Sunday, January 10, 2016

College-Level Math

Like so many other parents of high school seniors, we're in a holding pattern right now. My daughter has been accepted at three of the four schools to which she applied. We're still waiting to hear from number four, but since that fine institution wasn't her top choice, it's a moot point. Although she seems to be honing in on a decision (and a campus visit several weeks ago knocked one contender out completely), she has been thoughtful and patient about it. 

Or else she's procrastinating. A more than likely possibility. After all, she's eighteen.

Meanwhile, her father and I (well, mainly I) have been doing a lot of math. For the next four years, not just her higher education expenses, but things like new cars and vacations, are up in the air. Mathematically speaking.

How much will we owe? That's the two hundred thousand dollar question.
Each of the three colleges that have accepted her have offered my daughter handsome merit scholarships.

Me: See, honey? All that hard work paid off.

Her: (eye roll)

But, each school presents a unique and complicated equation. For example, one school has a discount for students from our state majoring in her concentration. Nice, right? But, then they offered her slightly more as a merit award. The two are mutually exclusive and come with their own rules and regulations. If she takes the merit, she has to requalify every year. If she takes the discount, she can't change majors.

And none of this comes without work on our part. The FAFSA is looming, although we won't qualify for need-based aid (like so many middle-class Americans, we can't exactly afford tuition, but we can't can't afford it to the extent that someone else wants to pay it for us). But, we've saved since she was three, plus there are grants, work-study opportunities and the dreaded college loans to consider. And, she is being considered for an additional equestrian scholarship and will compete for several more sponsored by organizations in our town.

And, let's get real, it isn't as though we'll stop working while she's in school. (Don't I wish?!?) Tuition will become another bill that we pay. We're used to that. (Aren't we all?!?)

The good news (well, aside from acceptances and scholarships, which I would classify as great news) is that — in theory — some of our expenses are going to decrease when she hits the road. For example ...

1. Stabling and other costs
Wherever my daughter and her trusty steed end up, we will still be footing the bill for his room and board as well as hers. But, happily, the costs are considerably lower outside our general area. Then again, so is real estate, but we'll probably wait on that.

2. Cookie dough and other comestibles
This fairly expensive so-called "after-school snack" (so-called by my daughter, obvs) will no longer be required. Call us crazy, but my husband and I prefer our cookies cooked. The same holds true for other weekly grocery staples, such as orange soda, fruit roll-ups and cheese poofs.

3. Boots and other necessities
My daughter has only two feet, but a boot collection that somehow continues to grow. In fact, many of our trips to the mall for completely unrelated errands result in a new addition. And, I could make the same observation about leggings, tee shirts, jewelry and more. You may (rightly) view this as an inability on the part of yours truly to use the word "No." But, we have to assume that less shopping together will mean less ... well ... shopping.

Hmmm. Our monthly finances may not feel so different after all. 

Now, if I can just make sure there isn't a Starbucks, Panera, Bertucci's or Chipotle (e coli scare not withstanding) near her campus, we'll be all set.

If you've enjoyed this post, I invite you to order the book Lovin' the Alien here.  


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