10 Generous Colleges for Braniacs

Last Updated Sep 19, 2009 1:14 PM EDT

Here's bad news for teenage braniacs: It's getting harder to cash in on a National Merit Scholarship.
The competition for these awards has always been brutal, but some schools are no longer willing to award merit finalists with scholarships. The program's latest drop out is the University of Texas in Austin.

This is huge news because Texas has been one of the biggest magnets for National Merit Award winners. In 2008, Texas welcomed 281 scholars into its freshmen class, which only Harvard (285) managed to beat. Texas now joins the University of California campuses, which stopped awarding merit finalist scholarships three years ago. The Ivy League schools, along with such elite institutions as Stanford, MIT and Duke, also don't sponsor merit finalists.

These schools believe that it's imprudent to throw money at brilliant, affluent students when the cash would be better spent awarding financial aid to needy applicants. Other universities are no doubt feeling the pressure to cease and desist sponsoring scholarships as the National Association for College Admission Counseling weighed in this year with its misgivings about the program.

If you're the parent of a kid blessed with an Einstein brain, the trend to stiff these teens won't seem fair considering the tremendous odds they beat. About 1.5 million teenagers take the PSAT test that weeds out most of the contenders each year and ultimately only 8,200 finalists end up winning a cash award.

Knowing that the teens who earn these awards share something in common with such fellow winners as Bill Gates, Amazon's Jeff Bezos and such Nobel Prize Laureates as Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz probably isn't going to be much of a consolation.

But take heart. There are still plenty of universities eager to lure these smart teenagers to their campuses with fat scholarships. According to The Chronicle of High Education, here are the 10 schools that offer the most scholarships to merit scholars, along with the number of freshmen who received the scholarships in 2008:
1. University of Southern California 254
2. Northwestern University 239
3. Washington University in St. Louis 228
4. University of Chicago 222
5. University of Oklahoma 178
6. Arizona State University 169
7. Rice University 169
8. University of Florida 166
9. Texas A&M University 161
10. Vanderbilt University 147

University of Texas image by Definitive HDR. CC 2.0.

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