Need help choosing for the lowest debt!

I have been accepted to 5 colleges, but I’m having difficulties on choosing especially dealing with the aspect of finances.

I have been accepted to
Reed College
St. John’s College (MD)
New College of Florida
Georgia Tech
Georgia Southern

I have already crossed out GA Southern due to fit, but I am still unsure where I should go to school.

Finances are a (the) major factor as I would like to graduate with as little debt as possible since I’m considering either med or grad school.

I have recieved the following financial aid:

Reed-- 64,000 aid (without work study and including 5,500 in loans)
which is about 3000 a year for room and board and tuition. However, I live in ATL and tickets to Portland are not cheap, and I’m worried about cases when I can’t fly out due to delays or cancellations which would mean I need to keep money save for hotels.

I am unable to visit Reed before May 1st which is something I’m apprehensive about. I really like to get the vibe of the porpsies and current students, so if any one has ideas about accomplishing this other than Facebook (which I don’t have), feel free to give me suggestions.

St.John’s-- 57,500 aid (excluding 2,500 in work study and including 5,500 loans) which is about 6,500 a year. I when to the admitted students day and overnight and had I really great time. I felt that I really belong there and made really great friends. This was also the only college I got to see a class in action and I really enjoyed the seminar and tutorials. I am most worried about the cost of completing pre reqs for med school as I will have to take another year after I graduate to take the required courses. I do like that there is a scholarship available for interships and other work during the summer however these are pretty conpetitive. I am also worried about travel as recently my flight almost got cancelled and I’m worried I’ll be in a situation with little money to spare.

New College-- 33,000 aid (including 5,500 loan and was awarded no work study) which is about 10,000 a year. I was also selected as a Isermann Medal Finalist (2,500 research stipend with mentor with a professor) and will interview soon. However, while I like the school, this school is probably the one going off the list first due to it’s high cost. If I can’t get aid increased with the financial aid comparison, then it will be.
I do like the school, and I visited on the admitted students day, but I’m unsure if I really fit in with my prospective peers as I really didn’t get any vibe that I belonged there.

GA Tech-- 20,250 aid (excluding work study and including 5,500 in federal loans and 1000 in a school sponsored loan) which is about 8,000 a year.
I first visited the campus sophomore year and I really liked it. I have been on campus multiple times due to meeting up with current students for tutoring, so it’s definitely a place that I can navigate and feel comfortable. I’m very worried about the cost however, and it’s one of the more expensive schools on my list.

Can someone give any insight to both the strongest attributes to each school and cost, including any hidden cost I haven’t thought about. I really want to go to a college that encourages learning for the sake of learning, has many people either getting a job or going to grad or med school after graduation, and has strong professors which pretty much all of my colleges accomplish so I’m having a hard time distinguishing between them and I really want to go to the school with the lowest debt possible. Is anyone able to give any insight?

St. John’s, as you saw from your visit, has a very unique style and for those whom the school seems to be a fit it is a great opportunity. If the cost is in fact as low as you are saying, that might be a good choice for you, given your reaction to the visit

Yo Reed is amazing, Portland is amazing, and it’s the lowest cost of all the colleges. I’d try to get a virtual tour of Reed, seems like something their website may have.

I’m sure Atlanta has lots of flights to Portland, I don’t think a flight would get cancelled/delayed enough that you’d need a hotel. I also fly cross country for school and I’ve never needed to stay in a hotel due to a delay or cancellation (I also fly a lot for other reasons, and the same is true for all those other trips – never needed to stay in a hotel. At worst, just had to sit in the airport for a few hours.)

Alaska (hub in Portland) and Delta (hub in Atlanta) have non-stop flights between Atlanta and Portland.

You can try flight searches at to see availability and pricing of such flights (but prices may change frequently).

St. John’s was really amazing; I was so impressed by everything I saw on the admitted students weekend. It’s definitely one of my top choices, but I still figuring out how I can pay for the college courses after graduation when I’ll have to worry about undergraduate debt and future med or grad school debt that I might have in the future.

Thank you for the advice. Reed is pretty great ,and I’ve been trying to convince my mother that it’s a great choice, but she’s worried about me in an emergency situation as we have no family there to get there quickly if something happens (which nothing probably will but she likes to map out every possibility). I’ve been trying to be more independent to prove that I’ll be okay out there my own, so hopefully she takes notice!


Thank you for the site! I’ll definitely will play around with the dates to give myself an idea which dates would be cheaper to fly.

My DD went to college across the country. We live in New England. In four years, there was only one time she got stranded…and like all of the other stranded college students…she slept on a cot in the airport. And she survived.


I’m pretty sure I’ll be okay if I get stranded, and I’m sure the cots are definitely better than no alternative! :slight_smile:

Did your daughter have any regrets about going to college far away from home that she didn’t think about before attending?

My daughter only applied to colleges that were far away…except for one parent pick…just in case.

She is our traveler, and had no regrets about going to college in CA even though we live in CT. She was not able to come home for Thanksgiving and spring break…it just didn’t happen. We had relatives in CA and she spent Thanksgiving with them. Spring breaks, her school had service opportunities…and ne year she went home with a friend.

She loved it.

I will say…she was a little homesick for a week or two…but then she got busy.

I can’t promise you the same outcome…but that was hers.

Ask your mom if, in four years, she’ll restrict where you can take a job for the same reason.

So, with adding the loans back in, these are your net prices, right, or am i missing something? - Don’t think about how much aid each school is giving you, rather think ‘net price’ (which includes loans, since that is money you are paying).

Reed - $8,500
St John’s - $12,000 (you are correct not to consider WS as part of your real package)
New Coll - $15,500 (is research stipend credited to your account each semester or paid out like a salary?) find out
Tech - $14,500

Why not take some of the $3,500 difference between Reed and St John’s to pay for a trip this week? If you opt out of Reed simply because you didn’t visit, you’re paying $14,000 more over 4 years to go to St John’s.

On the other hand, it’s not unheard of to attend a school you’ve never set foot on. Do your research, think about your goals, and pray for wisdom as you choose.

Agree with other posters about moving away. Your best option (imo) has you moving away, and you’re an adult now. I recognize parents can’t always be completely rational because they’ll understandably be worried for you etc, but responsibility and risk and everything else is a part of adulthood and moving away is a part of that.

Btw I’ve had (relatively minor overall) emergencies occur in college and getting them resolved was not a big deal. That’s why schools have campus safety departments; there are still local police forces, hospitals, and primary care doctors. I’ve booked many a doctors appointment alone, and the sky has not fallen. Gotta convince your mom though.

FYI- post BAC premed programs are REALLY expensive (check the price online). You need the full plate of premed classes PLUS the required school letter of recommendation. Can you take these classes at St. John’s? That would be ideal so you can get your letter of recommendation from St. Johns as they will know you so well. Maybe you can take the classes at a state U after graduation from St. John’s but would you still be able to get your letter of support for Med School from St. Johns? Is that good enough for med school- I have no idea? Can you contact St.Johns’ premed adviser and find out how this works? You should research this piece if you are serious about med school

I also vote that you keep Reed in consideration due to cost, vibe and quality of education. GA Tech seems to be a real outlier in terms of vibe- but clearly a great school.

Reed is giving you a really good package. If you look for a part time job now, you could start working a few hours a week and a lot more this summer. Also you can still get a campus job, giving you a few hours of work a week during school.

That money can pay for books, supplies, laundry, extra snacks and food, some outings with friends, flights.

The other schools leave a lot left to pay. And with St John’s you said you have to add a year? I wonder why you can’t take premed prerequisites there in 4 years?

Georgia Tech, I am not sure if your GPA might take a hit there, with so many engineering students in some of the same classes.

@Meganerd2012 I would consider Reed.

As mentioned upthread, Atlanta is a huge airport hub and Portland is a decently sized one. With non-stop flights, there is little chance something will go wrong. If you end up with a connecting flight and the problem is the fault of the airline, they usually provide vouchers if you are stranded. If it’s weather related, you’re on your own and maybe you are delayed for some hours. I have flown for many years and only once was I stranded (out of a small regional airport) and then the airline covered my hotel and food expenses.

I really loved the idea of St. John’s when I applied to college back in the day. But now I look back and wonder if the Great Books curriculum would have been too restrictive? If it ends up not being to your taste, there isn’t really an alternative. The student body also is quite small. Additionally, if you end up having to take an extra year of coursework elsewhere, that can be quite expensive.

My D is just like thumper1’s D - just the situation is reversed. We are in WA and she goes to school in NY. And we don’t have any relatives or family friends there. She got home sick but she got over it quickly. After all, she was surrounded by many new friends who were home sick as well. She was not the only one. If it was a big university, she might have gotten lost, but it is a small LAC and they did really good job creating a strong bond between freshman students.

This. I hope you can visit Reed.

Maybe someone with more up to date info can chime in but my impression of Reedies were that they were from wealthy families and, I don’t know how to describe it but self-absorbed. I wonder if a student who is on basically a full ride will find “her people” there. Just throwing it out there.

I disagree with ^. I didn’t go back on their website to confirm, but I remember when D15 was looking, we thought Reed would be perfect for her, but we’d be full pay, so it came off the list. I think Reed is actively trying to recruit lower income students by becoming a meets full need school, eliminating merit aid, and dropping their application fees. Now, if you want to talk about the surrounding Eastmoreland neighborhood, that’s another story.

@thumper1 Thanks for sharing!

@mamaedefamilia You bring up very good points about St. John’s. I’m a bit worried about the curriculum since it’s definitely restrictive. I have talked to many of the students at the admitted student’s day, and they told me that students make study groups to learn any subject that they would like. Also, I think junior and senior year, students are about are able to pick elective classes which are chosen by the interest of the class. The student body is really small, but I honestly prefer it because I go to a really large high school and I feel really disconnected and a bit lost sometimes even though my school attempts to solidify the study body (usually through sports). I am really worried about the extra cost of taking prerequisite courses and the fact that many people drop out of St. John’s due to the rigor of the great books program.

I know that Delta is one of the main airlines that do non stop flights which is great since I think the further I fly, the more mileage points I get ,and I think futher down the line I can potentially save money for one or two flights.

@mommdc I am looking for a job this summer ,and I plan on putting the money into books and spending money at school and put in a small amount for savings. I’m also thinking about using some of my work study money to help pay the loan interest during college so after I graduate, it’s less of a payment I have to worry about. I can’t do some of the prerequisites due to the restriction of the great books program at St. John’s.

I am worried about GA Tech since it definitely has a reputation to be harsh on GPA. However, another issue I have is that they want me to start summer term which is more money I have to worry about. I haven’t yet recieved my financial aid for the summer term, but I’m hoping that I can get permission to do the challenge program over the summer instead (which from the director of the program stated that they have been working with admissions to allow that to happen this year) which would cut the cost down greatly.

@naviance I can’t take the required courses at St. John’s due to its great books curriculum that does not cover all of the prerequisites I need for med school. The cost of taking the classes after college worries me as well. I will be in contact very soon with an alumni that is currently in the field, so I’ll definitely ask them more questions about completing another year after graduation.