2 College Case Studies: Where Should These Teens Go to College?

Over the past two years, I’ve written scores of posts on this college blog about how to evaluate schools. Just the other day, I wrote a piece about my 10 favorite college websites.

It can be challenging for families, however, to know how to use these tools to find the right colleges at the right price. Consequently, I wanted to share with you two case studies over the next couple of posts to give you some idea of how high school students should be evaluating individual colleges.

Today I’m going to focus on two seniors from California.

Senior No. 1:

Lucienne (I’ve changed her name) has earned only “A’s” at her high school in Los Angeles. She’s earned a 700 or better on two SAT Subject test and she’s captured the highest scores possible on the Advanced Placement tests she’s taken.

Lucienne’s extracurriculars are equally impressive. For instance, the Californian has been involved in theater productions since middle school and in high school she’s been the director of school plays. She’s a voracious reader and her writing (I’ve seen some samples) is sophisticated and well beyond the capability of the vast majority of high school honor students. She will be the captain of her Academic League in the fall.

Lucienne loves to read and write and she also enjoys art history. She isn’t sure which liberal art she wants to major in yet.

Lucienne’s dad is in the newspaper business and his mom is an artist. They haven’t saved a lot and she’s going to need a lot of financial help to afford the private colleges that she’s got her eye on.

Where should Lucienne go to college?

Senior No. 2:

John is an extremely bright student, who received a perfect SAT score on the reading section and nearly aced the writing and math portions too.  He received a 2240 (out of 2400) on the SAT.

John, however, didn’t put a lot of effort into school until the second half of his junior year. He earned straight “A’s” during the past semester.  He’ll start his senior year in high school with about a 3.3 GPA unweighted. He plays Ultimate Frisbee and is a surfer in Santa Barbara. He’s got a great internship this summer at a science lab and he’s thinking about a biology major.

John’s parents are divorced, which makes the financial picture more complicated. The mom remarried a wealthy man. His dad is underemployed as an software engineer.

Where should John go to college?

Both Lucienne and John are willing to leave California to attend college. Both are interested in going to school on the East Coast though they ultimately seemed okay with looking at Midwest colleges.

In my next post, I’m going to share what both these families need to think about as they evaluate college choices. I told both these families that they need to start the process by finding out what their Expected Family Contribution or EFC is. I’ll explain why the next time I write.

In the meantime, if you have suggestions on where you think these two teens should end up, please let me know.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and a new eBook, Shrinking the Cost of College. She also blogs for CBSMoneyWatch. Follow her on Twitter.

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    1. Thanks for your college picks. There are definitely no right answers when it comes to college choices.

      If you read my post today, you’ll appreciate why Colby, Bates and Connecticut College wouldn’t be good picks because the household income for John’s mom is very high.

      Thanks for your comment!

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

    1. Hi John — Hey, i have recommended Muhlenberg to Lucienne!

      Carleton is an excellent school. I recommended Carleton to my son’s best friend Nathan and he will be attending Carleton in the fall. I don’t think John would get into Carleton. Grades too low.

      Thanks for the suggestions.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy