How I conquered my guilt and saved on college costs
I vividly remember my feelings of guilt and fear when Rebecca announced her dream college. It was a perfect fit for her in so many ways… except one. That highly selective school was expensive and didn’t offer any merit scholarships.
There was no way for those of us who do not qualify for need-based aid to save on college costs cost when sending our kids to the university they’d worked so hard to get into.
On the outside, I was so excited at the prospect of my eldest daughter making her college dream a reality. The two of us went to visit in the dead of winter – no sense seeing the school on a warm day. No, my California girl needed to get a taste of walking to class in the snow and wind.
We did all the right things: attended events for prospective students in Los Angeles, sent follow-up emails after our visit, talked to current students, participated in a class on campus, and of course, worked hard on the admissions application.
Outwardly, I did everything I could think of to support Rebecca’s goal.
But inside I was terrified, confused and guilt-ridden. My values about education came into question. We always knew our kids would go to college. And presumably, the “best” school they get into.
I felt like a bad parent for having concerns about how to save on college costs.
Suddenly “rising college costs” was not just a term in the news. It was very personal.
What was too much to spend? Why didn’t we plan better? Should Rebecca be allowed to apply if there was a good chance we’d decide a particular school was too expensive? What could we still do to save on college costs?
We didn’t qualify for need-based aid. Yet we wanted to be smart about how much we spent and how we paid for it. Were more elite schools worth the extra expense? How could we deny our daughter the opportunity of attending one of the highest-ranking schools in the country?
Finally, Rebecca and I had a very candid talk about college, money and more. We decided she would apply and accept the possibility she’d get in and not be able to go.
I was still terrified and embarrassed by own feelings. I had so many conflicting emotions.
And why didn’t our high school and private college counselors guide us better on how to save on college costs?
How can cost NOT be a factor in creating the college list?
No one asked us if cost was a factor in where Rebecca goes to college.
I asked our private college counselor if Rebecca was applying to any schools that would be less expensive. Specifically, I wanted to know about merit scholarships. The advisor then handed me a slip of paper with the names of two large databases and told me it was easy to figure out.
Initially, I spent 100 hours researching merit scholarships and studying how they work. That number has multiplied over the years as I perform the same targeted research for my clients.
Sure, it’s exciting to envision our kids at awesome colleges, soaking up all the advantages the school has to offer.
But it’s also reckless not to make certain that students apply to some schools their families can most easily afford.
I’ve spoken to lots of college counselors. One head counselor at a well-respected private high school said:
“We do a great job at admissions. But I also know that many of our students will get into schools that their families can’t afford. They’ll end up at community college, dropping out, transferring because of cost, or taking on college debt.”
A lot has changed since Rebecca applied to college.
Together, my three girls were awarded $600,000 in merit scholarships for undergraduate study and more for graduate school. We created options for where they went to college and how we could save on college costs.
All three have graduated college, each using her achievements and uniqueness to lower the cost of college in a different way.
Most surprising, I am grateful that we didn’t just “bite the bullet” and pay whatever it took to send the girls to whichever schools they chose without creating options. As painful as it was, we all gained so much from giving the girls the gift of using her uniqueness to lower the cost of her own college education. The rewards have been immeasurable in so many unexpected, positive ways.
In 2012, Three Wishes Scholarships – named in honor of our family – was born. It has evolved to become Three Wishes College Strategies to reflect the importance of strategy for success with all aspects of the college process, especially…how to save on college costs.
I’ve had the privilege of advising families nationwide on how to leverage their achievements and uniqueness to get into more colleges, pay less, and become empowered to reach their potential.
Thank you for allowing me to be part of your journey.
Our family was fortunate to have the means to pay more if necessary but we wanted to make good financial decisions about college. So many other families don’t have that luxury. The current system doesn’t include how to save on college costs as part of college planning.
Together, we can take control over rising college costs and prepare our kids for college so they become empowered for life.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how you can save on your own college cost.