I am almost 18 and a high school senor, and the concept of applying to college baffles and terrifies me. I have always done exceptionally well in school and thought that would be enough. Now I am face with the horrifying realization that although I may have the grades and test scores nessesary to gain acceptance to any unversity I desire, I have no idea how I will pay for it. I can't even think about getting myself in 100 grand or more of debt before I even begin my adult life. Should I resign myself to a school of less prestige to save my pocketbook? Shouldn't the government offer more assistance to bright young students who will eventually help the nation? Any advice?
First, you should be aware of grants that the government and states often offers. In addition, if you are as bright as you think, you will probably get a scholarship from the university as well.
My son is starting college this fall, and once everything came together, he ended up with about 15 % of the nominal price to pay.
Now, I understand that you be frightened. The numbers are so high. Early on, start applying to scholarships. Your school probably has an office that will centralize the offers. You can find other scholarships on the web as well. Sign on to FASFA as soon as possible as well. This will give you an idea of what you can expect in Pell Grants and Stafford Loans.
As for schools of more or less prestige, consider what is best for you. Depending of which school you're at, you may find that a good state University can be as good for you than an Ivy League school. Apply to a selection of schools.13886
MomfromMA has given you some good advice. I also have an 18-yr-old who will be starting college next month, and as she said, many good schools do provide scholarships to qualified applicants, which you seem to be. Register at sites like www.fastweb.com, and be sure to check local organizations in your area, too....your counselor at school ought to be aware of those. You might also want to join Greatschools "College and Beyond" group at http://community.greatschools.net/groups/11551 and look at past discussions, where we've compiled lots of good resources and information.13885
You're apparently in California, so the good news is that the Cal Grant is roughly double the federal Pell Grant. If you can figure out a way to stay in California, that means they'll hand over even more money to keep you in the state.
As for "less prestige" you have to decide on your major and where want to go. My son opted away from the Ivies (based solely on the weather) but received tremendous offers from Emory in Atlanta and other schools, which have at least as much prestige in his areas of emphasis.
As you apply, as valedictorian, make note of the "Presidential Scholarship" opportunities most schools offer to the best and the brightest. They usually offer 75-100% of tuition to attract specific students to their campuses.
Also depending on your family income level, many of the universities are opening up their endowments for fear of government involvement (they were collecting WAY more than they were giving out). Schools in California that have started to "forgive" loans or offer middle income students free tuition include Stanford and Pomona College--both which have the distinction of being called "West Coast Ivies."
You have an additional card to play. Girls still outnumber boys in *most* departments, but if you are interested in the maths and sciences, schools like Cal Tech and Harvey Mudd are always looking to "even" out their ranks and would likely offer scholarships to attract you.
Both MomfromMA and healthy are on dead on. I hope to see you in the College and Beyond group with more questions soon.13884
Actually, many highly prestigious schools will offer you considerable aid if you need it. Many, if not all, Ivy League schools offer fully need-based aid, which means that if you get into the school, they will provide enough aid for you to afford it. I am a student at Princeton, and my brother recently graduated from the same school. We come from a middle-class background, not poor, but we received substantial aid that covered all need. I will graduate with no debt. In addition to the wonderful programs that have been suggested, such as the Pell and Cal grants, Presidential Scholarships, and so on, take a close look at the financial aid policy of the schools you are interested in to see if they have highly-rated need-based aid.
There are a lot of ways to get a wonderful education without going heavily into debt, though it's definitely an intimidating process. Good luck with your applications and decisions!13883
As my son keeps saying, "this is not my terminal degree," so it's essential he doesn't go into huge debt now, since he will no doubt have another 4 or so years to pay for after his bachelors. And the further a student goes along, the less the early degree matters.
His full ride at Emory was great, but couldn't overcome his desire to play water polo for a school, his need to be a little closer to home, and his insistence that the weather never get cold. He's willing to budge a little more once he knows which way his passions take him (physics/mathematics), and what options he has for masters and PhDs.13882
"Shouldn't the government offer more assistance to bright young students who will eventually help the nation? "
Please don't start life with a sense of entitlement from the government. Those are tax dollars you're talking about, and if you become successful in life, those will be your dollars being taken for others.
That being said, don't always assume "prestige" is a great thing. I would say that that vast majority of the world doesn't care where you graduated from. They will care that you graduated. My sister-in-law is a Harvard grad. I'm very happy for her, but no one except her still cares about this fact 30 years later, nor did her graduating from Harvard get her the job and career she wanted. She did end up in the field she wanted, but believe me, Harvard had nothing to do with it. She had to work her way up just like anyone else.
Don't be narrow-minded about the schools you're considering. As others have said, schools have enormous endowments that they need to start spending, and they're spending a lot of that money on helping students pay for school. Consider smaller, private schools and do lots and lots of research into schools. Unfortunately, we're finding that school counselors are less than helpful, because they aren't keeping up with knowledge on schools outside of a select few. This is your biggest research project to date, and you should take it on like a project. Don't become terrified until someone at a particular school gives you good reason to be terrified.
I'm a Teacher-and I can only speak from what I see, and unfortunately what I often see is poor or no parenting skills. It's as if people just want to have kids and not spend time with them, and then they expect us teachers to not only raise these kids but also NOT hold them accountable. That's impossible! We have to hold kids responsible-I think in other countries "families" mean alot, and so does responsibility.13880
My suggestion is to first try to narrow what degree program you are interested in, then attend your local community college for the first two years of general requirements transfer after the second year to the college of your choice and apply for grants and scholarships.13879
One other thing to keep in mind -- the dollars you borrow for your education are investment dollars, not expense dollars. Just like you will be willing to borrow money to buy a house someday, investment in a post-secondary education (aka a college education) will pay off in higher income over your lifetime -- to the tune of an easy half million or more.
Before you get overwrought with the thought of being a $100K in debt -- call the schools you're thinking about and ask them for the average debt loads of their graduates -- they'll tell you. It isn't that high for a bachelor's degree -- it can be that high for a medical or legal degree.13878
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