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How do I choose between these two colleges?

I have been accepted at UNC but the financial aid package was really low. About two weeks ago I also got into Grinnell and they have offered me what would essentially be a full ride. UNC is my dream school but I'm not sure what to do. What should I consider when deciding between the two options?
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Replies to: How do I choose between these two colleges?

  • Sally_RubenstoneSally_Rubenstone CC Admissions Expert 3184 replies1122 threads CC Admissions Expert
    @orion15 --Sorry I didn't get to this yesterday during the "Ask the Expert" event. But your question required an answer so long that it might have eaten up a big chunk of the "Ask the Expert" hour! So I'm taking a shot at it without the clock ticking now.

    Seniors are often faced with “Apples versus. Oranges” college choices. But the differences between UNC and Grinnell—and between a low aid award and an almost full ride—are immense. Since UNC is your first choice, you can begin by appealing your aid package. Here’s what to do ..

    - Make an appointment in advance to speak to a financial aid officer (over the phone unless you live nearby). One advantage of going in person is that you can bring a parent or parents, which is helpful to most teenagers when money matters are on the table. (You could do a phone conference that includes a parent as well, but in-person is preferable if it's possible.)

    - Explain that you are eager to enroll but can’t afford to do so without more aid.

    - Provide a specific number that would make UNC work for you ... don’t just say, “Please give me more!”

    - Ideally, you can offer a couple reasons why you really need this extra dough (a parent lost a job; your family home or car needed unexpected expensive repairs; a family member has medical expenses not covered by insurance, etc.)

    - Mention the Grinnell scholarship and offer to send UNC a written copy of it, but insist you really want to be at UNC although your parents won’t let you go without some added aid. Usually, in order for this sort of "leverage" to be effective, the colleges being compared must be equally selective. Grinnell and UNC are both "Most Selective" (proclaims the College Board) so this will work in your favor.

    Be sure to act GRATEFUL for whatever little you’ve been offered so far rather than ENTITLED to more, but –even so—be persistent while still being polite.

    If UNC doesn’t make a better (and reasonable) offer, then it’s time to sit down with your parents and talk about how attending UNC will affect your family finances (and equilibrium). For some families, spending a few hundred thousand dollars for college versus spending just a fraction of that amount isn’t such a huge deal (kind of like when I buy grapes, even when they’re not on sale—something I never would have done a few decades ago). ;) While--for other families--the pricier college comes with major stress (and debt). Will you have to take out loans to attend UNC but not Grinnell? That’s really a biggie, and–if you can avoid debt—I urge you to do so. After all, you applied to Grinnell so, as different as it is from UNC, there must be SOMETHING (and probably lots of SOMETHINGS) that you like about it.

    Make a Pros and Cons list for each school. Once you survey the lists, do you spot any must-haves or deal-breakers that you hadn’t previously considered?

    Above all, keep in mind that four undergraduate years will fly by fast. It may be hard for you to realize this now, but—if you opt for the nearly-free education at Grinnell--you can position yourself to go to UNC for graduate school later on, if grad school is in your future and if UNC remains a dream. And “later on” will come sooner than you can imagine.

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