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- Keep your grades up. Keep ahead of your class work. It sounds like you have appropriate interests. For PSAT and SAT, preparation classes or tutoring can be very helpful.
- You don't need to go to MIT to be a success in any field. There are a LOT of very good universities in the US (and some good ones elsewhere as well). Getting into MIT is unlikely for everyone, and is getting more difficult over time (ditto for Harvard), but with good grades getting into some very good universities should be no problem.
- Go ahead and apply to MIT if you still have the grades when the time comes, but also have other schools in mind. You want to apply to a range of universities. When the time comes to think about which schools to apply to, you will need to keep cost in mind, as well as what subjects the university is good at, where you would be comfortable, and where your grades and test scores are likely to get you into. Find a good match for YOU, and don't pay much attention to rankings.
- Your state has REALLY GOOD public universities. The best software engineer that I ever worked with graduated from the University of Michigan. The worst software engineer that I ever worked with graduated from Harvard (it might not be Harvard's fault, he probably would have been just as bad if he had graduated from anywhere else).
- Don't stress out too much about all of this. IMHO the US puts too much stress on our high school students. It sounds like you will do very well.
We pay bills out of checking, keep all receipts, and then withdraw from the 529 two or three times per year to cover the permitted expenses each semester. We only withdraw amounts for which we have the receipts.
" They don't know unless you get audited; there's an element of trust at play. "
Yes, but I am sure that they know how much university costs to a pretty good degree of accuracy.
"Paying back that much money may mean he lives at home rather than by himself..."
Having to live at home to pay off debt might seem annoying to the student because he doesn't want to live with his parents into his 30's. However there is another big problem with this: It very severely limits where he can get a job after graduation. It is hard enough to get a job after graduation if you have no constraints on location.
It is rather late in the process. Most universities require you to apply earlier than this in order to be considered for financial aid. Also, it is extremely hard to get into MIT and Tufts, even for students with perfect grades and perfect scores. Finally, most US universities do not give much (if any) financial aid to students from outside of the USA.
Do you still live in Spain? How much can you afford to pay out-of-pocket (not including loans)? Judging from your parent's income, I am thinking that the answer might be "zero".
Your "safeties" might need to be outside of the USA, probably in Spain. If "Tufts" is a safety school, then either your definition of "safety" is not the same as mine, or you are an extremely strong student. Just being the number one student in your high school is not enough to make Tufts a "safety" school.
Quite a few of the threads under "international students" talk about choices of universities and costs:
Okay. You have lots of time to figure this out and to apply to universities.
"...it is much easier to get into Tufts than it is to get into MIT"
This is true, but more because it is VERY difficult to get into MIT. When I was at MIT approximately 1/2 of incoming students had scored 800 on the math SAT, and I would suspect that the percentage is probably higher now.
If you post what sorts of grades you have then this will help other folks on CC get a sense regarding what sorts of schools might be feasible. However, if you wait until you have SAT scores, then this will again make it easier for people to comment -- particularly since most CC readers probably are not aware of how grades are done in Spain, but we are nearly all familiar with SAT scores.