Middle Class Income, Big League Dreams

Middle Class Income, Big League Dreams

By Tasha

Like many Sparklers, today's question-asker is wondering if a middle class family income means an elite school is out of reach.

Here's the story. I am from a working-middle class family. My parents work from 7-6, and sometimes I feel sorry that they have to work such late hours. But, this is about college. My mom always said that she would never send me to an Ivy League college, because of the cost. But the I am torn because she wants to send me to the local state University (it's nationally ranked though), but my dream college is Brown. I desperately want to go there but I am afraid, that if I persuade my parents to send me there then for a good several years we would be paying loans. I know it's hard for people to get in, about 13% were accepted into their undergrad program, let alone get a some scholarship and funds. How should I go about my way of getting these funds and scholarships? What would these colleges look for? Or, should I go ahead and accept reality and just go to local University?  I am really torn.

Thanks for your question! It's a very timely one, considering the economic downturn. It’s good that you realize how expensive the most elite schools can be. But what your parents may not realize is that if you plan very carefully and get all the loan information you can, you can make your dream of attending an elite school a reality.

The first thing you want to do is complete a FAFSA. FAFSA stands for Free Application for Student Aid. Completing this form will tell you what government loans you may qualify for. LOTS of students (and their families) pay for college with loans, which often have low interest rates. If you want your parents  to come around to the idea of you attending an elite school, then read up on the loans you may qualify for, help do the paperwork—and offer to help pay off the loans once you have earned your degree.

Besides loans from the federal government, there are always outside scholarships. One of my favorite sites for student scholarships is Fastweb. Simply fill in some data about yourself, and this site will show you what scholarships you may be eligible for.

Take a close look at Brown’s website, especially their Undergraduate Facts and Highlights page. The Financing a Brown Education PDF was also excellent—this would be great to share with your parents.

Your parents' concerns are very real. They want what’s best for you, but they are understandably concerned about that hefty price tag. And you are right to think that your admission is not guaranteed—this is an elite school. But it’s good to know that Brown has a wealth of financial incentives available to families just like yours. And I’m glad that you are looking at your options and trying to make your dreams come true.

You mentioned attending a local nationally ranked university instead of Brown. I don’t think this would be a bad decision. I’m betting your education at this university would be all but paid for, right? Your stellar admissions application would undoubtedly make it possible for you to receive academic scholarships at the local university, and attending a nearby school would be a bargain compared to the Ivy League. Have you thought at all about graduate school? I know it’s quite a way off, but many students attend a local university for affordability and then move on to more competitive schools for further study later on. In short, if your top choice is out of reach—or you are turned down—don’t lose hope. You may still attend your dream school yet.

Good luck!


Contact Tasha at advice@sparknotes.com.

Topics: money, college admissions, tuition, brown

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