Free Ride vs. Better Reputation College

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Discus: College Admissions: March 2004 Archive: Free Ride vs. Better Reputation College
By Wheezer3 (Wheezer3) on Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - 09:41 am: Edit

Hypothetical (well, not really) question here: If you were offered a 4-year merit scholarship (worth over 100K) to a small LAC with a decent, but not stellar, reputation; and no money from a school with a well-known name and reputation for being selective/academically rigorous, which would you choose? Basically, would an education from the "better" school end up being worth more in the long run than the tuition money you would have saved going to the other school?

By Tropicanabanana (Tropicanabanana) on Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - 09:48 am: Edit

Depends on how wealthy your parents are. If they can spend the money without any problems, pick the school that's better academically and that's a better fit for you.

What are the two schools?

By Arizonasenior (Arizonasenior) on Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - 10:03 am: Edit

We are in the same boat and we don't have the money although according to the FASSA we do. My son wants to get into a good PhD program. We are calling these programs and asking them for input and if feeder colleges will make a difference or do they look at what the kids make of their undergraduate years.I feel that my son has worked hard at college and should be able to go to the school that is best for him. My husband on the other hand feels why rip up all these scholarships to pay 40,000 a year. There is no simple answer.

By Amethyst213 (Amethyst213) on Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - 10:23 am: Edit

We are in a similar situation. D was accepted to a small LAC (ranked #91 in USNWR latest standings) with a full tuition scholarship - this would be over $100,000 over the 4 years. Also accepted to several other schools, with awards ranging from nothing at a $40,000 plus per year school ranked in the top 10,to 3/4 tuition to another LAC in the top 50. Gut reaction is that it would be foolish to turn down so much money just for the rep of the "better" school. We could afford it, but... Since she wants to go on to graduate school (and possibly medical school) we are leaning toward the full or 3/4 tuition school. Going back for overnights to see where she really feels most comfortable. I've always heard that graduating with a high GPA is what will get you into grad school, not specifically the name of the college you went to (Ivies excluded perhaps?). Thoughts?

By Arizonasenior (Arizonasenior) on Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - 11:00 am: Edit

Money for a top 50 school is great if she is happy there. If she loves the one in the top 10 heads above the others then, I would stop and ponder. Which schools are they and in terms of future grad school and her major, how do they look? Congradulations to your daughter.

By Angstridden (Angstridden) on Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - 11:11 am: Edit

I think personally most schools offer a very good education. I went to a third tier school myself undergraduate degree and then a top school for graduate and can honestly say there was not much difference in the quality of education.
That said I think its important to select a school that is the size and meets the needs of your student.
My D. applied to one school as a safety and her peers laughed at her. She was offered a substantial scholarship to the school but it was not one of her top picks and since her others are reasonably priced (all public universities ) she has the option of going where she wants.
I also think it depends on the profession you want to enter. One girl I know is going to a $40,000 a year college to be a teacher. This doesnt make sense when you consider there are plenty of great schools that offer a good educations for half that and she wont start her career with enormous debt.
I think if you shared the school names you would get better input though.

By Angstridden (Angstridden) on Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - 11:15 am: Edit

And it depends on how comfortable you feel with debt too. I personally am debt averse. My D. at first said she wished she had applied to Duke and though we have save a substantial amount for her education Duke is not an affordable option to us and from what I understand has limited merit aid.
I just told her we couldnt afford it and there were plenty of less expensive great schools out there like William and Mary and UNC and UMD and UMICH etc..So when we did our initial selection she picked all schools we could afford. She did not pick good smaller schools where she had a chance at aid though as she did not want small.

By Jamimom (Jamimom) on Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - 11:19 am: Edit

It is truly a family decision and a very difficult one. I have seen it go either way with regrets and without so I have no advice to anyone who is pondering such a predicament. In some ways it makes it easier if there is no money offered or no money available because the choice is so much clearer.

As for graduate school, though gpa is important fro graduate school, the most important things are the grades in the area of study, GRE scores, and demonstrated interest in the field. The undergraduate college can make a difference since some department are just so much better and prepare a student for phd studies in a particular academic field very well. Also the professors in the department and their ties (where did they go for their phds?) can make a difference.

Med school is a different story. Overall grades are extremely important with emphasis on the premed courses but your major does not seem to matter. As long as you are going to a school with a decent record of sending kids to med school each year it really does not matter what its rating on the lists are. Your grades and stats are sent to a central processing place and are evaluated without much regard for the difficult of the curriculum though the Premed required courses are highlighted. Many schools use a committee system to recommend their student to med school and in a case like that, a smaller more nurturing school would generally give more generous recs than a school with a tough, cut throat rep for academics.

And cost is an issue. Though grad students often have some availabilty of teaching fellowships and research opportunities that may be paid and there are stipends and tuition waivers available, med schools want that money. Scholarships are very few and far between and are generally for very special cases, rarely from the school. For example, a small backwoods town may offer a scholarship in return for practicing in that town for 10 years after graduation. Some money for URMs are also available, but most of med school is financed with loans. Lots of them. My nephew owed $120k upon finishing and he is struggling paying a bit on these as he does his residency--he still is not making much money. My niece will owe $160K when she is done. Thank god they have no undergraduate loans on top of that.

All food for thought.

By Sjparent (Sjparent) on Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - 12:02 pm: Edit

This is an interesting topic. My D is also debating whether to take the Regent shcolarship offered at UCLA or the Presidential(14k) at USC, or go to Swarthmore which claims to have a steller pre-med program. If she gets into Harvard(her first choice) that will make it even more difficult. No chance of getting any financial aid based on FAFSA. So the question is, is it better to take the scholarship and go to a less reputed school, or go for the big name and spend $150k for the next four years. Not that we can afford. it is going to be a struggle either way. And then what happens in Med school as she is very keen on pursuing that line.

By Wheezer3 (Wheezer3) on Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - 12:02 pm: Edit

FYI, the "free ride" school is Goucher (in Maryland). The "better" school is still up in the air, but list includes BC, Villanova, Vassar, Smith, and some Ivies. I guess I'd have to say that the Ivies would be a no-brainer (if accepted, of course), but what about a school like Boston College or Villanova?

By Mike2008 (Mike2008) on Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - 12:31 pm: Edit

Save the monies for the graduate school.

Check out the graduate school acceptance rates from those undergraduate school.

The last degree from last school is more important.

By Mary1019 (Mary1019) on Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - 01:03 pm: Edit

I'm afraid my son will have a tough choice, too. He just got word that he won a full ride (plus some cash and a professorial assistanship!) to Mich State's Honors College and their Lyman Briggs school of science. They have a pretty good reputation, but he's waiting to hear from 5 others, including Ivies. I think I have him convinced that he should avoid loans, especially since he plans on med school, (Thanks, Jamimom for your input on that!) but if there's a chance for a selective school for $6000-8000/year with no loans, it'll be a VERY difficult choice. (By the way, $6000-8000 is a lot of money for us considering our current finances, so it's not a no-brainer like it would be for someone with a higher income. Michigan economy is still pretty bad!)

I'm hoping that the remaining schools offer him packages that will make the final decision an easy one, but I suppose that's not likely.

By Angstridden (Angstridden) on Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - 01:05 pm: Edit

I agree with the money for graduate school..or other things. Villanova is a good school but I would not spend the $ to go there over the free ride.

By Amethyst213 (Amethyst213) on Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - 02:46 pm: Edit

Our free ride is Goucher too! I haven't heard too much about this school, daughter spent last summer there at the Summer Arts Institute as she is a dancer. She liked the campus on our other visits, and likes the idea of being able to take one class a semester at JHU, Loyola, Towson, (I forget the other 2 schools involved). The study abroad program looks good, I'm just not quite sure how good other academics are. They have moved up from a 3rd tier school a few years ago to #91 in the USNWR rankings this year. Any info on this school would be appreciated.

By Wheezer3 (Wheezer3) on Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - 03:56 pm: Edit

Amethyst-- Goucher had an excellent reputation when it was all women-- people of our parents' generation (and some of ours, too) absolutely flip out when I tell them that D got in with a merit scholarship. I guess when it went co-ed it had to reach a little bit farther down to get men to attend and thus the drop in selectivity/reputation. Our issue, besides the recognition level, is size-- D is leaning toward a larger school, having spent the last 4 years in a tiny one. We'll just have to wait and see.

By Sac (Sac) on Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - 06:02 pm: Edit

We're facing similar issue -- a UC (already cheaper, since we're in-state) with a Regents vs elite private university with no aid.

At the start of the process, we talked to our son about whether he intended to go on to law school or med school since, in that case, he should not accumulate debt for undergrad. He seems pretty set on a PhD program instead, and is more likely to get at least some funding for that. Still, how can you hold a kid to this decision three or four years from now? All we've said is we will make the first four years happen one way or other, but pocket money and graduate school are up to him. When the UCLA Regents arrived, for the first time he really faced this issue -- not just because it is a large merit award, but because a lot of the perks that come with it could make the experience much different than that of the average student at such a large school (priority enrollment, active network of fellow Regents Scholars, contact with faculty, on campus PARKING, etc). He decided he will visit.

This might be something to consider at some of the school your kids are also in to -- often scholarships come not just with money but also with prestige and perks that could alter and improve the experience.

By Suz (Suz) on Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - 06:37 pm: Edit

the nat'l merit scholarhips from OU is a beautiful thing... and my goal is to get out of undergrad w/ no debt. but do you guys think that going to a school like OU would greatly hinder my chances of getting into a better college for graduate school? my bro went to OU and is going to Duke on a full ride for graduate school next year, but he did engineering and i think it was all the awesome research opportunities he had that put him over the top. i want to do something with history and stuff, so not so much opportunity for research... but what do you guys think about how much your choice of undergrad college affects which grad programs you'll get into? this is still kinda on topic i hope..

By Libsters (Libsters) on Tuesday, March 23, 2004 - 06:58 pm: Edit

SJparent --- How do you know that your daughter has the Presidential from USC, I thought who gets what wasn't released yet. Just wondering ... Thanks = )

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