Why you must apply outside the “Top 20″ colleges

I’ve been coaching students and families about how to apply and afford college for many years. I see many bright and high-performing students with good grades, high test scores and impressive lists of extra curricular activities, making them attractive candidates for many colleges. Sometimes, however, that success blinds students and their parents: they believe that a successful student belongs only at schools at the top of the US News or Princeton Review rankings. To go elsewhere (they sometimes insist) is a waste of their student’s talents. Sadly, I’ve seen parents stretch themselves beyond their financial means to pay for their student to land a spot at the most expensive colleges in America.

Here’s the truth: Just as with other types of purchases, you will pay more for the “name brand” colleges than for those elsewhere in these rankings. There are extraordinary educational experiences — at far more affordable prices — beyond the name brand colleges. As one blogger put it:

“If you can’t come up with your own personal list of top 20 colleges that is different from the US News College Rankings, then not only are you limiting your options, you’re making them a lot more expensive. Getting into a top 20  is the ‘safe’ option. After all, they’ve probably been in the top 20 for a while and aren’t going anywhere. But you will pay for it.” (From: http://diycollegerankings.com/moneyball-college-admissions-rules-ignore-the-status-quo/8233/)

My advice to parents and students: use these summer months to help your student assemble a broad list of schools. Look beyond the labels — there are hundreds of great schools where you can get a terrific, and affordable, education.