State Schools Can Be the Smart Choice for Many Students — If You Can Get In!

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State Schools Can Be the Smart Choice for Many Students — If You Can Get In!

Published November 28, 2023

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In-state tuition costs far less than out-of-state tuition, so for years state schools have been considered an affordable pathway to college. Many provide a top-tier education and have plenty of resources to rival more selective schools, but there are still some families that view them as subpar to more recognizable, brand-name schools.

Chrissy M. is not one of those parents. 

“For my high-achieving teens, I don’t have any interest in ‘selective’ colleges,” she shared in our Paying for College 101 Facebook Group. “A good, old-fashioned state school is perfectly fine for us! As long as my kids receive a solid education, have a good experience, and have opportunities for majors that lead to respectable careers, then I feel great about that.”

She went on to say that she married into a legacy family that included graduates from Harvard, Cornell, Stanford, and Dartmouth. The pedigree certainly had some advantages, but she said it’s not a golden ticket to guaranteed success. “My life trajectory has been no better or worse than theirs,” she said. “Success comes in many forms. I was an underdog with every imaginable barrier to success, and my public college education prepared me well for life…just as it has for millions of others.”

Some State Schools Are Becoming More Selective, But They’re Still Cheaper

Unfortunately, many state schools around the country have become so selective that students feel boxed out, even though they’re more affordable than out-of-state schools.

“Our good old-fashioned state school is a super-selective school,” said Michelle R. “I agree that kids can be successful from almost any institution, but a lot of state schools are now also insanely selective which makes things even more difficult!”

Jessica S. thinks it’s easy to assume you’ll get into state schools if you’re a state resident and a good student, in part because they’re usually the largest schools with the largest incoming freshmen class, but that’s not always the case. “They are much bigger so a lot more get in, but they are pretty selective too. The college acceptance process is not like it used to be. For example, at ours, you’ve got to take at least six AP classes, and the state schools can only take so many applicants from each school district.”

Schools like the University of Florida, Florida State University, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and the University of Maryland were all cited by parents as examples of state schools that have become extremely selective.

“My 4.35 National Honor Society student was denied at the University of Maryland,” said Jennifer M.

Making The Most of Your Education, Wherever You Are

Several parents said we need to shift what we think is important and allow our kids to find their place, even if it doesn’t “look like” what we had at first thought.

“I see the advantage of Ivy League as top companies recruit from [more selective schools] and their alumni association opens doors for internships and opportunities, but at the end of the day, YOU build your career and at some point, no one cares where you went to school,” said Jennifer C.

Jennifer B. said she and her husband both graduated from Arizona State University or as her husband jokingly calls it, the “Harvard of the Southwest.” “We are both quite successful in our respective fields, and he has outperformed 99.9 percent of his peers in his field, including many who went to much more prestigious schools,” she said. “I hire college grads all the time and I care much more about their experience than their education. It’s not where you go, it’s what you do with it.”

Lisa R. went so far as to say she feels sorry for kids who feel they can’t even get into state schools. “My son just graduated in May, and got his degree at a school probably many have never heard of. He graduated in three years Summa Cum Laude and was a 3.6 HS student. He went to a cybersecurity networking event in the spring and made some great connections. He is now getting his master’s degree and is working for someone he met at that event making good money at 21! The bottom line is that it was my son who made his connections, and he got him where he is, not the school. Focus on your kid being the best possible version of themselves and they will go far!”

It’s Not The School That Matters, It’s What You Do With Your Degree

Finally, parents applauded this comment from Cindy S., who shared the story of her best friend’s experience with a degree from a state school.

“We went to California State University in Fullerton. He commuted and paid his way. He hustled, started, and owned different businesses in real estate. He’s worth $8 million now and no one ever asks where he graduated from.”

Want to join the conversation about the pros and cons of state schools? Dive in and read additional comments from other parents here.


Use R2C Insights to help find merit aid and schools that fit the criteria most important to your student. You’ll not only save precious time, but your student will avoid the heartache of applying to schools they aren’t likely to get into or can’t afford to attend.  

Other Articles You Might Like:

Can You Find Ivy League Quality at Non-Ivy League Schools?

Comprehensive Guide to Co-Op Colleges: Where Education Meets Practical Experience

Why You Should Research a College’s Career Service Center Before Enrolling




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