Waiting for the College Letters

steve_aMarch 20, 2004

It's late March and those of us who have sweated through helping our kids get their college applications completed and sent off are now sweating out the results. I haven't posted here before, but I read and post occasionally in a lot of the other forums. My DD applied to 9 schools here on (and near) tne East Coast. So far, she's been accepted by 7. That's good news, but just part of the story, of course. As with most parents, cost is a big issue. We've done our homework (sorry for the cliche, but it seems appropriate in this case!) and I feel like I could teach a seminar in college financial aid. Maybe I will someday. Anyway, she's gotten some really good offers including merit scholarships. And some not so good ones, but that's ok. It's crazy how these schools dribble in the information and keep you hanging. "Great! You're in! You financial aid package will arrive in two weeks." "Here's a couple thousand dollars in scholarship, we may send more later." "You've been selected to receive our XYZ scholarship of $1,000, please submit a 500 word essay." It goes on. I'm a great user of spreadsheets, and I've practically worn out my computer at work, keeping track of the financial (and other) details of the college costs and offers. Of course its not about cost in the end, but about what's best for the kid, and where she decides she wants to go. For our daughter, that will be hard, because she doesn't have a clear vision for her future right now. I know that's typical. She has some major and minor areas of study, but nothing too definite. We'll help her the best we can, and try to get her visits (in some cases second visits) to at least 2 or 3 of her top choices. I just mainly wanted to share my experience and vent a little. Not to scare anyone, but it's incredibly competitive out there. Based on my DD's record and scores, the schools she applied to, and the fact that (so far) she's getting some merit scholarships but not the top ones (in most cases), there are some really super kids in the pool. If I have any advice to offer right now, it's to start saving early, use the 529 plans, start educating yourselves as your kids get into high school. Our school is incredibly helpful to the kids and the parents, but not all of the schools are. If you school doesn't seem to be, it's on you to educate yourself. There's lots of good help on the internet, from the College Board, the colleges themselves, etc. Don't pay for any of it. All we paid for was a SAT self-study course for her. Other kids may benefit from a live SAT course. OK, that's all for now. Steve

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Steve, I feel your pain, except it's me going to vet school. I was accepted, but I have to apply for loans. The estimated family contribution that the fafsa calculates is ridiculous. It seems like it randomly generates numbers, I can't see how it excepts us to contribute what it says. Last year taxes, I made 15k (PT in school, FT after graduated), DH made 40k. I indicated that I would not be working, so down to 40k. No investments, $2700 in bank, and it figures we can afford $22009 per year. So I guess we pay the mortgage (already refinanced to pay for BS degree), food, health insurance, etc. on $18k. Where do they come up with these numbers? It's so frustrating. There are very few scholarships for post-BS education, so most people get Stafford loans, which is what I'll be doing. Just another vent, plus a warning to really save money for post bachelors degree education. We didn't have anything to start with as far as savings go, and now we will suffer. Nowadays, it seems like a BS or BA degree won't get you very far, almost always need a post-grad degree of some kind, but there are very few resources available to help pay for that kind of education. The 529 plan would have been very helpful to me if it had existed when I was working before I went back to school. To anyone who has the time to save for college- USE IT!

    Bookmark   April 14, 2004 at 10:41AM
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Meg, your FAFSA numbers do look unreal. I can't imagine that they are correct, unless for some reason they use a different formula for post-grad. Have you spoken to FAFSA about this? However, we are near retirement, and have another child to send to school in 3 years. I know that those factors are considered. If it were not for a pre-paid college plan that we bought 3 years ago, we wouldn't be able to afford anything, either. To update my post, DD has received all of her offers, and is now down to two finalists: a small liberal arts college with a good reputation, and our large state university, which also has a good rep, but is LARGE. We want her to go to the private. There is really just one misgiving she has, and we are working on resolving that for her. Good luck to you on your continuing education. Steve

    Bookmark   April 15, 2004 at 12:08PM
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Just be sure to check the accreditation of any of these schools that are making offers. It is surprising how reputable a school might be, only to find out that it is not nationally accredited. You want to make sure that your money is going towards the best education possible and not just some "diploma mill" type of operation. I have heard too many stories of people getting sucked into a non-accredited school due to lack of due diligence beforehand.

Here is a link that might be useful: Info on importance of accreditation

    Bookmark   December 7, 2005 at 12:18AM
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