This story was written by a member of R2C’s Paying for College 101 (PFC 101) Facebook group, where it was first published. It has been edited for clarity and flow.
I’m writing this anonymously to respect my son’s privacy, but I believe our experience can offer valuable insights into the college admission process—especially for those who don’t have sky-high stats. Here’s our story.
Grades, Test Scores, and Beyond
My son faced challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic but managed to take some rigorous courses, including two AP classes in which he earned Cs. He excelled in the SATs, scoring an impressive 1430. His unweighted GPA was 3.2, rising to 3.4 when weighted for advanced courses.
Throughout high school, he held part-time jobs and completed a brief internship. He also participated in a single extracurricular activity: DECA, a business club.
Navigating the Admissions Maze
Initially, my son was uncertain about his career goals, which contributed to our sluggish pace in visiting campuses. His priorities evolved during the college search, adding another layer of complexity to the process.
Ultimately, he applied to 13 schools through regular decision. The last four applications were cost-free.
Unfortunately, my son wasn’t admitted to the University of Southern California, University of Maryland, or Boston University. He was waitlisted at Loyola Marymount, University of San Diego, and American University.
On the bright side, he was accepted by Chapman University (without merit aid) and several other schools. He received generous merit scholarships from Suffolk University, ranging from $20,000 to $35,000, and was also admitted to Loyola Maryland, Hawaii Pacific, St. Mary’s College of California, Bentley University, and Emmanuel University.
The Final Decision
To my surprise, he chose Suffolk University in Massachusetts. This was unexpected because he initially wanted a warmer climate, and Bentley in Massachusetts had been his first-choice school. Suffolk wasn’t even on his radar until the eleventh hour.
Upon returning from orientation, my usually reserved son was genuinely enthusiastic about his upcoming college journey, and we couldn’t be happier about the merit aid he received.
Financial Realities and What-Ifs
While his dream schools were University of San Diego and Loyola Marymount in California, the prohibitive cost—like Chapman University’s starting price tag of $85,000 per year—made them unfeasible options. Had he applied through early decision, he might have gotten in, but it’s uncertain whether he would have received any financial aid, which could have left us in the same financial predicament.
Lessons for the Road Ahead
In hindsight, we’ve learned quite a bit. I would worry less and focus more on understanding how merit aid works. My son wishes he had applied through early action to his dream schools, although it’s unclear whether that would have impacted his financial aid prospects.
All in all, it’s been an enlightening journey, and we’re optimistic about the educational opportunities that lie ahead for him.
CONNECT WITH OTHER PARENTS TRYING TO FIGURE OUT
HOW TO PAY FOR COLLEGE
JOIN ONE OF OUR FACEBOOK GROUPS: