Expensive Dream School vs. Cheaper, Not-Dream School?

Dear Judge Josh,

First, I just wanted to say I think you are great! I read your posts everyday and not only have I learned quite a bit, but I have been thoroughly entertained.

Go on, Whitney, I’m listening… ūüôā

Now for my question. Since I was ten years old my dream school was a small Catholic liberal arts college ( I want to leave names out but its nothing ivy-league or anything) . They have a really great theology program that I would love to be enrolled in. I got accepted and was offered a little bit of academic scholarship, but they are notoriously known for giving really bad scholarships/aid. After fours years there I would have close to $90,000 in loans. Which scares the heck out of me.

It should.  $90,000 is one helluva debt to be carrying straight out of school.

I have also been accepted to another similar university with arguably better academics. They have offered me a lot more money, in fact I wouldn’t have to take out more than two or three thousand dollars a year in loans. Problem is they don’t have the exact program I want. I could go in with an undeclared major and decide later (no matter what my major I would have to spend three semesters taking core curriculum general ed. classes), but I’m not excited about it. I think I could be happy there, but the decision to go there doesn’t make me want to jump up and down with joy.

Should I throw caution to the wind and go to the school I really want to attend with the program I want?  Should I not care about going into debt?

Never “throw caution to the wind”, Whitney, even when doing so may give you the outcome you want. ¬†There’s a reason they put “caution” signs on things that have a high likelihood of harming you. ¬†You know those “Darwin Awards” that you see all over the internet, where someone ignored common sense and ended up getting electrocuted or something like that? ¬†Yeah, that’s what usually happens to people who throw caution to the wind.

That’s not to say that you always have to choose the most cautious option – but you should always consider it, to be sure.

Or should I take the nearly full scholarship and figure out where to go from there?

Thanks a million,

Just like most everyone else, I had a dream school when I was coming out of high school. ¬†I also thought that if I didn’t get to go to that school I would be devastated and hate whatever school I had to end up attending. ¬†As you know, I come from a military family, and we didn’t have a lot of disposable income to be throwing at colleges. ¬†So I went to a fancy school for a year (paid for by scholarships) and then transferred to a supposedly run-of-the-mill, directional state school that I had never even considered until shortly beforehand. ¬†How could I be happy there, right?

Well, life is what you make of it, folks, and I had a great 3 year career there and made some lifelong friends that I couldn’t imagine not knowing these days. ¬†And best of all? ¬†I didn’t come out of college with a $90,000 debt to repay!

So don’t have a negative outlook on a school just because it wasn’t your “dream school.” ¬†College is 4-5 years long (unless you’re Van Wilder), but paying off a $90,000 debt can take a lifetime. ¬†Choose wisely.

What do you think, folks?  Is it worth it to pay more to go to your dream school?  Let Whitney know!

3 thoughts on “Expensive Dream School vs. Cheaper, Not-Dream School?”

  1. Whitney,
    hello, have you even gone to the college you believe that you will hate? Visited the campus and talk to other fellow students? If you haven’t, maybe you should. You may feel different. You can take the pre-required classes at the not so liked college, and later transfer to your dream college. It will be much more affordable for you. Don’t start life out with a debt that will take a lifetime to pay off. Don’t really know what types of employment you will find in theology, or what it pays. Give the not so liked college a chance, you may be surprised, I was. I loved attending the junior college I went to. I wasn’t sure myself how I would like it there, I found out as soon as I started meeting other students with the same ambition, to attain our degrees. Some of us are still in contact after 9 years. Give it a chance. Good luck, and enjoy yourself wherever you decide to go. Don’t get to discouraged if you don’t start at your dream college right away.
    Aloha Susan C.

  2. Hey Whitney,
    Forgot to mention check out the scholarship that are offered at each college, you may find that you could qualify for a scholarship and not know it. My daughter was surprised, especially when she didn’t think she would get in. She got a scholarship for two semesters. Totaling $5,000.00. She attended a junior college to get her pre-reqs. out of the way. She will transfer later to a university college. Take care.
    Aloha Susan C

  3. Go to the cheaper one. Theology doesn’t pay enough to pay off that 90,000 debt.

    A really great rule of thumb that I have taught my children and my students is to not borrow more over the course of your degree than you will earn in one year working at the average entry level job in that profession. Preferably less.. but definitely not more.

    Best of luck!

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