SAT Tip of the Week: The Cost of College

Hey there College Bound student,

Look, I get it, talking about money is boring with a capital BORING, but it’s just one of those under analyzed aspects of the college preparation and college decision process. For many people, the cost of college gets put off by spreading that lump sum into student loans meaning the full cost of college will not be defrayed until well into a career.  So what does college cost?  And what do you get for it?  And what should you do about it?  We will cover all of that! Just take a breath, and lets start with cost.

The average cost of a public four year college is around $88,000 whereas the cost of a private college is somewhere the neighborhood of $160,000 with the top being around $250,000.  That is a lot of candy corn, but it has also been calculated that the earning potential for a college degree, as compared to a high school diploma, can be in the millions.  Sometimes. Maybe. The problem with all these numbers is they are too vague.  Will a person studying philosophy who becomes an adjunct philosophy professor after 14 years of school earn more in a lifetime than a person who goes to a state school and studies internet security? Who gets a better return on their educational investment?  The short answer is I just don’t know.  There are too many moving pieces in both scenarios.  College is an important experience, but it is also, for most energetic and ambitious young people, the first step in the educational track that could include grad school, internships, and any number of lower level positions that hopefully lead to financial security. When considering the school that is right for you, you should consider three things:

  • What you want
  • What the school can give you
  • The cost of the institution

So does this mean only apply to cheap schools or don’t go to college?? Not at all! What it means, is that you and your family need to take a look at what you are hoping to pursue and make the right choices for you!  If you are considering business or law school and Harvard is within your reach, the money you spend there will likely be a great investment in your future. You should also look at the full cost of a place after things like scholarships and financial aid are considered.  Many top schools have large endowments that will cover some or all of great applicants tuition costs (Harvard doesn’t do merit scholarships, but they do have a lot of financial aid).  This means that if you are a competitive applicant, you can go to a great school and graduate without such a crushing burden of debt.

The take home message is the easiest way to ensure that you are getting the best return on your investment and giving yourself the most options of schools while avoiding a lifetime of student debt is to buckle down and work right now!  Both the work of considering the school that fits your needs and the work of being a competitive applicant will help free you to pursue what you desire without worrying about the financial implications.  High school grades and SAT scores are two of the biggest components that are considered when looking at merit based scholarships.  Sometimes 300 points on your SAT can means tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships.  High school can be demanding, but by taking advantage of the services that are available to you now, you are setting the groundwork for a future with a lot more choices.  Work ethic is also one of the most valuable skills that you can cultivate.  If you can learn NOW to work for what seems like an idea of a career and stability, then later when you are working for more concrete goals you will have the tools to do so.  So consider well college bound student! Talk with your family and counselors and STUDY! Your SAT score could help you pay for college. See how Shaan Patel’s score and his research helped him with scholarships.

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David Greenslade is a Veritas Prep SAT instructor based in New York. His passion for education began while tutoring students in underrepresented areas during his time at the University of North Carolina. After receiving a degree in Biology, he studied language in China and then moved to New York where he teaches SAT prep and participates in improv comedy.