills, talents and interests help; if the school has a dance program, theater, an equestrian program, etc., they need to admit enough people that those programs will have people to fill them.
-Same goes for academic interests; they need enough people who seem likely to be interested in doing summer biology research to make sure those programs are active enough to advertise to potential applicants.
-Being from a geographic area or race or ethnic group that is underrepresented at the school can help; I had an admissions counselor tell me that my chances of getting into my eventual school (in the Northeast) were higher as a person from Texas than an identical kid from New Jersey.
-A great academic record, leadership experience, and evidence that you're a good person who will be an active member of the school's community are not as helpful, since those characteristics are basically standard at this point.

A couple last things: she should visit every school she's seriously interested in for an overnight visit staying with current students. She should apply to as many schools as is feasible for you guys (I applied to five and kind of regretted it at times, eight to ten was more standard for other people I knew, I know people who applied to twenty).
posted by MadamM at 12:45 AM on January 5, 2013

Ah. Unfortunately I think you've missed the deadline for taking the PSAT - it has to be in your junior year I believe.

My advice is:

1) If the full ride is a significant factor, you should look at less prestigious schools. They will be more interested in attracting students with great academic credentials, because most of those students are trying to get into the more prestigious schools. (I'm not talking about purposely applying to terrible places, but weigh this logically - you can get a good education at a lot of places, many of which don't have the name cred of Harvard and would be happy to attract a high performing student).

2) If she's into equine science, hippology etc., you should be absolutely scouring every nook and cranny of the Internet and emailing people at every horse, veterinary, breeding etc. program about scholarship opportunities. It sounds like her track record is really outstanding in this and honestly, there are way fewer national hippology experts than high SAT scorers.

Also network with anyone you know in person who is an equine scientist, veterinarian, breeder, whatever. Ask them where they went to school and how they paid for it. I'm guessing equine science is a fairly small national field and you never know what connections you could find.
posted by nakedmolerats at 11:52 AM on January 5, 2013

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