The Choice of the New York Times recently had a blog post from a student here in Minnesota. Basically this girl applied to one college that she liked and two that she wasn’t crazy about. But going to the college she liked, an out of state public university, required her to get substantial merit based aid.
You already know where this is going don’t you? She gets admitted to all three colleges but only gets merit aid at the two colleges she isn’t crazy about.
Where did she go wrong?
1. She didn’t have a good list of colleges to apply to. You should never have a college on your list that you would not be happy going to. This young woman was not crazy about two of her three choices.
2. She didn’t understand how college financial aid works in general. If financial aid is required, public colleges in your state may be a good option. But, many smaller liberal arts colleges can be an even better option. And many of these colleges have better placement rates into professional colleges like veterinary schools than large public colleges. I don’t know if she considered these types of colleges but if not, she missed out.
3. She didn’t understand how financial aid works at public universities. While your in state public school may be a good deal, rarely is an out of state public college a good option if you need financial aid. Particularly if you are considering a more competitive public college like the University of Wisconsin Madison. These colleges rarely have much, if any, merit based money for out state students.
This young woman’s plight is unfortunately all too common. Can a student find the right college without using an independent counselor? Absolutely. But if you don’t understand the college admissions process, or how college financial aid works, this might be your story.