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Should I take National Merit Money?

  1. Dec 5, 2009 #1
    Well I am a Junior this year and I received my PSAT results back and it looks as if I have done well enough to qualify for National Merit Semi-Finalist standing and will probably make finalist status.... (15,000 of the 16,000 make finalist)

    I was just wondering if I should be looking at some of the schools that offer National Merit money.... for instance if I achieve National Merit Finalist status the University of Alabama will offer me:
    * Value of tuition in-state or out-of-state for 4 years
    * 4 years of on-campus housing at regular room rate* (based on assignment by Housing and Residential Communities)
    * $1,000 per year University National Merit/Achievement Scholarship for 4 years
    * One time allowance of $2,000 for use in summer research or international study (after completing one year of study at UA)
    * Laptop computer**

    While this seems like a good deal, there are several other universities that offer good merit aid for finalists:
    Fordham (free tuition)
    U Tulsa
    Loyola Chicago
    U Maine

    Do you think schools like these are good choices or do you think I should look for other schools that rank higher.... does the quality of undergraduate school matter much (if i plan on grad)? What would you do?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 5, 2009 #2
    I was a national merit finalist last year, and I would say you should at least apply to a few of those schools. Somewhere on-line (I lost the site) there is a list of schools that offer full-rides or large scholarships to Finalists. I think it has about 80 different colleges. My biggest mistake was ignoring these schools because I didn't think they were "good enough." Some of the schools can be quite good, and in the event that your other schools are too expensive, it is very nice to have a free back-up plan. I overlooked this and wound up at a school I don't like, and is not any better than some of those schools. Now I'm paying more that I would have had I just filled out a few extra applications. I would say certainly apply to a few of the more comprehensive scholarships in order to keep your options open, because you never know what may happen. Think carefully before turning down a free education.
  4. Dec 5, 2009 #3
    Don't get caught up on names, either. Look for programs that let you do what you (think) you want to do, and look for schools that provide you with a number of other options should you change your mind. Look carefully at all the schools that will offer you scholarship money (particularly a full ride) and then select a careful few that best fit your plans so far. Is $100,000 of debt worth a particular name on your diploma? That balance between cost and prestige is something you have to decide for yourself. The opportunities and freedom a school provides (research, course selection, unique majors, study abroad, student life, and other programs) is usually more important than the school's reputation.
  5. Dec 5, 2009 #4
    For graduate school it is far more important what you did at your undergrad then where you did your undergrad. You just have to make sure you get good grades and gain a lot of experience in your field while you are there and you will be fine.

    Of course if a certain school has a poor reputation for whatever you want to go into (bad professors, poor curriculum, poor research opportunities then obviously dont go there.
  6. Dec 6, 2009 #5
  7. Dec 6, 2009 #6

    Ben Niehoff

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    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Ah yes, the Alabama offer. You'll probably receive something from Oklahoma, too.

    I wouldn't base your decision on these offers. Choose a quality school for whatever subject you're interested in.
  8. Dec 8, 2009 #7
    I'm a freshman at the University of Oklahoma, which offers full tuition plus a couple thousand bucks a year (hard to say exactly how much, as they wave almost all of tuition and then give you some extra money as opposed to waving it all and then giving you extra money). I've liked it so far and the department of physics and astronomy (if that's what you're interested in) has some excellent programs, including an ABET-accredited engineering physics major and an REU program. I would take one of the offers provided the school has a decent program in whatever you're interested. No need to pay $20,000 a year for a name.
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