I'm debating between HLS and CLS Hamilton as well - good to see someone on the same boat! haha. While I havent heard from Y or S, I would take both of my current options over S - and with Y being competitive as it is
I want to have a decision in mind based on what I have at the moment.
I'm international and want to be involved with int'l organizations or go into public service in my country way down the future so the Harvard name is obviously worth something, but 153k in this economy is kinda painful to turn down. Does H ever offer any kind of financial aid to protect admitted applicants from being stolen by the Hamilton? My family could pay the tuition, but not terribly wealthy, even like 20k from Harvard would cinch it
Officially, no. Harvard, Yale, and Stanford do not offer merit-based aid. But rules are made for the lawsmiths to bend, no?
So, yes, these schools sometimes change your aid package in light of the Hamilton. That cannot be proven of course, as they will not officially change your aid package because of a competing scholarships, but these schools have tremendous leeway in the aid they can offer each of us. And they want you to choose them.
You will get a package from these schools based largely on 1) your liquid equity (stocks, bonds, CDs, and back accounts that you can sell or empty without penalty, 2) your real property (this depends on your school, I think. I believe Yale exempts your primary residence, 3) your parent's salary (and other financial details). As far as I know, they will not consider your family income if you are older than 29 (at Yale) or independent (after college) for more than five years at Stanford.
Many of your might not have many stocks and bond or real estate (if you are free out of college). Keep in mind before you fill out your financial aid that I think all three exempt money in retirement accounts. If through work or through an IRA (you can still open an IRA for 2009 as well as 2010), you can move some of your money to a requirement account, you should absolutely do this. Any liquid assets you have will fly out the door.
Probably most of you will be handicapped by 3. Schools really do not care if your parents actually pay. After all, most parents don't pay. But I think they use 3) instead as a proxy for socioeconomic status.
Schools will reconsider their determination of all of these factors. For example, if you parents are sick or retiring ... or if there is some other reason they look richer on paper than in reality, schools should take this into account. And I honestly think they will be more likely to take it into account if you have a Hamilton in your back pocket.
If you come to them and they think you position is "my parents are wealthy and could actually pay for school, but could you please give me more money despite Harvard being my top choice of the schools I got into?" they will not likely help you out. But if they trust that your position is "my father has cancer and will not be working next year despite earning a handsome living this year, and I really want to go to Stanford but I cannot make it work without aid especially because I have a full scholarship to Columbia that I can't turn down at this point and because I will be helping to support my family financial when I finish school," I think you can expect to get some aid even if NeedAccess calculations say you are undeserving.
Anyway congrats to all of you. The Hamilton is a real honor.