You're right - it is heartbreaking to see a child who's worked very hard not get what he deserves. I appreciate your advice about speaking frankly about finances, but it's very difficult to put him in the middle of a financial "discussion" that should be between rational adults. The college application process is stressful enough without throwing financial issues at him.
Well, this is college that we're talking about, not paying for the home mortgage, etc. This is HIS expense, so he rightfully has a place at the table for discussion. As far as college is concerned, he now has an "adult interest" in the whole process from apps to money.
Feeling cheated will only make things worse, altho verbally acknowledging his hurt is certainly a good thing. Every year there are kids or parents who post with a similar sad song....unaffordable EFCs and/or NCPs who won't cooperate. The result is the same...finding schools that will work.
Frankly, a student in his position (high stats with non-paying parent) is in a MUCH better situation than the student with just "good stats". At least your son's great stats can be rewarded with merit scholarships.
The other hard-working kids with lesser stats don't have the big merit options....so a CC or local state school can be their only options.
It's important for your son to realize that many, many, many kids "work hard" during high school (even a number of the B students or those with modest test scores).
Working hard in high school does not equate with "now parents must spend $100k-200k on my education"....even if the parents have the money. I know that kids often don't understand that, but it is the parents' money and they may have other important things that their money must be directed to...retirement, health issues, etc.
He'll likely need some time to mentally adjust to a new strategy and the likelihood that pricey elites won't work out, but luckily he's learning this very early in the app process. Some kids get the "rug pulled out" in the spring! ugh!
Be prepared to hearing some "moaning and groaning," and maybe even a bit of a tantrum (yes, HS kids can throw a tantrum when finding out that their dream schools aren't affordable), but within a week or two things should calm down a bit. There actually is a bit of a "grieving process" that takes place when a person has to "let go" of plans.
On the plus side, my son is a National Merit Semifinalist and Bama's Honor program has been on his radar since last year.
Oh good....what's his major? Has he toured? If not, let me know and I can direct you how to set up a personalized day according to his major.
Is he interested in the CBH or UFE program there?
Have you visited the Bama forum here on CC? University of Alabama - College Confidential