The University of Alabama awards merit scholarships to about 25% of its incoming freshman class, including the full-ride offered to National Merit and National Achievement finalists. It’s a sweet deal that pays full tuition, housing, a laptop computer, $1,000 per year cash and a $2,000 allowance for research or international study. Other generous scholarships pay full and partial tuition to students with high SAT and ACT scores.
For many students from the Northeast and other parts of the country, the thought of attending school in the Deep South is a strong disincentive for even initial consideration of these generous scholarships. Beyond the location, a high-achieving student may have other objections to UA. Concerns about size, intellectual climate, diversity, conservative atmosphere, strong Greek presence, and heavy football culture are often mentioned.
Most students cannot be “talked into” a particular college, certainly not by their parents. But if parents want (or need) their children to consider colleges that offer significant merit aid, they should investigate UA more closely and even think about visiting. There are many stories of previously unenthusiastic students won over by the positive experience of visiting UA. Keep in mind that students who are part of the UA Honors College benefit from close association with hundreds of NMFs and other high-achieving scholars. It’s clear that a rigorous intellectual experience for its top students is a priority for this school.
I’m not trying to push Bama as the perfect college for all students. But I know that the alternative of paying $100,000 or more to attend a full pay school would be a hardship for many families.
Some quick facts from the school website:
The University of Alabama ranked 6th in the nation among public universities in the enrollment of National Merit Scholars in the 2010 freshman class.
The University of Alabama ranked among the top 50 public universities in the nation for the 10th consecutive year in U.S. News and World Report’s annual college rankings, fall 2010.
Of the 30,232 undergraduate, professional, and graduate students enrolled at UA in the fall semester of 2010,
- 67% come from Alabama
- 31% come from elsewhere in the United States
- 3% are international students from 72 countries
- 27% of our undergraduates belong to sororities or fraternities
- 53% are women
- 12% are African-American
- 2% are Hispanic-American
- 1% are Asian-American