Juniors are now moving into the college research and selection part of the college admission process. There are many factors to consider, but clearly an important one is cost. Sometimes this gets overlooked by students as they seek “name” colleges; and at other times it becomes a limiting factor because students (and parents) think anything but state institutions are out of range.
It is not unusual for me to meet with a student and his or her parents after college applications have been sent to a list of selective and expensive colleges – seemingly picked from someone’s list of “best of” – and hear of their anxiety about being able to afford any of the choices, even if accepted.
The first thing to keep in mind is that though all colleges are different, and contrary to what the “rankings” pretend to reflect, there is little difference in educational quality among most colleges, and much greater difference in approach and environment.
Another scenario that comes through my office is the student (and family) that clearly would benefit from a small liberal arts environment but has limited his or her choices to large state institutions because of cost.
The second important consideration in seeking god college value is to know that many private colleges have endowments designated to help attract students through merit scholarships. Even in these uncertain economic times, many colleges plan to maintain or increase these funds in order to sustain enrollment. This “half a loaf is better than none at all” mentality will mean that good students will still find themselves being awarded merit scholarships.
Keep in mind that scholarships are used to attract, and keep, good students, and that those (selective and well-ranked) colleges that get many more applications from strong students than can be admitted do not give many awards. But, because there is not a huge quality difference between those colleges and those that want more of those strong applicants, students should be looking to those “lesser known” colleges to provide opportunities for affordability.
Thus, since quality need not be as significant a concern as one is led to believe, and since scholarships are available from good quality but lesser known colleges, students need to step outside the bounds of the “known” colleges and look more broadly and deeply for some great options, both educationally and economically. It is not necessarily, and sometimes not monetarily (and educationally), wise to constrict one’s college options because of reputation or sticker price.