Success Story! Saying No to a Dream College


Last month I heard from many parents agonizing about whether to let their teenagers attend their dream colleges.

These dream colleges were inevitably highly selective to elite universities which cost $65,000 to $70,000 a year! I don’t believe any college or universities is worth paying that kind of money!

My most recent blog post, which originally ran in 2014, focused on the decision of a couple in Illinois to say no to their daughter’s dream college (Northwestern University). Today I am sharing a fantastic update from the dad, who is an attorney.

If you haven’t read the original story, please do so before reading the follow-up below. Here is the first post:

Saying No to a Dream College

Success story!

Our daughter has been thriving at the University of Pittsburgh.  She is active in a number of campus activities/organizations.  Majoring in Math/Economics with a minor in Spanish, she has earned and maintained superlative grades.  Her professors are generally accessible and she enjoys campus life.

As a consequence of her full scholarship and the state of her college fund, we have money to spend on “extras” which might well be cost prohibitive under other financial circumstances.  Last summer (2016) she studied at the University of Havana (Cuba) under the auspices of a Pitt program.  Her scholarship covered tuition.  We were responsible for room/board, travel expenses and incidentals.

She loved her time in Havana and still talks about that experience.  She just now finished a semester abroad studying in Barcelona, Spain.  Again, her tuition was covered by her scholarship while we paid for R&B, travel costs and of course spending money.  Her living arrangements in Barcelona were with a local family in a residential neighborhood.  This was also an educational experience.

As with Havana, she loved Barcelona and its people.

We flew to Barcelona last week when her classes concluded. The three of us spent a week in the city with our daughter serving as tour guide.  It was quite something for me to see her interacting with the locals utilizing her fluent Spanish.

While in Spain, she had the opportunity to take side trips to many other European cities including Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, Lisbon, Dublin and London.  From our perspective this is yet another and unique type of educational experience.

Saying yes to college extras

Without any hesitation, we have been able to say “yes” to all of her requests to study and travel abroad since we have plenty of money in her college fund to cover all costs related to same.  If she had attended another school in the absence of a scholarship, her entire college fund would likely have gone to satisfy tuition.  Under those circumstances, study abroad would have been financially difficult.  Absent the scholarship, I don’t think she would have had the opportunity to study and live in both Havana and Barcelona.

Top-drawer education

Our daughter is receiving a top drawer education.  Pitt offers a “Bachelor of Philosophy” undergraduate degree in addition to the B.A. and B.S.  As I understand it, the B.Phil. requires maintaining a 3.5 GPA in addition to a major research paper (along with other requirements).  Our daughter is pursuing that degree.  In that regard, she has an additional academic concentration in “Global Studies.”

Drawing on her Cuba experience, she will combine her Math/Statistics/Economics with Spanish and additional relevant course work to author a B.Phil. research paper addressing the impact of economic sanctions on race relations in Cuba.  Parenthetically, she has four separate academic advisors (one each for Math and Spanish and two for the Global Studies concentration)!

Money left for graduate school

She will continue her studies after college and is talking about graduate school or possibly law school (or a dual degree program involving law and public policy).  As I indicated when I first wrote to you, she will have plenty of money to finance her graduate education perhaps in whole, but certainly in significant part.  That would not be possible in the absence of her Pitt scholarship.  Our hope of course is that she will finish her graduate education, whatever that may be, without student debt (or at least with a manageable amount of debt).

Perhaps most importantly, when discussing future academic plans she expresses a clear understanding of the importance of her undergraduate scholarship in terms of her prospective graduate education.  She realizes that she will have significant funds to finance graduate studies.  She knows that if/when accepted to her “dream” graduate school, she will have the financial means to attend that program and earn that degree without incurring a crushing debt burden.

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  1. The parent wrote ” Perhaps most importantly, when discussing future academic plans she expresses a clear understanding of the importance of her undergraduate scholarship in terms of her prospective graduate education”

    Congratulations on taking the level headed advice found on this site. But I would like to share with you the advice I am giving my own daughter who is in a very similar situation to yours.

    Just as we can’t fall for the nonsense of a ‘dream’ college, don’t fall for the nonsense of a dream graduate program.

    Do due diligence on those programs. Shop your research around. Find the perfect fit. Be aware that half of all doctoral students fail to complete. Just as with college, remember the money! There are many programs that will fund your research. Evaluate the costs and benefits, including time out of the workforce.

    Just as with college, don’t fall for the graduate school ‘prestige trap’.