I am always thrilled when I get email from parents who pass along success stories. Today I heard from a New Jersey dad named Gary, who wanted to thank me for the college advice he’s gleaned from my book and college blogs. I asked him if I could share his family’s experience and he said sure. I think this their experience with the college process can be helpful to others who are still dreading it.
A New Jersey Girl’s Search
Carol’s college search began late in 2009 visiting open houses as a high school junior. I had already read The College Solution and followed your Web posts for quite some time. I was on a mission to be both a supportive Dad AND an educated consumer. Countless other parents have overlooked the consumer side of this equation. If this was a system, I wanted to beat it. And we did.
We beat the system by learning all we could about how it works. Your blog posts consistently proved to be the most valuable nuggets of useful information I could find. As our daughter’s college search progressed, Carol thoughtfully journaled her pros and cons in a trusty ‘geek book’ she toted along to every college visit. Her wish list took shape. Carol was interested in attending a mid-sized, liberal arts college. Fine with me. We never looked back.
Ramapo College of New Jersey
Ramapo College of New Jersey is New Jersey’s public liberal arts college. I knew of the school, learned about its mission and upward trend. (Note for your blog: Ramapo publishes freshman and graduating senior survey results online. Interesting perspective from a college’s key stakeholders: students!)
Carol’s high school counselor told her Ramapo was “beneath her” and talked her out of wasting her time at a visit I scheduled. Her overall portfolio, academic achievements, high GPA and test scores would land her a spot in many top notch schools. The name brand choices the counselor peddled, however, never resonated with Carol. She knew what she wanted and where she wanted to be. I keyed in on helping her find a place to thrive in the top 10% of the incoming class. One of our goals was to also find an affordable solution. We wanted no part of loans opting instead to do all we could financially to give Carol a debt-free start in life.
Carol was invited to attend a Ramapo College Immediate Decision Day in October of last year. Her application, letters of recommendation and essay were sent a month prior. When she found out she would get an acceptance decision right away, it was a no-brainer. Her response, “I’m in!” The decision, like so many other things now, was immediate. It included merit award offers to qualified applicants.
Nearly a Full-Ride
My wife Sandy, a 5th grade teacher, and I managed our expectations. Our goal all along was to guide Carol to a place where she could find her purpose along with plenty of opportunities. So when our family was the last of thirty or so to be called in together for “The Decision” we honestly didn’t know what to expect. Carol had interviewed one-on-one with Matt, the admissions counselor. This time we went in together. Something felt different. The college pennant on the desk confirmed acceptance.
The thick envelope in Matt’s hand held the prize. Matt took great pride, on behalf of the college president, in offering Carol a Ramapo College Presidential Scholar Award. The award Carol earned is worth $72,000, nearly a full ride. Carol trembled, Sandy cried and I – for once in my life – was speechless. Soon, our scholar will be on her way to find her purpose as a member of the Class of 2015.
The path we traveled was different than most. I’m grateful more than these words can possibly convey to have you in my slightly expanded circle. So thank you, Lynn, for your fine work. It is a precious gift.
I am very happy for this family and I’m thrilled that Carol is going to a liberal arts college, which I think is the best choice for most undergraduates. If you want to learn more about public and private liberal arts colleges, here are some past blog posts that I’ve written:
Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution, an Amazon bestseller and a workbook, Shrinking the Cost of College: 152 Ways to Cut the Cost of a Bachelor’s Degree. Follow her on Twitter.