It’s the worst possible scenario for high school seniors. You know your dream college, and you’ve worked hard to get the grades and extra-curricular accomplishments that will impress the admissions board. You get in, only to find out that your parents will never be able to afford their contribution to your tuition. Do you give up on the school you really want? Can you make it work? Here are some things to consider.
Explore Your Financial Options
Pretty much everyone agrees that the cost of college has become astronomical, especially if you have your heart set on a private university. You have to be proactive in financing your education. Hopefully, you’ve filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which will tell you how much you’re entitled to in grants, loans, and work study. Make sure you’re also applying for scholarships, both from your school and from outside sources. The internet is an amazing resource when it comes to mining for college funds, and there are scholarships out there for almost every type of student and area of study.
Think About Your Priorities
Your parents are probably worried about how much debt you’ll go into in order to pay for college, and you might worry about it, too. You have to seriously consider why you want to go to this school, and whether it’s worth borrowing large sums of money. If this school will help you be successful in your future career, or it offers a program that you can’t find other places, it might be worthwhile. If it’s simply the most glamorous option in a city you’d like to live in, you might be able to compromise. Even if you can figure out tuition payments, you might spend your college years working full-time and counting every penny, and that could seriously affect your ability to succeed academically.
Embrace Adulthood (And Enjoy It)
There’s no doubt that your parents would love to send you to the college of your dreams and have everything work out if they possibly could. In fact, breaking the news to you was probably very hard. But if it’s just not feasible, you can look on this experience as a lesson in becoming a responsible adult and taking charge of your future. Maybe you’ll have to do a couple years of community college before you transfer. Maybe you’ll attend a state school closer to home. But whatever you choose, you’ll find that doors are opened for you that you never expected, and you’ll have great professors and memorable classes no matter where you go. Even if it doesn’t seem like it now, you’ll be glad to save yourself and your family the financial strain. And there are plenty of cases where students who couldn’t afford to attend a certain school for their undergraduate degree have received scholarships to attend graduate programs there.
Choosing a college can be a confusing time. You’ve been told throughout high school that if you work hard enough, anything is possible. You’ve been told to make a solid plan for your future, but these plans rarely turn out exactly how you expected them. Ask yourself why your dream school is really your dream school, and whether you can confidently tell your parents that you would be happy with Plan B. Chances are, the answer is yes.