The Unexpected (And Often Unnecessary) Cost of Getting a Child into College

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The Unexpected (And Often Unnecessary) Cost of Getting a Child into College

by | Aug 28, 2019

These days, a lot of parents are doing all they can to help their kids get into college – no matter what the financial cost is. Private tutors, test prep courses, music, voice, or foreign language lessons do not come cheap. But it wasn’t always this way. 
There was a time when students could do well on the SAT, write a decent essay, have a high school transcript with a variety of extracurricular activities, and collect a few recommendations from teachers without worrying about whether or not they would get accepted to one of their top schools.

Anxiety about the college application process has peaked. Students worry they won’t get into any school, much less their top choice, and parents worry that college admissions won’t see their child for all that they are. This has led to parents putting a lot of money into getting their child into college, all before they even have to make their first tuition payment. 

While most admission experts say that stellar test scores and a killer GPA can help a student get into college, some students have their heart set on a particular school, particularly if that school is difficult to get into. A better approach is to come up with a list of schools that the student will be happy attending to take the pressure off a bit. 

In any case, parents are still investing a lot of money hoping to get their kids into their dream schools. Here’s a breakdown of how much it can cost. 

Test Prep
Tests like the SAT and ACT used to be standard procedure for college admissions. While some schools have phased them out, most schools still require a decent SAT or ACT score. There are many courses available to help students improve their scores. These range from online tutorials to large review classes to one-on-one tutoring. Some of the better known test-prep companies can charge upwards of $1,000 for a professor-led class and as much as $100 an hour for one-on-one instruction.

To save money, look into whether or not the class has a refund policy. Some give you your money back if there is no score improvement. But, keep in mind that studies have shown that after taking the test three times, the student’s score is unlikely to change much at all. 

Bring in a Professional
Parents who want to help their child nail their college applications can hire an educational consultant to assist with the application process. This includes making sure they’re taking the right classes and participating in the right extracurricular activities in high school, prepare them for an admissions interview, or help them find a school that fits their academic and social needs. 

While educational consultants can help parents and students realize that there are a lot of good schools out there, this assistance does come with a price. Some consultants offer packages that start during their sophomore year of high school and cost upwards of $4,000.

There are less expensive options for students who only need assistance with part of the process or just need to be pointed in the right direction. Some communities and libraries offer free resources that can help in this area, too. 

Boost that GPA
For students who need help in a particular academic area, a private tutor can be brought in to focus on their problem areas. Math is typically a harder subject for most high school students and math tutors are pricey and in demand. 

Balancing Private High School Tuition with Future College Costs
College is expensive so some people may want to reconsider that pricey private school education and focus on the years ahead. Elite, selective schools may care about what private prep school a student attended but most schools do not. Having an expensive private school education does not guarantee admission to any college or university and can end up being a huge financial gamble in the long run. 

College admissions are looking at a wider variety of factors these days, including the most prestigious and hard to get into universities. Parents should think long and hard before investing their life savings in prep school because it just doesn’t carry the weight it once did. 

How Much Do Extracurriculars Matter? 
Extracurricular activities are great but they should be about enrichment and not checking boxes on a college application. If a child wants to pursue the clarinet, learn to play lacrosse, or try out for the chess team, they should. But it should be because they want to, not because they think it will impress someone in the admissions office a few years down the line. 

Any opinions are those of Thomas Fleishel and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Expressions of opinion are as of this date and are subject to change without notice. There is no guarantee that these statements, opinions or forecasts provided herein will prove to be correct.


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