is it worth it? one parent's story

<p>This was posted on the Duke board by 'dak' and I thought I would share it here....</p>

<p>I've been hesitant to post this thinking that maybe our situation is unique, but I decided maybe it will shed another light on the matter. Please keep in mind that this is just one opinion, and I realize that some families just CAN'T work things out financially. I feel fortunate that we were able to.</p>

<p>Our oldest son applied ED to Stanford several years ago. We were naive, thinking that "full demonstrated need" meant just that. Unfortunately their definition of "need" was much different than ours. After being overjoyed at the acceptance in mid-December, I'll never forget the devastation we felt on Christmas Eve Day when the Financial Aid estimate arrived...NOTHING, except Unsubsidized Stafford Loan. What a depressing day as we told our son "we just can't do that". Being a wonderfully sensitive, understanding kid, he said he understood and would do everything he could to find other options for funding. We said we would do our part to try and appeal.</p>

<p>We (like the original poster) also own property, which is in our opinion a part of our retirement investment. Additionally, we own a business in a very depressed area where our accounts receivable are unusually high - many debts that we will never collect. We arranged a conference call with financial aid, and included our accountant in the call. The property, in their opinion was treated like a liquid asset, as was the accounts receivable. At least that's my understanding of it. At any rate, no change was made to our financial aid package. Our son applied for about 25 national scholarships, and didn't receive any thing from them. He did receive several one time local scholarships. Seeing him try so hard to find away to finance this education was heartbreaking. We told him that we were able to finance the first year at Stanford, but we just didn't know after that, as we had two other siblings to educate after him. He wanted to go to Stanford so bad that he proposed going for a year and if we couldn't figure out a way to finance it after that, he would try to see if the door was still open to transfer to the school that was offering him substantial money to attend.</p>

<p>For the sake of trying to shorten this story, I will just say that he went the full four years and was able to graduate from Stanford. Here's where the story turns positive. We always wondered if we were doing the right thing by investing so much in this top notch school. Could our kids get a good education and do just as well at a lower priced school? I think the answer is "maybe". One thing that happened for our son was that by his sophomore year he was able to work in a research lab that paid quite well for something that he considered to be a major part of his education. These earnings really helped to lower the total cost of his education. More than that, however, it opened doors that we wonder if he would have walked through had he been in a different (ie: lower cost school). The connections he made in the research world at Stanford were so instrumental in getting him where he is today, which is in a FULLY PAID MD/PHD program. This was enormous as we wondered how we could possibly help him when we had two other children in college - we knew we couldn't, and if it weren't for this program he would have to take on enormous debt to finance his professional dream of being a medical clinician as well as a medical scientist. Along with tuition, fees, and health insurance etc, he also receives a living stipend and is actually getting paid enough to pay off undergraduate loans, and living quite comfortably while going to medical school. HE will complete his education debt free.</p>

<p>I realize this may not be the case with every student, but for us the "bang for the buck" of the Stanford experience really paid off. Now our younger son attends Duke, and already during his freshman year has connected with several wonderful research opportunities that we feel will not only stimulate him, but will help pave the way to his future in the area that he's passionate about. We are convinced that it is worth the price to send our kids to a school that has the opportunities they're looking for to make their dream a reality. Please, don't get me wrong... I also beleive that students can do wonderful things at lower priced state schools etc. It's all about motivation to find the opportunities and the connections that make things happen. I just wanted to give another slant to the "is it worth it" argument, and I can say withough a doubt, for us, it has been. We drive old cars, decided not to build a house on the lake, and figure we can make do for several more years. To us, it's worth it.</p>

<p>Sorry for the length of this, but I just had to share our I wonder how much editing I'll have to do after going back and reading my ramblings! :-)</p>

<p>Wow! Thanks for sharing that; it does indeed provide another perspective.</p>


<p>May I just tell you that this was ever-so timely for us and oh so inspiring! As you probably know, we are in the midst of this very decision ourselves! ~berurah</p>

<p>berurah, it seems that you declined my tomorrow's invitation for an e-dance on the Stanford board. Oh Well, and I thought you liked me :)</p>


<p><em>blush</em> I just didn't think I'd be qualified to attend myself. But, OH YEAH, I'll be dancing MAJORLY if you have any success!!!!! :)</p>

<p>(If, against all odds, WE have any success, I'll be needing resuscitation. I hope I can count on you! <em>lol</em>)</p>


<p>Congratulations to your son! He REALLY was serious about his education and not just his GPA, as demonstrated by the fact he was able to get a research job in his sophomore year. I'll bet that professors and departments would love to teach in a world where everyone had your son's attitude.</p>

<p>The most unique post and a very different view from anything on this site. It makes so much sense but most want to tell you what a waste the stretch is. Thanks!!</p>

<p>I agree with you 1000%. </p>

<p>My parents had the money but refused to pay for Private U--after saying they would. I went anyway on the advice of two lawyers who told me I would NEVER think about that tuition money. I don't!</p>

<p>My father-in-law told us that paying my H's Private U tuition did not work out on paper--but somehow he managed to pay for four years plus a year in Copenhagen and a summer in Barcelona.</p>

<p>Also, I think there is great merit in what your son did byrolling the dice. He was willing to be daring. Mark my words, that attribute and that initial success will serve him well. </p>

<p>Anyone can play it safe!</p>

<p>Thank you! That was just what I needed to hear! ^_^</p>

<p>Glad to hear it. We've paid for one year of UChicago so far, and I was just wondering how the heck we're going to come up with the dough for three more. (And we have three more kids left to go) . I hope its worth it!</p>

<p>I think the bottom line on this and related threads should that the student and the family should be comfortable with whatever decision is made and then the student should make the most of it. Research opportunities are available at many schools. Faculty networks reach most everywhere. At selective colleges and universities, both talent and opportunity will develop.</p>

<p>I agree with reidm and let me give an brief example to balance Simba's entry. </p>

<p>Five years ago, a young man from my church was the top student in his high school but comes from a very middle class family. I never asked, but I think financials did not allow him to attend even State U so he attended the local commuter college (a State U branch campus) and lived at home. He is now about to graduate with a Chem degree with close to a 4.0 average. A few weeks ago he told me he plans on going to grad school to continue studying Chem. He has been accepted into 3 top chem programs in the midwest. All of them are offering him a full ride plus over $25K/year as a research assistant. He is having trouble deciding which one to attend.</p>

<p>So, be comfortable with your decision and make the most of it.</p>

<p>Simba, it is great to hear such a lovely story and I am glad for you and your S. But I agree with Reidm and Workingforblue. There are many paths to success. Not all families would be able to make the leap of faith yours did, or have the financial resources to pay for even one year. Their kids can still do well at state u or a cc. Those kids who were rejected at Stanford or their dream school can still make their ways successfully towards their goals. Doors are everywhere.</p>

<p>As a faculty spouse, who, as my H moved around, spent time at a less prestigious college, an ivy, and a prestigious state u, I know that faculty contacts span the globe. Networks among faculty start when they are in grad school, and then the cohort scatters everywhere - to schools of all types - as the grad students move on to teaching and research positions. Assuming there are good people in the student's area of interest, and the student is motivated, that student can find opportunities and his teachers will have networks to help him. Had your S not been accepted ED at Stanford, he surely would have succeeded elsewhere, because he is smart and was motivated. </p>

<p>I know that you know this, Simba - it comes out in your post. But as the CC kids and their parents contemplate what to do next, in some cases with a heavy heart because the money isn't there or the acceptance never came, I just wanted to emphasize to them that your son's path is just one of many options, and no one should feel that they must have an ivy acceptance and $160,000 or big loans to reach their dream.</p>

<p>Let me clarify something here. This is not my story. The story was posted on Duke board by 'dak'. I just copied and pasted it.</p>

<p>I wish our story turns out like this.</p>

<p>I need to improve my reading skills! I missed the part about it being copied from the Duke board and thought it was about Simba's family.</p>

<p>Totally off Topic</p>

<p>MotherofTwo, LOL. The ever-sneaky collegeboard folks used that exact "trap" on the last PSAT. Darling D fell right into the hole.</p>

<p>Now we return to our regularly scheduled program.</p>

<p>I did see that intro, Simba, but wasn't quite when other posters began referring to you - I figured they knew something from another board that I didn't about your situation. But regardless of who posted it, this is a really individual choice AND opportunities are where we find them, not just at elite places! Good luck to you!</p>

<p>bumpity bump</p>

<p>I think the biggest lesson I'll take from this story is that it was the STUDENT's initiative that got him where he is. HE was willing to put the sweat equity into trying to get scholarships, jobs, etc. That makes it very different than the posts that say "Please help me convince my parents to pay for me."</p>

<p>If a student has the dream and the desire, and the ability to work for it, he or she will succeed in one way or another.</p>

Thanks for posting this - we just made the expensive choice at UChicago, and it is reassuring. </p>

<p>The research endowment (sometimes by department) of the University can be an important factor - you can make your own luck, but the dollars to support it need to be there at the <em>undergraduate</em> level. Stanford is also located in prime territory for research and R&D, so you get the benefit of a critical mass of researchers.</p>