Applying To College Isn’t Like When Mom & Dad Applied

This page may contain affiliate links.
Applying To College Isn’t Like When Mom & Dad Applied

I’m a former Director of Admission with college-aged kids of my own.

Everyone needs to put aside what they think they know about how to select a college and do deep research into what is actually the playing field for your particular child.


Different Admissions Strategies For Different Kids

Even children in the same family will have a different admissions strategies and trying to force a formula on a kid because of what you think you know is disastrous financially.

And for first-timers, nothing that happened to you when you went through this process applies anymore.

For those with older kids, the playing field changes every year, so what worked for your older kid is out of date, too.


Do Your Own College Research

Finally, the class issues around college admissions are going to make you miss out on the best option for your particular kid.

There are no good or bad schools based on social class. For example:

  • Yale has deferred maintenance issues and lazy career services.
  • Northern Virginia Community College’s guaranteed admission into UVA is an upper-class parent’s dream.
  • Indiana University is one of the best schools in the country for placing kids in highly desirable professions.

Do your own research, with the great advice from the members of the Paying For College 101 group, and don’t constantly look over your shoulder at other families. Unless they are as generous as the people in the PFC101 group, who tell you all about their finances and their kids’ grades and test scores, you don’t know why they chose the college they chose and why it makes sense for them financially.


Colleges Under Pressure To Be More Affordable

The Ivy League and schools like Stanford are under pressure from the public to be more affordable and accessible.

They are also extremely aware that over the last 30 years, prestigious state schools like Berkeley, UCLA, Michigan, UVA, Texas, North Carolina, and increasingly, Alabama, Maryland, Ohio State, and Indiana are poaching the very best students.

So they have all instituted similar programs to recruit students just like they would recruit athletes.

If your family of 4 makes under $125-135K a year, you can usually go to the Ivies and Ivy-like schools tuition-free; you pay room and board. If your family of 4 makes under $60K you go totally free.

The state schools are fighting back by offering what are usually called “Promise” programs.

For instance, Michigan and Michigan State offer similar tuition-free programs for in-state families that make under $60K.

Alabama offers amazing packages to in or out of state kids with high grades and test scores: full free rides, upgraded honors dorms, guaranteed research assistant positions, paid internships, etc.

Public Ivy Schools

Miami of Ohio, a “Public Ivy” in the state of Ohio, has a grid on their website that tells you if you have X grades and Y test scores, you get from $4,000-full ride, depending on where you fall on the grid.

In fact, there is a book called “Public Ivies” that has been around for about 20 years that ranks the best state schools. It was designed for people looking for prestigious education at state school prices.

The idea has become so popular, and state funding of public schools has become so low, that the state schools are no longer as affordable as they were when the book came out. That has pushed affluent families into starting their kids at community colleges that offer guaranteed admission after 2 years to the state flagship. You can get a UVA degree for half price that way.

What that means though, is that it’s hard to get into community colleges now, especially if you want nursing. It’s also hard to get into some community colleges if you want engineering.


Focus On Your Own Student

Run your own race, everyone. That’s the only way that you can help your child choose the best college for them. If you’re hung up on what everyone else is doing, you’ll pick a school that is good for someone else’s kid.







Lee Carol Cook

Lee Carol Cook is a stay-at-home parent who enjoys volunteering in the community. She is the former Director of Admissions at the Georgetown University Law Center where she also served as a Career Services Counselor. Before joining Georgetown, Lee practiced law with Reed Smith and with Pierson, Ball & Dowd. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College with an A.B. in politics and from the University of Michigan Law School.


Subscribe Now!
Do you know how you'll pay for college?
Most families don't! Sign up and get informed.
No thanks, I know what I'm doing.