Need help trimming the list for a B student

The FAFSA opens in a few days for the hs class of 2020, and I’m looking for some insight to help my son trim his list.

Son is on the autism spectrum.
He wants to major in Computer Science or Software Engineering, possibly double major / minor in History or Political Science

UW GPA - 3.3
W GPA - 3.43
SAT: 1200 v 630 m 570 - score without accommodations. He is retaking in Oct with accommodations.
ACT - TBD - taking in Oct with accommodations


  • Started high school taking just 1 Honors class - History.
  • Junior year all Honors classes for core subjects, 1 A, 2 Bs, 1 C
  • Senior year 3 APs - English, Gov, Computer Science - Hovering between A and B in Gov, other classes are second semester (Block)
  • Had to take regular Calculus because of scheduling this year
  • Took Computer Science I, and Web Development as electives
  • Other electives include Art, Photography, French (2 years), Statistics, Chorus, Business Management, and Creative Writing


  • Chorus is a graded class, but he auditioned for Select Chorus this year and got in
  • 4 years Track & Field Indoor and Outdoor varsity as jr and sr - his stats are good enough for Div III and some Div II schools, but under Div I
  • 3 years Cross Country

Has glowing recs from his computer science teacher and his coach.

He can’t fit in a part-time job, or additional group involvement because he doesn’t drive and our district is semi-rural and we don’t live close to town.

EFC is currently about $35,000 / year, which we can’t really afford. More realistic is $15,000 after his youngest brother starts public Kindergarten in 2021. Basically it would be a 1:1 swap, daycare tuition for college tuition. Son is my eldest of 4, and kid 2 is currently in 9th grade, kid 3 in 1st.

He has a conditional acceptance to Coe College in IA already, with a Trustee Scholarship, and other $ pending if he decides to attend. Even with the hefty scholarship, it’s a reach for us financially.

Potential Schools:
Boston College is his dream school, but it’s a huge reach, across the board. We know it’s highly unlikely, but he’s going to apply anyway to see how the chips fall.

The rest, in no particular order-
Wheaton (MA)
St Lawrence
Loyola Maryland
St. Bonaventure
St Michael’s (VT)
West Chester
Georgia State
GATech (big, big, reach)
Stevens IT
Le Moyne
Bishop’s (Canada)
Indiana U of PA
U of VT
UMass Lowell
SUNY Plattsburgh
Springfield (MA)

He prefers the Northeast, especially Boston/NYC, but is very practical, and wants to go somewhere that he can get a solid foundation for a career in software development without breaking the bank. He is willing to work, he’s just been hampered by lack of transportation in our area.

He has residency in both PA and GA, and potentially dual US/French citizenship, which makes reduced tuition in Quebec a real possibility. His scores are too low, and his French not strong enough for the French university system, or a French-speaking university in Quebec, and his grades are just under the requirements for CS and SE at McGill and Concordia, but he’s right on the nose for Bishop’s. An English-instruction CEGEP is also possible to help him come up to speed in French and put in the work to get ready for a more advanced school.

Some schools on the list are due to coach interest for Track & Field. He also would prefer a campus that is NOT heavy on Greek life, but he also realizes it’s not something he has to engage in / can avoid.

He is not interested in Landmark College after doing a summer program there.

Otherwise we’re both overwhelmed by the constant onslaught of marketing material, and how to whittle it down to 10 schools, because his GC was very concerned by the length of the list when we started loading up Naviance to get ready.

None of the US schools on your list are going to be affordable. Can he commute to a 4 year? He will likely have to start at a CC. (A number of those schools are also big reaches for his stats).

You say he has residency in both PA and GA. Does he live in PA? You have IUP and West Chester on the list. Are one of these or any other of the PASSHE schools that offer Computer Science/Software Engineering within commuting distance?

My guess is that Georgia Tech, RPI, Stevens and WPI are all big reaches if you are looking to shorten the list.

How does he have residency in 2 states? Is there another parent there?

The SUNY schools are ~$30k/year for OOS students. Run the Net Price Calculator for each of the other schools on your list to check for affordability. They won’t work well for divorced parents or if you own a business or farm but otherwise they’re pretty helpful.

How did you come up with that list?

I would be very surprised if UVM were to be affordable for you. Boston College does indeed look like a reach both in terms of admissions and affordability.

U.Mass Lowell did come to mind reading your post even before I saw it on your list. However, I would expect it to be way over your budget.

Bishops I think might be a good choice. We visited twice (one before applying, once after D2 was accepted) and liked it quite a bit. The small size I think is somewhat more welcoming than most schools. You will not need to speak any French there, but can pick it up if you want to (Bishop’s has a very good language department, and does have French courses ranging from beginner to fluent). Their web site has their total cost for you (French citizen or Canadian from outside of Quebec) as just over C$20,000 per year, which is very close to $15,000 per year in US dollars. If you haven’t done it already, then you are going to need to get the French citizenship properly documented before you pay the first tuition bill. I am pretty sure that there is an English language CEGEP right next to Bishop’s which could be another option.

How do his grades break down for each year of high school? The schools in Canada/Quebec will not care about his freshman year. If he has an uptrend, then I would not give up on Concordia.

I had a 3.3 & lower test scores. was accepted to Marist with spring admission, but it would’ve cost 60k+ as a low income student.

Pace & Hofstra are overpriced. I took a tour at Fordham LC & I loved it. It’s a great school, but it is expensive.

If he really will get an athletic scholarship, the Div 2 schools on the list (Pace, UIP, West Chester) may become affordable.

I think you are wasting time and money applying to Stevens, Georgia Tech, Fordham, Boston College, U of VT. They are never going to come in under budget. To come in under $15k per year, he needs a full tuition scholarship and to live in a rural setting for that $15k to cover room and board. His best bets will be to get out of the Northeast and GO WEST. Look at schools in Missouri, New Mexico, Wyoming, Montana. Or stay home and make Georgia State work.

I also think it is a mistake to think that you are trading daycare costs for college costs. The 5 year old is still going to have expenses. For mine, K was the most expensive year because paying for daycare for days off, Christmas, and summer was so much more expensive than just paying for daycare on a regular schedule. When my kids started K, they did not go a full week (5 days in school) for 5-6 weeks! I was always scrambling for daycare for them. And colleges don’t care that much about the 3 kids still at home and how much they cost. Family size is not a big factor is FA formulas (as you can tell by your $35k EFC).

Not easily. We live in rural Berks County PA, with no public transportation, and nothing within walking distance. Until he gets his license, and has saved up enough to buy a car, he won’t be able to drive to/from home to the nearest commuter campuses (Reading Area Community College, and Penn State Berks). Penn State Berks is kind of the back up of back ups, because they do have dorms, and he could do his first 2 years there, and then apply as a transfer elsewhere. Thaddeus Stevens is along the same lines - he can start out there and do a 2 year program AND run track, and then apply for transfer.

This is still in progress. The coach at Pace is interested, West Chester already came back saying his times are under their minimum, but it’s a wait and see for spring track which is where he’s strongest.


We have fee waivers from most of these, and BC is a bit of a family tradition. Son is not a direct legacy because I didn't go, but he still wants to try, so I'm willing to help him out with the app fee, as is his grandpa who got his BA and MBA there.


Georgia State is definitely on the back up list, or one of the GA state system schools. His dad lives near Clayton State, so that’s another possible, but not kiddo’s favorite because he’s not keen on hot weather. West is not in the cards unless he really has no other options.

Kindergarten is full day in our school district and aftercare furnished by the YMCA is very cheap, so when my youngest starts public K in 2021, almost his entire tuition frees up to be allocated elsewhere, but it will take a year of saving it up before it’s available as a lump sum tuition payment. I am lucky that I have family available for backup care for free during holidays. I know colleges don’t care about family size in FA calculations, which is just silly, but that’s the way it is. They also don’t care much about changes in financial situation, which I learned about first hand when I was getting my undergraduate degree and my dad lost his job during my sophomore year.

It all started when he was in 8th grade and I started pulling together lists of colleges that provide strong support for students on the autism spectrum. As he started getting involved and taking over the process, schools with good computer science offerings, internships, and study abroad options entered the picture. We visited some schools in the spring, which is when he fell completely in love with BC. It was already high on his personal list from his own research, but going there made him want to be there.

Once we found out he was potentially eligible for athletics, we started the athletic recruitment process and schools where the coach/es have showed strong interest have introduced schools we hadn’t come up with so far. Finally, after spending 3 weeks in the Landmark College dorms with no a/c while doing a pre-college program for students with learning disabilities, he decided firmly, that he wants to be somewhere with cooler weather, hence, Northeast and Canada.

Thanks for the input re: U of VT, I’m finding it difficult to gauge affordability, partly because I don’t know how much his dad can realistically kick in. That $15k is what /I/ can free up, based on nothing changing with our financial situation before he goes. I am slashing our budget though, and considering selling my house and going back to renting an apartment, in an effort to get the rest of the debt paid off, so I can up my contribution for him, and for S2 who is only 3 years behind him.

Bishop’s is on the list for all the reasons that you’ve described, and we’ve started the documentation process, so that we have that in place before spring. I also saw the CEGEP there and there’s one on the back side of the Universite Laval campus that is also English-speaking, which would make S1 very happy because he absolutely LOVES Quebec City, but all of that hinges on the dual citizenship.

GPA break down for each year:
9 - 3.30
10 - 3.38
11 - 3.43
12 - TBD - so far he has all As and Bs with 1 AP class this semester. We’ll see how he handles 2 AP classes concurrently next semester.

The problem at both McGill and Concordia is that his math grades, specifically, are under the A- requirement for the Computer Science programs and he trended downward in his junior year stepping up from standard math to honors. He had the grades in 9th and 10th, but slipped from an A to a B in Pre-Calculus and is trending B-B+ in Calculus, so far. We’ll see how his SAT and ACT scores come back in November to help decide on applying to other schools in Quebec. I’ll let him know he should talk to admissions about whether or not there’s any wiggle room on that math requirement if he has a strong showing in his computer science classes, and brings up his SAT Math scores and has a good set of ACT scores.

Thanks all for the feedback - this is very helpful.

Not having to pay the application fees, or getting someone to pay them, isn’t the only consideration. Getting rejected from your DREAM school is hard, but getting rejected from 5 or 6 school in a week is very hard, or getting accepted to 10 you can’t afford is no fun either. I know kids say “Well I never expect to get in so I won’t be disappointed” but they WILL BE. “Well, I just had to try for Harvard and Stanford” but they are still disappointed.

Make the reaches realistic. GaTech isn’t realistic. He’ll be considered instate for tuition but OOS for the pool he’s compared to for admissions and a 3.4 just isn’t going to get him an acceptance even if his ACT was a 35. Also remember that most of the FA in Georgia for instate students is through HOPE/Zell, and he won’t get that money. It’s unfortunate, but there just isn’t that much FA given to the non-HOPE kids.

What happens if he gets in and you can’t afford it? You said you don’t have $35k, and BC (and the others) really WILL expect you to pay that, or more. Run the NPC for Fordham and Loyola, for UVM and Stevens. It sounds like he might get some athletic money at a D2, but won’t get it at a D1 (and track money is spread very thin at a D1).

You ask for a way to pare down the list. I’d do it with those that just aren’t affordable and won’t become affordable with a merit award, and then those that are too much of a reach. Keep the PA state schools, the GA schools, and any with athletic interest/money still being discussed. You have the one acceptance (Coe), so any school he wouldn’t pick over Coe should be off the list.