What’s In a Name: Selecting the Right School

Melissa Cox CFP® CFLSA

What’s In a Name: Selecting the Right School

As soon as my daughter was born, I started hearing names of universities like Harvard, Brown, Berkley and Stanford at the family dinner table. For some families its a normal conversation that sets an expectation of attending a name brand school, and naturally one would assume that a name brand school would provide the best education. As a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ that focuses on creating comprehensive college funding plans, I generally advise not putting too much pressure on the name of a college so early in life. After all, my goal is to help families set realistic expectations around planning for college.

The thought process behind what university your child will attend often equates college with heading off to the Ivy League. Harvard, Yale, Princeton, all these schools have built their reputation for equipping students with one of the best educations available.

A "Name Brand Education" comes at a price and it may not be the best financial choice for you or your family.

Melissa Cox CFP reminds you that selecting a college based on the name could jeopardize a financial future.

Such an aspiration or goal is laudable and certainly something to aim for and work towards. But the truth is that your college decision should not merely be focused on a name.

Your vision of attending Harvard may be a long-term dream, but may not actually be the wisest financial decision for you or your family. And, there may be other schools that would actually be better for you in the long run.

While the Ivy League is wonderful, realize that sometimes ideas and reality are not always in sync.

Melissa Cox CFP reminds you to balance wants and needs when planning for college

Let’s begin with admissions: most Ivy League schools have an admissions rate of below 10%. Many are closer to a 5% admission rate. Meaning, you have about a 90 - 95% percent rate of rejection.

Then, there is the financial aspect. Here is a breakdown of yearly tuition costs at a few Ivy League schools for 2020:

  • Harvard University                                                       $49,653.00
  • Yale University                                                             $55,500.00
  • Stanford University                                                      $55,473.00
  • University of Pennsylvania                                          $53,166.00

Scholarships and other merit based forms of award maybe available, but normally do not cover the full cost, even if your child is at the head of their class.

"Name Brand College" often means a great deal of student loan debt.

A Name Brand College could equate to higher student loan debt.

If your child accrues high student loan debt upon graduating college, this will equal large payments each month. The question there is whether their projected income will allow you to successfully pay off that debt while also being able to afford a home, car, and saving for retirement.

This is especially true if some of your loans are what they call “unsubsidized” which means that interest will accrue while you are attending school instead of upon graduation.

Think about that: depending on the interest rate, if you start with a percentage of your student loan debt in your freshman year of college that is unsubsidized, that’s four years of interesting compounding, adding annually to your balance.

That means even less money for your future and yes, here is where salary and earnings potential as well as long-term goals come into play when selecting the best college for you and your family.

At Cox Collegiate Planners, we  approach the process based on your family and its needs, not selecting a college simply by name shopping.

Cox Collegiate Planners aims to look past names when creating comprehensive college plans.

Let’s begin by looking at your child and their individual needs. Approaching this early and holistically, we will discuss your child’s intended career and major. Does your child intend to study for a graduate degree? What impact on the choice of an undergraduate degree does the potential of an MBA, law or medical school degree mean? (Hint: a great deal!)

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If you want to eventually create your own company or your goal is to become a CEO or CFO, perhaps an Ivy League education is perfect for you. (After all, there can be benefits associated with a name.) But then again, maybe it’s not. What if you could save on the costs of that tuition and still get a top education?

What if we work together to find the best school that will provide your child with a wonderful education that will not equal copious amounts of debt that will harm your child’s financial future? An educational environment best suited to their needs and temperament? One that assures their financial future is not in jeopardy.

Let’s work together to find the best education for your student; one that will set them on the proper path for their professional, and even personal life.

Melissa Cox CFP works with families to create customized comprehensive college funding plans.

Selecting a college takes a bit of planning and forethought that must include family finances, future financial projections as well as earning potential.

Instead of viewing it as a competition to get into the “best’ schools, my goal is to sit with your child and the family to put together a cohesive plan that allows for a bright future with minimal financial debt or the stress that such debt will create.

Together, we will find the school that will offer your child the best opportunities without shortchanging their (and your) financial future. The right school will provide a solid education and put them on the path to future success.

And rest assured, as the 90 – 95% of students who did not get admitted to the Ivy League will tell you, their success was not dependent upon a name.

Together, we can do this and I look forward to meeting with you to create a comprehensive college plan for your family's future.


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Melissa Anne Cox CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ is also a College Funding and Student Loan Advisor, and Financial Coach in Dallas, Texas.

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