Long before you start filling out college applications, these days you have to start deciding how many AP classes you’ll need to take before your freshman year of high school . But do you really “need” to take a bunch of AP classes to get into a good college? The answer for attending an elite or Ivy League school is “maybe.” In my last post I looked at the chances of getting into an elite school, even with a steller resume. But assuming you get in, you then have to consider what an Ivy League education would cost? What are the chances of getting a merit scholarship?
What is the cost of attending an elite or Ivy League school?
But don’t forget to look at a cost that includes textbooks and living expenses. Different schools in different cities will different housing costs. Sometimes schools will call these numbers something like “student budget” or “total annual cost.”
With living expenses, they estimate the cost of going to Stanford is at least $64,477 per year.
That’s a minimal total cost of $258,000, assuming my child graduates in 4 years.
We have three kids, so let’s multiply that number by 3.
That gives us a total cost of $775,000. That’s over three-quarters of a million dollars. Without even looking at ROI for a college education – return on investment, what it would take over time to recover the cost of the education – (And here’s an article about further analyzing those statistics for college ROI), you still have to have the money to be able to spend it.
Maybe our kids will get financial aid.
Before we get into financial aid, let me point out that I do not consider student loans to be financial aid. Be warned, colleges do! When you find information on “actual costs” they will have deducted student loans from that cost. But really all loans do is it make college more expensive, because of the cost of interest. For a great explanation of how tricky financial aid can be, and how schools use loans as “aid” to lower their apparent costs, check out 5 Ways to Get Smart About Financial Aid Award Letters.
Many of the elite colleges, such as Harvard, now highlight their “need based” financial aid. It can help to know that your idea of need, and a college’s idea of how much you can afford to contribute to your college education, can be very different. (What is EFC (Expected Family Contribution)?) And so if you’re looking at ROI, as explained above, you are still looking at the bottom line of how long it takes you to recover the cost of the education without need-based aid.
Let’s assume that we won’t get any need-based financial aid, and look only at merit aid. (We are not destitute by any means. But 3/4 of a million dollars is still a lot of money to us!) For a good article on trying to predict your chances of merit aid, read How to Find Merit Scholarships: Follow the Money. (And if you want to find colleges that increase your chances of getting merit aid, here is a great resource 50-50 Highlights: Best Colleges for Merit Scholarships.)
Well I guess those are better odds then winning the lottery.
But still, a 5% chance of getting accepted and then a 1% chance of getting merit aid – I don’t know about you, but with 0.05% chance any one of my kids would get into Stanford and be offered a merit scholarship, it’s not too likely that one of my kids would go there.
Of course some kids do get into the highly selective schools and a few of them do get fantastic scholarships, often need based. It’s even more amazing when that happens, because the numbers just aren’t in their favor of getting in at all. But, if that’s important to a student, it is worth a try!
But before I totally discard the idea of my kids attending an elite university, there’s one more thing to consider. Do the calculations match up to reality? I’ll share what I’ve heard in my next post.