How to Balance School Quality and Financial Aid

<p>So I spent a lot of time over the past year or so researching which schools I wanted to apply to, and I finally settled on a group of around ten with varying admissions rates just like one is supposed to do. But now that I am starting to receive acceptances, I am running into a problem that I never really considered before.</p>

<p>The first two that I heard from (Lewis and Clark and American) were my 'safeties' and each gave me between 10 and 20 thousand in merit aid. The problem is that my parents make collectively around 120 thousand a year, and since I am the only kid, that doesn't qualify for any financial aid other than merit based. The rest of the schools I applied to either do not give merit aid or I wouldn't qualify for it even if I managed to get in.</p>

<p>Even before hearing back from the rest of the schools, I realize that whichever ones I do get into will not be giving me any aid. Since my parents have always been really money-conscious, I can almost guarantee that they will tell me that since I like American and L/C, I just have to go there because they are giving me the most money, regardless of which schools I like better.</p>

<p>I guess what I am asking then, is how I could even consider other schools that I like better even if I do manage to get in. I applied to American and L/C as safeties, not as some of my favorites. But now that they gave me merit aid, there is a good chance that my parents won't even understand the differences in academic quality between those and the others on my list. They will just tell me to go there even though they could easily afford a better school.</p>

<p>On top of that, we are from the midwest, where a private school education is considerably less common than it is out east. Here, a huge portion of kids just go to public college because it is cheaper. Education isn't considered as important or worth as much money as it is elsewhere. Of course I realize and appreciate what my parents are willing to pay for, but without aid, is there any way I could make a school I like more and would challenge me financially feasible?</p>

<p>"...the differences in academic quality..."</p>

<p>Most people agree USN&WR rankings aren't indicative of "academic quality" so how do you measure this?</p>

<p>My son is in a similar situation. The 'safety' schools are being generous with the merit money but the 2 top schools he really is interested in aren't very generous. We thought he would get more merit money from these top schools. We do not qualify for need based money. Not quite sure what is going to happen. Still waiting to hear from 2 schools. The cost of these private LAC is put of site.</p>

<p>Hokiefan, that is exactly what I am talking about. The LACs that I am interested charge 45K a year--we just can't seem to afford that even though we don't qualify for aid. Most top LACs don't give merit money, not that I would get any from them anyway.</p>

<p>dntw8up, when I say academic quality, I am referring to both the quality of professors as well as the intellect of those around me. I have nothing against American and L/C, and I barely glance at the US News, but for me to get the most out of college I feel like I could use a place that would raise the bar for me academically speaking. I need a challenge and I need to feel challenged by those around me.</p>

<p>Can anybody explain if they have been in a similar situation and if so how they have dealt with it? Thanks.</p>

<p>Anyone have anything?</p>

<p>I am in a similar situation. I applied to ten colleges, have been accepted at nine so far. Seven of the schools are private, liberal art schools. The merit awards ranged from $11,500 to $16,000 a year which is nice, however I also qualify for ZERO financial aid. I have been rejected from need based aid at 5 colleges already. Right now, I just want to give up and send my acceptance card to my safety (a public liberal arts college in NJ in the mountains). It is the only feasible one I can afford. My top choice, Ursinus, just gave me their financial aid letter and it stated that everything together was 45,770... and their 16,000 scholarship makes it around 29K per year. I am really debating if going to a private liberal arts college is really worth it. I find it disheartening to realize that after being accepted, getting a scholarship, liking the school, that I am put in this position. I can completely relate with you. </p>

<p>However, I can vouch that American and L/C are top notch schools with amazing academics. Congrats on your acceptances and your future schools. Maybe you should visit the one in which you feel you can see yourself at. Perhaps you might fall for one of them. I wish you much luck and success!</p>

<p>Yes, I did visit both of them and I definitely liked what I saw. Certainly, they are both great schools--I am certainly not denying that. I just feel like my top choices have automatically been removed from possibility even before I know whether or not I get in. It feels terrible to have put so much effort into school, SATs, and the college search only to be disappointed not by my own success or failure but by financial situations that are entirely out of my reach.</p>

<p>I think, before you write off your top choices, you need to speak with your parents, to see if they would be okay with paying more for other schools on your list. That being said, wait until you hear from all your schools about aid, before deciding. </p>

<p>Can't speak for American, but Lewis & Clark is a very good college.</p>

<p>ditto American--very good school in a great part of DC.</p>

<p>
[quote]

Even before hearing back from the rest of the schools, I realize that whichever ones I do get into will not be giving me any aid. Since my parents have always been really money-conscious, I can almost guarantee that they will tell me that since I like American and L/C, I just have to go there because they are giving me the most money, regardless of which schools I like better.

[/quote]

Have you talked to your parents? Since you are their only child, they might very well prepare to pay for your dream school.</p>

<p>Like your parents, we are also very money conscious at spending. Saving every penny like crazy. But since we have only one kid, we made it clear to him finantial is not what he concern when he select the colleges, just do his best to get into whatever the best college he wants to. Growing up with parents very 'money conscious', but also knowing we have saved for his education. And by our promising, he 'consciousely' avoid applying any school (such as state U, and some other lower tier colleges who promise the merit scholarship) he was sure can get merit scholarship. The safety school is the OOSU where the COA for out of state students cost as much as any other privates he apply to. ... Talk to your parents once you heard back from your dream school. They may very well willing to pay. Even if not, if you really want to go your dream school, consider having them pay the same amount they would've even you go to the merit ones, then work out the rest (took out loan, etc.) by yourself. ... I'm sure by end no parents will sit aside to see their child struggle, down the road, soon or late they will pay if they have the money.</p>

<p>I know plenty of people who followed the money and went to schools that were less competitive than colleges they were accepted to. If you take advantage of the college that you go to, you could end up with prestigious graduate fellowships and admissions.</p>

<p>You also can get a high quality education by taking the most challenging courses and working closely with professors to go beyond what the professors may be teaching in class.</p>

<p>And if you are active in ECs and do well in classes, you'll be first in line for research and other opportunities that may end up being far beyond what you could get at a more competitive college where you'd blend into the horde of outstanding students. </p>

<p>I know many people -- including recent students -- who have gone on to very prestigious fellowships, professional schools, graduate programs and jobs after going to a second or even third tier college. The students, however, had to avoid the pitfalls of acting like the majority of students at their colleges, who typically were more into just getting by and partying than taking full advantage of the academics nonsocial EC opportunities.</p>

<p>BTW, I'm a Harvard grad. The big reason that people at schools like Ivies tend to do so well in terms of graduate and professional opportunities is that they tend to do far more in terms of their ECs and academics than do most students in college. For instance, Harvard students think nothing of being a top manager at the school daily newspaper (which in general pays no salaries) while also handling a rigorous premed curriculum and doing substantial community service. The critical thinking, current events and leadership experience they get with the school paper, and what they learn about the world and themselves due to community service also helps them get into medical school since med schools look for more than just good grades.</p>

<p>Thanks for all of the responses. I guess it does make me feel better that I would be able to have a lot of great opportunities at American or Lewis and Clark. I don't know about the loan suggestion, considering that there is probably grad school in my future and I'd rather not have $80 thousand in debt before grad school has even started. I guess at this point I will just wait for the rest of the schools to let me know and take a look at where I stand from that point.</p>

<p>Hi bigp!</p>

<p>My D was in a similar situation last year. She got into some top 100 LACs including Smith, Bard, Wheaton & Drew. She also was admitted to the Honors program at UMass/Amherst. Drew was her safety LAC; and much as she saw its strengths, she wasn't interested in being so far from home. Lo & behold...She got a very generous package from Drew. She contacted Bard & Wheaton about the possibility of getting more $ help since we were adamant that we didn't want her to go deeply into debt for college. And a woman in financial aid at Wheaton told her something very wise. She said people are always talking about finding "a good match"; but that this extended to a good financial match as well. D should graduate with relatively little debt and will be able to go abroad. </p>

<p>Good luck with the rest of this process.</p>

<p>Cadbury, did Bard or Wheaton match any of the financial aid that you received from Drew? If so, maybe I should contact some of the financial aid offices at other schools that I might get accepted at. I guess there might be an outside chance that one of them might consider matching or at least giving part of what the other two are giving.</p>

<p>Does anybody have any experience asking other schools for financial aid based on what other schools are giving?</p>

<p>No, neither upped the amount of aid. That's why she was given that sage piece of advice by the woman in Financial Aid at Wheaton. D had gotten decent packages from Bard and Wheaton, but nowhere near Drew's offer.</p>

<p>Given how competitive admission to most good colleges/unis is right now because of demographics, I'm actually surprised that any are willing to negotiate aid packages. This practice was fairly common in the mid 90's when there was a dearth of HS grads. In a couple of years we will probably be headed back in that direction again.</p>