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dereksurfs

Reasons to Consider a Less Selective, Less Expensive College

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Hello,

 

I have read several articles about this topic recently which provide interesting points to consider. Since each family goes through the college selection process considering 'many' factors, school prestige or notoriety invariably comes up. While it may not be one's prime objective, it is still a criteria. Could the significance of that prestige 'at times' be over valued perhaps in light of a one's career over their lifetime? Some studies seem to indicate that is the case.

 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/200810/reasons-consider-less-selective-less-expensive-college

 

Obviously, this may matter more for certain professions such as law versus lets say nursing. So the answer could actually be relative to one's field of study. Still, its interesting to consider real and perceived benefits along with the downsides which come with highly selective schools versus attending those which are lessor known. I am wondering what your thoughts and/or experiences are on the matter?

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My ds is planning on going to a state school. His major is most likely in communications or something along those lines. He feels like a degree is a degree and why get into huge amounts of debt? He can actually graduate from college debt free.

 

 

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My DD is probably going to a state school honors college because almost invariably, they’re the ones that have undergrads doing research at national level herpetology conferences. There are a very small number of private LACs that do as well, but few of the really big names. It seems to be more a case of “pick the school that sends kids regularly to grad schools you want to attendâ€.

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My 2 older kids with careers both earn significantly more than the median salary for their careers for their yrs of experience.  Both went to low ranked, unknown schools.  Their careers have not been impacted negatively by their school's rank.

 

Ds was accepted to extremely competitive REUs where the other kids were from top ranked institutions.  I don't think it has hurt him, either.  Grad school outcomes will reveal whether or not that is true.  (though at this particular moment I am not even sure what his application list even looks like!)

 

ETA:  Our kids' total costs to us for all of them is a very small % of what our EFC would be for even 1 of them.

Edited by 8FillTheHeart
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I had to let go of the idea of prestige.  I went to a prestigious college as did over half my cousins/siblings/uncles.  I loved the education I got there, but honestly, I was a teacher and it wouldn't have mattered a lick in my career. Perhaps it matters in teaching my kids, but I think my home growing up effected that more (and I went to an average city public school).

 

We earn about what my Dad did in comparable dollars.  College cost more now.  I had a wealthy grandfather who paid for a third of my education (5000 then--it would be 20000 now).

 

My kids don't have wealthy grandparents.  And to be blunt--we did not have the money to fund their extracurriculars to the point that they would have a hook of any kind.  We also didn't want a crazy lifestyle.

 

Anyway, I realized that less prestige with high merit would get my kids where they needed to be. He is applying to a couple of prestige schools, but with the idea that it most likely won't work out financially.  I am okay with that.

 

And, looking over my family, outcomes in life have been very similar--marital and career stability, financial stability--really all markers of stability are comparable no matter what college the member went to.  The only one not thriving has mental health needs and probably is on the autism spectrum--but she has strong family support.  My brother who has 2 degrees from ivies married to someone with 2 Ivy degrees and a Georgetown one does very well financially, but so does my uncle who graduated from Washington U in the days when it was not elite.  So, in my small set it's the family values of education and hard work and personal responsibility that have made more of a difference than the actual degree in hand.

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I recognize that for certain professions, school prestige matters. However, I think this is the exception not the rule, particularly here in the midwest, where there are no prestige schools. In fact, regionally, I would say that prestige is scoffed at more than it is valued, although again, there are professional exceptions.

 

Dh and I both went to a state University. It has never held either of us back in any way. One of my kids is in a private school and one at a State U, but neither are prestigious. The idea of attending college hundreds of miles away to gain a degree with prestige never entered their minds and particularly for my BSN major, would make no sense at all. 

 

I guess whether or not prestige is overvalued depends on how it is valued. In my area and in my experience, prestige has no value at all. Someone might say wow, in response to a diploma from an Ivy on a job app, but they are no more likely to hire that person, and I have seen cases where they are actually less likely to do so. 

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Like Mom to 2Ns, I've seen the prestige thing work two ways.  My dh went to Bucknell, which isn't high, high prestige, but well known for sure.  We think his degree got him a look at for the place we are now, but we are pretty sure in  a more rural area (but where he grew up) it got him not looked at (as in--he's not one of us).  So, there is no way to completely "win" at that kind of game.  It's definitely not worth $100,000 worth of debt for sure.

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 So, in my small set it's the family values of education and hard work and personal responsibility that have made more of a difference than the actual degree in hand.

 

My brother is wealthy.  I wouldn't trade my lifestyle for his for anything in the world. I would much rather live my normal MC life than live his day to day social life.  Not for me at all.  (And I do not for 1 sec believe he is happier than I am even with his jetting his family around the world at the drop of a hat for some safari, cruise, or Swiss ski trip.  ;) )  Love my life!

 

Guess what we want out of life can be a huge factor in how we perceive things.  Wealthy is not a goal I have for my kids.  A stable, good life....that is all I want for them.

Edited by 8FillTheHeart
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Obviously this varies a lot, but for my ds the more selective colleges on his list were less expensive for him. The financial aid package from the least selective school he applied to (large state school) involved loans, one small merit grant, and a "gap" that we would find difficult to pay. The selective private school that he is now attending gave him generous grants, and as long as nothing changes he'll graduate with no loans at all.

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My oldest ds is at a less selective mostly unknown school. He has had a great experience so far and even as a sophomore has had meetings with recruiters from the biggest companies in his field. He recently was chosen for a fellowship that connects him with a "coach". This mentor is a very successful alum who has mapped out a career plan/ networking path that is supposed to end in a job offer before senior year starts. He has access to his coach for resume help, networking, interview prep, etc. and his coach gives him monthly assignments regarding professional development. His coach told him he would be available to consult with when choosing internships and jobs and negotiating terms of employment.

 

Ds is on a first name basis with the dean of his school and the professors in his major.

 

Ds already had an interesting internship fall of sophomore year and has multiple profs, resource center staff, and now this "coach" working to help him connect professionally. His advisors and professors are more than accommodating to waiving prerequisites, allowing substitutions, etc.

 

Ds is an athlete and in a fraternity and on the alumni relations board. Having a lot of fun too!

 

He got a very nice scholarship and grant aid and then the school allowed him to stack an outside scholarship only reducing loans where they legally had to. Ds has been able to pay his own way so far.

 

It has been a huge win for us. His second choice school was our state flagship and he frequently talks about how much harder it would have been to become the standout he has become at his small school.

 

I am currently bracing for my relatives on Thanksgiving who will again refer to my ds school as "basically a community college." Sigh.

 

We were a little unsure at the outset and ds could have gone to more well known, prestigious schools but I cannot believe he would have been in a better position. I am definitely always on the lookout for the less popular higher value schools now for younger dc.

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We are more practical and less attracted to the name. Get the degree with the least amount of debt was our goal. Location first, program second was his order. The idea of moving away became less and less appealing to him. He's mature when it comes to academics, but still needs some baking in other ways, so we agreed with him that staying home would be best.

When he decided on an English degree, the BFA English workshops appealed to him, but he couldn't find ones that were affordable. When he looked at BA English programs in colleges that appealed to him, they all looked the same. *meaning the course listings were the same and the programs/instructors weren't enough to convince him to go out-of-state.* Considering he'll graduate with a boatload of transferable credits, have a guaranteed state scholarship, and they offer an MFA in Creative Writing if he chooses to continue on, it makes the most sense to go to the local U.

There is another state school locally that also takes the guaranteed state scholarship and has a 2+2 program with the cc. He could be a big fish in that school, but he isn't even interested in applying. They have a late scholarship deadline, so he still has time.

He can finish in 2-3 years, depending on if he wants to minor in music technology. He's also thinking a gap year might be nice since he might not want to start as a junior at 18.

Only 22% of our county has a 4-year degree and 33%** hold Associates or some college. I don't think our area places a high value on education, so a degree combined with a good work ethic and (according to my dh) being able to compose an email places him ahead of the pack here.

 

** had to get back home to double check that. 

Edited by Plum Crazy
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My oldest graduated from the community college and is commuting to a top-20 business school. My younger one is at the same community college and also plans to commute to the same school because they have the unique program that she wants.

 

I've saved scads of money of course. My oldest is going into the National Guard and will have his school paid for. I can handle the bills for my younger one, although she may be able to start working part-time this summer to help with books.

 

If you've got top-quality state schools, there's no downside really. I went to top-quality state schools and was at the same level with people who had done the Ivies and then Cal Tech, MIT, etc. No difference in salary.

 

Naturally it depends on where you live and what field your offspring want.

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My brother is wealthy.  I wouldn't trade my lifestyle for his for anything in the world. I would much rather live my normal MC life than live his day to day social life.  Not for me at all.  (And I do not for 1 sec believe he is happier than I am even with his jetting his family around the world at the drop of a hat for some safari, cruise, or Swiss ski trip.  ;) )  Love my life!

 

Guess what we want out of life can be a huge factor in how we perceive things.  Wealthy is not a goal I have for my kids.  A stable, good life....that is all I want for them.

 

I completely agree.  I would not want my wealthier brother's life, either.  They have a great deal of stress going on at all times over many years.  I'm not trying to say that this bc of his wealth--just that wealth doesn't predict happiness.  Life happens to everyone.

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My oldest ds is at a less selective mostly unknown school. He has had a great experience so far and even as a sophomore has had meetings with recruiters from the biggest companies in his field. He recently was chosen for a fellowship that connects him with a "coach". This mentor is a very successful alum who has mapped out a career plan/ networking path that is supposed to end in a job offer before senior year starts. He has access to his coach for resume help, networking, interview prep, etc. and his coach gives him monthly assignments regarding professional development. His coach told him he would be available to consult with when choosing internships and jobs and negotiating terms of employment.

 

Ds is on a first name basis with the dean of his school and the professors in his major.

 

Ds already had an interesting internship fall of sophomore year and has multiple profs, resource center staff, and now this "coach" working to help him connect professionally. His advisors and professors are more than accommodating to waiving prerequisites, allowing substitutions, etc.

 

Ds is an athlete and in a fraternity and on the alumni relations board. Having a lot of fun too!

 

He got a very nice scholarship and grant aid and then the school allowed him to stack an outside scholarship only reducing loans where they legally had to. Ds has been able to pay his own way so far.

 

It has been a huge win for us. His second choice school was our state flagship and he frequently talks about how much harder it would have been to become the standout he has become at his small school.

 

I am currently bracing for my relatives on Thanksgiving who will again refer to my ds school as "basically a community college." Sigh.

 

We were a little unsure at the outset and ds could have gone to more well known, prestigious schools but I cannot believe he would have been in a better position. I am definitely always on the lookout for the less popular higher value schools now for younger dc.

 

this reminds me of another consideration.  My high stats kids isn't overflowing with confidence and, I think, will thrive more in a situation where he is a big fish in a small pond (or at least where he feels he can be his best self without always being in competition with others).  He does not thrive in a highly competitive situation.

 

 

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My 2 older kids with careers both earn significantly more than the median salary for their careers for their yrs of experience.  Both went to low ranked, unknown schools.  Their careers have not been impacted negatively by their school's rank.

 

Ds was accepted to extremely competitive REUs where the other kids were from top ranked institutions.  I don't think it has hurt him, either.  Grad school outcomes will reveal whether or not that is true.  (though at this particular moment I am not even sure what his application list even looks like!)

 

ETA:  Our kids' total costs to us for all of them is a very small % of what our EFC would be for even 1 of them.

 

Just double checking that you aren't considering U Alabama in your post.  I just checked their ranking and they are currently at #110.  Considering this link says there are 3039 4 year colleges as of 2013-2014, that puts them in the Top 4% of US 4 year colleges.  They aren't unknown either.  They send a representative to our school each year and we're in PA.  Getting into their Honors College takes some high stats.

 

https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=84

 

I know a few people only consider "Top 20" or maybe "Top 50" as "Top" schools, but the majority aren't that way at all IME.

 

Obviously this varies a lot, but for my ds the more selective colleges on his list were less expensive for him. The financial aid package from the least selective school he applied to (large state school) involved loans, one small merit grant, and a "gap" that we would find difficult to pay. The selective private school that he is now attending gave him generous grants, and as long as nothing changes he'll graduate with no loans at all.

 

Same with my middle son.  He applied to U Alabama too - and got in - tuition free due to their awesome merit aid.  U Rochester - even more selective and definitely pricier - came up with a better deal for him.

 

Youngest son went to a somewhat less selective school, but at the time he wanted Marine Science and Eckerd is arguably Top 10 for that field in spite of our not knowing a thing about it prior to our college search.

 

Overall, I'll say on here what I always say.  Look to see where recent graduates in a desired major or field have gone and what they've done.  Another option we did was ask those in the field doing the hiring what colleges they recommended.  Between the two, one can pretty easily figure out if a school is suitable or not.  There is no single blanket answer for "which school is better/cheaper" for my kid?  It all depends upon the specifics.  Stats are one thing, but stats never apply to the individual - only to larger groups.  "My" student is an individual (as is yours).  ;)

 

And NEVER assume "state" school is inferior to "private" school.  There are high levels and lower levels of both!

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These are all fantastic insights with real world experiences from 'the Hive.' Thank you for speaking about a subject which I think can make some students feel bad. This can happen if they had their heart set on Stanford, MIT, etc... For example, if there is family/friend pressure to go to the elites, it can be looked down upon. However, as some of the research and these real world experiences indicate, the differences are not always significant.

 

I know this matches my experience professionally in working in IT and in hiring college grads. We do not place more value on the elite schools over lessor known private universities or state schools. Its more about individual accomplishments and experiences while in college such as internships, work and research directly related to the job. Oddly, while our Fortune 500 company does not care about pedigree, they do care about GPA with a 3.x cutoff that varies a bit by department/sector. So an Ivy grad could be disqualified if under that threshold even if their program is known to be more rigorous, competitive, stressful, etc...

 

That being said, I don't think elite schools are bad if one has the opportunity to attend. This is especially the case if someone were to receive a scholarship. I worked with one such colleague who earned his PhD from CalTech with a full ride including stipend. No one is going complain about an opportunity like that. He was certainly happy about it. lol   :D

Edited by dereksurfs
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Ds is at a small state affordable state school because we couldn't afford more and he wants as little debt as possible. It's a good fit for him, mostly anyways, because he is of average stats, average motivation, although he's pretty smart. Class sizes are small, he is receiving mentorship and opportunities he would be passed over for in a bigger school. I also think the bad student contrast is good for him, he sees that some people don't take their studies seriously and it's hindering them. For me too, he needed a few more years to really mature and ponder real life. He'll take five years to graduate, but do so with little debt. 

 

For me, I am the big fish in a small pond. I have an advisor that has the time to mentor me and help me with opportunities, like him helping set up and oversee the first undergraduate panel at a regional conference that is normally geared for graduate students. This allowed me the opportunity to present - excuse the pun - where no undergraduate had presented before. He has also taken me and another student to a small fairly prestigious conference in our field, where we met many of the names whose work we use in research. Because we don't have a graduate program at our school, I've been able to receive individualized courses from him. If I were at a bigger school with a grad program, his focus would have been on those students. I'm very fortunate that I found a gem of a department at what some refer to as "podunk university." 

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These are all fantastic insights with real world experiences from 'the Hive.' Thank you for speaking about a subject which I think can make some students feel bad. This can happen if they had their heart set on Stanford, MIT, etc... For example, if there is family/friend pressure to go to the elites, it can be looked down upon. However, as some of the research and these real world experiences indicate, the differences are not always significant.

 

I know this matches my experience professionally in working in IT and in hiring college grads. We do not place more value on the elite schools over lessor known private universities or state schools. Its more about individual accomplishments and experiences while in college such as internships, work and research directly relate to the job. Oddly, while of our Fortune 500 company does not care about pedigree, they do care about GPA with a 3.x cutoff that varies a bit by department/sector. So an Ivy grad could be disqualified if under that threshold even if their program is known to be more rigorous, competitive, stressful, etc...

 

That being said, I don't think elite schools are bad if one has the opportunity to attend. This is especially the case if someone where to receive a scholarship. I worked with one such colleague who earned his PhD from CalTech with a full ride including stipend. No one is going complain about an opportunity like that. He was certainly happy about it. lol   :D

 

The biggest thing I've seen between the more elite schools and the not-so-elite ones (by my definition, not Top 20 or Ivy or Bust) is that there are often deeper levels of opportunities in the school - and often (but not always, just often) more rigorous classwork. 

 

All types of schools produce successful adults (meaning they have a job paying for their expenses whether using their major or not - or get into grad school or med/law school).  But some schools definitely offer a deeper level of content within a major or within research opportunities.  Not everyone wants (or needs) this level for a job, so whether the difference in the journey is important or not depends upon the individual again.  Whether a school (of any ranking) offers it within a major or not also depends upon the individual school, not a number assigned to it usually to sell magazines.  This is why Eckerd can be in the Top 10 for Marine Science (as per those in the field when I inquired), but not necessarily so for other majors.  And even with a different major, my soon to be graduating senior already has a couple of job offers.  The class content/depth is different (as noted by both my lads who have sat in on similar classes at both of their schools), but that doesn't matter so much to employers (who often train on the job anyway as long as basics are there).

 

My experience with this comes from math and science fields - my specialties and what returning students discuss with me when I see them after they go on to college (as well as my two boys who have compared in person).  I've no idea if it carries over to English or History or whatever, but my guess would be that it does, and again, isn't number dependent as much as department dependent.

 

I will easily say that students can be successful at all types of schools, but I will never say that School A equals School B or that Bio 101 is the same no matter where one goes.  They have differences - just as all students are different - but that difference doesn't generally matter on the job since the basics tend to still be there - only the depth changes.  

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Creekland, I do agree with you about level of rigor at different schools. What is great, though, is that many schools now have honors programs (and scholarships) that can help provide some of the same level of rigor.

 

And yes, to others, higher stat schools can sometimes be affordable. My SIL went to Yale b/c it was more affordable for her than the SUNY schools. My dh also went to Bucknell and paid almost nothing. However, we are not in the same economic bracket (and have some weird finances that make our EFC higher than we can afford).It is unlikely to work out that way for us, but we are still trying.

 

OP, one thing that is key, I think, is to make sure your dc don't think that any other school than the top top ones are "scrub" (as my ds would say).  The one thing I am able to tell my kids is this--you would do great at any of those schools.  However, it is unlikely it will work out financially and for xyz reason I also think a different type of school would work well/better for you.  There are lots of schools that smart hard working kids go to and thrive and be happy. We are going to pray and do our best and trust that where ever you go is the right place for you and your journey.

 

I do have friends who were very focused on the "best" schools for their gifted kids and who are now realizing that those might not be the best places for their kid--but the kid only sees the top tier as acceptable. I'm glad that I started years ago talking about different colleges since that will likely be the reality around here.

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This topic comes up annually. All I'm going to say this round is that it's not always lower rank= low cost.

 

This was true for one of mine.  They are at a school that usually ranks in the top 6 or 7 internationally in their field, and the top 1-3 nationally.   And yet it's half of what some of the other top-ranked schools are charging - half!  And by graduating without debt, they will be more able to take internships and jobs that may not pay well but will pay off in experience and other intangibles that will give their career a strong start.

 

In the end, it's all about fit.  Where is the student going to thrive, both academically and in other areas of their life?  Where is the cost/benefit balance between the tuition investment and the career potential (in earnings and in satisfaction with one's career opportunities)?  And which specific program is best aligned with the student's particular areas of interest in their field?  

 

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This topic comes up annually. All I'm going to say this round is that it's not always lower rank= low cost.

 

Agreed. There are many variables and one should never assume that the local state school is going to be the best deal financially.

 

One thing to look at when considering the entirety of the financial picture are the "extras" that may or may not be optional. Does the school nickel and dime you with a variety of fees (significant charge for mandatory orientation)? What are the additional costs not included in the housing bill (laundry, lost key fee)? Is the schedule of meals such that the student will be able to get all his food on the meal plan, or is it going to become necessary to buy additional food (late class that conflicts with limited dinner hours)? Are extracurricular activities included in the costs (membership in certain clubs can enhance a resume)? What about student exchange?

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...

 

OP, one thing that is key, I think, is to make sure your dc don't think that any other school than the top top ones are "scrub" (as my ds would say).  The one thing I am able to tell my kids is this--you would do great at any of those schools.  However, it is unlikely it will work out financially and for xyz reason I also think a different type of school would work well/better for you.  There are lots of schools that smart hard working kids go to and thrive and be happy. We are going to pray and do our best and trust that where ever you go is the right place for you and your journey.

 

I do have friends who were very focused on the "best" schools for their gifted kids and who are now realizing that those might not be the best places for their kid--but the kid only sees the top tier as acceptable. I'm glad that I started years ago talking about different colleges since that will likely be the reality around here.

 

Yes, I think this can get very unhealthy if not considered carefully since our American culture does look to pedigrees as 'the best of best' many times. And young people can latch onto that wanting to please. It's really about perspective and what is deemed perfectly fine as opposed to 'lessor than' or second class. Unfortunately, there is a very dark side to the this. And we have seen the direct results first hand through increases in suicide rates at some of the top schools. The stress and pressure to outperform is enormous at such an impressionable age. Living near the Bay Area, we've been too close to these stories of extreme depression and suicide due to some of these same pressures... for what, really? Stories like this one really give me pause for thought regarding what the lifestyles can be like for 'some' (not all) students at these elite schools - Suicide on Campus and the Pressure of Perfection.

 

All these factors should be weighed in light of one's DC beyond academics and finances. One must consider what impact a school and its experiences may have on their child socially, emotionally and psychologically. While not every child is as prone to depression or perfectionism to these extremes, it is something to be aware of since it can manifest more once in college.

Edited by dereksurfs
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I think this really depends on who you want to work for and in what capacity. I have had an employer in the past who wouldn't consider graduates of certain public universities. I have a friend who got a top 5 MBA just so she could get her foot in the door at HBO for managerial jobs (eyeing upper level ranks there). I also know a happy girl with a BA from a school nobody heard about who made a great career at a bank in Omaha. So my advice is know what you want. Private equity, top investment banks, certain management consulting firms tend to have very selective hiring. This is a big country though, so there are lots of opportunities.

 

 

 

I also feel that test scores tend to take care of this sort of thinking. Only a small percentage of kids can pull off a type of transcript with scores and awards that one needs for the likes of Princeton, so in a way the choice has already been made for most of us.

Edited by Roadrunner
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Yes, I think this can get very unhealthy if not considered carefully since our American culture does look to pedigrees as 'the best of best' many times.

 

I think this is area specific as it certainly isn't the case in our area.  If you ask many which school is the best school out there I can guarantee the school with the most votes from the man on the street locally will be Penn St.  ;)  I also bet many don't know where U Penn is.  They'll confuse it with Penn St.  Once one gets below Penn St, how good a school is usually correlates with how good their football team is.  Or basketball if that's the open season.   :lol:

 

I have to admit, I like living in a non-competitive area where one can choose a school totally based upon fit - what's best for the student - and finances.  It might be Penn St - or Cornell - or U Penn - or Eckerd - or U Rochester - or Alabama - or insert name of choice - and few will roll their eyes.  Some employers have preferences, but it's not related to ranking.  It's related to how much they know the school or recent grads (and how they have done on the job).

 

I think this really depends on who you want to work for and in what capacity. I have had an employer in the past who wouldn't consider graduates of certain ... universities. 

 

This is true for hubby's field of Civil Engineering too except I had to remove the word "public" as public is usually a plus for engineers, considering few private schools can afford the expensive engineering "toys" the big schools have.  Places he's worked at have hiring preferences and dislikes.  Usually their favorite schools for new hires are at least regionally local to them.  Once someone has been on the job, they look at what they have done rather than where they came from, but for new hires they certainly have schools they like (and don't).

 

That's a major reason I suggest asking those who hire what they suggest.  Those we've asked will freely share their thoughts.

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This was true for one of mine.  They are at a school that usually ranks in the top 6 or 7 internationally in their field, and the top 1-3 nationally.   And yet it's half of what some of the other top-ranked schools are charging - half!  And by graduating without debt, they will be more able to take internships and jobs that may not pay well but will pay off in experience and other intangibles that will give their career a strong start.

 

In the end, it's all about fit.  Where is the student going to thrive, both academically and in other areas of their life?  Where is the cost/benefit balance between the tuition investment and the career potential (in earnings and in satisfaction with one's career opportunities)?  And which specific program is best aligned with the student's particular areas of interest in their field?  

 

 

Yes, that is why I wanted to hear from those who went to the top schools and it is working well for. We have quite a few on this forum who have kids at the top schools. In many cases, like yours, it was a good fit on many levels. If that's the case and they like the school then why not? Some really will thrive at those top schools. And by contrast, for some it would be a very poor fit even if they could get accepted. Then there will be others who get accepted and it will be more a matter of degrees in terms of which would ultimately be best overall rather than extremes (wonderful/terrible). 

Edited by dereksurfs
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I think this really depends on who you want to work for and in what capacity. I have had an employer in the past who wouldn't consider graduates of certain public universities.

 

Really depends on the major too.  I used to help hire at a software company.  Competitive public STEM programs were the most desired by far.  I can also definitely see the networking upside of some of our local, competitive smaller LACs for some areas as well.  But that also seemed to have limited scope and it really depends on falling in with the right profs, alum, and graduating class.

 

I don't think less selective necessarily equates to less expensive.  It's so individual looking at an EFC, programs, merit, etc.  We are definitely going to need to chase merit so I'm fairly sure our public flag ship that seems to give the best aid to those from OOS will not be our cheapest option.  But given our EFC will be high, I don't think "meets need" is going to mean much for us either.   So I suspect we will not be able to swing super high flying school though this kid should have scores to apply and has a hook of sorts. 

 

I rarely think it is worth it to go into much debt (for the student or the parent) for an undergrad degree.  We are definitely looking at schools with honors programs as well. 

Edited by WoolySocks
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I should clarify that my state has two different public U systems, one more prestigious than the other. That's the reason I said "certain public U."

Some of the public Universities in my state are considered public Ivys.

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I should clarify that my state has two different public U systems, one more prestigious than the other. That's the reason I said "certain public U."

Some of the public Universities in my state are considered public Ivys.

 

That's definitely the case for us in California with UC Berkeley, UCLA, UCSD, UCSF, UC Davis, etc... However, even some of our Cal State Unis are top schools for certain majors. So it will depend a lot on area of study.

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1) Primary reason would be cost.  I don't want DS to saddled with a lot of debt. This does not mean you attend a low selectivity college. Many state universities have lower overall selectivity but have quality STEM majors that are harder to get into.

 

2) Your student would thrive better in an environment where they were in the top 50% percentile versus the bottom. I think my DS would be very frustrated at Caltech, for instance, with his 730 Math SAT (only once) when they average near 800.

 

 

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1) Primary reason would be cost.  I don't want DS to saddled with a lot of debt. This does not mean you attend a low selectivity college. Many state universities have lower overall selectivity but have quality STEM majors that are harder to get into.

 

2) Your student would thrive better in an environment where they were in the top 50% percentile versus the bottom. I think my DS would be very frustrated at Caltech, for instance, with his 730 Math SAT (only once) when they average near 800.

 

Yes, Mark. I'm right there with you. Cost will be a primary driver regardless of ranking or public/private. Little or no debt will be a big driver.

 

Regarding, your second point, I do like the opportunities in being a big fish in a smaller pond. That is really hard to imagine at some of our larger public Ivys. I recall taking a class at UCLA right out of high school and I 'hated' that environment. Though my dad thought it was the best ever since it was also his alma mater. Different strokes for different folks!  :tongue_smilie:  :D

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I guess I have more to say. I could care less about selection. I reject the whole paradigm and the fact that we will have to probably participate in this pyramid of selection by proxy that's become education from high school onwards, makes me feel like I need a shower. I love this quote by Bard president (and extremely interesting person): "It's one of the real black marks on the history of higher education that an entire industry that’s supposedly populated by the best minds in the country—theoretical physicists, writers, critics—is bamboozled by a third-rate news magazine" ( referring to US news magazine).

And yet....I have to pay the same whether DS goes to school 400 or school 1. Should I not be a good little capitalist and expect a return on the massive investment?

Also, less cynically, I'd rather him go somewhere there's classes he can take. Like roadrunner said, I'm not losing sleep because some choices are made for you. Thank god for that ;)

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Creekland, my oldest ds went to an engineering school whose RNP in national universities according to a 3rd rate magazine. (Love that quote!) Didn't hurt him a bit.

 

The whole cost conversation in general is murky territory. While it is true that for some families the highly competitive top ranked schools are amg their most afford options, for other families those higher ranked universities are amg their most expensive options. Students with the qualifications to attend competitive schools are competitive for very large merit $$ at lower ranked schools. So for those families, the financial spread between higher and lower ranked schools can be huge.

 

I am just soooooooo glad my 10th grader wants to live at home and commute to the local u bc that means I don't have to jump back on that merry-go-round any time soon.

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Regarding, your second point, I do like the opportunities in being a big fish in a smaller pond. 

 

I like that, too, but I'd be concerned about dd relating to the other students.  Right now she's a DE student at our local CC.  We are very happy with the instructors at the CC, but dd says most of the other students aren't motivated at all.  So far, she's always had the highest grades in her classes and her professors are always gushing about what a great student she is and how they wish more students were like her.  She doesn't understand why the other students don't strive to do better than they do and has no interest in socializing with them because they are so different than she is.  This may change once she gets to more upper-level classes, though.  

 

ETA:  With my older kids, we found that some less selective schools offered very little merit aid while some more selective schools offered a lot.  I encouraged them to apply where they were interested and see what was offered.  The safety school my twins applied to offered a surprisingly low amount while other more selective schools offered much more than expected.  

Edited by Kassia
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Creekland, my oldest ds went to an engineering school whose RNP in national universities according to a 3rd rate magazine. (Love that quote!) Didn't hurt him a bit.

 

The whole cost conversation in general is murky territory. While it is true that for some families the highly competitive top ranked schools are amg their most afford options, for other families those higher ranked universities are amg their most expensive options. Students with the qualifications to attend competitive schools are competitive for very large merit $$ at lower ranked schools. So for those families, the financial spread between higher and lower ranked schools can be huge.

 

I am just soooooooo glad my 10th grader wants to live at home and commute to the local u bc that means I don't have to jump back on that merry-go-round any time soon.

 

Yes, that's first point made in another article advising considering less selective schools:

 

1. Merit Money

Lynn O’Shaughnessy at The College Solution discusses how colleges will provide merit money for kids who are strong students for the school, which is generally not a student’s reach school. Even without merit money, as one moves up the selectivity ladder there are higher costs and higher debt.

While its true that the more selective school can 'sometimes' be more affordable, the opposite is more typically the case. The reason is the school would really like to have that student with the higher scores, etc... So they are willing to try harder to make it work financially.

http://www.thecollegesolution.com/benefits-of-attending-a-less-selective-college/

I like that we have a local public U as an option.

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Yes, that's first point made in another article advising considering less selective schools:

1. Merit Money

Lynn O’Shaughnessy at The College Solution discusses how colleges will provide merit money for kids who are strong students for the school, which is generally not a student’s reach school. Even without merit money, as one moves up the selectivity ladder there are higher costs and higher debt.

While its true that the more selective school can 'sometimes' be more affordable, the opposite is more typically the case. The reason is the school would really like to have that student with the higher scores, etc... So they are willing to try harder to make it work financially.

http://www.thecollegesolution.com/benefits-of-attending-a-less-selective-college/

I like that we have a local public U as an option.

My 2 current college students were both awarded large scholarships. Ds's covers all costs (actually, since he lives so frugally, he has been able to put $$ in the bank.). Dd's is not quite full ride. Once she doesn't have to pay the higher dorm and meal plan costs, it will be pretty close to covering all expenses.

 

I cannot fathom what it would have been like if our kids hadn't received those scholarships. There is no way we could have managed.

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How funny to see this thread -- coincidentally, earlier this evening dd commented that she thought top tier schools would be annoying to attend.  Dh had been urging her to look more closely at Ivies, and she really doesn't see the point.  She knows people going to them, and she knows people desperately wanting to be admitted to them.  She doesn't disparage those already enrolled, but she tells the not-admitted that they're better off going someplace else for their particular majors.

 

She wants the connections of a decent school, particularly one which has graduates doing well in her field.  Also, she wants her fellow students to be reasonably intelligent and motivated, but not cut-throat.  

 

 

I like that, too, but I'd be concerned about dd relating to the other students.  Right now she's a DE student at our local CC.  We are very happy with the instructors at the CC, but dd says most of the other students aren't motivated at all.  So far, she's always had the highest grades in her classes and her professors are always gushing about what a great student she is and how they wish more students were like her.  She doesn't understand why the other students don't strive to do better than they do and has no interest in socializing with them because they are so different than she is.  This may change once she gets to more upper-level classes, though.  

 

 

 

Exactly!  I think dd will find what she needs at mid-level schools.

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I think there are some false dichotomies here.

 

I'm trying to decide if I want to post or not. I have a bit of a fear of being flamed.

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I like that, too, but I'd be concerned about dd relating to the other students.  Right now she's a DE student at our local CC.  We are very happy with the instructors at the CC, but dd says most of the other students aren't motivated at all.  So far, she's always had the highest grades in her classes and her professors are always gushing about what a great student she is and how they wish more students were like her.  She doesn't understand why the other students don't strive to do better than they do and has no interest in socializing with them because they are so different than she is.  This may change once she gets to more upper-level classes, though.  

 

ETA:  With my older kids, we found that some less selective schools offered very little merit aid while some more selective schools offered a lot.  I encouraged them to apply where they were interested and see what was offered.  The safety school my twins applied to offered a surprisingly low amount while other more selective schools offered much more than expected.  

 

Yes, we have a fairly similar experience at the CC our son currently attends in regarding the professors. However, they do have students who are more engaged and motivated to learn which he picks up on. So he's not the only one doing well. I could see how that would get old. I am thinking that finding a nice middle ground would be good. In other words a school that participates in modern and engaging approaches to his area of interest without being 'the' school that everyone else is trying to get into.

 

I've heard about these cases like your sons where the more selective school offered more financially. I guess one has to look at those schools of interest on a case by case basis since there are so many variables that come into play when applying. For many families, unless closer to a full ride, those select schools are way out of reach financially. For example, even if tuition plus room, board and other expenses is ~ 60K and they offer ~ 30K, its really not doable.

Edited by dereksurfs

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I think there are some false dichotomies here.

 

I'm trying to decide if I want to post or not. I have a bit of a fear of being flamed.

Go for it! 😂

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I think there are some false dichotomies here.

 

I'm trying to decide if I want to post or not. I have a bit of a fear of being flamed.

 

Hoggirl, the problem is the answer can be relative based on the student's skills, interests and preferences which really transcend national rankings, cost estimators and the like. In addition, I think there will always exceptions to the rule. Some have given examples where costs were actually lower at the more select schools for their particular students. So it doesn't hurt to apply to those schools 'if' they represent a good fit at a reasonable price. The real question is it really worth a major stretch financially and possibly academically just to be at the elite school? Will it really make a difference in the long run over one's professional life? I know I In my area of work in the tech industry, there is very little weight given to these factors. I think at the very least one should weigh the pros/cons in light of a student's career goals before considering elite schools a better choice. 

Edited by dereksurfs
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I really think for everybody whose kid isn't in the top 1%, this is a moot point. There is no choice really. It would be insane to make an admission to an elite school a goal given their acceptance rates even for an academically strong child. Exceptional kid? Maybe. But for everybody else reality needs to dictate the choices.

 

I also think few people would turn down Princeton for SUNY, given an option.

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I also think few people would turn down Princeton for SUNY, given an option.

 

Well, DS turned down an Ivy, along with a couple of other "Top 20" schools, for Ohio State (which is ranked around 50th by USNWR), and the #1 recruit in his sport also turned down an Ivy for a generous scholarship at Penn State (also ranked around 50th). A couple of people have been surprised at DS's choice, because Ivy admissions is the goal of many (if not most) top fencers — the athletic recruiting threads on CC are all about the Ivies. A lot of kids don't even think about whether the school will actually be a good fit, whether it has their major, or whether they can realistically juggle a full Ivy course load plus an intensive D1 athletic schedule; all they think about is the "prize" of an Ivy acceptance.

 

I read an article a couple of years ago about a girl who was recruited by Lehigh and U Penn. She loved Lehigh, loved the coach, and was ready to commit when she got the offer from Penn. She felt like she'd be crazy to turn that down — like winning the lottery and then saying "no thanks." She was so stressed and unhappy at Penn that she ended up jumping off a 9 story building. It's not much of a prize if the stress of "winning" it kills you.  :crying:

 

DS says he would have chosen Ohio State even if money were no object, because it has everything he wants and it just feels like the best fit. He has friends for whom an Ivy was the perfect fit — he knows a couple of kids who carry full academic loads, with top grades, at Ivies and compete in a full NCAA schedule and still compete in all the national and international competitions. Those kids are superstars and they obviously landed at schools that are perfect for them. But DS is self-aware enough to know that he is not one of those kids, and I'm glad that he understands the importance of fit over prestige.

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I really think for everybody whose kid isn't in the top 1%, this is a moot point. There is no choice really. It would be insane to make an admission to an elite school a goal given their acceptance rates even for an academically strong child. Exceptional kid? Maybe. But for everybody else reality needs to dictate the choices.

 

I also think few people would turn down Princeton for SUNY, given an option.

 

Roadrunner,

 

I think it goes beyond the 1% when it becomes a primary part of one's decision making process. The article and scope really refer to 'less' selective vs 'more' selective as opposed to simply the most elite. In almost every case, students are presented with a range of schools they can gain acceptance to. Some are simply more of a stretch than others.

 

Let's take computer science majors, for example, who I worked with daily and have hired for many years. If one begins their research with 'top schools' for computer science they will quickly find schools such as UC Berkeley, MIT, CalTech, Stanford and Carnegie Mellon at the top of the list. Now, if they realize they don't have the scores, grades, hooks, etc... to get into those schools, they will then look over an extended ranking list and keep working down that list until they find one which would be a 'stretch' but they could get into. Basically, I can't get into Stanford or MIT, so I'll go for the next highest ranking I can such as Brown or Northwestern because ranking is very important to me, my parents, relatives, etc... However, if that 'stretch' means going into excessive debt or academic strain simply for the name, is it really that important to begin with? Put another way, how much of a difference would there really be once out working in the real world? If Google, eBay, Intel, Amazon, Oracle, et al hire from the local state schools as well Stanford and many universities in between, is it really worth that extra debt and added strain to gain greater name recognition or perceived prestige? 

Edited by dereksurfs
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It's really not just a name. I have friends who majored in math at U of Chicago. Their classes are simply not in the same league as ones at tier 3 schools. I disagree with your premise.

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It's really not just a name. I have friends who majored in math at U of Chicago. Their classes are simply not in the same league as ones at tier 3 schools. I disagree with your premise.

 

Roadrunner, that isn't the premise of the research conducted or the one that I'm suggesting either. Its about any real differences across the span of one's career once out of school. One could argue that UC Berkeley's undergraduate computer sciences classes are the best in the world. With that rating comes the name and associated prestige of a high ranking school. Ok, great. How much quantifiable difference does that really make when compared to peers over the course of their careers? That's the question being considered along with the other factors such as added stress in those environments along with financial strain. Even if money wasn't an issue, would it still be worth it? Maybe for some where its a good fit while for others its not even if accepted.

Edited by dereksurfs
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I've been in IT for several decades and remember when Google was a young company. It was actually founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin who were PhD students at Stanford. In those early years they used strive to hire similar Stanford grads. The notion was that more people like themselves would make the best employees. However, after conducting research on their own employee performance metrics over the years they realized they were wrong! The data showed no significant difference based upon school and they therefore adjusted their hiring practices to reflect real worlds results. Here is an interesting take on it from their top HR executive - Google doesn't care where you went to college!

Edited by dereksurfs
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This is a huge county with millions of jobs. Only a tiny fraction of people ever graduate from elite schools, so of course, the rest of us happily find jobs and build careers. Nobody would argue that one needs a degree from an elite college to build a career. There are some kids who need to be at MIT, who need that sort of education. I could think of couple of kids on this board who fall into that category. Vast majority of us don't need the likes of MIT. We are making educational decisions for the kids we have.

 

I don't know anything about the computer science industry, but I do know some people who have no degrees but are brilliant and have done very well in tech. I maintain that for certain professions and companies (I listed them up), a top school is very much needed, but again, those jobs are few and specific. So maybe those chasing top positions in investment banking should think about where hey are getting their MBAs. For the rest of us I think the best school is the one where we can find intellectual peers, kids with similar abilities and where financials make sense.

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So many thoughts (and I am one of the ones that posted upthread about my ds having great opportunities at his less selective school)...

 

Even as one touting the lower ranked/ high value schools I would not say where you go does not matter, that all schools are the same or that a top tier school is never worth it. That's just not true. But most students aren't looking at Ivy admission. I am sure my ds would have had fantastic opportunities at an Ivy but that just isn't even an option based on his academic record. So now you are looking at the difference between say a school ranked 75 or 100 vs. a school ranked 200 or higher. I don't think the difference there is as much.

 

But this conversation will just go round and round because individual differences make every situation unique. People with students at top tier schools shouldn't be made to feel like they are foolish or status driven. Those schools are amazing and will likely help set their students on a successful path. Good for you! That is very exciting!

 

But...it is not top tier or bust and those of us with kids at schools you have never heard of should not be made to feel like their dc are basically at a glorified high school with dumbed down classes and will never get a real job. It is just not true. We know it isn't true and we see what our kids are doing and what grads from their schools are doing and we know it just is not true that all these lesser known regional schools are not preparing their students. The one I get all the time IRL is that the kiddos with 33+ ACTs just will not find other students like them unless they go to a top school. Just absolutely not true. Our local Christian U that is basically open admission has many kids on campus with 33+ACTs. As does the regional state U my second dc is attending next year and the tiny LAC my oldest attends.

 

I live in a small town in the south. When I hear that such and such a degree is worthless unless you go to XYZ schools I just can't believe that. Maybe if you are looking to make it in a highly competitive big city atmosphere, but there are lots of jobs around here and I know many people making good livings and I can't think of anyone I know that went anywhere fancy. So people are getting jobs without going to top tier schools.

 

I share my dc experience with the low ranked school to reassure people who just can't or don't want to do the intense competitive college thing and to help people not feel guilty if their dc have to turn down a more prestigious school due to finances. There are lots of ways to do this college thing.

 

My best friend has kids the same grades as mine and she is all in on the Ivies, top tier or bust,etc. I listen to her ups and downs and stress and drama and disappointment and how much it is all costing her. It sounds crazy on the surface but it actually is right for her family. This particular friend would be happy to die penniless if it meant she gave this to her dc. I would not! But it really seems to be fine for her family and I wouldn't suggest she do it any other way.

 

ETA: To those with dc at top schools who feel defensive, the OP did ask for reasons to choose the less selective school so people are answering that question. Mine attend less selective and less expensive schools but I also think you can be "penny wise pound foolish" with college decisions sometimes. I think there are totally situations where the more expensive schools are worth it if the family can afford it.

Edited by teachermom2834
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this reminds me of another consideration.  My high stats kids isn't overflowing with confidence and, I think, will thrive more in a situation where he is a big fish in a small pond (or at least where he feels he can be his best self without always being in competition with others).  He does not thrive in a highly competitive situation.

 

 

 

My older ds, currently a college freshman, is the complete opposite. He has been craving peer interactions at his level for years. He audited history classes at a local top liberal arts college, and loved the discussions. So he really, really did not want to go somewhere to be a big fish in a small pond. He wanted the other fish to be like him, if you know what I mean. For some kids the small pond is ideal, for some it isn't.

 

DS wasn't accepted at his top choice school, but he does seem happy where he is now. And we're happy because it is affordable. I just wanted to share to say that the small pond isn't necessarily the best choice for every kid. Now my younger ds is completely different, and we'll need to figure things out all over again.

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