It was a bumpy ride. Did we make the right decision?

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: It was a bumpy ride. Did we make the right decision?
By Kryonme (Kryonme) on Saturday, August 21, 2004 - 01:19 am: Edit

My son was bent on going to Yale. He loved the campus--especially the dorm situation, he loved the atmosphere, and he loved the status of the school. Unfortunately, he was rejected as were a majority of other applicants. He was devistated. He didn't feel like applying to any other high caliber schools. He sit and wallowed until he realized that he had mere days to get in his other applications. He sat down and hammered out a list of colleges to which he would also willingly attend. Days later we found ourselves mailing applications to Carleton College (where he struggled between applying ED and RD--he applied ED and then called them changing it to RD), and his safety school--University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.

The next day he sat down at the computer and went to the Princeton review's website. He took the college match quiz. His list displayed no reach schools. And at the top of the list was Brown University. He decided that it couldn't hurt to attempt the ivies again. He went to their website and started his application online. Then, just for good measure he decided to send an application to UPenn.

A few weeks later he recieved his acceptance from St. Thomas. He wasn't too thrilled. It wasn't the school he wished to attend. But all that changed suddenly when he recieved a letter that told him he had been selected to recieve their most prestigious scholarship--which would in turn make his 4 year education free. He felt so guilty. He knew he didn't want to go there, and yet, he liked the money. Soon after he recieved his acceptance letter from Carleton. This, to him, was much more tolerable. He liked the school. He told us if it was on the east coast it would be his number 1 choice. Still the full ride scholarship from STU hung over his head. My wife and I encouraged him to take it. Finally, he decided to turn STU down. We waited a little longer for the ivies to reply. Finally the notice came. The decisions had been put on the internet. He went to the school's sites and looked. He had been rejected outright at UPenn, but at Brown he had been waitlisted.

We accept that the waitlist is more of a consolation than anything. We didn't expect anything to happen. So, he continued with the enrollment process. He accepted Carleton's offer of admission--which, by the way, would have set him back only $6,000 per year (including room and board, and loans). He filled out roommate questionnaires and personal health info. He visited for orientation week. But then an unexpected surprise. In the middle of June, a day before his high school finals started, he recieved a notice of acceptance at Brown U. He had 10 days to respond. The packet he recieved had financial award info, and information packets. He was thrown into a tizzy. He didn't know where to go. He had an emotional attachment to Carleton. He felt almost obligated to them, yet he preferred Brown. It was everything he had hoped for. However, Brown would have set him back $16,000 a year. He couldn't afford it. We put in an appeal, and we were awarded another $5,000. Still, it sets him back $11,000 a year with about $4,000 in loans. In the end he called up Carleton and withdrew his admission. He sent in his acceptance to Brown and managed to pass all of his finals under the enormous stress.

Now, this summer, he has done nothing but work. He is out past midnight every night, and wakes up at or before 8:00 to go to his first job. He works there half the day, then leaves to work at a second job, where he waits tables. I feel like he is killing himself to get into this school. He wouldn't have had to do any of this if he had just accepted the offers from the other schools. Did he make the right decision? Did we make the right decision? I just hate to think that he will sacrafice every summer so that he can study. When can will he socialize? Just as a side note, he has made enough to pay off his first and second semester the first year, not including the loans. Will he be able to continue paying off his school years? Will his financial aid be lessened by his working? How much will this affect the award next year?

By Cheers (Cheers) on Saturday, August 21, 2004 - 01:27 am: Edit

Stand back and let him reach for the stars. If he can't handle the stress, you'll see the signs by Christmas. Most of all, try to pretend you think he CAN do it. He'll appreciate the support.

By Northstarmom (Northstarmom) on Saturday, August 21, 2004 - 01:27 am: Edit

I think that it is good that you allowed him to make his own decision.

I am, incidentally, a parent who worked summers and during the school year to help pay for my Harvard education. This included working 2 jobs (for a total of 60 hours a week) the summer before freshman year.

I also had loans, which I paid off on time despite going to grad school and having a period of unemployment during the loan payment period.

Was my education worth it? Heck, yes. I am not talking about financially since by my own choice, I did not choose to go into high paying careers. However, the education that I got was marvelous, as were the people whom I was around.

And I would be very resentful today if my parents had made me go down the street to the virtually free education I would have gotten at the liberal arts college in my home town. (The education would have been virtually free because my mom worked there).

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Saturday, August 21, 2004 - 01:27 am: Edit

More power to your son for being willing to work so hard to go to a dream school. IMHO, you made the right decision. Many people live to regret and wonder "what if" when the make a practical but not heartfelt decision. Congratulation to your son, he'll love Brown and he's clearly a hard worker who will have no problem paying back loans if he needs them.

By Fendergirl (Fendergirl) on Saturday, August 21, 2004 - 01:40 am: Edit

hope he has a good time at that school. congrats to him. tell him to hang in there, i know how it is. i work 50ish hours a week even now, and i'll still be working like 30-40 a week during school. if i can do it, so can he :)

By Mom2003 (Mom2003) on Saturday, August 21, 2004 - 06:53 am: Edit

He sounds like a terrific kid. You must be very proud of him. Brown is a wonderful place and he will have a great time and come out a better person for taking responsibility for his own choices.

By Bookworm (Bookworm) on Saturday, August 21, 2004 - 07:52 am: Edit

I think it is wonderful how passionate your son is in pursuing his dreams. He clearly wanted an East coast school and is willing to work for it. These seem to be the elusive qualities that colleges are looking for, and will hold him in stead over a lifetime.
Friend's S faced similar situation, letting S go to more expensive school. Second year, he was offered resident job, which eliminated R & B charge.
If it makes you feel better, we faced full merit vs. full pay at S's dream school, and S choosing to use his inherited $ for dream school. Its the best fit for him, and, like Mom 101 said, "no regrets"

By Ndbisme5 (Ndbisme5) on Saturday, August 21, 2004 - 08:09 am: Edit

College admissions and picking colleges is a tough thing to do. I'm glad your son went with his heart and picked the college he wanted to attend.

I don't believe that there was any one good choice he could have made. All universities are great and offer students an education.

While I don't particularly understand the out-of-pocket costs for Brown (I presume 11-4=9k), I often wonder why people are so scarred of loans. I mean, as an attorney, I will probably make in one year the same amount as all my student loans combined. Loans aren't so bad.

Hard work never hurt no one :-). I wish your family the best of luck!

By Aparent4 (Aparent4) on Saturday, August 21, 2004 - 08:54 am: Edit

Sounds as though your son is a very motivated young man. I am proud he will be attending my alma mater. ;-) Keep in mind that by next summer, he may be able to get higher-paying jobs so he can work less. He needs to start looking around early, even as early as October, for next summer. He can probably get some leads from the career development office, but the best advice comes from other students. Also, he may be able to work during the month of January. Re social life, my own kids have always made friends on the job. I came out of Brown having worked hard year-round and having taken out quite a few loans; once I had an adult job it wasn't a big deal to pay them off. Congratulations to your son.

By Mini (Mini) on Saturday, August 21, 2004 - 10:49 am: Edit

I think his commitment to school is more important than the school itself. 35 years from now, which school he goes to will likely make little difference, but the memory of having worked hard for it to make his dream happen will be one of the defining aspects of his youth.

I know; I've been there.Even in the Dark Ages, I couldn't afford (even with scholarships), my snooty LAC, which I desperately wanted to attend. In my senior year, every weekend after school at my public magnet school in NYC, I'd jump on a Greyhound Bus out of the Port Authority bus terminal to head to Catskill Mountain resorts, where I'd work as a waiter or busboy. I'd get there at 5, and work started at 5:30. I'd work until 11:30. Go to bed, and get up at 5:45 the next morning to start setting up for breakfast. After finishing work at 10 p.m., I'd sometimes work the cocktail party (illegally of course) or the nightclub until 2 a.m. or so. Get up the next morning at 5:45 a.m., work until 3 p.m, catch the bus back to NYC, doing my homework on the way. And then I'd do the same work all summer. Ah, youth!

Now I have to tell you -- I made better money at those hotels than I did for 10 years after graduating from college! But that's not the point. My memories of the work I put in are equally as fresh in my mind as are my college experiences, and looking back at it, I may actually may have learned more from the work experience that was irreplaceable than the experiential differential between the snooty LAC and the cheaper spread.

Celebrate his decision - and what you have done to raise a wonderful son. He is going places!

By Bluejay (Bluejay) on Saturday, August 21, 2004 - 11:18 am: Edit

Congratulations also! Even more so if I understand it correctly and your son is paying for all of this himself with no parental contribution?

By Kryonme (Kryonme) on Saturday, August 21, 2004 - 11:45 am: Edit

We don't really have the funds to help him out. As a family of 8 people it would be an extremely difficult to justify helping him out financially. We told him from the beginning that we would not contribute financially to his college education. He worked hard during high school to get the grades he needed to get good scholarships and to get into good schools. He didn't even start saving for college. He decided to put the money he made in high school into a ROTH IRA. We thought it was kind of funny, but he's been in charge of his finances since he was eight, and he's done very well. He made a lot of money on his own by selling baseball cards, beanie babies, and pokemon cards. Fortunately, or unfortunately, (Only time will tell) however, his college will not see any of that money. We're proud of him; we just can't help him greatly. That's why we were so happy when we found out he could go to college for free.

By Marite (Marite) on Saturday, August 21, 2004 - 12:01 pm: Edit


I second what everyone else has said. Your son is an awesome young man. It's good, too, that he put his earnings into a Roth IRA; otherwise they might have reduced his scholarship amount as they would have been counted as assets. Once he is in college, he could try for an RA position, get work-study jobs (he'll need to register with the financial aid office and start lining up jobs asap as the best ones go fast). He may also be eligible for additional scholarships.
I am not sure I understand the stats when you say he will be set back $11k per year with $5k in loans. Does it mean a total of $16k or a total of $6k? Whatever the case, although he will not graduate debt-free, I believe the amount of debt will not be excessive. Kudoes to him. He has the experience of time-management already that will be crucial to his college success.

By Kryonme (Kryonme) on Saturday, August 21, 2004 - 12:06 pm: Edit

He'll be paying about 6K per year.

By Marite (Marite) on Saturday, August 21, 2004 - 12:49 pm: Edit

In other words, he'll have the equivalent of less than a year's tuition worth of debt. It's a great trade-off for attending one of the country's most selective schools. My S loved Brown when he visited last Spring.

By Achat (Achat) on Saturday, August 21, 2004 - 01:12 pm: Edit

Wow, what a story. Congratulations on raising such a wonderful kid!

By Rhonda63 (Rhonda63) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 09:15 am: Edit

Paying an extra 5K a year to go to Brown (and being able to borrow it, right?) seems like the right choice over Carleton to me.

I wanted to mention what one of my colleagues told me recently -- she is a Brown graduate (is now an attorney) and was asking what my D (a Brown student) was doing over the summer. I told her (working) and she told me about her summer after freshman year at Brown -- she worked two jobs and her mother also worked two jobs in order to make the soph year tuition payment. They fell short and she expected to have to take leave that semester to earn more $$, but at the last minute (after the fees were due), she got an outside scholarship that made up the difference. She also worked while at Brown. I think she feels it was worth it -- she was recently back for her 15 year reunion!

By Cangel (Cangel) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 09:44 am: Edit

Your son sounds like a remarkable, self-starting young man who will more than make the most of his opportunity.
He also sounds like a young person who will not allow himself to graduate with $40-50000 in debt, and that is probably the most important lesson he could have learned - hard work is always rewarded - congratulations!

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