A little over a year ago, my daughter received her first college recruiting letter. It was one of the most exciting days she's ever had and it started a process that completely overwhelmed our household.
Picking a college is like picking one outfit that you're going to wear for the next four years. You can accessorize, but you're wearing the basics for a good long time. Can you change? Of course you can, but at a cost, and more than just financially, so it makes sense to make the right choice in the first place.
Last spring break we went to 8 colleges. Over the summer we hit over a dozen more. We interviewed and toured every one. There wasn't one school that produced a big red arrow that said, "This is where you need to be." We liked almost all of them, but by the time the summer came to a close, she narrowed it down to four.
Although looking back, I have no idea how she was able to accomplish that - almost every campus we walked on, I wished I was the one enrolling. They were just fantastic. What's not to love about that life?
She went to her formal visits, and I believe we're down to two schools. Both of them are incredibly different. I posed this question on my Facebook page, and it produced a great debate:
Would you go to an academically average school with a large scholarship, or an academically superior school that would result in graduating with substantial debt?
My daughter's current high school is telling her it's absurd not to pick the highest level of academics you can gain admission to - her friends are pushing the same direction. However, neither of them are footing the bill. I'm also not convinced that she couldn't get a superior experience at the school that's ranked academically a little lower. Mainly because of all the additional services and opportunities offered.
For many, the answer is clear-cut -- NO DEBT! Others feel the connections made at high level schools are invaluable to your future.
Ultimately the decision is hers (as I believe it should be for any student going to college.) We will offer some assistance, but if it goes over a certain amount, she will incur all the debt.
This process is much more entailed than when I went to school. I pretty much just went where my friends did and had a great experience. I wish it was that easy again. I guess that means I'm aging when I start reminiscing about the good old days...
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