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December 13, 2010


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He should be able to get full academic scholarships. If the numbers and info you've provided is correct, there really shouldnt be a problem. Your AGI meets most needs based tests for scholarships as well. Make sure he applies to some high end schools. Many schools that are "too expensive" really arent when you take his numbers and your income.

He should apply for every single scholarship. Once you've filled out 3 scholarship applications you can easily fill out 300 (the essay is already written etc). Every corporation in America has scholarships and again, your income combined with his numbers will put him at the top of the list.

On balancing financing and school choice- Go to a top 10 university regardless of cost (again it wont cost you much) and if you cant go to a top 10 go for price/value and attend a big name state school (likely for free).

Go with where you get a scholarship. If he doesnt get two years at a community college to get general education requirements met, then transfer into a state school.

Quick google search came up with this list of universities that provide free tuition to students such as your son... just keep that income below 60k.

Congratulations on planning ahead for what could otherwise be a very financially-draining decision.

First, your son should apply for at least 50, and as many as 100, scholarships. He won't get them all but even a few could amount to several thousand in free money.

Second, prepare a FAFSA as early as you can to see how much you qualify for in terms of "free" financial aid (such as grants or a particular university's own scholarships).

Third, given your son's planned major (sports medicine), it is just as likely he will receive an excellent education from an inexpensive in-state public school as any "top tier" private school for the same program. With your financial situation, there's no way you should consider an expensive or private school unless the money's there from a source other than borrowing. The other common strategy is to go to a community college for 2 years and transfer into a 4-year university (just do the research in advance to make sure the credits will transfer).

Fourth, your son should definitely get a part-time job while going to school. Most schools have a "work study" program where the student can work on-campus. Otherwise, delivering pizzas or waiting tables are always options. Or, consider having your son take on 2 or 3 (or 4) part-time jobs for 6-12 months to save up lots of cash before starting school. He can also work a couple jobs during summer breaks.

Fifth, once you've got scholarships, "free" (non-loan) financial aid, and income factored in, any amount beyond that could be covered by a student loan, TAKEN OUT BY THE STUDENT. Do not finance this yourselves. Place the burden on your son, who is expected to have income to pay it off. BUT IN MY OPINION, YOU SHOULD FOLLOW THE STEPS ABOVE TO MINIMIZE OR ELIMINATE THE NEED TO BORROW.

I wish you the best of luck and hope everything works out for your son!

Apply for as many scholarships as possible. Also, this might sound strange, but you should definitely consider private schools. They might be more expensive than public schools, but they give out TONS of scholarships. And for someone with the grades your son has, that shouldn't be a problem. His grades and scores are better than mine were, and I went to a $40K/year school... for about $1500/year.

What state are they in?

In general : I'd aim for the best public school in your state. Definitely apply for financial aid. He should also be researching scholarships and applying for anything that he might qualify for.

The better public school would be a very good school in most states, they are cheaper than private or out of state and they are more likely to give him financial aid. You should qualify for aid given your income and lack of assets.

He should have no problem getting in and he should qualify for financial aid and may get merit scholarships. I'd apply for a few of the best schools in your state. THe aid packages may differ from one college to another even in the same state. He could also apply for a selection of private universities. The private schools may give generous aid and scholarships that could even make them more affordable. But I wouldn't count on that as a given. He is not likely to get into ivy league level schools, but won't hurt to apply if he wants to.

My college resume was similar to your sons. Private schools threw some money at me but not enough to make them cheaper than public in state. I ended up only getting good aid from one in state public school.

I'm not sure what a career in 'sports medicine' really means. That might guide his choice of school some. How serious is he about that? Is it just an idea or is this what he'll do for sure?

Additional: has a calculator to estimate the 'expected family contribution' which is the amount that schools expect the family to pay towards college. Given an income of $58k, NO assets, no house the calculator estimates you'd have family contribution of about $8000 a year. Thats just a rough estimate from an online calculator and I don't know your details. Take it with a grain of salt.

Many schools will try and pay what you can't. But you'll get better aid from in state schools. Some schools can't or won't give you any aid.

Side question : I guess I'm showing my age, but can someone explain what having a 4.3 GPA on a 4.0 scale *really* means? Is that cause you get 5.0 for an AP or honors class? Anyone know how do colleges evaluate those compared to real 4.0 scales? I mean if a kid gets 3.9 on a real 4.0 scale then hows that compare to a kid getting 4.3 on what is really a 5.0 scale?

Have him take the ACT as many times as he can. The higher the ACT score the more aid you will get. 28 will get him into most colleges. 30 on the ACT you are talking acedemic schorship $$ and sports $$.

My bosses kids are going to Grand Valley State university in Michigan. Both kids had similar grades and sport activities. The one got a 29 on the act and received $2800 the other kids got a 30 and he recived $7500. Almost $5000 difference for one point on the ACT.

A friends daughter got a 34 on the ACT and she has a full ride at Carnegie Mellon.


I know this isn't related to the question at hand, but how on earth does one judge someone's academic performance when schools allow GPA non-sense such as that reported above:

4.379 GPA (4.0 scale)

Presumably he is a straight A student or nearly a straight A student, (shouldn't a 4.0 mean 100% straight A's) And even if the school allowed 4.33 for an A+ (which is stupid if the school claims the scale only goes to 4.0), his numbers are even higher than that so clearly there are points being given for other activities such as national honors society or something like that.

This is about as helpful as those people who suggest you give 110%.

Clearly if he can get a 4.379 he could get a few B's or maybe even a couple C's and still have a 4.0. That is just flat out stupid and as schools keep doing this they make the GPA measurement meaningless which is why so many people want to ignore it because while GPA has been statistically proven to be the single biggest indicator of future success, much more so that standardized test scores, this kind of GPA skewing helps to make it a measurement that loses its value.


At my high school, a student received a weighted grade for honors and Advanced Placement classes. AP classes were worth .1 GPA points, and honors classes were worth .05 points. As a result, you could earn a 4.1 for an A in an AP class.

Apex- AP course or college level course work has a higher value for an A grade. If you are taking a higher level course than your peers you should also receive higher points for your performance. To me, this makes perfect sense to reward those who take harder courses.

If its A+ scaling, I agree.

Apex, 4.0 is the maximum score because that's the highest you can get with straight A's. A and A+ both weigh in at 4.0 points per credit. You gain extra points when you take a lot of honors or AP classes as David R. pointed out. That makes his son an EXCEPTIONALLY good student because he not only gets straight A's, he probably takes(and aces) every single AP and honors course he can get his hands on.

Many public universities automatically award merit based scholarships based on SAT/ACT scores. Generally the criteria is straight-forward & available on the school’s website. Pay close attention to the deadlines at each school. In order to be considered for these scholarships, it is not unusual to have to have applications, scores, etc. turned in by November or December of the senior year. Don’t forget to look at out of state schools, as well. We have 2 children, both earned scholarships at large, public universities that are out of state. One earned a full scholarship (out-of-state tuition, room, board) based on her SAT scores. By taking the SAT a second time & increasing his score, our son increased his scholarship from about $4,000 a year to >$13,000 a year.

Apply for the little scholarships in your area. The school counselors typically keep a list. The deadlines for these are often in the spring. You may be surprised to find that many times, not many students bother to do the work. Our son received a $3,000 scholarship from one organization where he was the only applicant.

Athletics: Although some schools may express an interest, your son’s coaches may be able to help here. Our daughter’s coach asked for a list of her top choices of schools. The coach contacted each school on her list on her behalf. If the coach is not able/willing to help, many schools athletics websites have an interest/recruiting page, where you can fill out a form to submit. Many athletic scholarships are partial scholarships; however they may be combined with academic scholarships.

Hi, I'm responding to Apex's question. With a GPA of 4.379, that means he has taken some AP courses or advanced courses along the way. In our experience, that helps with regard to class rank and top schools are looking for advanced courses, but it doesn't help with regard to academic (non financial aid) scholarships. Once a student has been accepted (in part usually based on class rank), then the school determines how much "scholarship" money he is entitled to (this is really just a discount off of tuition, but it can be significant). At that point, the school converts to a 4.0 scale, so if the student got extra points for getting a B in an AP course, that B is converted to a straight 3.0 for scholarship determination. In our son's case, at his school he had a 4+ gpa but a number of B's. He received only $2500 per year in scholarship money from the school (again, that was really just a discount). Our daughter's grades were much better, mostly A's, and her scholarship (discount) was $12,500 per year. After that, then financial aid would be determined, although we did not go that route. (FYI, these were both private, non ivy-league schools.)

Everyone here has covered some good options (apply for scholarships, etc), but I'd add two more:

1. Don't assume anything until you check it out. Many schools work with families who have a genuine financial need, and you should start with your dream schools and discuss it with someone there *who has the power to do something*. Don't just assume it's too expensive and move on.

2. Even at expensive schools, you'd be surprised how much of a dent you can make if you work your way through school. Even if it takes an extra year, it might be worth it. This is what I did and I have zero regrets.

Don't be afraid to have your son apply to selective schools just because the sticker price seems high. Many good schools, including the Ivies, are very generous with financial aid. When this came up previously, I showed that even a family making $100K or more would get a substantial need-based scholarship from Princeton. With your income below $60K, I would suspect that Princeton would give your son a full scholarship if he got in.

Consider ROTC, possible full scholarship and a job after he gets finished that sets him up for life. Its a commitment but their are a lot of options.

1. Get onto FAFSA site and do an estimate.
2. Wait for Jan 1st and do the real FAFSA.
3. Apply to 20-30 scholarships based on your profile. Profiling is done by the web site and they will recommend which ones.
4. Get to your bank and get ready to apply for a loan if needed (and if you qualify based on your credit rating).
5. Have your son do community college in the summers. Cost per credit hour is MUCH lower.
6. Start SAVING NOW. You have no time to waste. Become frugal and cut back on all "nice to haves" including some Christmas gifts.
7. Give your son a GREAT EDUCATION since it will repay ALL your efforts by at least $1M over his lifetime. Just that number makes the effort over the next 1-4 years worth it.

Take the above in the right spirit.....I have done this planning for my kids for 15 years, and have not had a sip of coke, downsized on restaurants, and repaired (instead of replaced) to pay 100% for college with my own money (of course, am going to do ALL of the above 7 steps even with the money set aside).....Why Not?


Consider sending your son to a local community college (if there is one nearby) for the first two years. These often cost significantly less per credit hour than 4 year institutions. It would allow your son to stay at home and save living expenses and at the end of two years he has an Associates Degree. Then you can transfer him into a four year school with only two years to go to complete his degree. His final degree will not indicate that the first two years were at a community college and this presents significant savings in cost.
Also, with graduation rates for 4 year schools at 55%* if he finds college is not for him after transfering, he will still have a AA degree from the community college. If someone goes straight to the 4 year school and then drops out during the third year, they have nothing.
You can also consider transfering schools in the third year as a cost saver. Attend the first two years at a state school then transfer into a more expensive private school for the final two years. Again significant cost savings just no AA degree in the mix.


A community college? Come on people. He is a successful athlete who is the team captain, he is active in his community through organizations, and he has straight A's with honor classes. He will get a full ride someplace of value. This kid is in the top tier of his peers and has worked hard to get there. Dont sell him short now by ignorantly sending him to a community college when its not necessary.

Get his ACT score over a 30 and send him to a real college on a full ride where he will continue to succeed. You shouldnt pay a dime for college- scholarships, grants, etc exist to help kids like him. I bet with a little effort he will get paid to go to college and come out with cash in the bank.

Great advice "dont assume anything until you check it out". Paying for college for this young man will be easy.

To David, Tyler, & Jeff,

[soapbox part II]

I understand that is what is happening. That is my point. I find that to make no sense. If they want to have a separate honors category where you can get extra points in an honors type ranking that is fine. But I do not understand altering the GPA.

By the way, I graduated in 1989 and took AP courses. I know they are much more common place now but I did not get any extra points on my GPA for taking an AP course. I got the highest score possible on the AP exam for those courses as well.

As an employer seeing a GPA like that, it is not very helpful to me. I can't tell what kind of grades the person really got and it makes me wonder if the 3.85 GPA is really a 3.5 with a bunch of honors stuff on it.

I would much sooner see a 3.5 GPA and then an itemization of honors credits. That tells me way more than this meaningless system of adding points on and no one knows what the meaning of the GPA is anymore.

[/soapbox part II]

If you can get above 4.0, then it's not a true 4.0 scale - some college applications will have you adjust or recalculate your score based on a standard 4.0 scale, while some will do it themselves based on your transcript. And if you're putting it on a resume, I would highly recommend using the standard score (or perhaps both, noting that one is on a 5.0 scale).

Taking (and doing well in) the advanced courses still looks great on a college application, of course.

Call a few currently working sports medicinie doctors, tell them that you would love 5 minutes of their time and ask them questions. Among the Qs, ask them how they financed their degree.

Asking the blog community here is not specific enough. *Each industry is different as to how you can best achieve your ultimate goals.*

That's what I did before I became a lawyer. That's what my sister did before she became a surgeon. Great tips.

@Apex, I understand your concern now. But a student with that kind of GPA will likely not be applying for a job out of high school and college caps at 4.0.

@Jeremy, Using the military to pay for college is a terrible terrible idea. I joined the Army at 19 because of 9/11 and fought for this country for 18 straight months in that forsaken hell hole, my unit suffered 25% combat casualties. I did it out of patriotism and duty. Doing it for college money is not even remotely worth it. Like someone else said, community college is a great choice. I attended community college after I was discharged from military service and found it to be a great environment to learn at 10% the cost. Most community colleges also guarantee admission to a 4 year university if you do well enough, mine had guarantees to all of the UC campuses including Berekeley and had a guarantee to Stanford for certain disciplines.

On one hand AP / honors classes are harder than plain courses and getting an B+ in an AP class can be much harder than an A- in a normal class. So it makes sense to alter the GPA system for it. I had 3.9 in my classes and I took several AP & advanced courses. One of my classmates took only 1 AP course and struggled in it so he took no other AP/honors classes and he ended up with a 4.0. On paper it looks like he did better but I took much harder course load. If a school looks at JUST GPA and doesn't review the actual classes then he looks better. In that situation it makes sense to give higher grade points for AP/honors.

But on the other hand what does a 4.3 mean? What is the actual scale? Is that 4.3 out of a possible 4.5 or possible 4.33 or possible 5.0 or possible 19.5? Who knows? How do you compare schools that give 4.3 max versus schools that give 4.0 max versus schools that give 4.25 max versus 5.0 max etc? Every school does it different so we don't know what a GPA means any more. You have to normalize it somehow otherwise you're comparing apples to oranges. In the end if the school just turns it into a % then getting a 4.3 out of 4.5 is no different than getting a 3.8 out of 4, so why do it at all?

@ Jeff... Thanks for serving Jeff.

I agree with phillip above. One thing I found out with my daughter, applying to med school requires high college GPA. Don't reach for top tier school if mid-level school will insure better undergraduate grades. And don't fall for the college sales pitch, "95% of our med school applicants get into med school...".That's of their senior premed students, the 6 left out of the 30 students who were premed until the flunk-out program ruined their GPA. Instead ask how many of the freshmen premeds make it to med school. My daughter's friend had to switch schools and add more classes to get her GPA up after getting her B.S. Then she got accepted into med school fine.
Check with co-op programs of State schools. Many State schools have co-op programs with their state med schools.

What happened to the SAT? I never took the ACT.

With an ACT of 28, he'll be able to receive a decent amount of scholarship money from most public universities. With that type of GPA, there's a good chance he's going to be valedictorian, in which case he may get a free ride at some schools. He'll most likely be able to take out a Stafford loan where the gov. pays the interest while he's in school.

@CC - The ACT is popular for those living in the midwest. Most schools accept both now.

Is there a followup on this? What advice did the reader take? What were the results?

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