Text Books and Scholarships and Dorms... Oh My!

Updated on December 28, 2010
R.M. asks from Newark, OH
11 answers

My son is a sophomore in High School. We've had all sorts of different college-based talked with him over the past year and a half. To be honest, I think the poor kid is talked out! I can't say I blame him. We've backed off a bit (ok, a LOT) on the advise and talks. Neither I nor my husband has mentioned anything college-related in months. However, today we just got his PSAT scores in the mail and it got my mind cranking, again.

My dilemma is this: he is interest in college, that's for sure. Wants to go, wants to have the BEST experience possible, academically and socially. However, my husband and I have made it very clear what we will and wont pay for. Meaning, he will have to come up with financial support on his own. Be it scholarships, loans, working a job, etc... doesn't matter, we can't (and wont) swing the entire thing for him. I keep trying to steer him towards merit scholarship sites and books, working with his councilor at school. Plain and simple: he's not interested in the financial details right now. Like most of us when we were that age, he's not looking at the big picture. We've told him that having to owe thousands of dollars after he graduates really, well, sucks. Not much is worse than sending that repetitive monthly check almost 10 years after you graduate. NOT knocking the wonderful education received and how much it's worth it, but it still sucks.

We have no problem giving him time and we know he's got a few years left. We ARE backing off on the advice and talks enough to make him comfortable but what kind of things can we do to get him a bit more interested in his financial future and start looking into those scholarships? What worked for you or your kids? I understand most parents on here have little ones, but I'm hoping all you college graduates have memories of what lit the fire under your own bums to tackle your college financial woes :)

Thanks so much!!

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So What Happened?

Holy Moley!! Thanks to each and every one of you for your wonderful responses. My husband and I read all of the answers and even told our son about the question. He was interested enough to want to read the answers, himself! I guess backing off did the trick because last night all three of us sat down and had a pretty lengthy conversation about all areas of the college experience and he was actually excited about it! BTW, just to be clear: he IS going to college. There's never been a doubt in his mind. He understands what will be taken care of and what wont. We're all taking some of the advise given and applying it towards his future.

Also, I wanted to THANK you all for keeping your answers pointed to the question. From other experiences, had I posted this on other boards, this thread would have quickly turned into a heated debate about the rights and wrongs and "how dare you"-s of paying for your child's education. Regardless of a family's situation, their decision is their decision and it should be respected.

Thank you, Moms, for being as mature and wonderful as you are!!

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answers from San Antonio on

does he have a job yet? He probably has no idea how much things cost compared to how much he earns. I'd wait a year. He's only a sophomore. I don't think I thought a lot about college till my senior year. It's probably too early to apply for some scholarships for him yet anyways. Is it too early? Perhaps look into it for him to inform him "Honey, you can start as early as X-date to apply for this scholarship. It says you must have a GPA of X.X, so you'll need to work hard this next year to get it up high." I know that when I was a junior/senior, my dad did a lot of the 'grunt work' for me, as I was full of school, cross country, plus a part time job. I did the essay writing, but he did the searching for me to help me out. Just a thought.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Minneapolis on

I have two through college and one is now in an MBA program. As a sophmore, your son may be a little young to fully understand and be interested in all the details, financial or otherwise.

At this time, I would be more focused on his understanding of the benefits and increased opportunities for his career and the fun (meeting new people, expanding his horizons) of the college experience. You want him to WANT to go.

I think his Junior year is early enough to be helping him understand the various options (4-year, 2-year, local, state, out-of-state, private) and their differing costs. Then he can be part of the discussion about which options would work for him, and which he's willing to work for.

I know some families who have made a HUGE project out of college applications. Ours didn't. I did some research ahead of time on prices and other differences. There are great websites out there now for that (the college search on www.collegeboard.com is one I like). Then we talked with our children as to what schools were realistic given our finances, etc. They each applied to 3 schools and were accepted to one.

The "right" college is the one that fits your son best. Here's a good article on the search process:

College loans aren't all bad, as long as the total is under control. Every month for 10 years I congratulated myself for completing my college degree that allowed me to have a job that made paying back my loans possible.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I have a Sophomore daughter who lives and breathes college right now, getting scholarships and can't wait to enjoy her dream

As far as finances, we are a little different....we believe it is our parental obligation to get her through college and out with no debt. That is not saying she will have no input of finances but we have already funded her with anticipation of college costs being $40,000- $70,000 per year full ride, wherever she chooses to go.

She is aware that any scholarships, etc that she gets that offsets the costs will be to her benefit because the leftover money is hers.

That said, a lot of parents refuse to fund children's college and each family has to do what they feel is right for their family.

Another priority is making sure our retirement is fully funded as well so that she will never be burdened with taking care of us as we age.

It is a lot of work, planning etc but it can be done and all done with no debt.

I agree to not push your child, let him come up with ideas as well. We had no plans to begin college visits this year but she expressed interest so we took advantage of it and have visited a couple great schools and have others planned.

It is a tough road getting these little birds ready to fly from the nest!! Best wishes.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I would try and put it in terms that he will understand. Make a poster on how much life costs after college: average job salary, minus rent, car payment, insurance costs, gas, food, electricity, heat, entertainment and then cost of estimated college loans. This way he can see the benefits of starting to fill out scholarships.

You could also start going on tours of campuses so that he will get excited and it may seem a little more real to him. It will also help to talk with college kids because they can explain how expensive college can be. Maybe by talking with college kids he will understand why it is important to get a head start.

My father made me fill out scholarships. At the time I saw it as a punishment, I was glad later that he made me do it. I hated it at the time but he knew better than I did.

Good luck. It will probably be a battle but wont it be worth it to see him get scholarship money?

My father also told me that if I didn't fill out scholarships I would have to move back home after graduation. I would be a 22 year old stuck at home, paying rent, still following my parents rules working a full time job just trying to pay back huge monthly college loans.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Barbara on

Hi there! My daughter is a senior in high school and what helped for us was to take her along to the college fairs/financial aid workshops at her high school as well as a private one. She knows that her dad and I worked through school and didn't take loans. I mentioned this in another post yesterday that my daughter knows our financial situation: mortgage, taxes, commission, her car payment, rising healthcare costs, blah, blah, blah. Education has been one of those topics as well. Now that it is more real and closer for her she is willing to do the paperwork. He may still be a little young. Junior year it really hits.

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answers from Cleveland on

If you push too hard he may rebel and go the other way. My son has had to learn the hardway and that's okay because I thinik now he appreciates what's ahead more. I know it is hard because we don't want our kids to be hurt and believe me it was hard watching my son do some stupid things but I have seen a maturity now at 17 that my older 27 year old son never showed. This year his senior year he is finally listening and hearing and understanding. He is working with his dad on what is the best way to pay for college and not be up to his eye balls in debt. We would try to talk to him over the years but each time he showed he was not ready we stepped back. I know it is difficult and boys are so different than us girls that sometimes moms have a hard time reacting to how boys think and how they are wired. Good luck to you.



answers from San Francisco on

I bugged my daughter about applying for scholarships for a year. She half-heartedly did a couple of them (which she didn't win), and that was that. So now she is going to a junior college for the first two years, which she's getting used to but it wasn't her preference. Since she refused to apply for the scholarships, it was her choice, IMO.

I don't think anything will work to get your kid to look into scholarships if he refuses to, so just be prepared to go the junior college route. Make his two options very clear, so that he will know he's making a choice by not looking for scholarship money.

I know how frustrating it is -- it made me crazy for a year. As far as the PSAT goes, I think they have to be in the 97th percentile to be in the running for the merit scholarship, which you will hear about in Sept. Also check out Fast Web.

Good luck, we'll be competing against you (hopefully) :)


answers from Albany on

Hi LB, I have one away at school this year, and a junior in HS.
Here college has never been an option.

Also, there are so very many financial programs available now for kids who want them, there is absolutely NO reason a parents ability (or willingness) to pay should EVER effect ANY kids decision about college.

BUT, the outcome needs to match the debt. I guess what I mean is if your kid wants to major in psychology (like my jr in hs), don't steer him towards a school thats $75k a year, with or without scholarships. A state school is perfectly acceptable. On the other hand, if your kid is a MAJOR brain (like my oldest who is at RIT on largely merit scholarships), REALLY ambitious and the outcome will be a 6 figure income immediately, then AIM VERY HIGH.

My ex has agree to paid for the 1st year only of all three kids. THey have never expected a free ride with regards to college.

My advice is to get excited (not stressed) about colleges yourself. Discuss it with him, ask him questions, do you like this place? THat place has this program, the other one has this advantage, steer him in the right direction, while making him believe it's HIS decision, because well, it really IS his decision.

Every kid is different. Find the thing he is awesome at (they all have at LEAST one thing) and nurture it, say positive things, create the feeling that he'll have a BLAST at school, that he'll have bragging rights (especially if he pays for it himself), and so on.

My ex husband and I did not finish paying off our own loans til he was 30. We celebrated with a bottle of champagne.

I AIM high with my kids. I think they will be successful and so they ARE successful, you know?

(should say I did a LOT of leg work getting my oldest where he is, but there were things I couldn't do of course, and with me cheering him on, we pulled it off together, will be different but equally interesting and important with the next two. PM me if you have specific questions)

Good Luck!




answers from Cleveland on

I would recommend the Dorm Survival Book--you can probably get it online at Amazon. I would also share budgets for the household--and somewhere along the way, get a bank account with a checkbook and have your child track expenses. We put a grid in the back of the book and tracked monthly, quarterly, yearly expenses. Allow for out of pocket for incidentals and have your child track his own spending. Getting a job is a wonderful thing if you can make it happen--very hard right now, but a lot of kids are making money by babysitting, helping out neighbors with yard work or cleaning, etc. Our kids did the dorm for the first year only, then went to apartments near campus that they shared with roommates. Even though we paid year around instead of just the school year, it gave the kids more space and privacy and was very cost effective. It also taught them life survival skills, how to pay rent and utilities, insuring their things, parking, getting along with people. Make sure that your child gets in the habit of balancing their checkbook, too many kids just get online, check the balance in their accounts, and go from there, not paying attention to any automatic payments or checks that were outstanding. Credit cards can be tricky. I was amazed that books ran about $100 a month, and my child graduated in 2007, and it probably is more now. Junior college is a wonderful alternative, especially if those scholarships and extra money don't show up--or if your child is not really motivated. (Hate to owe $$$$ for a kid who spent his time socializing and then drops out.) The college scholarships don't always materialize--so we did subsidized college loans. We did one parent loan--the highest interest rate was supposed to be 9%--and ours was 8.99%--so I paid that thing off as fast as I could. These loans generally run for ten years--so if you are doing this, you could be paying for the college ten years after they graduate!!



answers from Columbus on

I was just recently made aware of a company called 123College. The primary goal of this company is to help the student (and his/her parents) find as much "free" money as possible for college tuition and other related expenses. I did not go to college, in part because my parents never really showed me how to go about it since they could not afford to pay for it. That being said, I am very excited to be sharing the 123College opportunity with others so no one else has the same excuse I have. We will be holding 4 or 5 informational sessions in January and early February to share more about this company and concept. If you'd like the details, please send me a private message with your email address.

Thank you ... and good luck!



answers from Cincinnati on

Honestly, as a sophomore, he wouldn't understand all of the financial aspects that go along with going to college. We have a freshman right now and when we start looking at schools, I know I am going to do alot of the background work. You can work with his high school counselor as well. Call and ask for websites and narrow some things down for your son. Talk about which schools he is interested and see if financialy they are a possibility. It is usually cheaper to go to a state school instead of out of state or private. When I worked (I am a SAHM right now) I worked with people who went to all different colleges - many much more prestigious than my state school. But., in the end, we got the same job and were making the same amount. Sometimes (not always) a degre is a degree. My schooling was paid off the day I graduated....some of my friends will be paying off loans until they are in their 70s!

It is a lot for a parent to grasp, think about your poor teenage son. He is probably not interested becuase it is too much for him to handle on his own. Many times as a parent, you have to give him the information to fill out - maybe many feel I am babying him, but if you want the best chance of getting scholarships and grants, you may have to do it.

Also, when I was in college, I worked the entire time - sometimes 2 jobs. I worked hard to pay my part and sometimes I missed a party that my friends went to, but I cannot complain. I had a full college experience and had a great time - work and all! :) My summer and winter breaks I worked at home. I think if you do not encourage or demand your child to have a job, that may lead to too much partying and skipping classes..there is so much more freedom in college vs high school.

Good luck! I am right behind you in a year! :( HaHa!

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