What happens when your child has his heart set on a college you can’t afford?
Last year, a friend’s daughter was applying to colleges. “Heather” had her heart set on a few different private schools in the Midwest that would cost $30,000 a year or more.
She applied to all of those colleges full of hope and optimism.
Gently, her mother suggested that she also apply to the local university, which she did begrudgingly.
In the end, Heather did get into all of those colleges in the Midwest, but she wasn’t offered enough financial aid. Attending any one of those schools would have required her to take out student loans and to graduate more than $60,000 in debt.
While she was ready to take on this burden to attend her dream school, her parents continued to encourage her to look at the local university, where she received a nearly full-ride scholarship and would only need to pay $2,000 a year to attend.
After a few months of mourning, she attended the local university and lived in the dorms to try to get the full college experience even though she was still close to home.
Choosing a college is difficult, especially when the college your child has her heart set on doesn’t offer any or enough financial aid. If your child is like Heather, here are some things to keep in mind and suggestions for easing her disappointment:
Allow Time To Mourn
If your child can’t attend the college of her choice due to finances, let her mourn. Allow her to be disappointed and give her space.
In a few weeks, she’ll be ready to better face reality and make a decision about her future.
Always Have At Least One Local College Choice
Besides Heather, there is another family that we know whose son wanted to go to school in the Midwest or the East Coast. One prestigious college on the East Coast didn’t accept him, but two in the Midwest did. However, even with scholarships, the final bill every year was more than he was willing to take out in student loans.
Like Heather, he applied to the local university and got a full-ride scholarship.
Always encourage your child to have a safe back-up choice that will likely accept your child AND offer scholarships or financial aid.
Recognize The Limits Of Your Budget
When my husband and I were house hunting, we didn’t look at houses that were above $200,000 because those were out of our budget. They simply weren’t an option. Likewise, when my husband was in the market for a car, we didn’t look at fancy sports cars because they weren’t in the budget; we needed practical, reliable, and reasonably priced.
Why is college any different?
You know your own budget and how much you can help through college savings plans, and you know how much you can help your children with college. Have honest conversations with your children starting when they are young to let them know what kind of college and in which location you can afford.
Recognize Where You’re Not Wanted
As hard as it is to face, if your child applies to a college and is given no scholarships or financial aid, she may be trying to fit into a school that is not a good fit. Finding a school that values your child and her contributions may well be a better fit.
While the college experience is important, no college experience is worth being tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt.
Besides, the simple truth is that very few employers care where you got your degree, they just care what you got your degree in, and if you have the credentials they are looking for. Make sure your child thinks about the true cost of their schooling. applies to a variety of colleges, some dream schools and some realistic options, so she doesn’t have to leave saddled with debt.
How did you help your children accept the financial reality of their college decisions? If you had a dream college when you were younger, did your parents have to help you face reality, or did you choose to go into student loan debt?