Getting Your Kid into College

It’s that time, a time I knew would one day come but I guess I never quite believed it because BAM! It’s here and damn its got me on edge. My son affectionately referred to as elder boy in this blog is a high school senior and we are now in the midst of that madness known as waiting to find out where he will be going to college. Elder boy did not do early admissions, instead he sent his applications off on the regular deadline which means that unlike most of his buddies who already know where they will be presumably cooling their heels for the next 4 years we are in a holding pattern. We are in that nerve-wracking place where we must wait until late March or April to know where elder boy will be going or not going.

I am going to be honest and say this whole process is crazy and scary all wrapped into one. I have spent the last several months checking out all the websites and info of all the schools he wants to attend. Generally the information I am most interested in is how much is this shit going to cost? I know…I sound like an ass, but have you priced out your average liberal arts school that happens to be private or a state school when you aren’t a resident of that state? The University Of Vermont as an example is roughly $39,000 a year if you are not a resident, this little school also happens to be one that elder boy applied to and outside of one other school on his list, its cheapest one he applied to.

Now I don’t have many friends who have put kids through college yet, in fact I only 2 whose kids have recently competed college. I now understand why my one girlfriend worked 2 jobs while her boy was in college and this is a woman who is college educated herself with a good position. I didn’t get it, I now do…college costs are through the roof! My other friend who lives here in Maine commuted daily to her high paying job in Boston to pay the tuition on her two sons who at 2 years apart were in college at the same time. She promptly retired last year when the youngest graduated.

See, all my buddies with younger kids always say things like well little Tommy will either go to state U or he can work to put himself through school. In my state, state U is still damn near 20g’s with room and board and in a state the size of Maine there is no guarantee you will live near State U so you probably are going to need room and board. Yeah, we have campuses throughout the state but not every campus offers every program. By the way what 18-19 yo kid is getting a job that pays well enough to pay a substantial dent on the tuition? On top of going to school and presumably having a life at the same time?

No…college costs are crazy. Gone are the days for the most part where an academically stellar kid could expect substantial scholarships and Mom and Dad didn’t have to pay much. I know because lately I have been seeking out folks with college aged kids and everyone is dealing with the same sticker shock I am dealing with…my best friend recently told me how his coworker assumed that since their kid who was a straight A, plenty of extracurriculars and #2 in their graduating class, they wouldn’t be paying much. No darling, unless lil Tommy is a star athlete your chances of a free ride are pretty much gone. Yeah Tommy might get a decent chunk knocked off the bill but lets face it if you still have to pay $15-20G’s yearly for 4 years, could you afford it? Right now the only reason I might be able to afford it is that since elder boy’s Dad & I are divorced we will be splitting the costs, so hopefully that will mean something like 7-10G’s apiece.

Don’t even get me started on how costly it is just to apply to college, yeah some schools offer application waivers but if you are a middle class family at least on paper they may not be available for you. Now I have had folks suggest community college to me. I am not opposed to community college at all, I did a few semesters at one before transferring to a 4 year school and graduating but you still have to be careful. My brother went that route and in the end it still ended up costing him more money and time since not everything transferred over. There is also the fact that some kids may be cool with community college and some are not.

For my son, as a child of divorce who is academically curious about the world he wants the college experience since for the first time he can live in a place without feeling like he is being pulled by either of us (not that we have done that but he is always concerned about our feelings). He is ready to have those first steps towards independence and lets face it going to community college but living in his own pad is definitely easier said than done. It may be cheap but I have been young and I know asking him to pay rent, utilities, etc and go to school at the same time is a recipe for becoming one of the millions on Americans who start college but never finish.

At the end of the day, I think lawmakers and whoever else needs to address the fact that college has gone beyond the grasps of many…the rate at which many have saved to pay for their kids college education is not aligned in any way with the actual costs of college. More and more schools are using adjuncts who get paid jack, I know because I have been there and its a thankless job yet how many so-called middle class families can really afford to send a couple of kids to a 4 years school?

Shit, I am thinking we may need a whole overhaul in how we tie education to the world of work, after all why go to college to walk out with a debt load of 30-50G’s only to end up in a job that pays shit with few benefits. I mean the traditional ways in which a young person could expect to get a decent job and work their way up for a number of years has pretty much gone the way of the tv repairman. Instead in this brave new world, if you stay 2-3 years at a job that is a long time as employers look to maintain profits by cutting positions but that’s a whole other blog post.

So are you prepared to pay for college if your kids choose that path? I would love to hear from anyone with college aged kids and find out how you have dealt with this issue.

6 thoughts on “Getting Your Kid into College”

  1. LOL, good on ya! I wish I had heard of Americorps before, I would probably own close to nothing. However, make sure he actually completes the program if he wants the money, even with interviews and screenings, there is a high drop out rate.

    I cant stress enough how prepared he has to be about his money and realistic about job opportunities. These days, one needs a strong background in finance to get ahead! I hope he makes it big, even legend/pioneer big, but if not , he should be okay with that too. We need more talented actors !! ( LOL, is he trying to be the next Denzel Washington, Will Smith or Morgan Freeman?)

    Maybe a Johnny Depp? I swear that man hit gold when he found Tim Burton. OMG….Someone who will always use you AND likes you as a friend.

    Don’t beat yourself up about your path. It sounds to me like you got strewed over with the loans. You didn’t expect to be rich, but I’m sure you didn’t expect to struggle either. This problem is pushing ppl out of those important fields and over saturating mine!!! So many ppl can’t stand my field but go for it anyway….

  2. Assada, thank you for these links. As someone who put themselves through school as an adult (got my masters 4 years ago) I have been able to share a bit with my son. I do know we won’t be doing anything but federal loans. I also know that as someone who used to believe that a degree would mean higher earning potential while I am not anti-college I also have been pretty firm on the fact that he/we don’t want to spend gobs of money to end up in a field that pays crap. Sadly I did that and most certainly don’t want him to go down that path. Right now we are waiting to hear back from schools and he just expressed that of he doesn’t get into a school he really wants to go to that he might consider taking some time off and doing volunteer work (Americorps which allows money to be earned towards school) or as an actor he has already had some offers to get into paid theatre. At first I was iffy on these but realistically these are both attractive options. Since taking a year or so off would allow him to earn money towards paying on his education.

    Big Man, he did briefly consider a HBCU but decided against it at least for now. Its a shame since I really wanted him to consider that path but I also know many HBCU’s are not able to be as generous with aid and money is a big issue for us.

  3. just don’t let him end up like these kids,

    This may be the smartest action,

    Seriously, don’t go for the frills. Study Abroad, Unpaid Internships, Extra-Curriculars that are more for entertainment than learning. He needs to start planning for a career like… ASAP.

    Important books to consider:

    No sucker left Behind Marc Scheer
    Student Loan Scam Alan Collidge

    I will provide important sites later……

  4. and for the websites:

    I will warn you. These are more activist type websites for students who were BADLY burned by the myth that college would be the answer! Alot are complaining about something they didn’t even suspect. Let nothing detour him and let no one take advantage of his naivete.

    I don’t wanna be judgmental because I don’t know your plans. I don’t want to preach to the choir . Stay away from private loans , use federal DIRECT loans. Avoid the “plastic crack” cards. If kid doesn’t know what the heck he’s doing, let him take time off to figure stuff out.
    Make sure he researches his field thoroughly, and that nothing surprised him about what happens or changes.

    The best resource would be knowledge , Read those books, or have him do it. An upperclass student who knows the game and is willing to do some hand holding. Sometimes a professor/dean of students can help, but they profit from the game and they don’t want to be held liable for the $h!t they might say.

    Speed is the Name of the Game,

  5. Tuition for my state school is a little over $19000 right now (yikes). My oldest is a junior in high school, so we have a little leeway; still, I feel your pain. Unless you start saving when your child is a newborn or at the very least in utero, 529 plans to me are a joke (no offense to those who participate in them).
    Have you all (Elder boy included) entertained the idea of him attending a community college for a couple of years to get the GenEd courses out of the way while living at home? It may help defray some of the costs and buy you some time to save to help later on. This option has been a part of the conversation with my child, and while she’s not crazy about it, she hasn’t totally dismissed the idea either.

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