Apply to Elite Colleges

Bookworm is graduating this year. (How did that happen?!) In the fall, he began applying to colleges. However, we decided early on he wouldn’t apply to elite colleges. Instead, he applied to community colleges and local universities. We made this choice for several reasons.

Why My Child Didn’t Apply to Elite Colleges

Even though our son has good grades, hundreds of hours of volunteer time during high school, and tests well, he decided not to apply to elite colleges. Here’s why.

He Didn’t Want to Take a Standardized Test

Apply for Elite Colleges
Photo by Ben Mullins on Unsplash

Even though he tests well, he gets anxious before tests. Thanks to COVID, many colleges made testing optional. Still, if he wanted to apply to an elite college, we both felt that taking the SAT or ACT would be beneficial. In the end, he decided that wasn’t something he wanted to do.

We Have a Tight College Budget

My husband and I have had an unconventional economic path. After we married, I worked full-time while he pursued his Master’s and then Ph.D. degree. When we had our third child, I quit my job to take care of the kids. Then, later, I started homeschooling while my husband worked full-time. In short, never, during our 21-year marriage, have we both worked full-time at the same time. Although this was the right choice for our family, this path did not allow us to set aside money for our children’s college education. Instead, our plan was always that our child would attend college where my husband works so the kids can get a substantial tuition discount.

We have been honest with our kids since the beginning that we do not have the money to send them to college. They’ll need to apply for scholarships or work to save money.

He’d Get More Merit at a Buyer School

Knowing this, we knew that he’d get more merit at mid-level schools. For instance, if he applied to an elite college, his GPA and volunteer work would be just as competitive as the other applicants. He wouldn’t stand out.

If he applied to mid-level schools, he would stand out and get more merit-based aid. (I already knew this, but I learned there’s a term for it, “buyer schools,” thanks to the book, Who Gets in and Why.) That’s exactly what happened.

He Didn’t Feel Ready to Move Away from Home

Apply to Elite Colleges
Photo by rnaol on Unsplash

Finally, he didn’t feel ready to move away from home. He applied to schools that would let him either continue to live with us or to live with my mom in Michigan. (By the way, we’re happy he felt this way because living at home is an excellent way to slash college costs.)

My Own College Experience

My own college experience was a bit bumpy. I only applied to one college—the one my best friend in high school attended. (She was a year older than me.) It was not a good fit, and I left after one semester. Then, I took a semester off and went to a community college for 2.5 years. After that, I took another semester off, transferred to a four-year university, and completed my degree in another 2.5 years. I wanted our child to pick a school that he felt was a good fit so he wouldn’t have as many disruptions to his education as I did.

How Applying to Buyer Schools Worked for Him

I would say our plan worked very well. While he still hasn’t chosen which school he will attend, his choices are wide open. He will get a free ride either at a college in Michigan near my mom or at our local university. (At the local university, he received a scholarship that will cover the amount my husband’s tuition discount does not cover.)

We don’t know yet where he’ll go, but we are happy to know that his education will be free.

Final Thoughts

Our world is getting more competitive. Applying to elite schools is common. However, we were more concerned with the financial aspect of college. Knowing that our son’s college education will be completely paid for is a relief.

If you’re the parent of seniors, did your kids apply to elite schools? How did you and your child decide what schools to apply to?

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