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The Hard Truth Behind the College Selection Process

Ted BraunJune 22, 2017

College Planning

Depending on the topic of conversation and the level of maturity, basic reasoning with a 17-year-old may seem like a pipe dream. This doesn’t have to be the case when it comes to college planning, and what may feel like the biggest decision of their life.

When you involve your kids in the planning process early and often, you can help to dispel the notion that college is not just an extension of high school, but rather a luxury or privilege. Focusing more on what matters in the long-run and less about the short-term obsessions like: where their friends are going or who their first-year roommate is going to be.

Talk early and often about college, about the costs associated with college and how regardless of where they attend, the same basic principle that applies to almost everything else in life still applies: “you get out, what you put in”.

The Fortune 500 is filled with CEO’s that attended a state university from their home state. Here are just a couple of quick examples of CEO’s that attended a state college in their home state:  

Doug McMillon, CEO, Wal-Mart

  • University of Arkansas, B.S. in Business Administration
  • Approximate 2017 In-State Cost: $17,664

Warren Buffet, Chairman & CEO, Berkshire Hathaway

  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln, B.S. in Business Administration
  • Approximate 2017 In-State Cost: $18,132

Rex Tillerson, United States Secretary of State, Former Exxon Mobil CEO

  • University of Texas at Austin, B.S. in Civil Engineering
  • Approximate In-State Cost: $21,286

My goal is not to dissuade you from allowing your child the freedom of choice, or turning down an acceptance to Harvard or Yale. Instead, my goal is to provide information, facts, data that helps to dispel the notion that you must go to a private school to get ahead in life.

I’ve seen it countless times. Friends and family members that just “had to go to _______”, because they watched their football team their whole life. Or because, the friend they can’t live without is going there. Fast forward 5 years, and they have the same business degree that everyone else has, with the key difference being anywhere from $100,000 to $200,000 more in debt than a peer who went to an in-state university and obtained the same degree.

It is not easy to think big-picture or long-term at 17 years-old, which is why it is absolutely critical that parents get their children involved early and often. Discuss the cost of college, discuss the impact of carrying a $200,000 debt into adulthood, and talk about what is really important to them.

A lot of kids do not know what they want to do at 17/18 years-old and that’s ok. Shipping them off to an out-of-state private or out-of-state state school at $45,000 to $65,000 per year where they can “figure it out” is not ok. Encourage research, share stories, work together to discuss what makes the most sense for you and your family.

While Ivy League schools will undoubtedly open a few more doors for your children out of the gate, it’s the kids that understand the true purpose of college that will have the most opportunity following college. The ones that put the extra time in, take on special projects, give-back to their communities, those are the kids that will be able to open their own doors, regardless of where they attended college. Talk to your children, involve them in the process early and often, most importantly remind them that in the end, “You get out, what you put in”.