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Does anyone else just feel overwhelmed at the beginning of the process?

brentwoodmombrentwoodmom Registered User Posts: 218 Junior Member
My husband and I feel overwhelmed and unsure of how to find the "right" college with our son.

My oldest is a junior. We visited a few colleges in NC last year just to get a feel for what he might like.
Visited UNC, Davidson, and Duke. He loved UNC, liked Duke, and hated Davidson, so I thought we were off to a good start on knowing he most likely wanted to go to a big state school.

He has no idea what he will choose as a major, thinking something in math or science, or maybe business analytics.
So trying to choose colleges by major isn't an option at this point. And I don't see that changing by next year.

He wants to look at mostly large state schools- Tennessee, Alabama, Clemson, South Carolina, and Georgia are all on his list, but he is not very proactive in the discussions at this point. He is excited about going to college, but not really wanting to look at them.
I want him to look at Miami of Ohio. And then we would like to find some mid sized schools to add to his list, but have absolutely no ideas what to recommend. We've done the college search websites, but it's hard to tell which schools offer merit money.

We're hoping he will get some merit aid. We can pay up to $15,000 per year. He made a 34 on his ACT and could possibly hit National Merit range based on his previous PSAT scores.

He only gets 2 days out of school for visits, so we're trying to plan a couple of visits for fall and spring break. He's main requirement is a bigger, active school where people are outside between classes (preferably playing something like ultimate Frisbee or spike ball).

This is our oldest child, and this whole process just seems so overwhelming. He's just not a very decisive kid, so that's not helping.

He goes to a smart public high school, so I wonder if a public honors college at an SEC school would be a good fit for him. In some high schools, he would be a "nerd" since he is smart, but at his school, he's just a smart, athletic kid in a smart athletic group. His group is pretty mainstream at his school, even though they mostly have really high test scores.
Hoping to find him a college where he could find a similar group of kids.

For those of you with kids already in college, does an honors college at a big SEC school seem like a possible good fit?
Any other schools you would add?

Would love any input! Thanks for reading this long winded post!


Replies to: Does anyone else just feel overwhelmed at the beginning of the process?

  • doschicosdoschicos Registered User Posts: 20,383 Senior Member
    Is NC your home state?

    I don't have much experience in the $$ aid camp at large schools to offer , but I'm sure others with that knowledge will chime in. Will you qualify for need based aid or are you counting on purely merit aid to make it affordable for you?

    Has your son looked at one of the college books to help narrow it down? If he knows that large universities appeal to him the most, that's a good start. If you haven't already, I'd suggest picking up a Fiske Guide to Colleges. I think their descriptions are pretty accurate and it could be a helpful tool for pinpointing a list of schools to visit/consider.
  • twogirlstwogirls Registered User Posts: 6,967 Senior Member
    edited September 2017
    Does he like your instate public schools? Do any give merit? That might be a good place to begin. If you pay $15,000, your S takes the $5500 Stafford Loan, and he gets some instate merit.... that may work. Do you have any idea what your FAFSA EFC is?

    Have you used the net price calculator for UNC to see if you would possibly qualify for financial aid? They meet full need. You can also try UVA and Michigan.

    I would start by making 2 lists: the first list is made of schools that might give your son huge merit for his stats- it appears that you need full tuition or close to it. OOS public schools are expensive. The second list will be for schools that meet full need ( some may also give merit, but getting it is very hard)- this will require you to use the NPC and decide if the estimated cost looks manageable.

    Your son might like an honors college at a large state school.... visiting will help him decide. Take a look at Pitt.
  • gclsportsgclsports Registered User Posts: 490 Member
    Hello @brentwoodmom! I totally understand being overwhelmed at the beginning of the process. My S is a senior and we are in the middle of the application process, and it is still overwhelming.

    It sounds like you are on the right track by taking him to some campuses to get a feel for what he might like. That's a good start. Once you get a feel for what your son likes in terms of size, setting, availability of extracurriculars, etc., start trying to identify schools that will be academic safeties, matches and reaches with those characteristics. You can do that by looking at the Common Data Sets for schools and considering the admit rate and the academic profiles of admitted students. I have to admit that for my son, I did a lot of the research that identified potential schools, and I presented those schools to him for his thoughts, with him saying which schools should be on the list and which he was not interested in. That was perhaps not ideal (he should have done more in that regard), but that was the only way it was going to get done. After that part of the process, we had a lot of schools still on the list.

    Of course, you also need to consider affordability, and it sounds like you have started to do that too. We made sure there were a couple of in state public schools on the list (Miami of OH, which you mentioned you would like your son to consider, is one of them) because we know we can afford those. We mostly eliminated the out of state public schools unless there were significant merit awards we felt like our son might be able to get. We also eliminated private schools that don't offer at least some big merit awards that S could compete for. We were focused on merit awards because we don't anticipate getting a lot of need based aid. You don't say whether or not you know about Net Price Calculators, but in case not ... each school has one on their website, and they will give you an idea whether or not you can expect need based aid from a given school. Some will also estimate merit scholarship eligibility. Some on CC have reported that the NPCs are not accurate for families with certain special financial situations, like business owners, so YMMV. Once we eliminated schools that way, we had a more manageable list.

    Good luck with your search!
  • brentwoodmombrentwoodmom Registered User Posts: 218 Junior Member
    Thanks for the thoughts so far. We live in TN. If we lived in North Carolina, I think this would be an easy search. Unfortunately, Tennessee doesn't have as many good public colleges.

    I don't expect to qualify for any need based aid at public colleges. I have done some net price calculators and we qualify for very little at private schools. We are high middle income, so too high to qualify for much need based aid, but too low to write a $40,000 check each year.

    We have tried to take out any schools that offer no or very little merit aid. For instance, he had Auburn on his list, but best case scenario at Auburn still left about $25,000 per year, and that didn't seem worth it when he has already qualified for a full tuition scholarship at Alabama.

    So would you just visit large state schools which he thinks he might like? Or would you push him to visit some medium sized schools that aren't currently on his radar? And if so, any suggestions for good medium schools within about 8 hours of Nashville?
  • menloparkmommenloparkmom Registered User Posts: 12,915 Senior Member
    edited September 2017
    "He made a 34 on his ACT and could possibly hit National Merit range based on his previous PSAT scores."

    then take a look at the schools on this link, and prepare to cast a WIDE net.

    This link takes you to a list of colleges that offer national Merit scholarships
  • roycroftmomroycroftmom Registered User Posts: 2,696 Senior Member
    I wouldn't look at very many OOS public schools-few give the kind of merit you want to non-residents. I do know of parents with happy experiences at UTenn. And you already know about Alabama. There is also UT Dallas. You can try for the few highly competitive scholarships at UNC, but you are likely to have better merit results looking at less competitive smaller schools that want his ACT score.
  • brentwoodmombrentwoodmom Registered User Posts: 218 Junior Member
    Thank you, this is really helpful! We will get the Fiske Guide and Financial Aid for Dummies. We ordered a guide to public honors colleges last weekend.

    Thanks for the links to the threads. I added UAH as a possibility for a smaller college to visit.
  • Hoosier96Hoosier96 Registered User Posts: 865 Member
    edited September 2017
    D'15 is at a OOS that isn't mentioned very often on this forum but it a great school for research. It will be in your financial range USF (University of South Florida). Nice campus and it is the Tampa. They have an honor college; but really my daughter classes except for some 100 level classes have been very small 30-40 students. Currently it has 40,000+ under graduates. This school was once considered a "suite case" school but it really no longer the case; most students live on campus or immediately area around school.
  • gclsportsgclsports Registered User Posts: 490 Member
    @brentwoodmom University of Georgia and University of South Carolina both have some merit scholarships that waive the out of state portion of tuition. For South Carolina, you have to submit the application by early answer deadline (which is earlier than most - October 15, I believe). Then if you have certain stats (and 34 ACT should make the cut), they invite you almost immediately to apply to Honors College, which is also the application for the big merit scholarships. I think Georgia has a similar process, but I didn't look as far into that process.
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 10,613 Senior Member
    I don't know if this helps but our son was not interested in colleges even in Feb. of junior year. I remember him reading magazines while his younger sister asked questions :) He ended up at a great school and put a lot of effort in once the reality hit him in fall of senior year.

    Also, there is no need to figure out major for awhile, usually end of sophomore year in college. Of course for engineering or nursing or other specialized vocational paths, it helps to start the course sequence early, but for most kids, there are many major changes anyway and an undecided applicant is fine.

    I think some of the feeling of being overwhelmed come more from financial concerns (casting a wide net for merit aid for instance). I personally feel- and could be wrong- that picking a good fit school ends up meaning a better financial offer, so we did not cast a wide net but instead tried to cast a smart one, so to speak. But others may have had different experiences.

    It may be possible to keep the number of schools down and that really helps with the stress level.

    ps if you can come up with one medium sized school and one other smaller school, he could really decide on size. Other factors are location, academics, and "vibe."
  • maya54maya54 Registered User Posts: 2,088 Senior Member
    "wouldn't look at very many OOS public schools-few give the kind of merit you want to non-residents."

    Miami of Ohio certainly does so it's good you've looked there.
  • suzy100suzy100 Registered User Posts: 5,721 Senior Member
    OP, I second looking at USouth Carolina and Miami of Ohio, but be mindful of USC's October 15 deadline for merit consideration - and the many supplemental essays required.
  • brentwoodmombrentwoodmom Registered User Posts: 218 Junior Member
    compmom- That is very helpful and makes me feel less stressed. Thank you.

    Since finding an "active campus" seems to be one of his most important criteria, we are trying to visit schools while the students are in school and hopefully during decent weather. I think that is part of my stress. I feel like we have to finish by Sept. of next year and try to do the visits during the school year.
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 10,613 Senior Member
    I would try to keep the visits to a reasonable number. Research via Fiske or Princeton Review or whatever, and peruse websites. The more you can winnow from afar the fewer the visits.

    Once on campus, we always hung out on campus, on the green, in the dining hall, library, bookstore and I suppose sports or whatever interests him. The tours and info sessions are fine but it helped to walk around and experience the colleges ourselves.

    Summer visits can be useful. I know that everyone prefers visiting during the school year but I would go on the assumption that some will be in the summer. It isn't that hard to imagine the campus full of students. And for some school year visits, students are in class- or asleep!
This discussion has been closed.