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October 17, 2007

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Related to #3 - don't be afraid to ask the college financial aid office for more money. Don't think that the aid package they offer you is set in stone - it's usually negotiable.

I learned this after watching friends who could barely afford our (expensive) university go back to the aid office over and over again when their aid was cut. Generally, those who asked for more money could get it (within reason). The real losers were the ones like me, who figured that what the college chose to give me was all that I could get.

I think the big thing (implied, but useful to explicitly state) is for the parents to do their homework so they can be educated consumers.

I think this advice is really great, but there's an information gap that parents can have, especially if they haven't been to college themselves (or not as the typical 18 year old.) There's a big value in knowing what questions to ask when looking for a college -- like the one you mentioned about the recruiters, or by looking at the overall retention rates/debt load/rates of graduates that pursue postsecondary work or get hired.

I know when I was first applying for college, my parents didn't really know what questions to ask, what to look for (or look out for) and left all the decision making to me. I'd gotten excellent grades in high school, and I think I made the best decision w/the information I had.

But if I could go back to myself at 18, I would have asked different questions and definitely gone to a different (and much cheaper) school. There was definitely a stigma against the local public university, that was (I found out much later) really undeserved: while they did accept students w/lower gpa's, they had a nice number of graduates that went on to more prestigous colleges for graduate work. So there's a huge savings cost that I missed.

The funny thing is that I still see my high school telling their students the same things they told me (downplaying the local schools.)

I think the worst-case scenario that you mentioned is kind of common. But I think it's preventable.

annab: I think all parents need to be educated on this point, even those who DID go to college immediately after highschool.

My parents were 35 years removed from their college experience(s) when the time came for me to pick a school. I did get a balanced viewpoint from them, however, as one went to a private engineering school (the path I ended up taking), while the other went to a state school back when it was the only one in the state to *gasp* charge tuition.

The environment around choosing where to go to school and how to fund it seems to have changed substantially in the last 20 years or so.

I agree with the commenter who said this "worst case scenario" seems quite common. One bit of advice that I think can be very useful (and I think I just read in another pf blog this morning) is to consider delaying college. I think as you noted here, that at 18-22 many are just not ready to know what they want to do for the rest of their lives.

I think kids today have access to more info. in a way, with Internet, etc. but still a real effort must be made on their parts to learn about the working world, various fields, how salaries/expenses play out in the real world. There has to be certain level of self knowledge and awareness of the working world that many people that young simply lack, often due to a lack of experience. Many don't manage to get it right the first time and that can be very, very expensive.

Your advice is great for those who get things right from the start, but I think getting all the necessary components right is not always as easy as it may sound on paper. Especially for those who don't have the kind of support from families or schools or mentors that might help them learn about these issues at that age. I think this is a really important topic and your posts on the topic have inspired me to write up something (on my new pf blog) based on my own experiences and observations as well--thanks.

All --

Here's the piece I think m is referring to:

http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2007/10/17/thinking-about-college-after-high-school-four-points-of-advice-that-you-probably-wont-hear-from-your-guidance-counselor/

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