college advising

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I need some help with a kid here, a hs junior who wants my assistance in choosing colleges.  Easy enough in theory, but with a giant curveball thrown in.  He told me his parents expect him to go to community college for two years, largely to save money.  Problem is that this would be a colossal waste of this young man's time, and he would be bored to tears.  He is too bright, and his private school education too strong, to make this notion feasible.  Also, his very upper-middle class parents do not seem to be aware of the real prospects for his getting significant financial aid from good caliber schools to which he will surely obtain admission, and/or they themselves are unwilling to submit FAF forms, etc., in order to get these funds.  So what to do and say, when, how, and to whom?

Kay,  do you work for the school, or is this young man a family friend?  If the later, does the school have a college counselor he and his parents could meet with, who can talk to them about non-loan aid packages?  Depending on his scores and geographic location, there may be many.

For example, I used to do recruitment for the Honors Program at the school I work at (R1 State Flagship School).  Students with semi-decent grade and ACT (think 3.2 and 23 or higher) from neighboring states qualified for in-state tuition.  The university as a whole had a very nice scholarship program that was worth $10,000/year for 4 years (5 if it was a 5 year program like ARCH); and then the Honors Program had a funded undergrad fellowship program that was $12,500/yr.  Either of those, with the instate, would let the student pay tuition and usually covered all their basic living expenses.

There are also outside programs that might help.  My high achieving sister got a Byrd scholarship that was very nice.  Information on it here:  She combined that with the Fellowship here (and a number of smaller awards) and ended up with the funds to buy a French study library and a laptop (she was a French/IR/Journalism major).

We always used to advise students to apply for every scholarship they could, especially outside ones.  While $500 here from Rotary and $250 there from the PTA might seem like small potatoes, they add up.  My sister had almost $10,000 in outside funding in addition to what the University gave her.

The other important question to ask of those school is how they stack their scholarships.  Some start with outside money, and then award their internal up to "cost of attendance".  I.E. If you have $5,000 outside money, and cost of attendance is $30,000/year, they will use your $5000 first, and then give you their "X" cost of attendance scholarship for $25,000.  Others do the reverse, applying their money first, and then if you have outside money over, letting your bank that for study abroad or supply needs.

He will also want to look at what the continuing support options are.  Are their scholarships renewable?  Do they have additional opportunities for funding as you go through the program?  What about study abroad funding?  Undergrad research grants?

I hope this makes sense. If you have any further questions on any of this, PM me.

While it's a great idea to help the kid research all his options, I think you are have some grave misconceptions about what community college classes are like. I am offended that you would call these a "grave waste of time" for anyone, and more importantly, I think this is an inaccurate and classist characterization.

I say this as someone who has many years experience teaching the same gen ed class (as an adjunct) both at a CC and a fancy, selective, expensive U up the street. On MWF, my course cost $500. On TR, the same course cost $4000. The parents are wise to think about value and costs.

In reality, your student may have more individualized attention at a CC with a small class size. In today's job market especially, there are plenty of stellar and highly qualified instructors teaching at CCs. If he transfers to Fancy U, he still gets a diploma from Fancy U, and he saves a boatload of cash.

With all this being said, I can understand where the kid is coming from. When I was 18, I did not want to go to a community college. If my kids don't want to go to a CC, I will do my best to help them go where they want, so long as we can figure out a reasonable way to pay for it. But I certainly wouldn't shed any tears if they ended up starting at a CC.

As zuzu points out, in many cases the courses and professors students encounter in their first year of college are the same regardless of institution. Same content, different price. I know of many cc's where the natural science courses are extremely tough; they weed out people who think they are going to transfer into bio or nursing programs at four-year schools. And the community college classroom might be filled with students who are much more serious about their educations than the Intro 101 course at U of State (or at Harvard, for that matter).

My basic advice is that this student's parents need to have a serious discussion with a college admissions counselor about financial aid packages and actual costs.

+1 to the information given regarding financial aid.

I was a first generation college student.  My parents knew nothing about college admissions or financial aid and neither did I. My high school counselors were little help.  A community college was all I could afford, so that's where I went for the first two years of my college career.  My GPA was great and I had high test scores, so I could have been accepted to good 4-year schools, but I didn't even apply.  

I did 2 years at a community college.  Honestly, my classes weren't always challenging, but I did learn a lot and I had a great time.  Because I wasn't spending a lot of time on coursework, I was able to work 2 jobs and make enough money to transfer to an R1.   This worked out great for me and I turned out just fine.


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