As parents, we want to put our children on a path toward a better future. Plus, society tells us that the colleges our children get accepted to are a measure of success as parents… making our college choice a very emotional one.
The problem with this perspective is that college is one of the largest purchases in our lifetime. Simply having our children apply to and get into the “best” schools that their grades and scores allow leads to a serious “morning after” moment when parents are left to figure out how to pay for it. We owe it to our children - and ourselves - to remember that where we send our kids to college is a lifestyle choice (like the car we drive or the house we live in), not a measure of our success as parents.
The whole reason I wrote Never Pay Retail for College is to help families apply a healthy dose of logic to what is far too often an emotional decision. So here are two important things to keep in mind when deciding where to apply and which school to choose:
1) Your College Does Not Determine Your Future
College is only a stepping stone to the future. Going to a name-brand school does not ensure success. It matters much more what your student does in college than where they go. Plenty of successful people have come from schools that do not have much name recognition. Frank Bruni, a NY Times columnist, wrote a book to address this point: Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be
2) Choosing a “Right Fit” College Lowers Total Costs
The single biggest impact on the overall cost of college is determined by the colleges to which our student applies. If we send our student to a school strictly on prestige or reputation, we will pay retail. If we take the time and do the work, we can spend less money on college, provide an education that better serves our child, still have enough money to maintain our current lifestyle and stay on track for retirement.
You owe it to yourself and your student to apply some logic to what is naturally an emotional decision. It can reduce the total cost of attending college. Make memories with your kids now, stay on track for retirement and tackle the cost of college – all at the same time!
If you would like some help applying logic and experience to the process of selecting and paying for college, I would love to help.