How Are You Paying For College?

by Grace aka costofcollege

As the deadline for high school seniors to choose a college approaches, the challenge of how to pay is has been a recent topic of discussion for many families.  Totebaggers are savers and unlikely to qualify for much need-based financial aid, so this timeline may not be relevant to many readers here.  But it does show some generalized steps along the path to saving and paying for college while giving us a starting point for discussion.

20150412.COCPlanningTimelineB

Before High School

Start saving for college ASAP:  This is the relatively uncomplicated part.  Although we can’t predict the costs of college over a child’s lifetime, it almost always makes sense to begin saving early on.  Even if MOOCs or other innovations make higher education more affordable in the future, there’s usually not much of a risk in saving too much since there are options for dealing with “left-over money in your 529 plan”.  Still, it makes sense to look at all the pros and cons of 529 plans.

Before Junior Year of High School

  • NMS potential:  If your child tends to score in the 95%ile of standardized tests, he may have a shot at earning a National Merit Scholarship.  A little test prep can make the difference in qualifying for significant merit financial aid.
  • Base Income Year (BIY): If there is a chance your family may qualify for need-based financial aid, you should explore ways to minimize income during the BIY, which is the 12-month period that begins January 1 during your child’s junior year.  Since the BIY is used as a snapshot for determining financial need, you may want to avoid selling stocks or property that will create large capital gains, refrain from converting to a Roth IRA, and defer bonus or other income if possible.

Junior Year of High School

  • Create list of schools:  Get serious and make a realistic list that includes academic and financial safeties.
  • Can we afford it? 1-2-3:  Determine affordability by using the 1-2-3 Method or something similar.

Senior Year of High School

Senior year is the busiest time for families as they handle the many details of the college application process, including final determination of how they will be paying.  Some important acronyms:

The two main forms used in determining financial aid eligibility are the FAFSA and PROFILE.
FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Financial Aid. It is a form submitted to the government that collects the financial information needed to decide eligibility for federal FA. It’s also used by many colleges to determine institutional aid.
PROFILE is the financial aid application service offered by the College Board, used by about 400 colleges to learn if students qualify for non-federal student aid. There is a fee to submit a PROFILE, whereby the FAFSA is free.

The SAR (Student Aid Report) is a summary of your FAFSA responses and provides “some basic information about your eligibility for federal student aid”.

What’s your approach in planning on how to pay for college?  Do you feel well prepared, or a bit nervous about how you’ll handle the costs?  If your kids are older, tell us what you learned.  Share your wisdom and ask your questions.

(A version of this post previously appeared in Cost of College.)

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324 thoughts on “How Are You Paying For College?

  1. I’m pretty much assuming that we will not qualify for any need-based aid. Right now my focus is just saving via a 529 & a Coverdell (which we are using because the likelihood of him staying in private school for K-12 is high), and paying off our mortgage aggressively so that we won’t have any major financial obligations by the time college comes around. My thought is that with no mortgage, we would be able to cover college costs out of tax-advantaged savings and cash flow when the time comes.

    But DS is 7, so a lot can change between now and then. I’m definitely curious what those further down the road are doing.

  2. We save $400 per kid per month in a 529. In looking at my private college’s tuition and assuming the tuition increases continue at the same percentage, we would only have enough for about 2 years worth of tuition in the 529s. I am hoping that we would have enough to cover above that if they got in somewhere amazing, but don’t want them to count on it. DH and I think we have a decent shot of retiring by 50 so I think I’m more inclined to tell each kid, this is how much you have, shop wisely. I know a woman who is fabulously wealthy, but told her daughter that if she got the Hope Scholarship and went to Georgia (free ride) that she could then have what she would have spent on college to get her life started. Her daughter took her up on the offer.

  3. If we had not moved about 8 years ago, the house we were living in would be paid off now. I occasionally second guess myself on that decision. We limited our oldest to looking at state schools, because that is all I thought we could afford. She did get a scholarship to the out-of-state State U she attended her freshmen year, but we were still on the hook for about 2/3 of tuition, plus room and board, books, etc.

    Because Texas has no state income tax, we did not use a 529 plan. We created a savings fun where we invested in stocks. Another regret is not getting into the Texas Tomorrow fund, or whatever it’s called, in the late 90’s. It would have locked in tuition. But at the time, I couldn’t imagine that we would stay in Texas long enough for my kids to go to college here. Don’t ever ask my opinions on the future. So I have allocated the college fund over the number of years we expect each to be in school, with a slight weighting for inflation for the younger of the two, and I sell off that many shares per year (except when things are really down), and we pay the rest out of current income. It has worked so far, but again that is paying public school rates.

    I think it would be a mistake for either of our kids to go deeply in to debt for private school when I think the public options are good, but if scholarships were available I think a smaller school environment would be better. However, I do not subscribe to the philosophy that every student should get to go to their dream school. A second or third choice school is “good enough” in my book, and will provide them with plenty of opportunities. I think settling for second or third choice and graduating $80K less in debt is an excellent trade-off.

  4. Our kids are 7, 5, 3. We have prioritized saving for retirement, but I recently increased the amounts going into the Schwab 529s – they still don’t have much in them, but I would rather front-load the retirement contributions at this point. I have seen clients with approx. 250K in retirement and 65K in college savings, which strikes me as too much toward the college savings side.

  5. MBT – I agree w/you on the public v. private. I wouldn’t have said that a few years ago. My small private was perfect for me and because we were very middle class I got a ton of financial aid. We won’t be in the same situation and so I think for the upper middle class, public probably makes way more sense unless your kid is getting academic scholarships.

  6. What about spending money? It looks like work study is need based and many here feel that in high school, school is their job. So, I assume that will continue into college. Some might say, what about summers? Well, that is often the time when valuable but unpaid internships are available.

    $500/month, $1000/month? What are you planning on and what do you think is appropriate.

  7. 529s + commitments from grandparents primarily.

    Please remember there is a lot of merit aid out there. e.g. 1300 (1600 basis) SAT + high GPA was a significant award from one of the schools one of my non-NMS kids was eligible for. And lower (like say 1150 SAT and good but not great GPA gets something, just not as much) tiers exist, too.

    Private schools can be quite generous. My two college kids have both gotten cash awards for their record of community service. Some operate on the theory of high-price, high-discount, knowing they need to deliver an average tuition revenue per student significantly below list price. So it’s kind of a sleeves-of-my-vest award from the school’s perspective, but few people pay the list price. Sure, some kids pay full freight, but a lot of MC/UMC kids get $$ for non-extraordinary achievement(s).

    [Not talking about Ivies or others who say they only provide need-based aid].

    And, to reiterate my belief: as long as the student does well, i.e. consistently on Dean’s list and/or graduates with honors, FOR MOST PEOPLE the undergraduate school does not matter that much.

  8. My kids are extremely lucky. My father started gifting money annually when they were born and we set up a trust for it. My ex and I wanted to pay for their college ourselves so I aggressively invested those gifts with the intent that they had a very long time horizon – all with my father’s blessing. Of course the divorce changed things and I am not sure how much of their college costs my ex and I will be able to afford – totally depends on where they end up. However, they both have enough to go wherever they want and will get no need based aid. I have started to de-risk DD’s holdings in anticipation of college in a few years – and handing the money over to her at some point if it not used for college or grad school.

  9. Our original plan was to save 1/3, cover 1/3 out of cash flow, and take loans for 1/3 if necessary. We started saving before DD was born in a basic Vanguard Total Stock Market index fund (because you need a SS# to open a 529), then added new contributions to a 529 once she was born. The MD tax deduction is I think $2500, so when we moved here, we rounded up and started doing $250/month per kid. Then someone — I think on this blog — mentioned that was per parent, I confirmed that, and now we do $250 per month per kid per parent.

    I knew we were never going to get need-based aid, so the other aspect of my “strategy” (quotes = implies far more effort than is actually merited) is to encourage my kids to do things a little outside the norm — think low brass vs. flute (although that’s really more “improving likelihood of admission” vs. “get a scholarship” stuff — my kids aren’t talented enough to get to scholarship level). My secret weapon is my mom: as a professor, she totally knows the system, so I plan to go to her for advice on which colleges are a fit for my kids’ strengths/interests/personalities/test scores/etc., and which ones might be interested in/able to give a merit scholarship if my kids qualify.

    Since we made our original plans, we’ve been pretty fortunate in a number of ways — top of the list being that DH got stable employment in a city where I had an office, which has increased our income significantly over the past decade. In addition, my mom and stepdad started making 529 contributions as our main annual Christmas gift, and part of my stepdad’s estate is now in trust for the grandkids’ educations. So my new plan is to pay for everything out of savings and cash flow and to save the trust money for less-well-funded cousins and grad school. I also plan to send my kids to the best school they can get into that is a fit for who they are and what they want to do (i.e., probably not Harvard).

    Interesting that my mindset is so different from Atlanta’s — our retirement plans are specifically timed around the kids finishing college, out of the feeling that we won’t really be free until then (same reason why we moved to a 15-year mortgage, which will finish up around that same time). It just never occurred to me to retire earlier and then tell my kids “we have $XX saved for you, so use it wisely.” And I don’t mean that as a criticism, I mean it literally never occurred to me as an option. When I was a kid, it meant the world that my mom told me that she’d find a way to send me to the best school I could get into, and so being able to tell my kids that was one of the first things on my mental list of “things to do with the increased income.” Probably the result of being raised by college professors, so not saying it’s rational or efficient.

  10. We put some money into the Washington State prepaid tuition fund (Grandma opened GET accounts) a few years ago, when it was a better deal than it is now. We haven’t done anything else with 529 accounts but for the relatively short time until our kids start college, I’m not sure stocks will provide a great return, given the limitations of 529 accounts and stock market returns over the past 6 years. My goal is for them to graduate without undergraduate debt if they choose a state school or possibly pay what we would have paid for state school if they choose somewhere more expensive. We are some of the only people I know locally who have saved for their kids’ college at all- many people with kids the age of ours still have their own student loans. That sounds less common on this board.

    I suspect that lower tier privates will be closing/consolidating. And I think the cost of Income Based Repayment to the federal government for student loans is drastically underestimated. Totebaggers understand how the game is played, but lots of people are taking out loans for expenses and tuition that their expected salaries will clearly never allow them to pay back. It is unclear to me whether the expansion of income based repayment in the past few years was a deliberate, undercover political strategy to transfer income to the poor or if the-politicians-I-disagree-with are really that ignorant.

  11. “What about spending money?”

    Current baseline expectation: we pay for room and board (i.e., basic meal plan on campus); she can get a summer job to cover the rest. If she gets an opportunity for an unpaid internship in her field, awesome, happy to reconsider. But (a) I doubt that’s much of an option until maybe junior year, so there’s a couple of summers she can work, and (b) if she keeps wanting to go to med school, don’t know if internships are even relevant for med school acceptance (would have to ask Ada about that), so it may not be an issue.

    But what the heck do I know, she hasn’t even started HS yet. I kinda figure this is all like my birthing plan: a really good exercise to go through to think about what matters to you and how you’d like things to go, but something you should never expect to actually happen in real life.

  12. Well, my basic plan is SUNY, which actually costs less per year than what we were paying the last year of DD’s daycare. If DS1 could manage to get his GPA up just a little, there is even a small merit scholarship in the school of engineering at the top choice SUNY that he could get. I have pointed out to him numerous times that a small merit scholarship would make the difference between being really poor at college or having some spending money.
    I also have a tuition exchange benefit, and there are some decent schools on the list. The big problem is that you can only have one family member on this at a time – and the two boys overlap by two years. That could be a really ugly problem. Riight now, I am inclined to save it for DS2. Why? Because his grades are absolutely stellar, seemingly with little effort. If he keeps it up – and I think he might, because he also really CARES – he could be the one to get into a really good school.
    DD does not overlap – there are 4 years between her and DS2. And at her age, it is really impossible to predict what she will want to do.

    I am worried about DS1. I think I have posted before -he has inattentive type ADHD, really a pretty bad case. He is also really smart, which we know at this point because he did neuropsychological testing last year. His issues with his GPA are solely due to ADHD. This year, his grades have improved a lot (but still not perfect) with a 504 plan, weekly visits to a coach who is really good with him, medication, and constant monitoring by me. But if even the slightest thing deviates from the plan, he messes up again. We use a system right now where each teacher checks his planner to make sure he has written down all assignments, then I check the planner and make sure the assignments were done in the evening, and then he scans and emails everything so it doesn’t get lost in transit. Last quarter, there was a sub in his science class for most of the first half, and she didn’t give a rodent’s behind about the 504, and routinely signed off on his planner even when it was missing lots of stuff. And she didn’t write down the assignments on the board, so there were usually missing assignments in the planner. He would get home, assume he only had to do X because that is what the planner said, and then he would find out a week later that he was also supposed to do Y and Z and now had 0’s for them.

    So how is he going to make it in college? I see kids like him all the time and my school, and routinely, they flunk out. It isn’t the case that he doesn’t care, and I suspect he isn’t going to grow out of this, since he has been like this since toddlerhood. My sib was also very much like this, back in an era with no meds (which she does take now). She lived at home for college and got lots of parental support, and that is how she made it through. Is that what we are going to need to do?

  13. We plan on funding an in-state public university education for our three kids. Anything above that would require aid, loans, direct contributions, on their part. They all know the numbers, and they know what they need to do if they want to attend a school with a high price tag. We’ll have four consecutive years with two kids in college at the same time.

    We did not save a significant amount for college. We had some very lean years when DH was unemployed / ramping in a new field and my first priority was getting our retirement savings back on track. DH and I are both 50+, so we can raid the retirement funds for tuition if needed but I seriously doubt that would ever happen.

    Our oldest kid received a considerable amount of direct aid (no loans) that brought her private university net out of pocket tuition (in the mid $50’s range) down to the cost of an in state university. This was a key factor in her/our decision to go there. She is bright, but not a NMS finalist. She really wanted to go to the state flagship university, but we convinced her that her current school was probably a better choice. We gave her the option of transferring after her freshman year, but she’s happy where she is and things have worked out nicely. She provides her own spending $ with a small job on campus, life guarding and babysitting. She went on a club sponsored spring break trip and we split the cost 50-50. I suspect my parents are giving her some spending money, too.

    Kid #2, a junior, is a completely different animal. I suspect that he will attend a less prestigious branch of the state university system and then transfer at some point to the flagship u if he keeps his grades up. We’ll see.

    Kid #3 is a freshman, so we have some time yet.

  14. “and I suspect he isn’t going to grow out of this, since he has been like this since toddlerhood.”

    Maybe you don’t grow out of it, but you do learn coping skills. I very clearly had the same thing, which no one ever looked for in girls back IMD(TM) — I mean, I walked to school without a freaking coat in February, because I *didn’t notice it was cold* (also left my coat on the bus once — hmm, maybe it’s just about coats). And yet, much to my own surprise, I have managed to hold down a job for 30+ years.

    I think the current science is that ADHD kids are basically 2-3 years slower in developing than neurotypical kids. They may not ever reach “normal,” but they do catch up to some degree over time. And experience helps them learn what kinds of habits and routines work for them.

    But maybe the real problem is the busywork and box-checking at his current school. Maybe he’ll do better at a place where his grade is 1/3 midterm and 2/3 final exam? When he’s not getting knocked down daily/weekly because he used a paper clip instead of a staple to affix the cover sheet to his TPS report? The nice thing about college is that they’ve basically got one for every personality and type of kid — you may have to look harder for the right setting, but it’s out there.

    Along those lines, I’d also advocate for thinking about spending more of the $$ on DS1 — DS2 sounds like he will knock it out of the park anywhere he goes and have a lot more opportunities and scholarships available to him, whereas DS1 might both be more limited in his choices and truly need a specific kind of environment to succeed.

  15. LfB – I’m probably being more tough on here than I actually will be in real life.:) Our goal is to have about $200K for each of them, which should cover undergraduate at a public and then some. If there is a private they want to attend and they can get some merit aid I’d be willing to kick in an extra $50K or so. I have no idea how our investments will do over the next ten years, if tuition will continue to increase at 3 to 4% per year, etc. to know if this will all pan out. There are just too many variables, but I do like the idea of them really thinking about ROI when it comes to tuition.

  16. LfB – we have a similar 1/3 savings, loans, cashflow plan and don’t expect to pay full freight. I mentioned this to a friend of mine and she was SHOCKED I expected my kids to work during their college years and that I wasn’t going to pay the full cost. She never worked and did the whole sorority thing but had a roommate that had to work nearly full time because her parents refused to pay anything (at a small private liberal arts college). I worked summers/breaks, had a work study job and never expected my parents to pay the full fare. I also had merit and need based aid. Completely different perspectives.

    One thing we did agree on is that it is nearly impossible to determine what 1/3 means. It’s all so up in the air. What we have done is put some money aside each month for each boy, maximize our retirement savings and are working on paying down our mortgage.

  17. To clarify, we did not qualify for any financial aid other than Stafford loans. DD’s aid is pure merit aid.

  18. “When I was a kid, it meant the world that my mom told me that she’d find a way to send me to the best school I could get into.”

    Mine promised the same thing and I want so badly to make the same promise to mine someday. But with private schools projected to cost about a half million per child in 20 years, and wanting to have 3+ children, I’m not sure we can realistically promise that. It’s crazy to me that college is likely to cost us more than any other spending category by a huge margin. It dwarfs things like “how much house can we afford.”

  19. she can get a summer job to cover the rest.

    How realistic is that in this day in age? I’ve gotten some pushback on the idea of kids working in high school because those kind of jobs don’t exist any more. Also, In My Day most kids worked summers doing the same job they had in high school, waiting tables, stocking shelves, GAP, Structure, Circut City, etc. I doubt it’s as easy to find something if you aren’t already trained.

  20. My parents told me they could send me to the local public university (the state flagship but not particularly notable among state flagships in that era), and if I wanted to go anywhere else, I would have to figure it out myseflf. Which I did, but it was in an era when there was a lot more financial aid available to at least the lower tier of the middle class. I am honestly glad they did that because it meant I took a lot more responsiblity for college planning

  21. I just looked up my alma mater… it was $24k all in back in the late 90s. Today it’s $37k all in. Inflation would make that late 90s $24k equal to ~$36k today. Not bad that my alma mater’s tuition increases kept up with inflation. Better than my state U which notoriously increases tuition at higher rates than inflation. But they have to – the state cuts the U’s funding ever year.

    DS has a savings account. We haven’t talked college savings because, I think, we are trying to weather his health issues first. I think once we figure out what we are paying there, we’ll be able to start saving for college. I predict in 3 years we’ll be out from under some lingering debt. At that point, I’ll probably call up my FP and ask for guidance.

  22. I don’t think most kids with severe ADHD ever grow out of it. Research shows that college is the most difficult time for these kids. Anecdotally, not only do I see a lot of kids at my school with probable ADHD who flunk out, but the kids of several friends of mine who had ADHD also all flunked out. One mom had carefully researched the right school for her son, and sent him to a small college well known for working with ADHD kids – and he still flunked out in the first year.

    With my DS at least, it isn’t that he is behind neurotypical kids. It is that he is DIFFERENT. And with HS, a lot of the busy work has gone away, and grading schemes are closer to college (in fact, more exam based than a lot of college courses these days) which is helping him a lot. But he still managed to not hand in enough of the science homeworks, which are 30% of the grade, to take him down to a 83 for the quarter. And this is a kid who is getting between 95 to 100 on every test and quiz

  23. But with private schools projected to cost about a half million per child in 20 years

    You know what happens to things that can’t go on forever? They don’t.

  24. For me to pay for private school, it would have to be remarkably better than VT or UVA or W&M. And by “better” I mean ranked higher and with enough name recognition to make Joe Sixpack say “wow, that’s impressive,” not just better in that “it’s a ‘better fit’,” as I firmly believe in the potential character building value of adversity, one may as well take advantage of that when it also includes significant cost savings.

    And I’ll encourage a strong and careful consideration of ROTC and the Academies.

    I know a woman who is fabulously wealthy, but told her daughter that if she got the Hope Scholarship and went to Georgia (free ride) that she could then have what she would have spent on college to get her life started. Her daughter took her up on the offer.

    Good idea. Because to get down to brass tacks, the whole point of this is to ensure that they maintain or improve on their socioeconomic class standing. While it sounds crass against the purported ideals of college as a place of personal discovery (or whatever catch phrases people like to use) the bottom line is that direct wealth transfer is simply the most efficient and promising means of achieving the underlying objective.

  25. Rhett- Yeah, but people thought the bubble would pop when the cost of attendance at the most expensive schools hit 40k and now it’s over 60k. I hope things decelerate but I can’t bank on it.

  26. But he still managed to not hand in enough of the science homeworks, which are 30% of the grade

    I don’t recall any homework component in college it was all quizzes, tests and papers. Surely that still how things are done at some schools.

    Also, I’m not that familiar with ADHD but is it that he just forgets or is it that he really can’t be bothered?

  27. College today is different. We grade a lot more on project work. I think I typically do exams 40%, programs 25% labs 20% quizzes 10% attendance 5%. But even when I was in college, project work and weekly quizzes were common.

  28. Rhett- Yeah, but people thought the bubble would pop when the cost of attendance at the most expensive schools hit 40k and now it’s over 60k.

    But, as Fred said, is that $60k number like the $600 price of a suit at Jo. A Bank – a totally irrelevant sticker price that no one actually pays. You know how people think, do you want to go to the $25k/year school or do you want to go to the $60k/ year school that gave you a $30k “scholarship”? The whole of American retailing proves that folks prefer the appearance of a deal vastly more than an actual deal.

  29. We have 529s for each of the kids. Hoping to fund undergrad at whatever school each chooses (within certain parameters). Beyond that, we don’t really have a plan.

    I like talking about this stuff. Most people I know IRL don’t. Or, they have very different priorities. I used to work with a lawyer who was married to another biglaw lawyer. I was trying to set up one of the 529s and asked her a question about it. She looked at me like I was crazy and told me they weren’t saving anything for college for their kids!

  30. I agree with Rhett at 11:50 – this is why the JCPenney experiment in every day low prices rather than weekly sales didn’t work.

  31. I used to work with a lawyer who was married to another biglaw lawyer.

    Wouldn’t they easily be able to cash flow college?

  32. My kids are 6, 4, and 1, and we have done nothing.

    The estimate I saw for my middle child was $800,000 for undergrad, and at that point we threw up our hands and prayed he wants to be a plumber.

    There is no way we could come up with the $2.4MM for all three kids.

    So we throw money at retirement and the mortgage, and cram as much math and science down their throats as we can.

    Once I go back to work we will try to save more in a general fund, but based on our experiences on need-based aid the schools punish college saving, especially by students.

  33. We are much closer to the college decision–DS1 is a sophomore. We started saving aggressively from year 1. We have 4 years of state college expenses put away in each child’s 529. We have enough in savings and cash flow to cover the rest.

    I told DS that he could go wherever he wanted. If he chooses a college that will give him merit money or a state college, he will have $100K+ for grad school. If he chooses Rice, Johns Hopkins, etc, he will graduate from college debt free (as we will pay for everything), but he will have to pay for grad school by himself.

  34. College today is different. We grade a lot more on project work. I think I typically do exams 40%, programs 25% labs 20% quizzes 10% attendance 5%. But even when I was in college, project work and weekly quizzes were common. Thinking back on it, most of my science courses had a lab component and a homework component in addition to the tests. In my humanities classes, we had several papers due in addition to the tests. And in my CS courses, the programming projects were always a big part of the grade. When I was in grad school, the undergrad courses all had armies of TAs to grade the weekly programming assignments.

  35. “But even when I was in college, project work and weekly quizzes were common.”

    But look at what you studied and what you teach! I was clueless as a teen, and even I knew to run like hell from any kind of engineering — they actually expected you to go to class and turn in homework regularly and do periodic quizzes and all that. In English, all I had to do was knock out a few papers, by dates that the prof told us about on day 1; how I got there was my business. And in law school, even that minimal expectation decreased to a midterm and a final. For a kid like me, who learned better in streaks than in diligent daily plodding, that kind of environment set me up for success — it wasn’t perfect, I did drop the occasional grade for being late, but it was *so* much better than daily/weekly expectations.

    And FWIW, I get the “different” bit — my brain, and DD’s, are never going to be “normal.” But it’s the executive function part that tests out as “behind,” and that function *does* improve over time. The problem is that, when you’re in the middle of it, “time” appears to proceed on a geologic pace.

  36. Mooshi, is it a possible side effect of the chemotherapy? I know someone who declined chemo because the regimen was known to compromise executive function.

    Not trying to be nosy, just wondering if maybe there is something different about his adhd that has been dealt with by other children who had the same medications, in case that opens up any resources for you.

  37. Rhett – sure, if they both stayed (which probably isn’t likely). Particularly if they both became equity partners. But they didn’t want to pay for their kids to go to school. They wanted the kids to figure it out. Surely you can afford to throw 1-2% of your gross income in to a 529 plan and help the kids out a little.

  38. “But, as Fred said, is that $60k number like the $600 price of a suit at Jo. A Bank – a totally irrelevant sticker price that no one actually pays.”

    Not the case for folks with Totebag incomes and kids at elite schools. About half of kids at elite schools are full-pay. And it may be no sweat for the hedge funders and CEOs, but the 250-300k a year families in high COL areas get majorly squeezed. That describes a lot of Totebag families.

  39. We have a similar outlook as LFB towards spending money in college. The kids can pay for their own beer and pizza money. They have adequate savings, conservative spending habits, and summer/on campus jobs.

  40. I love this topic as I always wonder if we are saving enough for retirement and college costs. We have 529s and save $500 per month per kid but I think we need to bump it up as we got a later start than I would have liked. I know we won’t qualify for need-based aid and I would like our kids to have some latitude (within reason) to choose the school that is the best fit for them. I also have been thinking more about a state school for undergrad and a higher tier school for grad work as that seems to work well for folks I know. It would be great if we could get some non-need based aid. Older kid just started at an IB school this year and seems to be doing well but we’ll have to see. We hear that colleges love the IB curriculum in terms of kids’ preparation for college work but that could just be IB marketing.

    With respect to jobs and spending money, I didn’t work in college and my parents paid for everything and gave me $75 per month (a million years ago). We have wealthy totebaggy friends who currently give their college-aged kids $30 (!) a month.

  41. To give an example, my parents are paying well over 100k a year right now for two kids at elite schools simultaneously. They applied for financial aid but only qualified for some small loans, no actual price reduction.

  42. About half of kids at elite schools are full-pay.

    Half?

    Fortunately, the average Harvard financial aid package is close to $41,000.00. In addition, about 70% of Harvard students receive some form of aid, with nearly 60% receiving need–based scholarships.

  43. summer/on campus jobs.

    On campus jobs are need based and how easy do you think a summer job will be to find with no prior work experience?

  44. “based on our experiences on need-based aid the schools punish college saving”

    FWIW, they punish paying off your mortgage even more. If you want to maximize need-based eligibility, keep a big mortgage payment, sock away as much as you can in your 401(k)s (which are largely excluded from the standard financial aid calcs, I think), and put the rest in your name in a standard investment account.

    But, really, unless your income is below say $60-70K (maybe $100K since you have 3), I wouldn’t expect much by way of grants. So it’s really pay me now (via savings before they go) or pay me later (via loans after they go).

    This is also the real downside of those dumb-ass scare tactic articles. UMd costs about $10K/yr for in-state tuition and fees, with about that much again estimated for room and board. Even if it doubles in the next ten years, that’s under $200K/kid all-in, not $800K — and you can probably cashflow a bunch of that.

  45. “I think I typically do exams 40%, programs 25% labs 20% quizzes 10% attendance 5%.”

    I find this approach IN COLLEGE amazing. Not a criticism of you…I see this throughout my own kids’ classes at their colleges. I can understand weekly or whatever for the lab portion (1 Credit) of a science class, but for a standard 1st-2nd yr lecture class?

    I guess there are that many people (read helicopter parents who are paying the freight) who need the constant feedback their kid is doing ok.

  46. What type of graduate school are people thinking of when they mention “graduate school”?
    Some high percentage of master’s degrees are in education. They are low cost and, in my opinion, of dubious value but if my kids want to be teachers, I would probably fund one, especially if the state basically requires a master’s degree for teachers.
    Various medical options (physical therapy, MD, DO, nurse practitioner, veterinary) cost money. I think the veterinary ROI may become negative, due to oversupply.
    An MBA from a top school is valuable, but I think mid or low tier MBA’s are becoming less valuable.
    A top law school is valuable; a lower tier one probably isn’t.
    Science and engineering graduate degrees usually involve a TA/RA stipend.

    I’m asking myself how the above compares with, say, practicing Chinese by working as an ESL teacher for a year or learning another language.

    On an unrelated note, would anyone be interested in a post about foreign language exchange during high school? That always sounded cool to me.

  47. “On campus jobs are need based and how easy do you think a summer job will be to find with no prior work experience?”

    It’s not that hard–just keep an eye out, and you’ll find something. Most of the jobs at the start of the school year are set aside for the work-study kids. However, some jobs open up a month or two later. You don’t have to have a ton of work experience, but I hope that all Totebag kids will have some jobs and skills on their resumes.

  48. I guess there are that many people (read helicopter parents who are paying the freight) who need the constant feedback their kid is doing ok.

    Or, more likely, parents are insisting on their being ways for kids to pass even if they are unable to master the material. You’re midterm and final are Cs. But, you went to every class and handed in all your homework so we’ll give you a B+. Throw in an extra credit project and bang – A-.

  49. To complete the last thought:

    I hope that all Totebag kids will have some jobs and skills on their resumes by the time they go to college. This is so much more important than one more sport/club/community service activity.

  50. It’s not that hard

    Based on your knowledge of the current situation or what the situation was 20 years ago?

    I hope that all Totebag kids will have some jobs and skills on their resumes.

    As a freshman in college, did you have any W-2 paid work experience?

  51. WCE: DS plans to major in mechanical engineering and then get an MBA. MBAs from top schools are about $100K *a year* now.

  52. The week Junior was born, I enrolled him in the Florida Pre-paid College Plan. He can go to any Florida state school, room and board paid for. Sigh. I thought he would never use it because he was going to Harvard or my alma mater, but it’s likely not going to be used for other reasons.

  53. Harvard may be 70%, but Yale is 52%, and Columbia is 50%.

    The point stands that a significant percentage of families do pay sticker price. All I’m saying is that an open-ended promise of “we’ll send you to the best school you get into” is an awfully scary proposition for some Totebag families.

  54. “As a freshman in college, did you have any W-2 paid work experience?”

    Yes. Even had union membership based on the 4 hours I worked at a unionized grocery story.

  55. Rhett – summer jobs are easy enough to get. Maybe not full-time, but if they can drive, they can string together two part-time jobs and add babysitting and come up with enough savings for a school year’s worth of pizza and movies.

    That’s Option A in our household.

    Option B involves their spending the school year saying, “No thanks,” when when their college friends ask if they want to get pizza or see a movie.

  56. Rhett–It’s not hard for high school kids to get a summer job. They can also volunteer in a professional role at a local non-profit or a political campaign. There are also summer programs that award talented students the opportunity to do research at universities. You can also start your own company designing apps and websites, mowing lawns, whatever.

    It takes a bit of gumption, but it’s not impossible.

  57. Rio – it’s the ELITE SCHOOLS thing. Ivies (and others) in that elite crowd may not behave that way, especially if they say need-based only.

    But lot, probably close to all, of good, though not elite, schools provide plenty of merit aid based simply on grades + test scores and more aid based on the kid’s stated major, extracurriculars, home state/county/city, ethnic background, etc etc. Even for people with Totebag incomes.

    And the degree will serve MOST PEOPLE perfectly well no matter where it’s from.

  58. The point stands that a significant percentage of families do pay sticker price.

    And, if you’re making the totebag average and can’t easily squeeze 5k a month out of the budget then you’re doing something wrong. Worst case, if the kids are two years apart you save up 120k to cover the 2 years you’re paying for two. A 6% that’s $270/month if you start when they are born.

  59. I echo Houston’s point…my kid has an on-campus job that was earmarked for a work study kid, but it remained unfilled until when they needed to fill it, so they opened it up to any student and he got it.

  60. On the cost of college – my undergraduate school is currently $60k for room and board. But that’s after taxes. So in reality, since we are highly unlikely to qualify for aid, that school would cost us approx $90,000 in income. Per year. Per child. So if no increases…that’s $720,000.00 in income it would take to send them. I can’t even wrap my brain around justifying paying that for an undergraduate education. But our friends that went to the same school are dead set on it for their kids.

    I feel like I’m back in calculus, where everyone around me understands something I don’t. But I honestly don’t get why sending a child to that school would be a goal – yes, it’s a great school. But it’s not $720K great.

  61. “No thanks,” when when their college friends ask if they want to get pizza or see a movie.

    And you’ve basically wasted most of your tuition money as they don’t have the contacts they will need to succeed in their future endeavors. The value of an elite school isn’t what they teach, it’s the people you meet when you’re there..

  62. College Confidential has been an amazing resource for me. I highly recommend that people with kids in high school check it out.

  63. I meant savings accounts labeled with the kids’ own names, rather than the parents.

    Back in the day it was 24% of parental assets per child over 4 years and 90% of student assets, which led to real difficulty when we got jobs after college and had no money for a security deposit or even transportation to the new city.

    Several of my classmates who didn’t get a signing bonus had to take out an additional student loan before graduation just to cover the move to the job.

  64. I was chatting/looking online while nursing at jobs available for 16 vs. 18 year olds after a discussion with friends who have teenage kids. Locally, current possibilities are
    1) summer day camp for elementary school kids
    2) Jamba Juice and probably similar
    3) TJ Maxx and possibly similar
    4) if you were attentive in March, you could be a scorekeeper for the adult softball league, which is way better than being a groundskeeper, the other Park and Rec option.

    My friends all expect their college-bound kids to have summer jobs.

  65. They can also volunteer in a professional role at a local non-profit or a political campaign.

    The most likely totebag option – in my experience. The spending money of course coming from a generous allowance.

    I’m also surprised that a engineering major is going to have 8-16 hours a week to spend at his/her work study job. Wouldn’t the same, “school is their job” that you enforced in high school also continue into college?

  66. Wasn’t the Totebag median under $200k? You guys can really easily squeeze out an extra 5k a month on that income, after taxes and retirement? As far as starting young, keep in mind that the UMC incomes that get squeezed the most are often still in grad school/low earning years when the kids are born. Think doctors, lawyers, etc.

  67. @WCE: At this point, I anticipate med school for DD (or some other health-care-related version) and some tech-related stipend-funded geek study for DS (a/k/a DH’s mini-me).

    Although I’m still not convinced she won’t end up in law school, despite her protestations, based on her eternal glee in arguing with me. . . .

  68. 2) Jamba Juice and probably similar
    3) TJ Maxx and possibly similar

    Will they hire a kid who is only going to be available from late May to late August?

  69. “unlikely to qualify for aid…”

    NEED-BASED aid, I agree.

    MERIT aid, why not? Even my more modestly qualified kid got a decent chunk of that.

    Does it matter why there’s a discount offered?

  70. they can string together two part-time jobs

    Everything I’ve read lately says that’s now almost impossible due to the new scheduling systems many companies are using.

  71. My friends and I all had summer jobs through high school/college and that was our spending money for the year. Now this was a small town/tourist destination place where those types of jobs were plentiful. I had friends waitressing making $12K per summer (in 90s dollars). My summer job made me around $3K and then I would work an office job over Christmas break, making another $2K or so.

  72. On spending money, the year my oldest went to summer school full time we gave her spending money. The cost savings between out of state tuition and local community college for 12 hours of coursework was substantial. When she didn’t want to do summer school, she worked and paid her own spending money. This year she wanted to work and pay part of her tuition, so we fired the car service for my younger child and pay her the same rate to drive him to and from school. It’s about double minimum wage, tax free, and it gives him an extra hour in his day every day, and is expense-neutral for me. Well, better than expense neutral because she’s paying some tuition and all of her own spending money. When he drives and she picks up an internship, we will be willing to pay spending money again for a set period of time.

  73. Rhett, I’ll update you in a few weeks with what jobs people come up with. At least a couple kids go to school locally, so they won’t be gone at the end of August.

    Even in engineering, lots of people worked 10-15 hours/week at my State U. One of the benefits of co-oping was that I could spend Friday nights socializing and weekends sleeping in instead of doing dishes in the cafeteria. (Engineers had to work during the week, and so preferred the desirable “weekend” options.)

  74. Rhett 12:40 – depends on your definition of “impossible,” I guess. I have 2 kids under this roof who’ve done it for this summer.

  75. “keep in mind that the UMC incomes that get squeezed the most are often still in grad school/low earning years when the kids are born.”

    @Rio — but they are well past that when those same kids go to college 20 yrs later. Our income is approximately 3x what it was when DD was born — the “pay-as-you-go” $5K/month looks *far* more achievable now than it did then. Which is exactly how our “borrow 1/3” turned into “pay it all.”

    And FWIW, I thought the median was right around the $250K split between categories.

  76. Even in engineering, lots of people worked 10-15 hours/week at my State U.

    Oh, I agree. But, that doesn’t jive with what a lot of folks feel about working during high school. So I’m curious to learn the reasoning behind the change of heart. We have Mooshi saying there’s tons of homework now…

  77. “We have a similar outlook as LFB towards spending money in college. The kids can pay for their own beer and pizza money. ”

    The elites seem to share this philosophy. All the ones I’ve looked at that say they will meet full financial need also assume that the student will contribute about $6k/year, whether from summer earnings, part-time earnings, or loans.

    I read that at Yale, there’s a protest movement against that. Students were saying that requirement crimps their style. I was thinking, how quickly they learn entitlement.

  78. @ Fred – yes, there could always be some merit aid. But, with the rapid rise in tuition, those numbers are still conservative. Tuition at that school has gone up 330% since I was a freshman approx. 25 years ago. I find this shocking, but I honestly don’t see it reversing, so long as there are enough people like our friends who are willing and eager to pay it.

  79. From a “top 40” private:

    The University awards merit-based scholarships to freshman and transfer students who demonstrate outstanding academic achievement and potential, regardless of financial circumstances. A couple of examples:

    Named after the first President of the Board of Trustees, this scholarship recognizes students who demonstrate academic excellence (rigor, grades) and extracurricular achievement. Recipients of this scholarship must have demonstrated continued leadership in at least one of the following areas: clubs, scouts, student government, community service, or sports. These students have the potential to make strong, unique contributions to (university) student life.

    Alumni Scholarship
    The Alumni Scholarship exists to recognize admitted children and grandchildren of University alumni. Their contributions as a new generation of students will help us shape the University for the future, while also honoring our unique traditions and history. Completion of the Alumni Scholarship Application is required for consideration.

    High School Awards
    The University is pleased to sponsor four prestigious high school award programs which recognize outstanding achievements in leadership and academics. Each year, participating high schools may nominate up to four qualified juniors, one for each of these awards. Of the nominees admitted to the University, a select group of scholars are chosen to receive these merit scholarships.

    These kinds of things exist at many, many schools. And the bar to receive many of them is not all that high.

  80. Rhett – my college job greatly subsidized my food plan, to the point where I went off the food plan my sophomore year. I did catering events and worked at the hotel kitchens. For 10 hours a week, it made a lot of sense. Much better than ramen noodles or $2 meals at Wendy’s.

  81. “So in reality, since we are highly unlikely to qualify for aid, that school would cost us approx $90,000 in income. Per year. Per child.”

    I agree. Also, yeah, you can “squeeze out $5k a month,” but with three kids, that’s potentially !!12 YEARS!! of $5k a month. One-quarter or one-third of your working life.

    I’d honestly rather it just go directly to them at one point or another, and cut out the middleman.

  82. What it takes to get merit aid at the small number of elite schools that offer it is off the charts. They are giving it to only a small percentage of the class- at schools that admitted less than 20%ish of applicants to start.

    I think it was Rhett that assumed my 1550 Math/Verbal SAT, Valedictorian brother was overqualified for Rice. When actually it was that even his crazy numbers weren’t enough to get admission after accounting for legacies, athletes, minorities, etc.

    If you’re counting on a kid getting significant merit aid from an elite school, they’d better have already cured cancer or something. Otherwise you’re rolling the dice.

  83. My kid is young, but a few thoughts.

    Yes, I expect that he will have a summer job in both HS and college for spending money. We are willing to provide what I think is a pretty nice standard of living, but I am not funding everything he will want, just what he will need and a little more. Even here in the city, the options are very similar to what WCE laid out. There are seasonal jobs with the ice cream shop & the Italian Ice stand (which is what DH did). There are seasonal job with the Park District & private summer camp programs. There is lifeguarding (with the Park District or private pools). And there are retail jobs. And that’s just the traditional jobs. Same with college.

    I am also kind of shocked at how many people here are planning grad school as a given. That is just really far from my thought process. “Grad school” to me is either something that should be paid for by someone else (via TA, RA, work-paid MBA program), or it’s something that is only applicable to a small population of people Law School? Med school? We would have a lot of talks about his thought process if he decided to go that route, but I have no intentions of paying for either of those, and certainly not planning on paying for either of them no questions asked. Our parental contribution to those is strictly optional in my book. He can pay those loans off himself while I retire to Del Boca Vista.

  84. “But, that doesn’t jive with what a lot of folks feel about working during high school.”

    Because in HS, our kids must focus every waking moment on the right kinds of activities to plump up their resumes and improve their chances of admission to the dream college. Only once that is accomplished can they refocus those considerable energies on actually paying for it.

    I guarantee you that if Harvard published new admissions guidelines that strongly favored real job experience, teens would be lining up out the door at Subway and Kohl’s and McDonald’s to apply.

  85. Please don’t read into my posts that I think elite schools are necessary. Of course not, at least for the overwhelming majority of careers out there. I’m just pointing out that they will take a huge percentage of lifetime earnings for many Totebag families if they choose that route.

    It can just feel like downward mobility to not be able to offer your kids what your parents offered you in education, which we all value so much. And it’s the kind of thing that you can’t complain about anywhere other than the Totebag.

  86. To add to the summer job discussion – I have hired quite a few new grads over the years, and even today, most of them have had summer jobs. My most recent young 20-something hire worked as a summer camp counselor for 6 summers in HS and college. But I don’t work for companies that recruit Ivy graduates. These are Accounting/Finance grads out of U of I, Directional IL schools, Michigan State, Iowa, etc.

  87. Also, yeah, you can “squeeze out $5k a month,” but with three kids, that’s potentially !!12 YEARS!! of $5k a month.

    That’s a very unlikely scenario. More likely is one kid goes to Georgetown, one goes to UVA and one goes to Virginia State. Tuition at Virginia State is $8k, with room and board you’re at $1,200/month. Easily doable on $270k/year.

  88. One summer job idea I can think of, if someone is willing to being a little creative and outgoing and has a potential customer base with sufficient disposable income to pay for this service, is to sell oneself as an organizer of all things in the home, paid by the hour or the job. The thing is, it would take some basic getting-to-know time of the family and their needs, but someone to go through all the kids’ closets, sort the clothes that should be saved, organized by gender, size, and season, folded and stored in bins. Separate that from the clothes that should be donated. If donated, and if applicable, document for tax purposes, load the car, drive it to Goodwill, collect the receipt, scan it for tax purposes in a file along with the notes about what was donated. Do the same with toys, while organizing the LEGOs and Little People. Then move on to the linen closet, figure out what sets of sheets match, whether they should be saved or tossed. Go into the kitchen and see if they really still need sippy cups and plastic plates and all the Medela accessory bottles.

    Anyway, DW and I have basically been doing this for weeks now in our free time. I’ve made so many trips to Goodwill with the van stocked full of crap. She’s been uncharacteristically ruthless in her purging of stuff, and without having any specific conversation about it, we’ve donated a lot of newborn/infant gear. So I guess that’s that. (And I haven’t kept great tax notes–I just take a few pictures of each load with my iPhone, and I take a picture of the receipt they give me, and email it to my own address. My in-laws don’t give anything away without consulting the IRS.gov publications on the value of each item and recording it in a notebook :) Of course, Bill Clinton once took a tax deduction on his used underwear, so they’re in good company)

  89. “It can just feel like downward mobility to not be able to offer your kids what your parents offered you in education, which we all value so much. ”

    Agree. But despite both DW & me pointing out the merits of getting good grades in HS (to enable similar undergrad experiences to what I had — DW went to a (very) SLAC no one outside that immediate area has really heard of), so far they really have not consistently applied themselves, thereby taking “elite” off the table. Not a total loss in my book. Having a(ny) 4-yr degree is still a leg up vs society in general and there really are no guarantees a bachelor’s from an elite school will lead to greater results, however measured.

  90. Milo, we’ve started parting with the baby stuff as well. I think DS may end up being an only.

  91. “If you’re counting on a kid getting significant merit aid from an elite school, they’d better have already cured cancer or something.”

    Right. Which is why you go here: http://www.mcdaniel.edu/undergraduate/the-mcdaniel-plan/special-opportunities/honors-program. What they don’t mention here is that they also give big scholarships to the kids admitted to this program. It’s all part of the game: many lower-tier colleges are now offering special honors programs to attract those bright kids who aren’t making the cut for the scholarships at the schools the next tier up.

    I do get the frustration — I felt *exactly* like you did until maybe last year, when I realized the freedom the new trust gives us. But the reality is, like Fred said, there are a lot of options open — you just need someone who knows the game, who can tell you where to look and what schools might provide the best options for your kids to get the scholarships. And then you can figure out what tradeoffs matter to you. After all, even though my mom told me she’d send me anywhere I could get in, I still chose the school that cost $9K/yr and offered a NMS over the bigger-name one that cost $14K/yr and didn’t. :-)

  92. “I’m also surprised that a engineering major is going to have 8-16 hours a week to spend at his/her work study job. Wouldn’t the same, “school is their job” that you enforced in high school also continue into college?”

    Maybe not 16 hours/week, but a 5-10 hour/week job as a tutor, grader, or TA not only earns money, but helps learn the material at a higher level than is typically learned as just a student.

  93. Only once that is accomplished can they refocus those considerable energies on actually paying for it.

    I don’t know about elite MBAs. But, for my friend’s daughter the doctor, her entire undergrad experience was about keeping a perfect GPA so should could get into medical school. I assume the same would be true of a mechanical engineer who wanted to go on to an elite MBA?

  94. Fred – Umm, yeah! Steamed salmon, wedding cakes, foi gras, Banana bread French toast and so on.

    When did having a job get bumped off the list of “right kind of summer activity”?

    Plus, how was I supposed to pay for my car insurance and gas?

    When I was a new-ish lawyer, trust me it was VERY apparent who had worked before and who didn’t. Those who had were always picked first; no one wanted to work with an immature, know it all, entitled junior lawyer. (A generalization of course, but still.)

  95. “I think downward mobility by Totebag kids is the easiest solution to inequality. :)”

    No, that’s not what anyone wants. We should be able to have the bottom quintile easily move into the upper four quintiles without anyone moving into the bottom. It would be easy if it weren’t for the Koch brothers.

  96. My State U used to have to have someone who could reboot stuff for the university 7-24, 365 days/year. I remember getting to tour the basement of the new com sci building back in 1992 and being impressed at the servers, etc. The computer engineer who gave me the tour is now a SAHD. And “being present in case a reboot is needed” is not a terribly demanding work-study job.

  97. On a separate topic – any recommendations for allergy medication? The Claritin I took is doing nothing for my itchy eyes. And non-drowsy – my foot! Sudafed and Benadryl knock me out. Can’t recall how Zyrtec worked.

  98. The Claritin I took is doing nothing for my itchy eyes.

    Claritin or Claritin D, the kind you have to ask the pharmacist for?

  99. “FWIW, they punish paying off your mortgage even more. If you want to maximize need-based eligibility, keep a big mortgage payment, sock away as much as you can in your 401(k)s (which are largely excluded from the standard financial aid calcs, I think), and put the rest in your name in a standard investment account.”

    I believe you’re mistaken. My understanding is that the FAFSA does not consider home equity, so your EFC will be lower if you pay down your mortgage as compared to having a big mortgage and big investment account. Some, but not all, schools that use the CSS (e.g., Harvard) also do not consider home equity.

    Based on my understanding, you are right that maxing out your retirement accounts will reduce your EFC.

    I agree with Sky that saving for college is punished.

    “But, really, unless your income is below say $60-70K (maybe $100K since you have 3), I wouldn’t expect much by way of grants. So it’s really pay me now (via savings before they go) or pay me later (via loans after they go).”

    Didn’t we recently discuss how Stanford now offers free tuition to families making less than $125k? Most, if not all, of the other elites similarly offer a lot of grant aid to students from families making less than $100k.

  100. ATM I have terrible seasonal allergies. I have started taking Flonase spray OTC in addition to the daily claritin, I think it is helping

  101. ATM – I have used generic zyrtec for a long time now (after doing the Claritin-allegra-something else) thing for a while. Buy a week’s worth and try. No drowsiness.

  102. Sky, no this is DS1, and he has always been like this. When he was 2, the daycare called me in to discuss him, because they said they were afraid he would get hurt because he would literally walk into things. At 3, they were already recommending he be evaluated but we kind of resisted. His 3rd grade teacher flagged him again to be evaluated, but the specialist he saw said he tested so high on intelligence that it could have just been a case of boredom. By 7th, though, there was no escaping, and the same specialist put him on meds. I honestly don’t see that the meds do anything though. Of much more use is the weekly coach, who keeps him on track and his spirits up, because it is disheartening to put so much work and mental energy into something that is so effortless for everyone else. Last year he had gotten really depressed and had kind of given up.

    Ds2 is ChemoKid, and his grades are stellar with almost no effort. When he finished treatment he was so far behind, and such a mess that we didn’t know if he would be OK learning to read in first grade. He had to put a lot of effort in, when he was very young, to catch up. His biggest problem now is anxiety over whether he is doing well enough. He puts high standards on himself.

  103. “I like talking about this stuff. Most people I know IRL don’t. Or, they have very different priorities.”

    Ditto. In general, one reason I enjoy this forum is that we share a lot of similar values and experiences.

  104. ATM – have you tried preservative-free eye drops? I like the Refresh brand.

  105. I think DW is trying Zyrtec this year, but she has complained that it knocks her out completely, or maybe that’s only if she takes the full dose.

  106. Fred Mac – the research shows that students do a lot better when there is regular feedback via frequent quizzes and homework. And since we are very much under the gun right now to increase graduation rates, we pay attention to that research. Especially at teaching oriented schools, but this is even happening at the public R1s. A lot of the research actually was in physics education, which has dramatically changed as a result.

  107. ATM- I started drinking warm water with lemon and apple cider vinegar in the morning and it has really made a difference in my allergies (no more junk in my throat). Can’t take the meds – I took a non drowsy Zyrtec one day last year and it knocked me out for almost the full 24 hours.

  108. On this topic, any affordable suggestions for a kid with low standardized test scores (around 1600/2400) but relatively high class rank, say top 20% at a strong public high school? The state flagship is a bad fit. Messy divorce similar to what was discussed yesterday will limit financial aid. Custodial parent makes around 60k in a high cost of living area. Non-custodial makes much more but will put up a fight against contributing much. Most merit aid is tied to SAT, so that makes it tough for this kid. Any outside the box ideas?

  109. Zyrtec makes me drowsy too, so I’ve been trying Allegra. So far, so good.

    Claritin never did a thing for me.

  110. the research shows that students do a lot better when there is regular feedback via frequent quizzes and homework.

    I’m sure what the research shows is that some or most students do well. Not all.

  111. Anon here, do you live in the west? Lots of schools are part of the WUE.

    http://www.wiche.edu/wue

    Regarding top ranked MBA’s, how many spots are there in those programs? I can see where it’s worthwhile if that’s the career you want, but Mr WCE’s cousins with Wharton MBA’s have no family lives- you have to know you’re dedicated to a high level career to make it logical to forgo your regular salary and pay for the MBA.

  112. I should mention I’ve tried Neti pots in the past. Gross, but did help a bit. And today is supposedly a low pollen day. Anyone tried injections to increase tolerance? At what point do you try that?

  113. Kid is in the Northeast, where public college options seem fewer, more expensive, and generally worse than in a lot of other parts of the country.

  114. When did having a job get bumped off the list of “right kind of summer activity”?

    15 years ago? The totebag kids would be camp counselors at the camp they had been attending for years, volunteer for the non-profit at which mom was on the board, working a few days a week in dad’s office filing or running errands, volunteering in Congressman Smith’s local field office, etc. Working at Jamba Juice, valet parking, working as a landscaper, etc. was always more of a middle class thing.

  115. Re retirement savings: FAFSA does not count retirement plan balances; CSS counts them, with a modest exemption. But FAFSA counts current contributions as available for college spending. In other words if each parent is contributing $18000 to a 401k, FAFSA thinks that’s $36000 you can spend on college each year.
    Remember FAFSA really only governs federal aid; each college has its own method. So not all colleges that use only FAFSA will use its exact formula. And conversely some colleges that use CSS will exempt more of the retirement account balance.

  116. Like Fred’s son, DD has a work study job (she tutors) that couldn’t be filled from the existing pool of work study eligible kids. It’s only 6 hours a week, but she gets to go to monthly department staff parties (she couldn’t wait to tell me that). She lifeguards at one of the posh gyms and one of the benefits (in addition to getting paid) is a free gym membership. Even lifeguarding locally and giving private swim lessons, she’s always meeting people, and some of them are good resources for future summer internships. She works a lot of hours in the summer to stockpile money to get her through the school year. And she seems to like the work.

  117. My parents paid for my private school and law school (I went right after undergrad). I worked and got scholarships as best I could. The total was $20,000. I will expect our kids to work and contribute to paying for college as best they can. I also expect to be able to fund either the dream school or the most practical school.

    We save with 529 and Roth IRA’s. Before the financial aid calculator makes its final read out, we will sell our emergency money stock funds and either spend the money or add it to the Roths.

  118. I worked 15 to 20 hours a week as an undergrad while majoring in a techncial field, so it is certainly doable. Most of my friends in the engineering school also worked.
    The issue with jobs, though, that I see is underprepared students, who already have to scramble to keep up, working 30 to 40 hours a week at jobs an hour away from campus.

  119. Also, because hourly jobs nowdays have really unpredictable schedules, students miss a lot of classes because they were called in to work.

  120. ATM: Try Clarinex. You need a prescription, but you can get it in generic form. Zyrtec is a good OTC alternative.

  121. ATM, I had the same problem with Zyrtec as Atlanta, Ivy, and Milo’s wife–it completely knocked me out (I literally had to lay my head down on my desk because I was so tired). If you haven’t tried Flonase, it’s worth checking out.

  122. Anon – in the northeast, maybe look at some of the many Catholic privates. That’s where my (kids’) recent experience is. Little religion-enforcement generally, but if your family is not at least Christian, your kid may feel a bit out of place at least initially. I have found many of their aid packages were quite generous, even to the point of being very close to in-state SUNY rates. Not talking about Georgetown, BC, Fordham or other very popular schools.

  123. I worked 15 to 20 hours a week as an undergrad while majoring in a techncial field, so it is certainly doable. Most of my friends in the engineering school also worked.

    Is that like how high school was +25 years ago? Then the system was designed to allow for kids who worked – i.e. no or little homework. That’s no longer the case. In the case of college these days, from what you’re telling me, schools have a lot more busywork to keep up with. So, a smart kid can’t just cram for an exam and get an A. You have to spend hours and hours grinding out all the busy work.

  124. Rhett, I was a computer science major. I had piles of project work and homework every week. My science courses had 4 hour labs in addition to lectures. And, I have to tell you, project work is not busy work. In computer science, that is where all the learning occurs. I suspect it is similar in many engineering disciplines.

  125. “You have to spend hours and hours grinding out all the busy work.”

    Rhett – Those of us who were in technical majors, but not as smart as Mr. WCE who could cram for 30 minutes and ace the Diff EQs final, also had to either spend hours and hours studying and doing homework problems, which may or may not be graded, or risk getting Ds and Fs on exams. And at least at my school, in my major, it was certainly possible to actually fail major exams, and you didn’t make up for it with perfect attendance or extra credit.

  126. Correction: Mr WCE had to spend a couple DAYS cramming for the diff eq exam.

    I wonder how much of the ROI to a top MBA is due to job dedication and how much to raw aptitude- getting a 700 on the GMAT requires quite a bit of raw aptitude.

  127. Anon: Here are a few ideas: 1) Have your child take the ACT–some students do better with it. 2) You need to figure out the situation with your ex. Otherwise, you will totally get screwed on financial aid (because you will have to include his salary on FAFSA) and will have limited funds to pay for college expenses. 3) Really, really research colleges and merit aid. Some schools will give automatic out of state tuition waivers for students who score similarly to your child. University of Alabama and some Texas schools come to mind, but there are many may others. If you apply to Texas A&M and get any type of scholarship, you can get in state tuition.

  128. Wow, I got behing fast today…We have a Texas Tomorrow Fund (4 years paid tuition and fees at a state public university) for each DD. They will also pay toward other schools, just not at the 100% rate. We pay for private high school – tuition, books, various fees, uniforms, and bus transportation – and that cash flow will roll over into monthly college books, supplies, living expenses, etc. We have also saved for college, but still may need a low level of loans when we hit two kids in at the same time.

    DD#1 is in the NMS range and will likely qualify for some merit aid, but she realizes as a freshman, that she will need to be proactive in applying and presenting herself well to get them. We told her, at this point, to consider all schools as options. As we get to Junior year we can start ranking or weeding out was is clearly not possible. DD#1 took the PSAT as a freshman and the stuff from schools is already rolling in, which is sort of nice as it gives us a chance to see her reactions to the mailings.

    For allergies – I take the children’s medicine. The adult dose often makes me sleepy, but I take a child’s dose or half the dose and it knocks back the symptoms without knocking me out. Also, that allows me to level the dosage on others…ie 4 tablets in 4 hours is an adult dose of kids meds. I take 2 tablets, then 2 hours later 2 more. I am sensitive to pain meds, so I always ask for kids dosage or liquid so that I can get some pain relief without being out cold. Ada might not recommend this approach!

  129. Rhett, I was a computer science major. I had piles of project work and homework every week

    Then what is it? You said there is a ton more busy work now and then you say you had just as much work then. It’s either one or the other.

  130. And I want to know – what are these majors in which one could simply cram for two exams and do nothing else? Don’t people have to write papers? How do you become a good writer without writing?

    Most of the kids I knew in college were either in engineering, with a lot of weekly homework and lab sessions and projects, or were in fields like allied health or nursing where there are a lot of required clinical hours or were in the hard sciences (ooh, those 8 hour organic chem labs). Even the ed majors had to do projects (yup, arts and crafts projects, snicker). In my psych of learning class, we had to do weekly experiment sessions with our very own rats. The only classes I ever took that fit your description were the easier math courses like prob&stats and one really sily philosophy of science course.

  131. Rhett if you read my post carefully, you would see that I had gone on to say that even back when I was in college, we had a lot of non-exam work. I think it has increased now, but it was always there.

  132. what are these majors in which one could simply cram for two exams and do nothing else? Don’t people have to write papers?

    It was either cramming for the test or writing the paper – rarely both. In either case, it never involved having to hand in an assignment at every scheduled class. In theory, there might have been homework you were supposed to do but it wasn’t collected or graded.

  133. Mooshi, organic chemistry had four exams and that was it. Other than labs, I think physics and chemistry grades were all based on exams- homework was “recommended” but you graded it yourself with solution packets from the library. In my engineering classes, only ~10% of the grade was homework, but most of us had to do the homework to do well on the exams.

  134. “getting a 700 on the GMAT requires quite a bit of raw aptitude”

    I appreciate the compliment!

  135. I’m trying to recall if my brother worked while getting his engineering degree and for the life of me, all I can come up with is his effort to save $ by staying in houses of profs who were on sabbatical. He’s one of those guys who always had a job or something going on, but for those years, I think it was summertime work only. I typed his senior thesis for him and I remember him working for months and months on that thing — something about oscillations along a piano wire. I’d never seen him study so hard. And he was always warning my parents that he was about to flunk out because he’d gotten 39% on an exam, and then later, he’d say that after the curve, that ended up being an A. Craziness.

  136. DH was a physics major and he based his class selection on exam-only grading (probably with a midterm in there). He rarely went to class but would study for the tests and get As.

    Like Rhett, we had usually paper, midterm, exam, final paper in some combination. If attendance was counted it was max 10% of the grade, and you could often make your final paper longer to make up for it.

  137. It can just feel like downward mobility to not be able to offer your kids what your parents offered you in education, which we all value so much.

    Rio, I’m actually not sure I agree with the underlying premise. As the SLACs get more and more off the charts with tuition, I think the quality of students choosing state schools goes up. Look at how competitive UT, UNC, UVA, even UGA have gotten over the years. Back In My Day(TM), UGA was the safety school and the SLAC was the better value for the money. But the disparity is such now that the state schools are the better value for the money. Not downward, just different.

  138. “Mooshi, organic chemistry had four exams and that was it”. No labs???? At my school, organic chem stressed the labs, which were 8 hours long. How can you learn organic chem without labs?

  139. Obviously, I have a very Southern slant in my view of this – I have no idea what has happened with state schools in the Northeast or other parts of the country, and of course I left out good state schools like Va Tech, Ga Tech…my list above is not meant to be comprehensive.

  140. Re: allergies: I have been getting injections for 10+ years and they have been life changing. When the kids were little, I could not get a cold without it turning into a sinus infection, bronchitis, or pneumonia. After beginning the shots, I can get a cold and then it goes away. I thought allergy shots were snake oil but they have totally improved my quality of life.

    Re: jobs while in school: I hired students this year to help with after school driving. It is a very easy gig at $15 per hour and approximately 12-15 hours per week. My most recent driver moved home last week as she was homesick. I had another student lined up but she told me today that she can’t do it because she is going to hang out with friends at her family’s lake house for the next few weeks. Lesson
    learned: hire someone who needs the job rather than a Totebagger kid.

  141. Chem E’s didn’t have to take organic labs- we had other time-consuming labs. I’m not sure if premeds had to take organic lab or not- probably depended on the med school.

    Engineers don’t have to know all that much chemistry. My friend who teaches Chemistry for Engineers at the community college asked me what I thought ALL engineers (not chem e’s) had to know. My response was, “If it has a ring in it, don’t send it down the storm sewer.”

  142. It can just feel like downward mobility to not be able to offer your kids what your parents offered you in education, which we all value so much.

    I sort of agree, but in a different way. You’ve stripped the fun out of everything, no play time, no TV, limited “screen time.” Life is nothing buy watered down orange juice, half cookies and calculus problem sets. But, miracle of miracles, all that work’s paid off and you’ve gotten into MIT. Well, too bad. We can’t afford it. You’re going to the same school you could have gotten into if you’d worked half as hard and had 2x the fun.

  143. @Finn — But I thought mortgage payments were factored in the “expense” side of the equation — i.e., sure, they don’t ding you for having a bunch of home equity, but then they increase your expected contribution by the $X,000/month that you’re not spending to pay down the mortgage. I was under the impression that it actually worked out better for you to still have a mortgage, because if you saved the money instead of paying off the mortgage, those assets were counted at only a 5-6%/yr rate.

    So say you had a $400K mortgage on a $500K house and a $2K/month mortgage payment, and you make $10K/month, and assume other basic expenses are $5K/month (I am totally making this up, btw). If you pay off the mortgage by college, you have $500K in equity that isn’t touched, plus and $5K/month in “free cash” that the school will assume can be tapped for college, for an expected family contribution of $60K.

    OTOH, if you don’t pay off the mortgage but dedicate the same $$ to a money market fund (because I don’t feel like doing interest math on the fly), you have $3K/month in available cash (because you’re still paying the $2K mortgage), $100K in equity that isn’t touched, plus about 5% of the $400K in your savings account, or $20K, which brings you to an EFC of $56K.

    Hmm. So maybe I’m wrong, because any appreciation on the investments is going to swing the result the other way. I think this may have worked better back IMD, when the $400K mortgage required a $4K payment.

  144. I read that at Yale, there’s a protest movement against that. Students were saying that requirement crimps their style. I was thinking, how quickly they learn entitlement.

    Well hell, if they can’t learn it at Yale, where can they learn it?

    Finn, I showed that article to my Stanford friend (whose name you now know) and he said, “Yeah, that sounds about right. Excuse me, I have to go pick up my intern’s dry cleaning.”

  145. Freshman and sophomore years were different from Junior and Senior. F/S – Most courses had a lot of assigned reading some in the course text, some in outside sources; homework was assigned in classes that had math (math, science, accounting, finance), but rarely in other classes. Homework was not graded, but you had access to the answers to check it all and then were on your own to get help. Usually 4 tests per semester – test, midterm, test, final. Sometimes a paper, but that might also be in lieu of your final exam.

    J/S – Same as before, but projects – generally group projects – increased, and research papers or practical work (in accounting you record all the transactions for a fictious company for 6 months) averaged about 2 each a semester. Usually falling to be turned in just before one of the 4 tests.

    I eventually found an on campus job, but in a small university town without much retail it was hard to find evening/weekend jobs and almost no classes were held after 5 pm. This isn’t the case there any more. My DD#1 has a skill that she can sell her work or teach it. She is looking to see if this is something she can use as a part-time HS and college job.

  146. Life is nothing buy watered down orange juice, half cookies and calculus problem sets. But, miracle of miracles, all that work’s paid off and you’ve gotten into MIT. Well, too bad. We can’t afford it. You’re going to the same school you could have gotten into if you’d worked half as hard and had 2x the fun.

    LOL! Now THAT was funny.

    Lark – how are you enjoying the house at the beach?

  147. We started to save for college via 529s at birth. It is a lot easier for us because we just have one kid. I know it is much more of a challenge for many as multiple kids will be in college at the same time.

    This is one of the few areas that my philosophy differs from DH. I think that the child should have some skin in the game and pay for some part of their education. His parents paid for college, and he paid for his own graduate school so he wants to do the same for our child. I don’t think this will be an issue, as we have been able to accumulate more than we expected by this point due to the stock market. I still intend for DD to work in summers and/or school to pay for all of her extras and social life.

    As for allergies, we take the dose of Zyrtec at night so the drowsiness is not an issue. We tried prescription eye drops, but now many are available OTC. Flonase is helpful too.

  148. Lark, from the anecdotes I’ve seen, the college experience is becoming more stratified. It used to be some very bright kids from poor families became auto mechanics at their local community college, or even stayed on the family farm, or working in the immigrant parents’ restaurant. Now, I’d be willing to bet that 95% of the kids with the most potential (say NMSF caliber) are identified and at the very least go to their state flagship, or get some sort of full ride in an honors program. And on the flip side, outside of the very most elite families, being from a privileged white New England family isn’t enough to get into the Ivies anymore like it was maybe half a century ago. Charles Murray talks a lot about this kind of thing in “Coming Apart.”

    I’m sure there is evidence to support your view as well though- probably varies a lot by region and who you happen to know.

  149. “How do you become a good writer without writing?”

    I think you are conflating substance with process. Even my ADD self could manage a set number of papers. What I could not manage is the current approach of having 17 separately-graded elements for every, single. damn. paper.

    My freshman writing seminar had a paper a week, which meant 10 papers, due every Friday. Here is what I had to do for that class: (1) read the book; (2) talk about it in class; and (3) turn in a paper every Friday. End result: Great paper = A.

    Here is how it would have gone following the standard HS approach: (1) thesis due Sunday; (2) proposed research plan due Monday; (3) note cards documenting the research due Tuesday; (4) outline due Wednesday; (5) draft due Thursday; (6) final version due Friday. Oh, and (7) daily homework and (8) weekly quizzes to make sure you did your reading for each class. End result: Great paper! Too bad you missed the deadline for the research plan, and your note cards were sloppy and disorganized, and you forgot Thursday’s homework = C.

  150. Rio – I think we’ve gotten to the point that we tend to say the elite schools offer a leg up if you want an investment banking, Biglaw, or management consulting job at one of the most elite firms. But that’s really their only value added.

    I think what Lark was saying is that, as the UGa/GaTech/UVA/U. Michigans have grown increasingly more competitive, either some of those top firms are going to realize that they can get the same performance from alumni of those schools as they can from Penn, or maybe other, barely-second-tier firms will undercut them and take their place. It’s reasonable to think that this will also coincide with more and more people and big business moving southward, away from the Acela corridor, to the Charlottes and Atlantas and Raleigh-Durham areas.

  151. Anon, you’ve received some good suggestions already.  If you haven’t done so, try the College Board college search, where you can screen by cost and similar factors.  US News has a similar screening tool on their premium site.  A rural school may be one of the most affordable options.  SUNY Plattsburgh actually gives aid to out of state students.  Take a look at other affordable out-of-state public colleges.  Run the NPCs to get a general idea of net cost.

    The non-custodial parent’s income is typically NOT included in the FAFSA calculation, but child support is.

  152. @ Milo – we are loving it. This summer the kids want to bring friends with them, so that will be a different dynamic.

  153. or maybe other, barely-second-tier firms will undercut them and take their place.

    Or, folks from Michigan can enjoy a long and lucrative career at a second tier firm. As Countess of Grantham would say, “It’s not like they’re being sent down the mines.”

  154. End result: Great paper! Too bad you missed the deadline for the research plan, and your note cards were sloppy and disorganized, and you forgot Thursday’s homework = C.

    Exactly!

  155. LfB,

    And, for the kid who had a 4.2 but couldn’t test into English I at a community college. The final paper was a pastiche of incomprehensible gibberish. But, all the i’s were dotted and all the t’s were crossed and everything was neat and handed in on time – A++!

  156. Anothertwinmom – Zyrtec is supposed to be the strongest (of Claritin and Allegra and Zyrtec). I have had a lot of success with that. You may also want to try Flonase which I just saw in Target, so it no longer requires a prescription.

    For sinus headache/dizziness, I strongly recommend the original Sudafed that you have to get behind the counter.

  157. “My freshman writing seminar had a paper a week, which meant 10 papers, due every Friday. Here is what I had to do for that class: (1) read the book; (2) talk about it in class; and (3) turn in a paper every Friday. End result: Great paper = A.”
    That works if you can already write before you get to college, in which case they should have placed you out of the freshman writing seminar anyway (one of my joys was getting placed out of freshman comp). It doesn’t work for the vast majority of kids coming into non-Ivies. They never had the HS version you are describing, so they need it when they get to college.
    In any case, a book and a paper every week is a far cry from the “cram for three exams” model that others are describing.

    One other question – many of you describe nonrequired homework where you looked up the solutions yourselves. Didn’t you have recitation sections? The recitation section is where the TA goes over the homework with the students. Even my father, back when he was teaching, had several TAs who ran his recitation sections. I had them in every science/CS/math course, and we had them at the university where I did my grad work – I often was assigned to run a couple. What kind of cost cutting school just flings a solution manual at the students?

  158. No recitation in chemistry or math at Iowa State. Grad students were sentenced to a couple hours of “tutoring” organic chemistry homework each week, but you had to be motivated to show up.

  159. No recitations in Com Sci, either, and I had a minor so lots of classes. We had to do projects in software engineering and programs/labs in C++, though, so most people found someone to work with.

    Maybe part of the reason I think of college as a “hoop jumping experience” is that my classes depended heavily on your ability to figure stuff out on your own, or have a classmate/fraternity brother to help you.

  160. LfB, I don’t think the EFC calculations look at your expenses, so they don’t care whether or not you have a mortgage payment, or how large it is.

    I’m really interested in whether you’re correct or not, because I’ve made a lot of financial decisions based on my understanding, which is contrary to yours.

    Have you gone to any college websites recently to use their calculators, or done a FAFSA or CSS? I’ve done a few websites, but the FAFSA and CSS are on my todo list, now that I’ve recently finished taxes.

  161. “my classes depended heavily on your ability to figure stuff out on your own, or have a classmate/fraternity brother to help you.”
    Well, that is a good thing, no? Most employers are looking for exactly those traits, both of them, and that may be why they want college grads

  162. We were fortunate enough to be able to pay for college from savings and cash flow, but neither of our kids had to pay the top price (running about $50K for DD and now $60K for DS). DD went to an out-of-state flagship university, and DS got a nice chunk of merit aid from his private school.

    The totals put us about halfway between the cost of a UC and the full price of a private school.

    I know I’ve mentioned this before, but a number of good private schools give merit aid without you or the student having to fill out any additional applications – you find out the amount when you get your acceptance letter. Examples of schools that do this are Fordham, Villanova, Case Western, Occidental – and there are probably lots more. The better your grades/scores/desirability, the more money they will offer you.

    As someone suggested, College Confidential is a good website to look around to see what kind of money schools are giving away. Just don’t get sucked into it when your child is waiting to hear from schools – there are people online who have a countdown to the acceptance date, and it is very disheartening when your kid doesn’t get in!!

    DD also saved us money by studying in France for part of a summer. She got 15 hours of credit in little over a month, and for some reason she was able to pay instate tuition. Even with her airfare it still cost less than out-of-state tuition, and that included her room and board. That is the kind of thing you can’t know about ahead of time, but it was certainly a bonus for us (and her)!

  163. We had recitations in physics so I know what they are. I just know we didn’t have them in chemistry, com sci or math when I was a student- they may exist now. In engineering, there was sort of a lab/recitation merger. When I talked about visiting the grad student offices to overhear people speaking English and trying to get into a section with a comprehensible TA, this is what I’m thinking of. I hear the TA situation is now better.

  164. My experiences with grading are similar to WCE’s, although I didn’t take organic chemistry. The one chemistry class I took was graded entirely on one midterm and the final (the lab was a separate class that was graded separately).

    I also remember my World Civilizations class grade being based entirely on tests as well.

    Mooshi (and others with ADHD-type kids), one thing that will really help your kids not just survive, but thrive, in college (his smarts say he has the potential to thrive) is to choose not just a college, but specific class sections in which the grading policy will match your kids’ strengths, e.g., not include busy work/homework as part of the grading criteria, but rather have problem sets as a tool, to be used as deemed appropriate by the students, to gauge and hone the skills necessary to do well on the exams, not to mention learn the material.

  165. I didn’t take any non-required science. We had “section” in addition to the lecture (if it was a lecture course) where we had either a TA or the professor facilitate discussion of that week’s lecture and reading. I got my awesome scone recipe from one of those TAs. :)

  166. Life is nothing buy watered down orange juice, half cookies and calculus problem sets. But, miracle of miracles, all that work’s paid off and you’ve gotten into MIT. Well, too bad. We can’t afford it. You’re going to the same school you could have gotten into if you’d worked half as hard and had 2x the fun.

    It would be funnier if it wasn’t true….

    My oldest is a junior and the merry go round is insane. She won’t be NMSF, she only manged 95th percentile, SAT slightly over 2000, he has competed and placed at the state level in speech contests, works, has held offices in various clubs, plays on two athletic teams and one academic, and is at best her numbers are average for the UC system. I look at how hard she worked/works, how little fun/spare time she has in high school relative to DH & I, and it is sad. We have saved enough to send her to a UC, with spending money to spare, but now we are looking at the reality of paying for private schools or out of state tuition, given that we have three kids who will likely be in the same situation, the prospects are daunting.

  167. I think recitations may be school-size dependent. I know DH had them for all the basic courses in his major (physics, biology, chemistry, and the specialized classes within those 3 umbrellas). I did not have a recitation class until grad school (both as a student and a TA). But I also went to a school where my largest class contained 48 students. We had homework – some turned in for grading, some where you looked up the answers in the back of the book or were given the answers in class. No recitations though. It was expected of us to go to the professor’s office hours instead. We had no TAs either. That model (small class size, and accountability expected) worked for me and got me through a lot of learning difficulties which were missed in elementary, middle, and high school.

    My alma mater is bigger now, so I wouldn’t be surprised if some professors have recitation sections and TAs. I’m sure the TAs only assist in prep and grading – the school prides itself on the profs teaching the courses.

  168. “We should be able to have the bottom quintile easily move into the upper four quintiles without anyone moving into the bottom.”

    Isn’t this statistically impossible?

  169. The private college I went to gave aid to make the price equal to the state flagship up the road. They also give a $40k scholarship to Eagle Scouts (not means tested).

  170. I had recitation classes all thru undergrad. Whether the TA spoke comprehensible English was a factor in deciding whether to go. Also, how I was doing in the class. If I had an A, I didn’t bother. Yes, Finn, I was an econ major…..prices go up, people by less, take a derivative, set it equal to zero and solve…..it was amazing how many people found the subject difficult.

  171. Anon, I second Houston’s suggestion about the ACT, but don’t send any colleges the scores unless they’re at least as good as the SAT.

    BTW, this situation sounds a lot like MBT’s friend’s son.

    Also consider some of the schools that are testing-optional.

    There are also the inside the box options as well, e.g., non-flagship or directional U. If kid does well somewhere like that, test scores become less important, and transfer options open up.

  172. Rhode – that would be typical. At a SLAC, professors are expected to spend a lot more time with the students, and do their own grading. The recitation section system is for schools with gigantic lectures.

  173. I wasn’t aware that colleges gave scholarships for Eagle Scouts. I’d love a couple of examples that I could check out.

  174. “Whether the TA spoke comprehensible English was a factor in deciding whether to go.”

    THIS. Probably why I am not an engineer today. Most of the TAs I could not understand. Yeah, that must be it ;)

  175. Murphy – the competition for admissions slots at UCs is just so tremendous vs back in the day. There’s no way I would have gotten in if the standards were what they are now.

  176. I wasn’t familiar with recitations (except maybe for poetry?), but it sounds like how a lot of big lecture classes were done when I was an undergrad. We’d have a couple of lectures given in a huge lecture hall by a prof to several hundred students, then we’d have what were called labs, with maybe 20 or so students, led by a grad student. I found them to be pretty redundant.

  177. Murphy – Have you checked into Cal Poly? I know the engineering school is hard to get into, and the business school going that way, but in general is is easier than a UC.

    Regarding the UC’s, if she is UC eligible and does not want to go to UC Merced (or another campus that is “easier” to get into), she should not include that in her list of UC’s when she applies. I have heard that if you check off say UCLA, Davis and Merced, even if she is a good match for Davis they may only let her into Merced, because they are trying to bring up the level of grades/tests there.

    Depending on her grades she may be eligible for UC Irvine, Santa Barbara, or some of the others that are below the Berkeley/UCLA level.

    A lot of kids here (SF) go to the University of Oregon. You may want to check the out-of-state tuition to see who that compares to the UCs

  178. OK, here is the very confusing grading scheme for Rowan University’s Calculus for the Life Sciences. Rowan is a public teaching oriented university in New Jersey, the kind of school that your B average middle class kids go to

    Lecture Material is 70% of grade:
    Lecture participation (I>Clicker) (8% of Lecture grade)
    50% of participation grade is answering 75% of posed questions
    50% of participation grade is based on correct answers of select questions
    Two lowest scores are dropped over the semester
    Homework with WeBWorK (18% of Lecture grade)
    Exams and Final ((74% of Lecture grade))
    Scientific Calculator only – Exams and Final
    One 3×5 notecard for Exams and three 3×5 notecards for Final

    Lab Work is 30% of grade:
    13-14 Lab assignments – Lowest Lab score is dropped
    Lab attendance is mandatory (unless you receive an excused absence)
    3 Lab Quizzes worth twice a regular Lab assignment
    Open notes, Computer (except email), No Cell Phones

  179. ssk – I don’t think, generally that Oregon compares favorably to the UC schools (not even Riverside & Merced). Kid 3 was seriously considering going there until a couple of weeks ago, so I looked into it quite a bit.

  180. some may remember Rowan as Glassboro State (even fewer will know that’s where LBJ and Kosygin met in 1967).

  181. Houston – just asked the google about scholarships for Eagle Scouts and it came up with a bunch of examples. They seemed to be small numbers of scholarships, but there were a variety listed, so it can’t hurt to check it out!

  182. Rio, while your 1550/valedictorian brother may not get merit aid at an elite, there are a bunch of good schools where he could get generous merit aid.

    E.g., his SAT scores suggest he was also a NMF, ,and we’ve discussed here how some privates (notably USC), and many publics, give non-competitive merit awards to them ,i.e., you’re a NMF, you come to our school, you automatically get the award, often full tuition and fees, 50% for USC.

  183. ” they do have an honors college that might work for Murphy’s daughter.”

    Or Rio’s brother.. But there are other flagship Us with honors colleges that are more generous with merit aid, especially to NMF (which Rio’s brother is if he did anywhere near as well on the PSAT as he did on the SAT), e.g., Arizona State, Oklahoma, Alabama.

    We had a poster here a while back whose kid was going to Barrett Honors College at ASU. If you’re lurking, I’d love to hear how that’s working out. DS is thinking of applying there if he is a NMSF.

  184. Wabash College
    Eagle Scout Scholarships $40,000 over four years; $10,000 per year.

  185. Bill Gates’ mom paid someone to come clean his home after he dropped out of Harvard, so he could focus on what would become Microsoft. Was she crazy, a push over, or perceptive?

  186. Bill Gates’ mom paid someone to come clean his home after he dropped out of Harvard, so he could focus on what would become Microsoft.

    And with his family’s money he didn’t need to sell 97% of his stake to VCs to keep the lights on. That’s why he has $85 billion vs. 8.5 billion or even 850 million.

  187. “It’s almost like MMM is reading the Totebag, because he wrote the response to those telling me to buy an F-150. (I actually really like the way he focuses on the Walmart tractor trailer efficiency):”

    Milo, you’re missing the point. The reason you need an F-150 is that you’re are a Northern Virginian UMC young professional. You have young daughters! You have to prove your manliness. They look as good in front of your country club as a Bently. Heck, you need one for the same reason that you and your wife will be looking soon for a little estate in Upperville and the same reason I am boing to buy a powder blue Lincoln.

    MMM is clever, but he simply doesn’t understand the need to prove to others that we are something we are not.

  188. Side note…I’ve always said that the Berenstain Bears are the most Totebaggy of all the cartoon characters.

    I’m watching it now with my 3 yo, and the family is taking their vacation in a rented, retired lighthouse. The bear driving them in a boat out to the island comments to them “I don’t know why you’d want to stay in that old lighthouse–there are plenty of nice beach houses to rent on the shore.”

    Papa responds “history!” and Mama patiently explains “Papa has always had a keen interest in old service buildings.”

  189. Rhett, my point is that Gates succeeded as a result of his parents’ support, even when his choices were against the Totebag norms of balance, self-sufficiency, etc..

  190. Sure, motor power is fun. But you know what is much more fun? Money power. Just by making different truck choices, you can end up with hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank, or invested in your business making more money for you.

    And that money makes money and that money makes money, until it grows into a giant snowball of money…that you never spend.

  191. Anon: Thanks. I appreciate the info.

    We were discussing the F-150 at a breakfast meeting today. Old white guy was about to start drilling some oil wells on some land he leased. The advice was that his 18 year old Volvo station wagon was not the car to drive in that business. However, the truck could not be too new–none of the shiny aluminum ones! Yes, this was a real conversation.

  192. Yes, I remember the Arizona poster – I would like to know how his/her child is faring. I know a couple of kids who are around DS’s age who are going to Arizona and Arizona State.

    The University of Washington’s next most popular state for attendance is California. It is also a frequent choice in my neck of the woods.

  193. Murphy – the competition for admissions slots at UCs is just so tremendous vs back in the day. There’s no way I would have gotten in if the standards were what they are now.

    Me neither. Murphy, can your DD go to a CSU for a couple of years and then transfer to a UC? That would save money anyway and the diploma would still say “University of California.” And I wouldn’t rule out her getting into Merced or one of the other less-popular campuses.

    I know I’ve been gone too long, but I find it hard to believe that it’s really difficult to get into Cal State Stanislaus. So spend two years in Turlock (I know, I know), get some lower-division crap out of the way, then transfer to UC.

  194. If you search Eagle Scout INSTITUTIONAL scholarships you’re more likely to find the school-sponsored awards, which I think tend to be more generous

  195. My friend’s kid enlisted in the Navy when he was a high school junior and between the early enlistment bonus and the Eagle Scout bonus he made pretty good money for the time he was in the service. Not bad pay for sitting around in Puerto Rico being bored.

  196. ATM: Benadryl eye drops are awesome if your symptoms are primarily eye itchiness. They work amazingly well but don’t have systemic effects. Rx only, I believe.

    My allergies get worse every year too. It can’t be the overly clean house….

  197. “The reason you need an F-150 is that you’re are a Northern Virginian UMC young professional. You have young daughters! You have to prove your manliness.”

    That’s such a cliche though. Ignoring it is more interesting. For example, my onboard stateroom-mate and best friend on the boat (we shared a very dry, sarcastic cynicism) was a music-obsessed pseudo-hipster. He wore a calculator watch ironically. So you’d expect him to drive a Jetta or Subaru or something. Instead, he bought an old, late 80s powder blue Cadillac El Dorado Brougham coupe.

  198. I have definitely come around to the idea that my children will not get a fully-funded second tier private education. MIT, yes. Stanford, probably. Pitzer, no. I loved my SLAC, but didn’t pay anywhere near full-freight. I qualified for a large merit scholarship (37.5% of tuition renewed every year), but they gave me additional grant money due to financial need (so if I hadn’t gotten the merit scholarship, I likely would have had the same package).

    On jobs — one of the things that a small college with good financials can offer is a lot of work-study positions with little work and a lot of study. At my school, these were often filled by students who didn’t have financial need. You can monitor the front door at the gym or library, check out camping supplies, etc and spend 90% of your time studying. Every computer lab (which probably doesn’t exist anymore) had an assistant who could help you with basic problems. I think the expectation that a totebagger kiddo could put in 15 hours a week doing that kind of work is still realistic.

  199. I think Milo was right — she got frustrated about the answers to her question about how to deal with the landlord and either split permanently or is taking a break.

  200. Thanks for the advice and ideas! Particularly excited about the out of state tuition waivers mentioned. Kid will be studying intensively for ACT and SAT this summer; hopefully can improve enough to be in the running for merit money. Yes it is a lot like the MBT situation.

  201. What pre-meds should do in the summertime: something related to what they would do if they don’t get into medical school (as 80%+ of students who start school pre-med don’t apply to medical school). So, if they love science, they should be doing lab work. If they love teaching, they should be involved in some kind of summer program for kids.

    What medical school like is much like what colleges like — things that seem to show some dedication, leadership. I don’t think they get too excited about volunteering to pay a bunch of money to build a clinic in Guatemala. They do like students that do real science research. They also like students who do significant volunteer work. One of the benefits of a SLAC is that it can put you in contact with these kinds of opportunities for pay. My school had a number (it seemed to be equal to the number of students who wanted them) of stipends to stay on campus and do research with a prof. I did that one summer and was able to publish. I also spent a chunk of one summer creating and organizing a week-long camping program for incoming students. The school supported me with money/resources and it looked great on my application. I also spent a summer taking a week long course about wilderness medicine and then working as a white water rafting guide — the medical schools loved that — it came up at every interview. So — no one expected that I was working in medicine, but they did expect that I was doing meaningful work.

  202. On the subject of summer jobs, I’m thinking a lot of totebaggy kids might be able to get jobs as tutors. Locally, there’s quite an industry tutoring young kids for private school exams, and I imagine a 1550 SAT on your resume might get you an interview at an SAT prep academy.

  203. Anon – I feel sure that there is a good match for your child that will work for you financially as well, but it will probably take a lot of research. Being in the Northeast you will at least be able to visit a lot of colleges in your region without expensive trips to budget for, so hopefully you can get a good list of those in your part of the country and then move on to the rest of the states!!

    Not that anyone needs one more thing to pay for, but I feel sure that there are college admission counselors out there who specialize in identifying and helping you get into schools that will suit kids with ADHD and other learning issues.

  204. Nope, no recitiations. I’d never heard of it either. A prof and/or the TA would hold office hours. If you had trouble you showed up at that time. A couple of 30 min sessions didn’t get you over the hump for the semester, they’d send you off to find paid tutoring.

  205. Also important to note that many kids will end up happier and more successful in the top 10% at Cal State LA vs. being in the bottom 10% at UCLA.

  206. Anon, I think the basic concept for merit money is to identify colleges where you will be above average that are trying to raise their academic profiles .

  207. “Instead, he bought an old, late 80s powder blue Cadillac El Dorado Brougham coupe.”

    Oh, man! That is my ideal! Does he live in a state that allows same sex marriage?

  208. Finn, I don’t know if Oregon has a flagship U. Oregon State is the land grant engineering/vet/science/forestry/oceanography school and U of Oregon is for liberal arts. I probably know too much about OSU’s dirty laundry to be completely objective, but if you pass Math 150 according to the syllabus Mooshi linked to, you could probably pass at most other Moo U’s. I suspect you know what I went to grad school in and why that program is more competitive than admissions in general, which aren’t very competitive.

  209. If OSU has an engineering college and U of Oregon doesn’t, then I know which one I would consider the flagship.

  210. The College Board, for example, defines flagship universities as the best-known institutions in the state, noting that they were generally the first to be established and are frequently the largest and most selective, as well as the most research-intensive public universities.

  211. Thanks for all the advice, especially the info about UC Merced. Cal Poly is almost as difficult to get into as the UCs (except Merced). I would love to hear anything from the poster whose child went to Arizona. I mentioned UofA to my daughter and her response was that it was a party school. DD’s SATs were almost good enough for automatic admit to Texas A&M, which she is interested in. If anyone knows anything about the Honors program at Oregon State University, I’d love to hear about that too.

  212. I’m guessing sports provides clues as to which is considered the flagship state U in many (most?) states: the one that is identified, in intercollegiate sports, by just the state name.

    E.g., in Oregon, It’s U of Oregon, in CA, it’s UC-Berkeley, inTexas, it’s UT-Austin, in NC, it’s UNC-Chapel Hill, in AZ, it’s U of Arizona, etc..

  213. I mentioned UofA to my daughter and her response was that it was a party school.

    All schools with the possible exception of Caltech are party schools. You can avoid that aspect of any school if you make the effort. I have an acquaintance whose daughter is in the honors college at U of A. I could pass along any questions you have.

  214. Murphy, the person I was thinking of had a kid that went to ASU’s Barrett Honors College in Tempe, not UA in Tucson.

    I’ve heard ASU has a rep as a party school, but it also has a lot of professionals in their grad programs, many of them getting their master’s degrees on a part-time basis while working full time.

    I’ve not heard of UA as a party school, which is not to say that it isn’t.

  215. What’s wrong with party schools? I went to two of them. Part of growing up, I think, is learning how to manage all of that.

  216. “All schools with the possible exception of Caltech are party schools.”

    Even U Chicago?

  217. On allergies, I’ll add to those recommending Flonase. Members of my family have no side effects with it. If you don’t like a nasal spray, I second the idea of taking the 24-hr med at bedtime.

  218. I mentioned UofA to my daughter and her response was that it was a party school.

    You seem to imply that’s a negative.

  219. Murphy – Another thing to consider is the academic area your daughter wants to pursue. Some schools make you choose a “college” (Business, Engineering, Arts & Sciences) to apply to. If you don’t get in the Engineering school, you don’t get into the University. Others will let you choose more than one option. UC Santa Barbara is an example I know of where you can apply to multiple schools, so if you didn’t get into the Engineering school, you can still get in the Arts & Sciences school.

  220. “80%+ of students who start school pre-med don’t apply to medical school”

    How many med school students had undergrad majors that weren’t pre-med? I know several engineers who later decided to become MDs, and one of my cousin’s law school classmate became an MD– is this common?

    “My school had a number (it seemed to be equal to the number of students who wanted them) of stipends to stay on campus and do research with a prof. ”

    When we took a tour of Caltech a couple summers ago, our tour guide told us that was common there. As part of the tour, she took us to her dorm, which was full of kids, mostly undergrads, doing that.

  221. stipends for undergrad research are common at many schools where professors actually do research. This is something I will be asking about when we are checking out colleges. This is a big reason why people who want to major in a STEM field should not go to a small teaching oriented college (with some exceptions – mainly top tier SLACs)

  222. Finn — my school was known to be unwelcoming of non-traditional applicants. Other than the requisite few Mormons who had done a mission, I can only recall two classmates who had more than a year between undergrad and medical school. Engineers who become MDs exist, but they don’t often go to highly selective schools – in my experience they don’t have the grades to get in (fair or not). State schools tend to have more people entering as a second-career. I think privates may stay away from that due to the fact that non-traditionals seem to be more likely to enter primary care – does not raise the prestige of the institution.

    On the other hand, there were many people at my school (including myself) who had non-science majors, or soft-science majors — environmental science, psychology, etc. Schools generally welcome those students and, statistically, a philosophy student has a higher chance at acceptance to medical school than a biochem student.

  223. Let me clarify that the party school thing is my daughter’s objection, not mine. I think her concern is that there wouldn’t be anything to do that didn’t involve drinking. My concern is that she will focus on coursework and neglect the social aspect of school. This is one reason I will provide beer money.

  224. She is interested in genetics and is looking for a school where she can do undergrad research and get ready for grad school. That is one reasons the uc’s are of interest. Not Berkeley. A

  225. Murphy, I am acquainted with the dean of the honors college at OSU and am friends with the 2011 Sandy and Elva Sanders Eminent Professor. He is a superb teacher and his honors seminars are always in demand. The honors program at OSU is pretty good and a student who can navigate the system and apply herself will have numerous options- my colleagues’ kids are pharmacists, Bay Area patent attorneys, MD/PhD track, UC engineering PhD’s, etc. with undergrad engineering degrees from OSU. You are not getting the hand-holding and “fit” discussed above. If you can’t write already, you won’t get much useful instruction. My former professor friends assure me that “research grants” rank way higher on the promotion rubric than “undergraduate teaching”. But that’s true pretty much everywhere. There are opportunities for undergraduate research.

    My colleague-across-the-aisle has a son entering engineering with a ~3.8 HS GPA and ~1150 SAT and he got a ~$2500 scholarship off the ~$9k tuition list price. This is about the WCE family college budget. For honors and engineering, the tuition costs will be higher than list price.

    Note that costs will be per-credit-hour even for full-time course loads (so 18 credits cost 50% more than 12 credits, which is the tuition list price, I think) and honors college is an extra cost. Different colleges also have different extra fees.

  226. She has a strong dislike of the Bay Area and won’t even apply to Berkeley or Stanford

  227. entering engineering with a ~3.8 HS GPA and ~1150 SAT

    I wound not have expected engineering to be a possibility for someone with SAT scores that low.

  228. “statistically, a philosophy student has a higher chance at acceptance to medical school than a biochem student.”

    Is that because it’s easier to get a high GPA in philosophy?

    A friend of ours who is an MD has mentioned on numerous occasions that anyone who has chosen MD as a goal should do the big fish/small pond thing, because she thinks GPA is the most important factor in med school acceptance.

  229. Is that because it’s easier to get a high GPA in philosophy?

    Pbbbttt.

  230. Rhett, 25/75 percentile SAT scores at OSU are 970/1220. (The 1150 is out of 1600). Kid wants to be a civil engineer, probably, which is one of the less competitive areas. If he’s motivated, graduation seems doable.

  231. Finn, it has been my experience in my daughter’s application and scholarship search the no one will accept SAT scores without the writing score, but that it is not a part of criteria for almost anything.

  232. Murphy, you could subscribe to the undergrad research opportunities. Undergraduate Research Opportunities – A common misconception among students is that there is a “list” of undergraduate research opportunities. With rare exceptions, there is no such list, yet there are MANY opportunities for students to do undergraduate research at OSU. contact Kevin Ahern at ahernk@onid.orst.edu to get help in getting involved with an OSU professor. Another great source of information for undergrad research is the URSA listserv. Notices of new opportunities are sent to this list as they become available. To join the list, send a message to Kevin Ahern at the address above and request to be added.

  233. There is plenty to do at almost any reasonably sized residential college outside of drinking, no matter how much it has a reputation for being a “party school.” That said, there are valid reasons for someone like Murphy’s daughter to prefer to avoid them. Kids who don’t drink/party don’t want that to be the defining point in their identity, or to seem like the weird one or misfit. It’s easier to build a stronger network of friends on campus when there’s a larger proportion of people who share your lifestyle.

  234. RIo,

    I totally agree. Milo mentioned that not just better in that “it’s a ‘better fit’,” as I firmly believe in the potential character building value of adversity,. I don’t think he fully appreciates the fact that element of his character are several standard deviations outside the norm.

  235. Speaking of undergrad research, I am right now working on a proposal narrative for a small grant that would pay stipends to a couple of undergrads doing a project with me.

  236. I’ve fiiinally caught up with the comments. And all I have to add is that the WICHE WUE program is our lifeline — even if no one gets merit money those are affordable out-of-state options.

    Oh, and to the person asking about affordable college options for a kid with modest SATs and decent grades and likely not to qualify for aid — don’t forget ROTC.

  237. “LfB, I don’t think the EFC calculations look at your expenses, so they don’t care whether or not you have a mortgage payment, or how large it is.”

    That is essentially correct. Exceptions may be in cases of high medical expenses or other similar obligations, which typically require a “professional judgement” appeal.

    Also, I’ll reiterate the importance of early deadlines for some scholarships. For example, the USC NMF grant requires early application.

  238. HM and others, do you know many students who have received tuition discounts from WUE or similar interstate compacts? I know schools have number limits and typically restrictions. For example, if an in-state school already has a major/program, then the out-of-state school will not give a discount for that program.

  239. I don’t think he fully appreciates the fact that element of his character are several standard deviations outside the norm.

    Oh, I don’t know about that. And my comment about the private school was more along the lines that I would have a very hard time justifying the $40k annual cost difference for the small private college for subjective reasons. But I don’t disagree with Rio that if a student is turned off by a certain reputation, it’s at least a legitimate concern.

    Oh, and to the person asking about affordable college options for a kid with modest SATs and decent grades and likely not to qualify for aid — don’t forget ROTC.

    I was thinking this, too, and I read some college confidential threads. Some of the comments seem to indicate that the standards may have crept considerably higher over the past 15 years. OTOH, these are mostly the Moms talking, and you can never really trust the comments of anonymous parents who have no first-hand exposure to the program. But it does appear that ROTC may have shifted to a tier system where they can award partial scholarships. My information is way out of date, because this all seems new to me. One commenter asked me, through CoC, about students joining ROTC without necessarily having the scholarship (possibly applying for it for subsequent years) and I checked with a couple of my ROTC-grad friends, and none of them could think of anyone who had done this. But it’s entirely possible that this has since changed.

    Also, it appears that the Navy is requiring a high percentage of their scholarship students to be in technical majors. The other services don’t care if you want to be a History major.

    The one thing on these threads that really gets my goat is some Mommy telling interested high school kids “don’t apply for this just as a way to pay for college, you have to really want to be an officer” as if she’s Gunny Hartman herself in “Full Metal Jacket” or something. That’s such bullsh1t, and it’s such an elitist attitude. The military officer programs for the past century or so have ALWAYS been a way for working class or lower middle class kids to pay for college. Additionally, how the Hell is a 16-year-old kid supposed to have any realistic idea of whether that particular choice is right for him as a career. I mean, I was about 25 and already doing it for a couple years AFTER commissioning before I knew whether I really wanted to stay or not. Finally, the one thing the military does NOT need is to fill its ranks only with the kids who have no interests other than marching and shooting guns–it’s supposed to be a somewhat representative cross section. Still, every single question on “cc” about “what are my chances of getting a scholarship” has some Mom or Dad chide the questioner “don’t do this as a way to pay for college.”

  240. “One commenter asked me, through CoC, about students joining ROTC without necessarily having the scholarship (possibly applying for it for subsequent years) and I checked with a couple of my ROTC-grad friends, and none of them could think of anyone who had done this.”
    My DH did this – joined ROTC, paid for freshman year, and was on scholarship for his last 3 years of college. But that was many years ago – no idea if that ever happens now.

  241. Milo – at one school I’m aware of, the ROTC folks made it clear you can join ROTC without a scholarship in freshman year, and then apply for the scholarship during that year, to have it kick in for years 2, 3 and 4. I imagine this is not a renegade ROTC program, and that this is allowed at all schools.

    Kids can meet with the ROTC folks during their college campus tours and find this info out for the ROTC program at each school.

  242. Risley and HfN – That makes sense. The guys I asked are from Notre Dame and Duke, so maybe in their programs, anyone who had the academic credentials to be admitted to the school were able to get the scholarship right off the bat.

  243. I understood it was more about slots available and less about credentials. Or put differently, you need certain credentials to get the scholarship, but even if you have those going into freshman year, you’re out of luck if they’ve filled all of their scholarship slots. But they have room/slots available later, presumably b/c ppl fail out or otherwise leave during freshman year, or because there are more upperclassmen slots than lower, or whatever.

  244. I can’t recall if I ever looked at college confidential, but the specific academy blogs/discussion threads seem good. I don’t recall the names but I think I found them through a simple request through the Googles. Most of the responses to questions on the academy blogs seemed to come from ppl who have attended and graduated, or who are there now, or who have kids there and are happy about that. There’s also a long thread for each year’s applicants, and lots of info on there. And a ton of questions like, “I’m a HS freshman. What should I do now to get myself into the academy?” All of those questions seemed to be answered by ppl who had actually done it or were in the process of it. Lots involve discussion about ROTC scholarships, so it’s not all confined to academy stuff. It’s very rahrahrah but also quite informative, imho. This was true for the branch I looked at, anyway. Would think it’d be true for all branches. ?

  245. It’s very rahrahrah but also quite informative, imho. This was true for the branch I looked at, anyway. Would think it’d be true for all branches. ?

    Generally. But in terms of “rahraharhrah,” there are definite personality differences, ime, across the services and across their respective Academies. There’s no easier way for a member of the public to see this distinction up close than at the Army-Navy game, starting with a comparison of the two march-ons by each school’s student body. (Actually, nobody but Mothers bothers to go into the stadium early enough to see the march-ons, because most would rather be tailgating at their cars–at least on the Navy alumni side–but you can watch the recap footage on TV or the Jumbotron.) A significant portion of Navy students are doing it with a purposeful level of imprecision and too-cool-for-school irony, and waving or winking at the camera (I was no exception). You simply will not see this from West Point. Ever. They’re all wearing their 19th-Century field coats and doing these fancy wagon-wheel column turns, if that’s the right term. We do none of that.

    Then, as the game gets started, just watch the different spirit spots that each school has put forward. West Point’s hardly ever go beyond “Here’s a bunch of tough soldiers with a lot of pride and tradition and they’re going to mock-beat up Navy’s Goat. Yay!”

    Navy’s spots are usually on a much deeper level of irony or sarcasm and cultural awareness.

    It’s not to say that there isn’t a wide spectrum of personalities at both schools, but the distributions are definitely centered at different points.

  246. I missed this informative discussion. I am sure there will be plenty more in the future :-).
    I am resolving not to drive myself NUTS and I am trying to be as balanced as I can about school/college with my kids as well, otherwise all of us will be stressed out.

    @Risley – did you disclose where your DS is attending ? If it is TMI, please ignore.

  247. So of course the city sends out an email bulletin that people should close at 3:30 because traffic and protests are expected to totally screw up traffic. Which they send at 3:29.

    So to wrap up one thread I left hanging yesterday: @Mooshi: I do agree that it is extremely hard to teach writing. FWIW, my writing seminar was a mandatory Freshman seminar at a SLAC — no one was allowed to place out of it; in fact, if you didn’t do well enough, you had to do it again, because no one graduated without earning their “writing credit” (which was not easily granted). We had 12 students, we wrote a *lot*, we focused solely on the writing itself (i.e., we were not judged on literary theory or research — my best paper was a riff that pulled together Indira Gandhi and The Rocky Horror Picture Show), and the prof gave us extensive feedback on every paper.

    IMO, THAT is the only way to teach writing effectively. All of the “extras” — the complex grading systems, the “points for showing up,” the 17 independently-graded interim deadlines — don’t turn kids into better writers. They just make parents *think* the school is doing something, without actually requiring the school to devote the resources necessary to do it right. Kind of like the TSA.

    The big problem is that it’s counterproductive — it promotes mediocrity. You discourage smart kids with low executive function (a/k/a “the brilliant flake,” in my mom’s memorable characterization) and reward kids who don’t write well but can make pretty TPS reports.

    Case in point: DD just got a 46 on her math unit test — and yet she somehow still has an 83 for the quarter. WTF? The test — the thing that is supposed to assess whether she has actually *learned* anything all quarter — counts for only 15% of the grade. Are you effing kidding me??? You bomb like that, you shouldn’t get a freaking B because you participated in class and — gasp — actually remembered to turn in all but one assignment. I will be royally PO’d if DD floats through HS and college with Bs for just showing up.

  248. In overall philosophies, in academic programs, they’re all very similar. But when you really know it, there are these differences in personality.

    And then there are the state schools. A friend from high school was a year behind me and went to the Citadel. So after I graduated and moved to the area, he was a senior doing all the fun summer stuff with the new class. He told me I could come watch for awhile as long as I wore a uniform. Thinking about everything I’d read by Pat Conroy, I couldn’t resist the offer, so I drove there after work one day. It was intense, to put it mildly. I was scared for myself, even though in that environment, the uniform I was wearing put me a half-step below God.

  249. LFB: I see less of this in high school, especially in the IB/AP program. These classes are pretty rigorous at our school.

    In middle school, teachers were always giving DS second and third chances to turn stuff in or do extra credit. I was a little frustrated, because it didn’t teach him that there were consequences to not keeping on top of his work. No such leeway given in high school.

  250. Louise/RMS – DS decided, after lengthy consultation with someone outside our family, that a civilian university + ROTC is a better choice than the academy. It’s a one-foot-in-each-camp approach, in his view, and allows him an entire year to decide on the service.

    He didn’t apply for a ROTC scholarship, so he will participate in the ROTC program during freshman year and, if he likes it and still believes being an officer is the right choice for him, he’ll apply for the scholarship for the other 3 years. If he doesn’t like it, he simply won’t participate after freshman year.

    It helped that the person he consulted with had also made this choice and, years later, still feels it was the right way to go. This person is similar to DS in ways that DS finds significant, so his opinion was significant to DS.

    This was completely without my input and took me very much by surprise. This is a good thing – people in this group, as well as DH, convinced me that I should keep my concerns about the academy out of DS’s earshot and let him make his own decision. I did that, and I am thrilled that neither DS nor I will ever look back on the decision and think I was too involved in it. I wasn’t involved at all. I wasn’t even aware he was having all of these discussions with this other person. So, there were no mommy tears, no begging not to go, no bribe of a new car or any of that. ;)

    I’m not sure about naming the school (though I suppose it would be relatively easy for someone to find out) but he had some nice choices and settled on a medium-sized public school with a very good biomedical engineering program. Not the one a mile away, which he refused to go to (and I think this is a good decision for him), but one in a warmer town/state, where he was accepted directly into engineering with a scholarship that brings the cost down to in-state tuition level. Not that it will matter if he ends up with the ROTC scholarship, I guess. Of course, I’m still hoping he’ll decide not to continue w/ ROTC after next year (but I’m not telling him that).

    I have a bit more to say about this process, but this post is already long.

  251. I thought allergy shots were snake oil but they have totally improved my quality of life.

    Allergy shots have been studied very thoroughly and been proven to be effective. Someone posted a week or two ago that they were doing oil pulling – that’s quackery.

  252. I toured the MS with other Mom’s yesterday. It was fine. We had two delightful kids as tour guides (great prep for college tour guide role). I feel much better after I saw the school and met some of the students.

  253. Ris, I usually agree with you and follow your logic entirely. But this business of not wanting your kid to serve just kind of baffles me. I guess I can understand from a mother “overprotective” standpoint, but I think Milo has articulately minimized worries on that front (pun intended).

    I would be so proud if my son went into the military! I’d be more honored if he made it a career. I think he’s smart enough to find some role. One of my NY hedge fund buddies has a 30-something kid that is a military spook. I know the “kid” well and am so proud that our country has people like him looking out for us.

    But I don’t get your perspective and chalk it up as a mother thing. That may not be fair and I’m not a mother– although I play one in real life.

    None of this is a criticism. Not at all. Just a disconnect.

  254. The one thing on these threads that really gets my goat is some Mommy telling interested high school kids “don’t apply for this just as a way to pay for college, you have to really want to be an officer”

    It’s a valid point. If you join ROTC or the general reserves, you need to be prepared to actually serve if needed. I was in college during the first gulf war and a lot of reserve units were activated. I remember a lot of parents complaining how unfair it was because their kids only joined to get money for college, they never considered that they could actually be sent to a war zone.

    So I don’t see what’s wrong with reminding people to make sure they understand what they are signing up for.

  255. PTM – I think it’s an overprotective mother thing. Totally willing to own that. Which isn’t to say I wouldn’t be proud of him if he were to serve. Just that I’d be more worried than anything until he was home safe.

  256. Yeah, Ris. I get that. I worry every day that my friend’s kid (I’m actually his godfather) spends in Afghanistan or other places he can’t tell me. And I know you’d reconcile it if your son did go into the military. I guess I just thought that is was the disconnect that was jarring.

    Unsurprisingly, you’ve been very honest.

  257. Yesterday at the MS, I was looking at the trophy cases in the main hall. I saw a folded Stars and Stripes in its own case right in the center with a name on it. It was a very sombre moment for me and I was reminded of it by this mornings discussion.

  258. It’s a valid point. If you join ROTC or the general reserves, you need to be prepared to actually serve if needed.

    yes, THAT is a valid point. (and if you take an ROTC scholarship, you WILL serve, not just “if needed”).

    My point is that these parents are saying it to someone who has said that they want the scholarship to pay for college. The applicant has given no reason for anyone to believe that he or she does not understand the obligation. But the parents who criticize them are essentially saying that the scholarship is not a good enough reason to do it, that if they don’t feel this strong desire to be in the military, then it’s not for them. And my point is that that’s an unrealistic criteria for a 17-year-old to meet.

    It’s perfectly acceptable for someone to be sort of on the fence but to recognize that it’s a great way to afford college, or to graduate with no debt and a decent job, and that, in exchange for the tuition money, they’ll give the military a try. If it’s not how they prefer to spend the rest of their lives, five years is a pretty short time period.

  259. Risley – I feel exactly the same way. I would be very proud if either of my children decided to serve, but worried constantly the whole time. It is a career my husband would encourage for our son, but not for our daughter, which I take issue with. But his brother, who worked in a nuclear sub for about 10 years, told him not to let her consider a military career, and that advice has stuck.

  260. I would have a very hard time justifying the $40k annual cost difference for the small private college for subjective reasons.

    What about $10k…or $20k?

  261. Rhett – That would be easier by a magnitude diminished in linear proportionality.

  262. Finn. The FAFsa, in simplest terms, looks at the family with whom the child resides most of the time. It measures income including some income or deductible retirement contributions not in agi, family size, plus non retirement assets other than the primary home.
    529 plans in the parents name are counted as parental assets. The formula is applied, and then divided by the number of college students in the family. The non tax income probably most relevant to early retirees included in the calc are child support, Roth distributions, municipal bond int, grandparent gifts or amounts from 529s in the grandparent name.. So if you and Mrs Finn scale way back by Jan 1 of your first child’s high school sophomore year, you might hit the the sweet spot for a bit. Then start bleeding in the Roth distributions during the tax year that will be on the first overlap fafsas for two. Use the grandparent money if any for the final year and a half of number two.

    This is a fallback if your share of tuition at top private school (I know you have local and peer group reasons not just financial for that choice) don’t result in nmsf scholarships.

    Personally, my earning power peaked after my kids went to college, so I couldn’t do that dance. money was a big driver of exactly where each one went and whether they needed to take a break or plow right through. Grad school was never on the table. But I paid for every one of them, including paying off any of their loans other than for finance D D. I usually do the world’s smallest violin motion when I hear UMC folks complain that their income does not provide the flexibility to write any and all checks for undergrad and grad school.

  263. I was in Walmart the other day and one of the items on my list was shaving cream. I was just about to leave with my standard can of Gillette gel when I saw on the bottom shelf this tube of Cremo Shave Cream for twice the price. It sounds counter-intuitive at first, but I have come to realize that if a discount retailer like Walmart is willing to offer shelf space to an unknown product that costs twice as much as its competitors, there’s probably a good reason for that.

    I was right. I used it for the first time this morning, and it’s just about as nice as the packaging exclaims. The razor glides over it much more smoothly than it does over gel, and what I really noticed was that I was getting that closeness on the very first pass, instead of my typical three or four strokes over each section.

    I highly recommend it. And, the instructions implore you to use such a small amount (and they were right), it’s probably comparable in total cost.

    I also bought the Gillette can just in case, so next time I might do one half of my face with each and compare the growth over two days. I typically only shave every other day, anyway.

  264. CoC and others, what would you advise the parents of younger kids on the board to do now, assuming:
    – totebag median income of $250k in high Col area
    – 2 kids who will overlap for 2 years and are now 6 and 4
    – public k-12 in Totebagland
    – state school already $20k/year in state (much of northeast)

  265. The FAFsa, in simplest terms, looks at the family with whom the child resides most of the time.

    DH’s ex has never made more than $10 an hour. (And she has a B.A. from a flagship state university, a university that should be ashamed of itself, in my opinion), so DSS was likely to be eligible for tons of need-based aid. DH and I thought that was outrageous, because after all DH is the boy’s father and has plenty of assets. Ultimately the boy took a big merit package and didn’t need a dime from either us or his mother, but there was going to be a big fight if the boy’s mother wanted the boy to take a need-based package that should rightfully have gone to a student who actually needed it.

  266. Ris, I appreciated your comment about the school a mile down the road not being the best choice. At this point, I don’t know if we’ll still be here and if we’ll be able to wisely afford other options, but it confirmed my intuition that for some kids, you may need to attend school elsewhere to really feel like you’re out of high school.

  267. My DD has mentioned considering ROTC. This made my head spin around. As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up with one parent who was in a combat zone, had untreated PTSD and self medicated with alcohol. I don’t want my child or grandchildren to live that way. On the other hand, I think I understand and value the gifts of this country and I hope to have enough integrity to understand that if someone’s child isn’t willing to defend our country, that it may perish.

    I don’t understand how to find courage to be supportive if this is a decision she makes. PTM and others, how did you get to where you stand on this issue?

  268. WCE – I advised him to apply in case he changed his mind later, but assured him I wouldn’t make him go if he got in. He didn’t change his mind. For many kids around here, including some of his good friends, it’s the dream, and they’re thrilled to be going. Some of my other kids might thrive there, even. DS would consider it a straitjacket. And when I picture him there, in the same town he grew up in, taking classes within spitting distance of his HS, I imagine a very depressed kid.

  269. I don’t understand how to find courage to be supportive if this is a decision she makes.

    There’s a really simple answer here: steer her toward Air Force, Navy, or Coast Guard.

  270. I may be the poster that people were referring to about the ASU Barrett Honors College. My DS was a NMF and could have gone to ASU tuition-free. We visited, and I was more impressed with Barrett than I expected to be. He liked it a lot, and it was in contention right up until he made his final decision.

    Ultimately, he chose to go to U of Chicago. He received a small merit scholarship ($2K) for being a NMF, but we received a reasonable amount of need-based aid. All-in, ASU would have been about $16K; U of Chicago came to $24K. I don’t think that’s unreasonable. In addition, U Chicago met his entire “need” with grants. He did qualify for some loans, but they would have helped us with OUR portion, they were not part of the school’s portion.

    We have told our three children that our goal is to put them through undergrad. We pay for tuition, room/board, and books. All else (i.e. beer and pizza) is on them. We buy them clothing and some personal supplies (contact lens solution, laundry soap, toothpaste, etc.) about twice a year. I expect at least two of our three will attend grad school; that is on them.

  271. Anon, it was easy. In high school I pretty much was sure that I was going to Vietnam and I would have.

  272. Houston – I think the final tally was 10. With the exception of the local one, which I asked him to apply to in case he changed his mind about it, he chose them. At some point, I required him to apply to at least one “safe” school because all of his were reach, but I left the choice of safe school up to him.

    I was extremely hands off about this, and I am not sure that was wise. It turned out fine, which might indicate I did it exactly how I should have. But all year, I had nagging doubts as to whether I should have been more involved.

  273. Hoosier, thanks for posting. Was there anything negative about ASU/Barrett that figured into your DS’ decision to go UChicago?

    How does he like UChicago? It is on DS’ radar, in large part because one friend was accepted last year (she ultimately chose a SLAC instead) and another was accepted this year (it was her first acceptance and was quite excited).

    Do you and/or your DS look into any other schools that offered NMF scholarships?

  274. Risley, just curious, what kind of engineering? Feel free to not reply if that’s TMI.

  275. Ris, in case you care, my brother and some acquaintances work in the biomedical engineering field. In my opinion, it’s better to have a “core” undergraduate degree (electrical, civil, mechanical, chemical) and do biomedical for graduate school. The taxes on medical devices in the Affordable Care Act are causing consolidation and expected continued downsizing for the medical device industry. Even if the targeted taxes are rethought, the focus on costs in medical structure has decreased funding for biomedical engineering.

  276. Thanks WCE. DS is getting a lot of good advice about whether to specialize in BME or not and is weighing all of the options. Mech Eng w/ a BME minor is something he’s considering, or other things along those lines. I appreciate your input and he will too, and I’ll pass it along.

  277. At my undergrad U, biomed is an area of specialization within the EE dept, and the engineers I knew who worked in the medical products field were EEs. I believe there’s more overlap between Biomed and EE than Biomed and ME. Of course, the greater Biomed/ME spread would give him more versatility.

  278. Finn – yeah, I said ME b/c that’s what I know. For all I know, DS is thinking EE w/ BME minor. I’m not sure he really knows. One thing he wanted was a place that provides all of these options, so he can figure out which he likes best, which he’s best at, etc. Even if he has a solid idea now, he appears to realize that idea could change in the next year and he wants all doors available.

  279. I think Biomed and ME would put him more in the material science/joint replacement side of things and Biomed and chem e would put him more on the biochemistry/pharmaceutical side of things. MIT and Harvard have a good joint program for MD/PhD’s that includes engineering classes at MIT and medical school classes at Harvard. I know a Caltech physics PhD that is doing the computational side of genome analysis. I don’t know what EE-> biomed people tend to do.

    I don’t know what’s going to happen to biomedical research with the cost cuts necessary to provide medical care for all. The US has done a lot of medical/pharmaceutical research for the world for the past decades, and that’s probably not sustainable. But I don’t know whether that means we accept status quo medical technology. My brother says in his industry, we’ve achieved 95% of what is possible.

  280. If I could afford it, I would also pay for an extra year of school so my kid could take biochemistry AND bioinformatics AND biostatistics, etc. which are not part of the default curriculum but are necessary to progress in biomedical engineering. Maybe he’d do this as an MS so you don’t have to fund it, but biomedical engineering requires a broad base to excel.

    My sister took biochemistry and learned that she did not want to study biochemistry, which is useful to know BEFORE you go to graduate school in it.

  281. I think a reasonably large factor in liking ASU was the idea that any money in his 529 that we didn’t use on undergrad, he could use for grad school. But when we actually looked at the numbers, we’d most likely have spent down his 529 just on the $16K a year for ASU. So he personally wouldn’t see a financial benefit from it.

    I believe Oklahoma’s NMF package includes room and board as well as tuition, so it would have been a much better deal, but he never even considered it.

    He’s a quirky kid, and U Chicago always seemed to me like a better fit for him. He had never visited before applying, but spent an overnight there after being accepted and really liked the people. We had visited ASU during a break, so never really got a chance to meet the students and see the regular atmosphere. I would have encouraged him to do that prior to making his final decision if he hadn’t liked Chicago.

    He’s had a great year. Chicago has a house system, and his house was a good fit for him. This contributed a lot to his happiness. The upperclassmen have been very welcoming, and the house organizes trips into Chicago every week or two to experience the city. In the first month or two he’d been to the Art Institute and the symphony as well as other notable attractions. They go downtown to different ethnic restaurants frequently. Classes have been challenging in a good way. He’s just begun research with one of his professors, that will carry over into the summer and into next year. All in all, a really successful year.

  282. EE/biomeds develop and manufacture medical instruments, e.g., all the stuff blinking and beeping at you in the hospital.

    I guess my comments reflects the narrowness of my experience. I worked for a company was, at heart, an EE company, that had a medical products group, so naturally that group had an EE bent, although over time I saw a lot more chemistry and chemical instrumentation being integrated into their products (and thus more chemists and ChemEs working there as well).

    WCE, another option for a someone with a biomedE or biochem degree is to go into the workforce looking for an employer that supports continuing education. I imagine many employers would underwrite the continuing education of their employees, especially in the types of courses you mention, which could directly benefit the employers.

  283. CoC, my niece went out of state to a non-flagship WUE U, paying the WUE tuition. Our state system doesn’t offer the major in which she was interested, so she looked at WUE schools, identified two that offered that major, and applied there (with our flagship U as her safety school).

    She ended up not liking that major, but finished at that WUE U anyway before going on to law school.

  284. Hoosier, thanks for the info.

    DS recently talked to someone from ASU at a college fair, and based on that and the possibility of getting into Barrett (and the fact that ASU has a college of engineering), has put in on his list of schools of interest.

  285. I am super late to the party — but just wanted to say that I went to UChicago (way back when we called it UofC!) and loved it. I highly recommend it — it is quirky, “where fun goes to die,” and a really great, broad education. The house system and the structure of the core curriculm system of humanities and social science classes create communities of students, which is very welcoming for those who may feel a little nerdy in other environments. Chicago is a great location, and the school connects students to internships for the summer in various work environments. If anyone wants more specific information from a former student, I am always happy to chat. I wish I could go back again and do it all over!

  286. But the parents who criticize them are essentially saying that the scholarship is not a good enough reason to do it, that if they don’t feel this strong desire to be in the military, then it’s not for them. And my point is that that’s an unrealistic criteria for a 17-year-old to meet.

    I agree with those parents. Maybe it’s a matter of degree about how strong the desire should be that isn’t easy to convey that’s the difference of opinion. If you don’t have the desire to be in the military, then you shouldn’t be doing ROTC. I don’t think it’s that unrealistic for a 17 year old to know how much of a desire they have to serve.

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