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Dear Parents

unchopefull2016unchopefull2016 Posts: 3Registered User New Member
edited March 2012 in Parents Forum
So i recently came back from a senior class trip and each night we had sessions where we would have open discussions. On the final night, we talked about college issues and concerns and i was surprised to see that many were experiencing the same problems i was going through. So i come to you will several questions:

1) Many of us are stuck deciding between two or three colleges and mainly wondering if the debt of a certain college is worth attending there.
2) Is the debt relatively easy to pay off after graduating
3) What do you recommend for those of us who really cannot decide on a college(many are stuck deciding between two or three different colleges)

Thanks in advance, my classmates and I would really like to learn from your experiences during this crazy time.
Post edited by unchopefull2016 on
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Replies to: Dear Parents

  • GeekMom63GeekMom63 Posts: 1,957Registered User Senior Member
    1) not usually
    2) not usually - there are many threads covering this subject - do a search for "too much debt" or the like - here's one: http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/college-search-selection/1261548-how-stupid-would-i.html
    3) in my son's case, we made a spreadsheet with the colleges down the left-hand side, a list of important features across the top, and a ranking of 1 - 3 of how well each college met that feature. We considered size, location, cost, test scores... other things that could be considered were quality of sports teams, weather, quality of major... Just the act of quantifying made a difference in many cases.

    Good luck!
  • mathmommathmom Posts: 23,588Registered User Senior Member
    1. There is no easy answer to this question, it really depends on how wide the gap is, what your future plans are, and how big the debt is.
    2. A rule of thumb for debt is not to have more debt than your anticipated first year salary. People who have med school in their future, should probably try to have no debt at all as med school is very expensive.
    3. Some people make spread sheets, some imagine turning a place down and try to gauge how disappointed they feel. Both my kids had to choose between the place that was higher ranked overall vs the one that was strong in their intended major. Both ended up choosing the lesser ranked place, but it wasn't easy - they both waited till the final day to make the decision.
  • MizzBeeMizzBee Posts: 4,339Registered User Senior Member
    1) no matter what your major, you need to understand what college debt will do to you. If you need to pay out $400-600-$1000 a month, there will probably not be money for the car, the better apartment, the mortgage, the vacation. It may seem worth it now, but living like a pauper for 5-10 years is no fun.
    2) not really. Even in a good economy it still requires budgeting, planning and sacrifice.
    3) No idea. I made the wrong choice many years ago, and DS jas a clear favorite. I highly recommend visiting, so you can decide for yourself if this is home.
  • MichMom07MichMom07 Posts: 292Registered User Junior Member
    1. It depends on how much debt your talking about. $5,000/year? Quite possibly. $25,000/year? No way, IMHO.

    2. Don't underestimate the burden of debt. Too many students are in denial, thinking it's "not due for a long time, and I'll have a good job then." Debt stinks, period.

    3. Our son was trying to decide between 2 schools, each with very comparable financial packages (both = no debt for him). We suggested that he live an entire day as if he had accepted the offer from school A, then live a day as if he had accepted the offer from school B. How did you feel throughout the day? Were you at peace? Disappointed? Relieved? This exercise really helped him sort it all out.
  • 89wahoo89wahoo Posts: 1,087Registered User Senior Member
    MichMom that live a day as if.... Idea is great!!
  • calla1calla1 Posts: 1,706Registered User Senior Member
    I definitely agree that the lower the debt, the better. It is hard to find jobs in this economy, and I know too many people who feel pressured to pass up entry level positions to wait for a higher paying job because they have loans coming due. A higher paying job that may or may not materialize.

    3) Spending time on each campus is worthwhile.

    **LIKE*** on MichMom's "as if" suggestion!
  • delamerdelamer Posts: 274Registered User Junior Member
    Honestly, if you are having trouble deciding between a couple schools - go with the less expensive option. I wouldn't necessarily use cost as the deciding factor if one school is clearly superior (assuming that any debt would be no more than a year's salary for your major) but if there are pros and cons to all options then cost is a good tiebreaker.
  • turbo93turbo93 Posts: 2,376Registered User Senior Member
    Making rational decisions about a college involves a lot of variables, and things that you don't always find out the easy way...

    For the state flagship school (OOS) that DD1 is attending for architecture, a major decision factor was the student to teacher ratio and studio class size. Architecture is not like biology where the material is in the book and 20 students or 200 in the class, there's recitation and who cares. Studio has its own culture and after a visit you get the feel of the culture quite well.

    The second is department size. Again, you can have a huge department where everyone would be a number, or a reasonable size of a few hundred where everyone knows everyone else.

    Then there's faculty creds. Far be it from us CC dwellers to compare Harvard versus Yale creds, but if the department has a few dozen faculty members it's easier to research. From the faculty web pages you can see research projects, sometimes even homeworks and projects and the like. It helps if you have a parent or sibling that has been thru a similar program...

    A favorite is to look out for 'brand name' professors that have written well respected books and the like. Or have deep pocketed research projects... At Purdue we had some superb brand name people in my department, people that literally wrote THE book on stuff... Can't go wrong there.

    This approach is likely to be useful for specific majors, not the university overall. But similar ones would work well for things like engineering, economics, and the like.
  • poetgrlpoetgrl Posts: 13,275Registered User Senior Member
    But, do keep in mind that a statistically significant number of students will change their major, and some will change their major more than once.

    A good rule of thumb (barring med school or law school in the future) is not to exceed the amount of debt allowed by the stafford loans. This seems to be a reasonable way to look at it, for most.
  • college_querycollege_query Posts: 2,525Registered User Senior Member
    Re: decisions. I read on here a long time ago a strategy that is similar to MichMom07's: in your mind decide to remove one of the schools from contention. Do you regret it? Are you feeling anxious? Then do the same with the others. Are any easier to let go?

    It's easier thinking you can go anywhere, theoretically, until you have real-life rejections and acceptances to contend with. Kind of like dating, then having to make a commitment, and wondering if it's the right "one."
  • ModadunnModadunn Posts: 6,251Registered User Senior Member
    I too like MichMom's "As if" scenario.

    My niece is apparently graduating from a small CLA as a religion major with nearly 80K of debt racked up over her four years, including debt incurred to do study abroad. The party is definitely coming to an end. Honestly, I don't even know if her grades are that good. Plus, her prospects for going to grad school are dwindling because she HAS to get a job vs letting the interest continue to rack up. And all this debt as a religion major? I honestly can't believe she wasn't better advised. She is apparently considering moving abroad to teach English. I just don't see how this is going to pay the bills, but it's not my kid so I don't really get an opinion (except on CC!). :) I do so wish her well, but I shake my head in concern.

    Debt sucks. Throughout life, and not just college, avoid it as much as possible. The wealthy get wealthier because they don't borrow for consumer debt, they don't pay interest (except for maybe a mortgage), they earn money from their investments, and they don't let their wants outpace their wallets. Don't allow your want of a T-shirt to override rational thought.

    I suggest really doing a comparative analysis of cost/benefit. While I don't agree that science majors can just learn from a book (especially with disinterested TA's teaching undergrads at huge state schools) or that department culture for most doesn't matter. However, don't go to a school that wouldnt have a clear cut program you're interested in today as well as one or two others you find interesting. Unless you are 100% sure of BOTH your interests and abilities, it's best to have a little flexibility on your side. Intro engineering and science classes are notorious weeder classes at a lot of schools, and Im sure other majors have them as well. You'll be more likely to remain happy if there are other directions to go.

    When financial concerns are primary, it is best to find a balance. After all, the only thing worse than college debt is college debt without a degree to show for it!
  • Lafalum84Lafalum84 Posts: 7,535Registered User Senior Member
    Another version of the "as if" scenario. Take a coin. Label heads College A, and tails College B. Flip it high in the air, and before it lands see which one you're hoping it will be. Then look at it and see how you feel.

    Or a more rational method, which my son used. Down the center of a piece of paper, list all the things that are important to you: distance, campus town, dorms, academic program, athletics... whatever. Be as specific as possible. Now to the left of that column put school A, and to the right put school B. For each factor that you listed, put a check mark in the column of the school you like better FOR THAT FACTOR. Then add the columns. In S's case, his choice became obvious when one college won his game 21-13.

    Another method. List the 5 things you like best about each college. Then compare lists. Which list has more important, substantial factors? (Hint - academics is more important than sports, and people are more important than buildings).

    All else being equal, if you really can't decide and both colleges have decent programs in the area you're interested in, go to the cheaper one. Really. Avoid the debt.
  • AljubailAljubail Posts: 36Registered User Junior Member
    Modadunn: you mentioned that your niece is planning on working overseas after graduation. This is actually a smart option from a financial point of view because Americans working abroad do not pay taxes (as long as they make less than 90K per year). This is true for citizens of most countries. So your niece will be working, traveling the world, and paying off her college debt very very quickly. Many US college graduates choose to follow this pathway especially nursing graduates.
  • ModadunnModadunn Posts: 6,251Registered User Senior Member
    Thanks Aljubail! I have to say, that debt load freaked me right out when I heard. I just couldn't imagine taking on that kind of debt for a BA.
  • minimini Posts: 26,431Registered User Senior Member
    A rule of thumb is don't take out more debt over four years than U.S. government statisticians think you should have - which is the four-year maximum for subsidized Stafford loans - $23k. (of course your parents can have more).
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