Debunking the myths of college search

<p>I learned a lot sending two kids through college, and wish that I had know some things beforehand. I'll list a few, but looking for other parent to add to these:</p>

<p>MYTH #1: If money is an issue, stay in-state at a public school.
We all sort of know this one can be false, since some private schools can offer better aid than publics. But there are other considerations as well, but they all involve research. Lots of research. Some lower-ranked schools (public and private) are wanting to increase their reputations, and are willing to pay for students that will help do that. At one school I know, for example, a $4500 per year scholarship is available to anyone with a 3.0 or better (and a decent, but achievable SAT score). In addition, a private school may be more generous with need-based aid.</p>

<p>MYTH #2: The higher a school is on USNWR rankings, the better the school is.
Probably what matters more is the department you're looking into (assuming you already know what your major will be). For example, the best Journalism schools in the country may be in universities which are not at the very top of the list.</p>

<p>MYTH #3: A smaller school is better than a larger one.
This might be true in some respects, especially with freshman class sizes. But there are so many opportunities available at larger schools. As one of my friends pointed out, you are going to gather around you a set of friends, and that set will be the same size and type of people no matter whether you are in a large school or a smaller one. It might be easier to fall through the cracks and disappear in a larger school, but for anyone with a little bit of drive, the advantages of the additional resources (and additional majors when the time comes to change) are there.</p>

<p>MYTH #4: Avoid party schools.
Same as above. What you do and who you associate with are up to you, and the school will not impose partying on you... except in one circumstance: dorms. If you do go to a party school, make sure to request either an academic or substance-free dorm and avoid the all-night noise.</p>

<p>MYTH #5: The best source of scholarship money is with the large national, corporate, competitive ones (Coca Cola, etc).
Let's face it. The competition makes the effort to pursue one of these almost worthless. The best source of money is with the college itself (again, more research). And do not overlook local sources as well - some smaller companies, your own employer, the utility companies, services club (Kiwanis, etc), historical societies, and so on. Start with the school's guidance office, but again, more research.</p>

<p>MYTH #6: The best chance for merit money will be with an Ivy League school.
Hahahahahahaha.... That may be where your LEAST chance of merit money will be, even if they may be more generous with need-based aid. </p>

<p>MYTH #7: Going to a super-competitive, top-ranked high school will increase your chance at an elite college.
Actually, this is counter-intuitive, but it may actually hurt. Even though an elite college may take more from that kind of a school, the number of people applying is also much greater. You are in a super-competitive set of applicants, all of whom are going for the elites.</p>

<p>...any more to add to these? ...or disagreements with these?</p>

<p>Thanks.</p>

<p>Great points and nicely presented. </p>

<p>
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The best source of money is with the college itself (again, more research).

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<p>MYTH #8 Your HS guidance dept. is always correct.</p>

<p>Application for son's full ride was buried in the college department's webpage of his university. Took him 5 minutes to fill out. Guidance dept. at the HS never knew it was there and even argued that State flagship didn't have full rides. (our state flagship). RESEARCH,yes.</p>

<p>
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MYTH #3: A smaller school is better than a larger one.

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<p>And, I might add, don't assume that a large school always has large classes. D attends a very large school and the majority of her classes (Freshman year) had 20 or fewer students.</p>

<p>Very good post - I really agree with all of your posts - particularly Myth #1 - from my personal experience - S1 receives excellent need-based FA from a private university - making the most expensive school he applied to actually the least expensive in the end. Now doing search for S2 - and keeping in mind both need-based FA and merit money if you are at the top of the applicant pool at a slightly less selective school.</p>

<p>I also enjoyed the points you made re party schools and small vs. large as these are issues we are looking at right now. The only place I am going to disagree with you is that on the small school vs. large school issue - it's not just class size that concerns people but also housing. Most larger universities have very limited on campus housing, forcing most sophomores and upperclassmen to live off campus - this issue in particular males me nervous. And of course, then you have the parties in the off campus apartments and the concerns intensify. So, personally, the housing issue is as big a concern - maybe even bigger - than the class sizes. But overall, good post - you really hit the hot spots.</p>

<p>Excellent points, all.... the housing is a huge one. We actually rejected one place early in the process because there was no guarantee of housing after the first year. The school we finally picked required on-campus housing for two years (although my son was ready to get out after one year anyway). And sax, I LOVE this one (amended slightly):</p>

<p>MYTH #8: Trust your HS guidance dept. They know best and are always correct.</p>

<p>They may be an excellent source for info on local scholarships but in general, they are overworked and not always up to date on the best information and advice.</p>

<p>Well done, digmedia. After also sending 2 kids through college, we had experience with most of the myths you listed and I agree with them. Myth 1 is was true for us as both of my kids did much better at a private.</p>

<p>As for the housing issue, we looked for schools that guaranteed housing for 4 years (although it wasn't a deal breaker if they didn't have it - just another consideration.) We had a friend that couldn't find on or off campus housing for her junior year and was in a panic that last two weeks in August. She finally did come up with something, but it was an issue we did not want to have to face.</p>

<p>Thanks, digmedia, this is great!
Now I'll add two of my own:
The process gets easier with subsequent children. Actually, every student has different attributes and needs and the search process does not really get easier! Sorry to have to debunk this myth!</p>

<p>How about: Don't let the price tag discourage you from applying. We work these things out. </p>

<p>There is a certain segment of the population with EFC's they can't really meet for one reason or another, who are in effect priced out of schools with no merit aid. They don't really "make it work" for anyone and everyone who would otherwise be accepted.</p>

<p>*MYTH #1: If money is an issue, stay in-state at a public school.</p>

<p>We all sort of know this one can be false, since some private schools can offer better aid than publics. But there are other considerations as well, but they all involve research. Lots of research. Some lower-ranked schools (public and private) are wanting to increase their reputations, and are willing to pay for students that will help do that. At one school I know, for example, a $4500 per year scholarship is available to anyone with a 3.0 or better (and a decent, but achievable SAT score). In addition, a private school may be more generous with need-based aid.*</p>

<p>Yes, this can be a myth for a student with good stats. However, for a student with modest stats, it's not likely he/she will get accepted to a school that will give good aid and a good aid package. </p>

<p>The families here on CC are not the "rule of thumb" because so many have such high stats that get accepted to full-aid schools and/or get fab offers from various schools.</p>

<p>I would imagine that for most graduates from a local public high school, the most economical option is their state public.</p>

<p>* Myth: Don't let the price tag discourage you from applying. We work these things out. *</p>

<p>Very real myth! This just gets more applications for the school. </p>

<p>I remember when my brother took his son to visit Notre Dame; they were told the same thing. They got ZERO aid. ND didn't disclose the details about how the school decides what your need is...not the family.</p>

<p>
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MYTH #7: Going to a super-competitive, top-ranked high school will increase your chance at an elite college.

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<p>You make a good point about this myth, but I don't think that students who have the chance to attend such schools should necessarily rule them out. The opportunity for a serious student to go to high school in the company of peers may be too good to pass up. And although going to an elite high school may decrease admissions chances somewhat, this may be offset by the better academic preparation for college that these types of high schools provide.</p>

<p>Great list! I would agree with everything on it.</p>

<p>
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Yes, this can be a myth for a student with good stats. However, for a student with modest stats, it's not likely he/she will get accepted to a school that will give good aid and a good aid package.

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not true. My youngest had "modest stats" coming out of high school. She got a nice merit scholarship at a private and combined with a need based grant made this college cheaper than a PA state school. Again, research is the key.</p>

<p>Many private colleges have fantastic financial aid combinations of Merit and need based. Not all but many. Research!</p>

<p>Don't let the price tag discourage you..... but be willing to walk away.
Tuition at my daughter's private college is just over $27000. She will get nearly $20000 in GRANT (merit and need) money. Add her loans and this school will cost just $4000 out of pocket. (maybe less, we are waiting on the SMART grant)</p>

<p>MYTH #9: If the college admits 15% of applicants then its a reach for everybody.</p>

<p>Fact - some applicants will have close to 0% chance of admission, and some will have maybe 90% or better (aside from the Tufts syndrome, which can be overcome by ED).</p>

<p>*Tuition at my daughter's private college is just over $27000. She will get nearly $20000 in GRANT (merit and need) money. Add her loans and this school will cost just $4000 out of pocket. (maybe less, we are waiting on the SMART grant) *</p>

<p>Good!</p>

<p>What about room and board? What covers that? If she's commuting then that would be a different situation. </p>

<p>What were her stats?</p>

<p>*
MYTH #4: Avoid party schools.</p>

<p>Same as above. What you do and who you associate with are up to you, and the school will not impose partying on you... except in one circumstance: dorms. If you do go to a party school, make sure to request either an academic or substance-free dorm and avoid the all-night noise.*</p>

<p>Very true! I don't know why people assume that at so-called Party Schools there is a homogeneous party attitude throughout the school. </p>

<p>It's very unlikely that the engineering, math, physics, bio, and chem majors are all a bunch of drunken partiers. I'm not saying that those in other majors are by default big partiers. I'm just saying that many students in very hard majors don't have the time nor interest in nightly beer-pong. </p>

<p>I would also add....</p>

<p>** Myth #10 If a school has a popular football or basketball team than the school cannot be serious about academics. **</p>

<p>
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MYTH #9: If the college admits 15% of applicants then its a reach for everybody.</p>

<p>Fact - some applicants will have close to 0% chance of admission, and some will have maybe 90% or better (aside from the Tufts syndrome, which can be overcome by ED).
sorghum is offline

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<p>I agree with you, but these schools -- the one-step-below-the-ultra-elite schools -- should never be considered safety schools for anyone. They consider applicants on an individual basis, and their admissions results can be surprising. Whether a particular student will be admitted to Dartmouth/Northwestern/Georgetown/Cornell/Wash U and other schools at this level (including Tufts) is not entirely predictable.</p>

<p>In response to Post #9, our experience was quite different. Our B+ student with wonderful ECs and solid ACT scores was not offered a dime in grant or merit aid (only loans) at our instate public school. Our instate public schools are pricey. We were offered MUCH MUCH better packages from 9 different private schools!!! If we lived in a state with lower instate costs, we might agree with post 9, but our instate public option was NOT affordable for us. I agree, therefore, with Myth #1.</p>

<p>Here is another myth:</p>

<p>Small schools always mean small class sizes.</p>

<p>The statement above is a myth. It is true that some small schools offer only small classes (or nearly all small classes), but there are small schools that still offer rather large class sizes.</p>

<p>^^^</p>

<p>Very true...</p>

<p>There are many kids/parents who lean towards small schools with the assumption that small school equals small class sizes. </p>

<p>Our B+ student with wonderful ECs and solid ACT scores was not offered a dime in grant or merit aid (only loans) at our instate public school. Our instate public schools are pricey. We were offered MUCH MUCH better packages from 9 different private schools!!! If we lived in a state with lower instate costs, we might agree with post 9</p>

<p>there are many exceptions either way...that's why neither way is "set in stone". </p>

<p>It depends on the state, it depends on whether commuting is possible, it depends on EFC, it depends on whether EFC is affordable, and/or it depends on a student's stats.</p>

<p>For many kids (especially those with unaffordable EFCs) commuting to their local state school and paying $7k per year in tuition and $1k in books is a cheaper than a "go away" school (public or private) that leaves a big gap. </p>

<p>I see this at my kids' high school. Those with unaffordable EFCs and modest stats find it cheaper to commute to the local state school. They don't qualify for aid, they don't qualify for merit anywhere, so paying $6-8k per year is affordable. </p>

<p>The many kids with the 2.7 GPAs and the 23/24 ACTs are going to have a hard time getting into "go away" schools that will give them enough aid to be affordable. </p>

<p>On the other hand, as NEMom found, her pricey publics (which might also have req'd room and board) were more expensive than privates with aid.</p>

<p>On the housing issue, I'd have to point out that off-campus housing is not always a bad thing. In many college communities, there is a large array of rentals geared to students, and off campus apartments are less expensive and offer more amenities than dorms. </p>

<p>So I would consider it to be a "myth" that guaranteed housing for 4 years is a major factor to consider. It certainly made sense for my daughter in NYC --- but my son had great apartments in lovely neighborhoods within easy walking distance to his small-town college campus. </p>

<p>I'd advise parents to visit the community and get a sense of whether there are large areas fairly close to campus which offer a lot of housing options for students, such as apartment buildings that specialize in student rentals. The move off campus can often be advantageous simply because dorm life may have an animal-house like atmosphere.</p>

<p>I agree with calmom about housing. I do want to add that at some schools, the move off campus can also be an animal-house like atmosphere. At some schools, off campus apartments are where there are lots of parties, and sometimes you may find the "red cups" all over the streets in front of such housing on weekend mornings.</p>

<p>mom2collegekids, I agree that it could work the other way as far as more affordable depending upon state, student stats, EFC, etc. BTW, my son could have commuted, but in our case this would have involved the purchase of a car (he does not have one), continuation of auto insurance bills, and naturally gas bills. That solution would not have been a cheap one either.</p>

<p>Non-party schools are few and far between</p>