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Waiting for Payday on the College Front

As we’ve discussed in this blog before, the price value relationship of college is being called into question, now more than ever. For many Americans, whether they get financial aid determines whether or not they can attend the college of their choice. This is not a new situation, it is just a lot more common.

How do students deal with their need to get the right financial aid package? Followingis a first-hand accountof the experience of Flo Wen, a senior at the Dalton School in New York City.

In my successful attempts to procrastinate, I stumbled across the blog In the Driver’s Seat, and the words “college”, “fees”, and “loans” immediately caught my attention. In fact, those words have been ones ubiquitous in my life for the last few months; I have just completed the final stages of the grueling college process. As I scrolled through the blog, I found myself wondering if this blog was somehow written about my own situation, as its characterization of college funding seemed so relevant to the decisions I was to be making, and the details I had to be thinking about.

It seems to me that when a seventeen-year-old high schooler begins the college process, his or her focal point is “will I get in?” or “how do I get in?” – questions and concerns running through his mind that focus only on the incredible feat of admittance. That is certainly the mindset that I had. The process itself is, after all, one that sucks the time and life out of a student. And for some high schoolers, perhaps the admissions side of things is all that they need to think about; financial aid packages and scholarship funds don’t play a role in their decisions. But for others, there is an entirely separate application process, one that often sits in the back of a high schooler’s mind. It certainly sat in the back of mine, until the reality of financial aid packages set in: receiving an unsubstantial financial aid package was as good as being rejected.

When I read that I was admitted to Tufts University, I screamed and jumped around my kitchen, and in fact, my family did the same. However, my smile straightened out as I remembered that it wasn’t over. In fact, in some ways it had only just started. I had already waited three months to hear back from these schools, and now I would have to wait until “early April”, the time I was to hear about my financial aid package. Meanwhile, I was being rejected and accepted to other universities. By the end of the week, I knew every school that wanted me (along with the schools that didn’t). The question left was: how much?

I got lucky; Tufts gave me a close-to-full scholarship, a figure on the page I couldn’t quite believe. Had the number been cut in half, I’d be going to a different school – one that didn’t get my blood flowing like Tufts does. I received other financial aid packages, and they were all decent – decent enough to choose, if things had turned out differently. Out of sheer happiness and feelings of good fortune that don’t come around often, my parents often talk about what would have happened if Tufts hadn’t been so generous. “We got lucky, boy,” my dad’ll say, which summarizes the financial aid package experience nicely. So, looking back, I’ll amend what I wrote about finishing the process; I’ve finally gone through the final stages of both college processes. It feels good!

 

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2 Responses to Waiting for Payday on the College Front

  1. While this is a great story – CONGRATS! I would also say that while there is discussion around the price value relationships, there is no data to confirm that degrees are undervalued as the data is too new. We can firmly conclude that students are taking out more loans than in prior years and that tuition has gone up; and even that students are paying back more over the short term. However, long term data still shows that people with a degree (Bachelors) will make $1 million more over the average lifetime. If one is spending $200K to go to school, but making $1 million more over the avg lifetime, I would say that an investment that pays itself back at 500% is pretty well invested. We just need to remember this is a long term investment and not seek out the immediate gratification that many of us were spoiled from over the last years with the tech boom and then the finance industry.

  2. Allison says:

    Jamie, I’m glad you’re making this point as it bears repeating, particularly given the pressure students are under to make the college decision. I completely concur that college is a decision you make for the long-term, and that if you want a career and job security, you must have a degree. The lack of a degree will always hold you back, even if you’re more qualified than the next person.

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