College Expenses: Do not be penny wise and pound foolish

8796167_f520“I don’t want to spend another $60 on an application.” Mrs. Cole said.  She had told her daughter Madeline, a senior at Old Lyme High School that she could apply to 6 colleges.  Since her daughter, like many college bound seniors, did not have a distinct college that she wanted to attend and since the top 3 on her college list were all 50-50 admissions possibilities (at best), I suggested another college that met the criteria for Madeline’s interest.

I broke it gently to Mrs. Cole that the colleges on the list each cost between $160-240,000. Spending another $60 to ensure the best possible return on that investment might make some sense. Mrs. Cole initially held firm and then, fortunately the combination of irrefutable logic and motherly love, made her concede the point, and to her credit, suggest that maybe we could add a few more colleges to the list.

I have similar conversations with Connecticut parents of college bound juniors and seniors every year.  I have been the sole or primary breadwinner for a family of five for eighteen years.  So, I am highly sensitive to cost considerations.  But when parents suffer over spending a few hundred dollars in the college process while they are about to invest $100-200,000, I have to remind them of the big picture.