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NMF Tuition Scholarships vs. Elite Acceptances

college2000scollege2000s Posts: 27User Awaiting Email Confirmation New Member
edited August 2013 in National Merit Scholarships
With many decisions coming out this week, some of us will be talking about the pros and cons of accepting a large NMF tuition scholarship to some good state schools rather than attending some elite schools that may (or may not) have sent the "big envelope." Whether they get into their dream school or not, how can we say to the kid who worked so hard for the big one "but what about the $$$$?" In my mind a full tuition academic scholarship to any school is a "big envelope full of cash," and there is no need to feel second best if you didn't get into your dream school. How can we communicate the full impact of such an award to our 17-18 year olds who have little concept of how much $100,000+ really is?
Post edited by college2000s on
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Replies to: NMF Tuition Scholarships vs. Elite Acceptances

  • billcshobillcsho Posts: 9,692Registered User Senior Member
    I might be in the same situation like yours next year. I am working on the list of schools for applications while waiting for the ACT/SAT scores. So far we have picked ~7 schools with one "big school" that is only affordable if there is a big scholarship. There are a few affordable oos schools with higher chances and likely with reasonable amount of scholarship. And there is one affordable in state school which is also good but not likely to give big scholarship. I already have a big headache in picking these schools for application. I am sure it would be worse when we come to the final decision next year if there is more than one offer at the end.
  • HoggirlHoggirl Posts: 691Registered User Member
    I think this is definitely a challenge. We, too, will likely be in this spot next year. How does one compare sometimes generous NMF offers against prestigious schools that offer no merit at all???? Who knows if my ds would be accepted to any elitist schools, but if he were, how does one compare upwards of $50,000 per year to nearly free?? Particularly if one can afford the more expensive option. How does one factor in cost if cost doesn't have to be a factor?

    I will be watching this thread with interest.
  • Anxious345Anxious345 Posts: 46Registered User Junior Member
    I will be watching this thread, too. D has a full ride ++ scholarship (NMF $15,000 + $10,000 honor college scholarship + $1000 engineering scholarship and some outside scholarships) to our state university (which has a good biomedical engineering program). This means money left over (a lot) for her to study abroad during the summer if she wants to. But...the state university is her third choice college. She has been accepted to her second choice college (out of state with $$$$$ tuition, of course), waitlisted to one of her first choice colleges, and waiting for end of the week for the acceptance/rejection from her other first choice college.
    Since FAFSA calculation shows that we can affort paying big bucks for college (which I think is twice as much as we can/want to afford), she won't get any financial assistance from her first or second choice colleges. She can only depend on outside scholarship, which is a lot (>$5000/year and waiting for more), but it is minuscule compared to the expense of the elite colleges.
    My husband and I have started to talk to her about staying in state for undergraduate and then go to her elite college or out of state college for graduate school. So far it hasn't worked yet. I don't want to crushed her dream, but yet want to make sure that she understands the trade-offs. We also want to make her happy.
  • mom2collegekidsmom2collegekids Posts: 63,274Registered User Senior Member
    How can we communicate the full impact of such an award to our 17-18 year olds who have little concept of how much $100,000+ really is


    We faced this with our kids. Both took the large scholarships at a flagship. One is now in a PhD program at an elite univ and the other one is headed for med school in the fall.

    We just didn't see the point of spending large amounts of money unnecessarily. Few careers require a degree from an elite name for undergrad.
  • billcshobillcsho Posts: 9,692Registered User Senior Member
    I guess we face this kind of situation everyday. Just like buying a car that you may get either a more affordable one, or go for a better model with a loan. You may have every reason to go one way or the other, but the kids may not understand. I am particularly concern about this as my second daughter will go to college right after my first one graduated. I don't think I can support both out of my pocket. I guess that would one point I'll share with my daughters.
  • Wolverine86Wolverine86 Posts: 1,678Registered User Senior Member
    If you're blessed to be in a position where you can afford the more expensive option without the student/parents incurring loans, the decision is much harder to make but probably less painful. If you simply can't afford the more expensive elite school without heavy loans, the decision should make itself.

    With our kids, we've told them how much we have to put towards their college costs. Any school that falls within the price range is open to consideration. We consider that money to be "theirs" and already spent as far as Mrs Wolverine and I are concerned. We cannot afford full-pay at any school, so merit money is a must for any "live away from home" options. If they choose a school where their undergrad doesn't exhaust their money, it can be put towards grad school/car/nest egg etc. D1's stats made her competitive for nearly any school in the country, but she opted for an OOS state flagship with NMF money and will graduate completely debt free (at least for undergrad :) ). She loves her choice and wouldn't change it for anything. D2 and S are beginning their searches, and won't even consider schools where significant merit money isn't possible. I could handle being the "bad guy" if I had to, but it's much simpler to take non-viable schools off the list before we reach that point.
  • BobWallaceBobWallace Posts: 1,713Registered User Senior Member
    The whole idea of a "dream school" makes about as much sense to me as your average fairly tale.

    To me, college choice should be a decision based on cold, hard facts and not romantic notions like "falling on love with a school" or a "dream school". I've been dispelling any flights of fancy like this for my kids for many years.
  • billcshobillcsho Posts: 9,692Registered User Senior Member
    "Dream car" as an analogy to "dream school", some people are willing to pay more for better expected reliability and comfort. However, one often over estimate the cost benefit. For those "dream schools", people may expect a better job opportunity, higher income, etc. At the end, it may or may not worth the extra cost. To me, the reality is I cannot afford sending my daughter to those top schools without significant financial aid. I'll rather send her to the best second tier school with good National Merit Scholarship. Fortunately, there are a few affordable schools like this ranked among the top ten in her interested field of study.
  • Christian2Christian2 Posts: 855Registered User Member
    We faced similar situation when my son was headed to college in 2008. The final choice was between ASU with a very good NMF scholarhip and Rice with a $20,000 per year merit scholarship. No other financial aid was available. The cost difference between the two schools was about $25,000 per year. We told our son that he can pick either school with our full financial support. If he picked ASU we will put the difference ($25,000) in his bank account each year. He did give some thought and pick ASU at the end.
  • BobWallaceBobWallace Posts: 1,713Registered User Senior Member
    "Dream car" as an analogy to "dream school", some people are willing to pay more for better expected reliability and comfort.

    Picking one car over another because it has better features or better reliability is being an intelligent consumer, although these things have to be weighed against price.

    Deciding that there is one magic "dream car" that will work for you and nothing else will suffice is taking a romantic flight of fancy. (e.g. My "dream car" is a red Ferrari, so I will be miserable if I end up driving a silver BMW or a black Toyota.)
  • MD MomMD Mom Posts: 6,728Registered User Senior Member
    Though my daughter did not go the NMS route, she did get full tuition. We were looking at a $200k difference in cost. She graduates next month, and although she does not have a job lined up just yet, she has had a couple of nibbles. She wants to work and try to get a better idea of what she would really like to do.

    It is really nice for her to graduate with zero debt.
  • SmartKidParentSmartKidParent Posts: 12Registered User New Member
    I agree with Mom2College as well. My D wrestled with the same decision. There isn't really a point in going into debt for an undergraduate degree at an elite school when a free education is being offered at a lot of great schools. So many NM's choose to puruse grad school anyway. Our thinking was to pursue grad school at the elites as many of them have GA programs that also help to offset the cost of attending.
  • HoggirlHoggirl Posts: 691Registered User Member
    But the choice isn't always free v. debt. For some, the choice is free v. cash. This is my question: how does one factor in cost if one's choice is free (or close to free) or paying with saved funds upwards of $50,000 per year.
  • Anxious345Anxious345 Posts: 46Registered User Junior Member
    Well, D got accepted into the other #1 choice Johns Hopkins BME and also Harvard. We will have a difficult discussion this weekend. Hope we all will keep calm and make a good choice.
  • Wolverine86Wolverine86 Posts: 1,678Registered User Senior Member
    Hoggirl...your "debt vs cash" scenario was the decision I mentioned upthread which would be more difficult but less painful, because both options are fully on the table for that family. Those parents don't HAVE to face a situation where they tell their child that the "dream school" admission has to be declined due to cost. They need to weigh the "opportunity cost" of not attending the dream school against the actual cost of attending, and each family will have their own number for "opportunity cost".

    Personally, I don't think there's any school in the country that would be worth spending $40K-$60K per year if there are state flagship level publics that are available debt-free. None...not HYP, not Stanford, not any fancy LAC...none. There are folks who would disagree, and there's no definitive answer. Too often, people "buy the brochure" from University X only to discover it was "fluff over substance", but sometimes there may actually be an advantage. There are no absolutes if the dream school is chosen, but there are if the debt-free school is chosen...that money is still available to the family. What they choose to do with it differs from family to family as well and certainly would impact the decision. Do the parents keep the money themselves, or give it to the student since they were willing to spend it in the first place? How many adults, knowing what they know now, would jump at the chance to be 21-22 years old again with a $100K-$200K headstart on a bank account/investments?

    Despite what you'll read to the contrary on some threads here on CC, there are several facts that need to be considered.

    1. Admission to "elite" schools is not a Golden Ticket to life. There are plenty of HYPSM grads sitting in the cubicle next to State U grad at companies all around the country, and their paychecks have the same amount on them.

    2. Attending a "lower tier" school does not sentence you to a life of mediocrity. Check the pedigree of major company CEOs/CFOs etc. around the country and see where they got their undergrad degree. You'd be surprised.

    3. Anyone who says you can't be academically challenged at a state flagship level university is...well..."academically challenged". Students will find others at whatever academic level they choose to seek wherever they're located.

    4. Internships/co-ops/networking opportunities exist at universities of ALL levels, not just the "elites". There are certainly specific opportunities at elite schools that might not exist everywhere, but not EVERY student is lucky enough to get them. How much are you willing to spend/bet on that lottery?

    5. "Dreams" can, and often do, turn into "nightmares". I agree completely with BobWallace's earlier comments. If a 17-18 year old young adult has a "dream school", exactly how do you think they got that "dream"? Do you really think they've spent enough time at that school to make that judgment, or was that idea planted in their head by parents/teachers/counselors/society?

    6. The only guaranteed value of USNWR ranking sheets comes when they're used to line the bottom of a bird cage. Given the known levels of gamesmanship, nepotism, and subjectivity that exist in them, trying to differentiate between #20 versus #60 versus #100 is often a fools errand.

    At the end of the day, it's often a choice of head versus heart. While neither decision is made without risk, it's much less likely that a decision made with the head will be regretted later. YMMV
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