Your Neighbor Is NOT a College Expert!...Unless, of course, I am your neighbor…smiley

I kid… sort of.   For those of you who are long-term subscribers, you might remember this story.  It was about my client ‘Lisa’ (not her real name).  She called me one Fall morning frantic about her child’s school list (too many reaches), financial aid forms (a waste of time because she’d never qualify for anything but loans) and why hadn’t I told her that she needed to put in her housing deposit for all the state schools (because you don’t.. have to).

Hmmm.

First thing I asked when I called her back was, ‘Hey, what did you do this weekend?’  Wanna guess?  She had spent the entire weekend watching her kid compete at some HS tournament, talking college shop with all of the other moms and dads milling about.  Uh oh!

Let’s see, among many other myths and urban legends, Lisa was told that:

  • her child should be applying to 20 schools, at least.  (I’d much rather have my students demonstrate focus and be able to show interest at each school on a targeted list of 8-10 schools – their results bare this out).
  • That UF was not taking any kids from her school (not so);
  • That you need to pay your housing deposit when you apply.  Ok, that’s true… when you apply for housing , not true for Admissions
  • And finally, that financial aid was all loans, and that she shouldn’t even bother with those crazy applications because she’d never qualify anyway.

Ok, the first few were rather easily debunked with a Google.  But the financial aid piece was a little more nuanced and so I walked her through the situation as I saw it.  Lisa has two children who at some point would overlap in college. The applicant (her oldest) exceled in the classroom, had great scores, was a three year athlete and interested in the STEM disciplines.  Like many middle class families, Lisa and her husband had tried to save for college and retirement, but were working through a few investments that had gone South in the Recession.  They had done well financially, but were cash-flow strapped.    Like a lot of us.

I knew her student would have good and affordable college choices because s/he put together a solid admissions strategy that consisted of the right mix of reach, target, and safety schools with histories of financial aid and merit/talent endowment generosity.  And they started at the right time (10th grade),  receiving proper guidance with the ability to follow through in a time-appropriate manner.   And so I knew and could tell Lisa with great confidence just what they could expect to receive from the colleges that Spring.    And I was right.  S/ He’s doing well.  Third year at a top (top) school that discounted the cost by more than $50,000 per year.

Why am I sharing this story again now?  Because I know that there’s all kinds of noise out there about college.  And everyone seems to have an opinion.  But unless they’ve been working specifically in the higher education space, in this decade, I wouldn’t heed much of it.  Because how college works today is different – a new paradigm — and more importantly, every family, every situation (every child) is also different.  What you’ll be expected to pay for your child is not about what it costs (on paper) nor is it entirely about your financials — it’s also about making sure your child is targeting the right schools… for him and for you.

What may be true for your neighbor or the guy sitting next to you in the bleechers might, or more likely, might not be true for you.  What your friends say about your financial aid/merit aid prospects is likely to be completely and entirely wrong, because your friends don’t have much visibility into the details of yourfinancial life, or into your student’s real academic prospects — nor do they have a true understanding of the process.  What your friends often do have are prejudgments — about your income, your net worth, andyour student — and  misconceptions.  Just because they didn’t get any aid when their older daughter applied to college last year has little bearing on your student’s chances (or on Lisa’s). 

Remember, a broken clock tells the correct time twice a day, so your friends just might be right.  But chances are they are way off target.

A better option if you want to find out how much college should cost YOU, and how much of a discount to expect, including grants or free money (based on real facts and cases) is to come to   my last public workshop  of the year.  It will be held on October 16th in Pinecrest (Miami).   It is both free (and pitch-free) and will provide you with verified information that can help you navigate the complex Admissions process and save the typical middle class family thousands of dollars to boot.
Click here to register.   I do hope to see you there.

Best,
Peter

P.S. Feel free to forward this to a friend, relative, neighbor or colleague who is a parent of a college-bound, high school student.  They’ll probably thank you for it.

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