Dear DWM readers,
As you are (soon to be) high income professionals, many are concerned that your kids may never qualify for financial aid. One of my attending radiologists was advised by his financial manager that to save 600k for each of his 2 kids’ college costs. After sharing the top 10 ways Mini Wise Money would pay for her own college, I’d like to share with you an incredible true story about a brilliant, determined, confident young lady, who knew her worth and refused to take “no” for a”no.”
At the tender age of 18, she dared to negotiate with the director of admissions & the director of financial aid at prestigious liberal art private college in California, as a visiting Arizona high school senior. She also happened to be the daughter of a successful cardiologist and school teacher 🙂
We have no financial relationship.
“How I Made my Dream College Affordable” By Pre-Med College Junior
Although I wasn’t sure exactly where I wanted to go to college, it had always been my dream to get out of my home state. For that dream to come true, I needed a huge amount of financial aid, first of all because my father was only planning on paying in-state tuition, second of all because I couldn’t stomach asking him to cover the ridiculous cost of out-of-state tuition, and lastly because I was not, under any circumstance, going to take out student loans for my undergraduate education. I resolved that if I could get enough scholarship money to attend an out-of-state university for less than the face value in-state tuition of my state school, I would be justified in asking my father to send me there.
I didn’t know much in the way of scholarships, so my first step was going to my high school college counselor. I asked for specific information on how to get large merit scholarships and names of specific ones I could apply to, but she wasn’t much help with that. She did, however, give me a key piece of advice regarding choosing schools to apply to if I really was determined to go out of state. She told me to stay away from big state universities, and focus instead on smaller, private schools. I hadn’t pictured myself at a small liberal arts college, but if it meant that I could get enough money to go out of state, I was willing to make it work. After researching schools and visiting some campuses, I selected a pool of eleven schools to which I applied, including my home state university.
The letters of acceptance that followed informed me of my financial aid award and the estimated net cost tuition and fees. Some schools offered me a substantial sum of merit scholarships, and others significantly less. Those that gave me minimal amount of money, no matter how infatuated I was with the school, were immediately eliminated from consideration. From there, my choices of out of state universities came down to four schools. The net cost of two of the schools was still outside of my range of affordability, but I kept them in consideration hoping that there was a way I could get more aid.
I went to each of the four schools’ preview days to assist in making my final decision. After the first two preview days, I decided that I really wanted to go to school in California, leaving me a choice between two final schools. I wasn’t completely attracted to one university over the other until I visited the second campus, when I decided that that was my dream university. Unfortunately, that school was one of the ones still just outside my affordability range, offering me much less money than the school I liked less, which I would have been able to attend for less than my state university.
Nevertheless, at each preview day, my mother and I attended the session where students and parents have an opportunity to meet with the university’s financial aid department to discuss financing their education. On the preview day of my favorite school, my mom and I were sitting in the waiting area for our appointment when we were approached by the director of financial aid. Although she was merely coming over to be friendly and ask how we were doing, I cut right to the chase and told her that I really wanted to attend the school but that I didn’t receive enough money to be able to. I took it a step further by pointing out that other schools offered me much larger scholarships, and that between my grades, test scores, and extracurriculars, I thought that I deserved more merit money than I had been awarded.
It was very apparent that the director was taken back by my bluntness. She replied that even though I may have had an impressive resume, many good students apply to the school, and left us on the note that she hoped we could figure things out. That said, she came back just a few moments later and told me that I should write a letter to the director of admissions explaining my situation and my reasons for feeling that I deserved more scholarship money. Shortly after, my mother and I were called in for our scheduled appointment with financial aid, which wasn’t much help in the way of obtaining more money. When leaving the financial aid session, the director of financial aid and director of admissions were waiting for us by the exit. The director of financial aid introduced us to the director of admissions, and then they wished us a safe trip home. On the car ride home, I feverishly wrote my letter to the director of admission and sent it off.
I put off deciding between the two schools because one was so much better financially, but I was so much more attached to the other. Then, I received a letter from my preferred university, informing me that I had been awarded another merit scholarship. The additional money altered the net cost for the school so greatly that I could attend for less than the cost of my state university, and the decision was made. I am now attending my dream school, an institution with an estimated tuition and fees of over $60,000, for less than it would cost to go to my state school.
I’m so incredibly proud of this young lady. She also has another amazing journey to share. Just last summer, she overcame a mysterious bout of spinal infection which required spinal decompression surgery. Her case remained a million-dollar-work-up-unsolved-mystery, which only led her to be stronger and more determined in her pursuit of medicine. I can truly say that she’s the Most accomplished person I have ever met at such a young age. And I know that she will be a phenomenal doctor one day.