Last night an old high school friend of my daughter’s came over for dinner. We hadn’t seen her in awhile because she now lives in Northern California so it was great catching up with her.
We were almost ready for dessert when Christina mentioned that her sister was applying to colleges. I hadn’t realized that her sister, I’ll call her Molly, was a high school senior. I naturally asked her where her sister was applying. Before I share her list of schools, I should mention that Molly is a bright girl. Before her junior year in high school, she had always been a 4.0 student. According to her big sister, Molly’s GPA slipped to 3.6 when she became overly involved in extracurricular activities.
I flinched when I heard the schools that Molly has applied to. Brown University, MIT, Boston University, San Francisco State and Cal State University San Marcos. Does this appear like a well-constructed list to you?
Molly has already received a rejection letter from MIT and I’m sure Brown will turn her away too. These were two wasted applications since her academic profile wasn’t strong enough to make her a realistic candidate.
San Francisco State is also a poor choice. Why? On the surface it looks like a cheap date. The tuition is less than $7,000, but the room and board costs are extremely high in San Francisco. Molly also wouldn’t be able to graduate in four years, which is a must for this blue-collar family with limited resources. The graduation rate at San Francisco State, which is one of the most overcrowded schools in the state system, is only 11.7%.
The Cost of Attending State Schools
I’ve talked to students attending San Francisco State that share heart-wrenching stories about not being able to get their classes. Here’s just one example: the son of my husband’s best friend, who is an art major tried to enroll in classes last semester and got absolutely NOTHING. And he began trying to grab classes at the very second that he was permitted to enroll online. Through persistence and his dad’s intervention, he eventually got a mishmash of classes, but nothing in his major. I would not recommend San Francisco State to anyone.
Cal State San Marcos’s grad rate isn’t much better at 16.4%. It would be a hellacious daily commute for Molly to drive to this commuter school, if she had a car. Also, I think Molly should have aimed for a more academically challenging school.
That leaves Boston University. I’ve been leery about students, requiring a lot of financial aid, applying to — I hate to use this word – second-tier schools in cities on the East Coast. These schools, such as New York University, Drexel, American, George Washington, Northeastern, are extremely expensive and their aid policies are underwhelming. These schools can take advantage of the fact that students want to attend college in fun cities on the East Coast. They don’t have to be generous because they will attract tons of kids anyway.
I wrote about the pricing of these schools in a post earlier this year, which I’d urge you to read:
While it’s late in the game to be applying to schools, I told Caitlin that I’d help Molly pinpoint a couple of more schools to add to her list that would be better academic and financial fits.
What’s the moral of this story? Be smart when you are putting together your list of colleges. A hell of a lot is riding on it.