Wait to start college to find more affordable option?

I have read a lot of your answers to questions on the site and I know you recommend that people go to community college than transfer to save money.

I have been known to suggest that, Nick – this is true.

I thought about this for a little while than when I talked to my guidance counselor they told me that with my AP credits in chem physics and calc that it wasn’t worth it to go because the only useful class would be English. And at the beginning to of the my senior year I got the Rensselaer medalist award which was 15,000 each year regardless of your gpa as long as you are enrolled full-time.

Awesome – congrats!

So I decided to apply early decision to RPI, for aeronautical engineering, my dream school following the advice of my guidance counselor. The financial aid said that my parents could more than afford to send me to school for 50,000 a year.

Don’t you just love how they just decide what you can afford.  “Oh you make this much?  Then surely you can afford to pay for $50,000 worth of school!  Doesn’t matter what else is happening in your life, what your plans are, whether you will get laid off next month – you can afford it!”  Ridiculous, but I digress…

The problem is my family has gone through some rough times over the past few years with the economy being so bad.

See?  This is EXACTLY what I am talking about.

And they didn’t save for college cause I had to go to a tutor for my learning disability when I was younger cause the state refused to help out. Although they have good credit and with them cosigning I qualified for a student loan for all I need it just won’t work out. The starting rate is over 7 percent and is adjustable up to 25. It is insane and worse than having a mortgage.

Is it worth appealing the aid, or trying to get into the rotc program even though I missed the deadline for the 4-year program?

Of course.  It’s free and the worst that can happen is they say no.  It’s absolutely worth trying.

I know I should have probably applied to more schools and non-binding admissions. Is it good to considering taking a year or semester off in order to apply somewhere else and get an aid offer from other colleges?


Sure, it’s worth considering, Nick.  I know the general consensus is to go to high school, immediately go to college, get your 4 (or 5) years done and start your “adult life.”  That’s all well & good, but it doesn’t necessarily work out that way for everyone.  If you can save a significant amount of money by waiting – as long as you can work & make ends meet – I say go for it.  But remember – when you “take time off” it is very easy to become complacent & never go back, so if you really do want to go to school, be sure you get back to it as soon as you can.

How about you all – any advice for Nick here?  Let him know what you think!

5 thoughts on “Wait to start college to find more affordable option?”

  1. I would suggest taking some time off for one semester maybe? Possibly take that English class at a community college. Take that time to save up or apply to another school.

  2. I think you have several options that are worth trying:
    1. Appeal the aid
    2. Go to your local community/state college and see about enrolling there to take English and whatever other classes would benefit you if you were to transfer to RPI (or other school of your choice) when the finances work out. If they take your AP credits, you may not have too many classes to complete before you get your AA, and many schools offer transfer scholarships for students coming from these schools.
    3. Apply at other schools and wait to go to college until you find the right fit both financially and academically. During your wait, you could work, do volunteer/paid work through Americorps, Public Allies, or other organizations, travel, etc.

    Good luck!!

  3. Definitely appeal the aid. If the tax year your FAFSA info was based on doesn’t accurately represent where you are financially right now it can only work out in your favor, and you may qualify for additional aid or at the very least a loan that doesn’t have killer interest rates and awful repayment options through the government. It’s certainly worth a try. If not, take a year off. Don’t bother only taking one class at a community college – spend that year working and experiencing life outside of school instead. It’s better to take that year off now instead of halfway through school, especially financially; for most federal aid programs there are only 6 years of eligibility, which means if you take a semester of loans here or there, you may not qualify when you really need it (for example, senior year). Try to keep your total time in an undergrad program, wherever you decide to go, to 4 years total or less in order to get the most out of financial aid.
    And keep in mind when you talk to the office, they didn’t decide how much your family can pay; they have to abide by a formula the federal government decided in the 1970s, and even though they wish they could give you more money they can’t. It’s a super frustrating situation for both parties! But if you can prove partial financial hardship or extenuating circumstances, they can adjust what they can give you.

  4. Engineering Student's Mom

    Nick, I can relate to your situation in many ways. (RPI was my son’s “dream school” as well, and he is currently a Senior engineering student.) I think you will find helpful what I have to tell you. Given the timing in the college application process and the decisions you may be facing given that, please do not delay in exploring what I suggest. At this point, you are not yet fully informed, so do not be tempted to hastily turn down any acceptance, but also, do not formally accept an offer right now, either. You have some work to do.

    Going straight to RPI or going the CC route may certainly be viable options for you no matter your parents’ financial situation.

    Since your family’s financial situation has changed from when your financial application was submitted, you need to inform both the Financial Aid and the Admission offices at the schools to which you’ve applied without delay. The basis of your original need for aid has changed to something greater, and therefore, your aid may also be greater. You will be told whether to “simply” change what you supplied in the financial aid application(s) vs having to go through a formal appeal process. Or you may be told to do both.

    Additionally, if you live in New York State, there may be another consideration for you. Up until at least a few years ago, RPI accepted NYS community college credits toward RPI’s engineering degree programs with a guaranteed admissions acceptance (as long as the student maintained certain criteria). Have a conversation with the RPI Admissions office right away.

    However, before you decide on anything with finality, you must understand the terms of the RPI Medalist Award: Will it still be available to you if you defer your attendance to RPI beyond the Fall semester following your graduation from high school? Would your aid from RPI actually be greater if you turned down the Medalist Award (in which case, inquire as to how many years RPI’s alternate aid would apply, and whether RPI guarantees an amount for each year)? Also, if you turned down the Medallist Award (because RPI’s alternate aid is greater), can the Medalist Award be instituted in a subsequent year if RPI’s alternate award amount should fall below that of your Medallist Award? Make these part of your conversation with RPI’s Admissions Office, although they may refer you to their Financial Aid office.

    Another option would be to apply to some other public and private schools which offer your desired major, although they may not appear to be your “dream school”. It is not too late, but the deadlines may be imminent. (NOTE: In order to be considered for the bulk of the award considerations that a university has to offer, many universities have an application deadline as early as mid-November to early December.) In light of your aspiration, merit, and financial situation, you may be surprised to find that these other university’s awards exceed RPI’s Medallist Award, therefore, making these other institution’s tuition more realistic for you; their award may even amount to a (nearly) full ride. You may even be accepted into those universities’ Honors Programs where supplemental aid is often awarded. Be sure the financial information sent to any additional schools to which you may apply reflects your parents’ current financial situation.

    Also, for some perspective, while loans have to be considered very carefully, remember there are loans with payments deferred until you graduate. Consider that as a prospective engineer, your earning power from the time of graduation will be greater than the typical 4-year college graduate.

    If you are at all hesitant or unsure of your ability to have the conversations I’ve suggested with the Admissions and Financial Aid offices, do not hesitate to ask an adult who would be comfortable to do so on your behalf. No matter what anyone may suggest, navigating the whole application process is complicated. If you undertake this on your own, keep asking questions until you fully understand – and document everything.

    Whatever you do, including to take some time off from full time study, I suggest you take some English courses and work really hard to understand and incorporate that instruction into your everyday communications. (My own skills are not perfect, Nick, but…) Your inquiry to Josh demonstrates that your English skills could use some work – including that of your composition, spelling, punctuation, and proofreading skills. (With electronic communications, don’t be too quick to hit that Send button.) Engineers must communicate complex ideas, written and oral, often to people who do not have an engineering or technical background. It is in everyone’s best interest if an engineer’s communications are clear. Grammatical issues (including unedited communications), bog down your audience and cause them to have to work hard at trying to understand your intent – never mind your content.

    If you ultimately decide to pick-up a course or two at a community college instead of proceeding full time with your education, in addition to an English course, I would urge you to take an appropriate math, physics, or chemistry course. As you know, math skills become rusty if not continually used, and your effort will be noticed by your future Admissions officers.

    Since you mention AP courses, here are some things to think about of which you may not be aware. Many universities recommend that in-coming students take their version of the completed AP-equivalent course (or even their version of other university’s courses which have been completed and qualify for transfer credit) as a way to be sure the student is getting that university’s course content, particularly for those courses that are core to one’s degree. Additionally, retaking certain AP courses core to one’s degree can allow the student to boost their GPA (with an “easy” A) because of their ability to concentrate more on the other coursework but with an added benefit of gaining a sound foundational understanding in those (AP) core courses. Another thing to consider is that you may find that the “select” professors may not be the ones who teach the second semester courses in the first semester. For example, if you transfer your AP courses with the intention of taking that subject’s second semester course in your first semester, you may find the instruction sub-par to what your peers subsequently experience who are on the standard schedule, and this decision may dog you throughout your academic career. …And contrary to what many high schools will tell students and parents, unless you attend a university that charges by the course (not typical) or you have enough credits to eliminate a full semester, transferring in AP courses will not be a cost savings. But even if there is no cost savings, those transferred AP course credits can make for an “easier” college experience including to allow you to more easily accomplish minor studies or go fast-track on a master’s.

    Good luck!

  5. I think community college is a great start for someone who’s university goals are farther away. I started at my local community college and it’s been amazing. Nine out of ten times your going to find the professors to be more caring and really care about your education and how you do in there class. As for you guidance counselor saying that your English class will be the only class worth taking I find that wrong. You can knock out a lot of college credit for a quarter of the price. You can do the research yourself as well, more community colleges will let you research the classes they have and you can determine and entire schedule for a whole semester. Don’t let someone rush you into a huge student loan because they think they know what is best for you. Only you know what is best for you. I suggest looking into your local college. I know you have that scholarship but if it won’t cover most of your cost and it will send you in debt is it really worth it? Like I said no one but maybe your parents really know what is best for you except for you.

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