May 1 is college decision day.
That’s the day each year when many colleges and universities across the country require high school seniors to make a final decision about where they will attend school in the fall. Seniors must notify their No. 1 pick by putting down a deposit to secure their spot in the next freshman class.
I’d love to hear from parents or high school seniors about their college choices. Are you happy with the results? Unhappy? Nervous about covering the costs? And just as importantly, do you have any advice to share for those who won’t be facing this milestone for at least another year?
To start things off, I am delighted to share a note that I received over the weekend from a dad with a success story.
Advice from a Happy Parent
About a year ago, we started researching schools a step or two below the “reach” and “target” schools that the high school counselor recommended, because a large merit scholarship was important to our family. We didn’t qualify for need-based financial aid, yet paying anywhere close to full price would have emptied our retirement savings. (A gripe about terminology: can we find terms other than “rich” or “affluent” for the millions of middle-class families whose moderate retirement savings disqualify them from need-based aid?)
You’re Applying Where???
We asked our son to apply first to the handful of schools we had identified in which he had a shot at large merit awards (some of which he had never heard of, or which had no “wow-factor” among his friends and counselor) and then focus on his own list. He grudgingly applied to schools on both lists, a larger number (in work and expense) than either of us liked, but a reasonable trade-off to address his and our priorities.
While we waited for results over the next several months, we discussed the realities of the family economics, the consequences of loan debt, and he focused on what type of school he really wanted to attend, re-visiting several. He realized that he wanted a college which promised small classes, and learned that many friends knew someone who attended and loved these formerly unknown schools. In March, things happily came together in a decision with which everyone is delighted.
This Parent’s Advice
My advice is that parents not leave the research and college list development solely to their 17-18 year old kids and their counselors. Discussions between parents and kids should start early, but a lot of maturing comes to kids during the spring of their senior year, too late to file more applications. Parents should do their own research into potential options, and insist that logical (if non-glamorous) choices be included. While many kids may resist this “intrusion,” ours now thanks us for our help.
What Do You Think?
I am happy that these parents can send their child to college without jeopardizing their own retirement. Families that educate themselves about their college choices are more likely to have their children head off to colleges that are not only appropriate academically, but are also more doable financially.
I agree with John that parents shouldn’t let their teenagers compile a college list on their own. The results are more likely to be a disaster.
What do you think? If you have any thoughts to share, please use the comment box below.
The College Solution Workshops
If you’re going to be in sunny San Diego on May 12 and/or May 19, I’d urge you to consider attending one or both of the college workshops that I will be holding through the University of California San Diego Extension. At the workshop on May 12 I will share ways to make college more affordable while at the workshop on May 19 I will focus on academic and admission issues. You can learn more about the college workshops here.
If you have questions, just email me at Lynn@TheCollegeSolution. I hope to see you there!
Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution: A Guide for Everyone Looking for the Right School at the Right Price.
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