Sam the Student: Getting Set to Head Off to College

Dear Sam the Student:

I'm starting to get offers of admission from the colleges that I applied to (along with a few rejections, too), and I've narrowed down my choice to three: one's an Ivy League college, another's a state school, and the third is a big-name one that's one state over. There are pros and cons to each: the college that's one state over has higher tuition, but I'd be getting a decent-sized scholarship. The state school has affordable tuition, but I'm not exactly thrilled with the campus. And the Ivy League school kind of speaks for itself.

I'd be able to live at home and save a lot of money if I went to the state school, but I'm not sure how much I'd like it. The one-state-away college won't break the bank, but I'd have to live in a dorm and I'm not sure how much I'd like that either. And for the Ivy League school, I could take two buses or get a car and drive, which would ramp up the costs. How do I choose?

Signed, Spoiled for Choice

Dear Spoiled for Choice:

If it were me, I'd jump all over the Ivy League school for a couple of reasons: it looks great on your resume, the classes tend to be of a higher quality (but not always, though), and the networking opportunities are greater.

But there are also finances to consider, too, as well as the possibility that Paul Ryan could possibly set forth a budget that'd be bad news for you (re: being charged interest on your loans while you're still in school). However, I wouldn't discount one school for another just because of finances, but based on how you feel about it. And if you're not crazy about the campus, you won't be crazy about the campus every day for four years.

Dear Sam the Student:

I only applied to two colleges because the applications are expensive, and I'm not really interested in leaving my city to get a degree. One school accepted me, the one that I feel pretty blah about, but the college I really wanted to get into rejected me. I'm trying to think that this can't be the end, but is there any hope?

Signed, Batting One for Two

Dear Batting One for Two:

I had the same thing happen to me when I was first applying for college, and here's how it went: my dream school rejected me, so I appealed and wrote a heartfelt, two-page letter.

Needless to say, it didn't work (appeals are notoriously tough and have really low success rates).

So, I went to college number two, did a few years, and then applied again for my first choice but for summer classes. I got in then no problem. While it wasn't all four years at my dream school, I did get about a full year's worth in. If appealing doesn't work for you, try amassing credits at the other school and then see if you can transfer in. If the front door isn't open, that doesn't mean it's the only entry point to the school.

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