College Quandary!!
December 16, 2009 12:01 PM   Subscribe

Help a young boy make the right decision! Any and all advice for a soon-to-be-undergrad trying to secure his future!

So, this is a little specific, but here's the breaks. Specific suggestions/advice are ideal, but any general comments are also greatly appreciated.

I just got accepted to Reed (in Portland) on Early Decision. I also applied to SVA (an art school in NYC) as a transfer student for Spring '09, and was recently accepted.

I love Reed and want to go there more than anywhere else, but finances are a big issue, (I would have started school at another school over a year ago had my financial aid package not shrunk dramatically). If I don't get the financial aid that I need, I was planning on attending SVA, which is (just barely) affordable.

So, here's the predicament: Accepted to Reed but waiting on financial aid package (which is a make-it-or-break-it issue). Probably wont get this info until friday. In the mean time I have to confirm with SVA whether I will be attending by tomorrow at latest in order to receive the full-housing-scholarship I was awarded. SVA can't extend this deadline, and Reed can't send my financial aid info earlier via email or anything else due to 'federal privacy legislation' or something or other.

I've been left up the creek before and I really really don't want to make a faulty decision here. If Reed is unaffordable, and I've nixed my scholarship (and potentially my admission status) with SVA by waiting too long, then I'm screwed.

So, what can I do? If you wise metafilter gurus have an answer, lay it on me. Otherwise, wild suggestions, off-topic advice, or just about anything vaguely related is welcome.

Thanks folks!

(This is all rather complicated, so if there's any important info that I left out, let me know)
posted by Griffinlb to Education (42 answers total)
 
What happens if you confirm with SVA, and then back out if Reed's financial aid comes through? This is, assuming that it wouldn't screw with your moral compass or somesuch.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:08 PM on December 16, 2009


Can you not just tell SVA that you accept, and then if you get what you want from Reed go back to SVA and tell them that you will now have to, unfortunately, decline their generous offer?
posted by hapax_legomenon at 12:08 PM on December 16, 2009


The SVA dorms are in a somewhat expensive part of town w/r/t groceries and sundries. Figure that into your affordability (even if you're not going to be paying rent.)
posted by griphus at 12:08 PM on December 16, 2009


Is Early Decision no longer binding? Back when I applied to colleges (the Stone Age), you weren't allowed for some reason or another to decline ED offers of admission.
posted by oinopaponton at 12:10 PM on December 16, 2009


I presume you've told Reed about the deadline with SVA? Assuming that there's still nothing they can do--i.e., FedEx you your package for tomorrow A.M., it seems all you can do is wait until the mail comes tomorrow and then call SVA to accept if you don't get the aid package you need. (Ethically/legally dubious alternative might be to accept at SVA and then renege when you get your aid package from Reed, but be advised that this can really come back to bite you in your ass; I knew someone from law school that did something similar, and one school called the other, and he was left with NO offers).

Tough situation--it's a real ulcer inducer. I wish you the best of luck. (Also, your portfolio is cool.)
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:11 PM on December 16, 2009


In my opinion, if a school wants to force you to accept early and is inflexible in the deadline, then they should incur the risk that your circumstances could change and you might back out after accepting. They're doing what's best for them by locking you in early, it's only natural that you do what's best for you.
posted by PercussivePaul at 12:11 PM on December 16, 2009


In the mean time I have to confirm with SVA whether I will be attending by tomorrow at latest in order to receive the full-housing-scholarship I was awarded. SVA can't extend this deadline, and Reed can't send my financial aid info earlier via email or anything else due to 'federal privacy legislation' or something or other.

Do you have to send a deposit?

Way back when I was 18, I went so far as to put a deposit down at MICA ($500), but then decided to withdraw my acceptance because I decided I couldn't afford it in the long run. Though I was out $500, the choice worked out for me. Since SVA isn't the Early Decision school, even if you tell them that you'll attend, that decision isn't leagally binding.

I'm a bit confused about your applying as a transfer student to SVA. Does this mean that you'd be attending in January and that you've already graduated from high school?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:11 PM on December 16, 2009


What happens if you confirm with SVA, and then back out if Reed's financial aid comes through?

This is something I have to figure out. My thought is that it's probably an option, but it might become a little sticky. For instance, receiving scholarships/awards from colleges has an effect on future financial aid (so maybe even just accepting SVA's scholarship offer could effect my [potential] future at Reed). Not to mention that I'm technically not supposed to accept any offers of admission now that I've been accepted on ED at Reed. I did sign a binding contract. I'm not too worried about morality in this instance, but more about these technicalities coming back to haunt me.

The SVA dorms are in a somewhat expensive part of town w/r/t groceries and sundries.

Thanks for the tip, and yes they are expensive! Luckily I received a scholarship that covers SVA housing in its entirety. So mostly I'm worried about groceries if I end up going to NYC.

Is Early Decision no longer binding?

It's still binding. Only, if you can't pay for it, then it's not binding. Funny how that works.

Thank you all for the suggestions so far!!!
posted by Griffinlb at 12:16 PM on December 16, 2009


(to clarify my earlier comment: It's my understanding that by applying to Reed ED, you are legally telling them that, if accepted, you will attend regardless of funding. You might not really have a choice here.)
posted by oinopaponton at 12:16 PM on December 16, 2009


Never mind.
posted by oinopaponton at 12:16 PM on December 16, 2009


This is something I have to figure out. My thought is that it's probably an option, but it might become a little sticky. For instance, receiving scholarships/awards from colleges has an effect on future financial aid (so maybe even just accepting SVA's scholarship offer could effect my [potential] future at Reed).

They'll have no way of knowing. I speak from experience.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:19 PM on December 16, 2009


They'll have no way of knowing. I speak from experience.

I've been told the same thing - that colleges are required (by these same kind of 'federal privacy laws') to withhold student information. But the added ingredient of the ED contract, and the fact that there are other people on the waiting list for the scholarship from SVA that I have to secure, makes it that much more complicated.

You're probably right, and I probably could slide through safely and still cover my bases, but can I really be sure? I'm just scared to make a decision that could turn out badly (like Admiral Haddock's friend)
posted by Griffinlb at 12:30 PM on December 16, 2009


Unless Reed's financial situation has changed a lot since I applied to college (2002...and I would wager if it's changed since then, it's changed for the worse) you are going to be disappointed by their financial aid. Unless you are a student of the caliber that could get into Harvard easily, or you have an interesting minority situation that would make you worth paying extra for, Reed's financial aid is pretty minimal.

Reed came nowhere close to meeting my need when I applied there. Also, the concession they made to try to snare especially desirable students was not to add more money to the package, but rather to increase the ratio of grants to loans. This is awesome in the long term, yay for no debt, but in the short term it doesn't help much if you still can't make ends meet to pay the tuition and fees there.

In 2002 Reed was known as one of those colleges with a pathetically tiny endowment. I really, really, really would not count on any miracles from them on the aid front. I don't know exactly what course you should take, but do what you can not to give up that scholarship. Betting your future on Reed's financial aid would be a poor choice.

If I were SVA, I would be fine with learning that a student with a large financial aid package had declined to attend at the last minute. More room for someone with more money, right?
posted by crinklebat at 12:33 PM on December 16, 2009


But the added ingredient of the ED contract, and the fact that there are other people on the waiting list for the scholarship from SVA that I have to secure, makes it that much more complicated.

Well, it seems to me that the ethically dubious decision was to apply to SVA for January (?) while you were simultaneously applying for Early Decision. I'm under the understanding that with ED, you're allowed to apply to other colleges for normal admissions--but those deadlines would be around now, and you wouldn't have had to make an admissions decision for them until the spring, after things with Reed were worked out.

Another option: could you ask SVA if you could defer your admission and financial aid package until the fall? This would force you to wait until the fall to attend SVA, but would give you time to work things out with Reed before making an ultimate decision--and could save you from having to turn down a decent financial aid package for SVA entirely until you have more information.

Still kind of confused how you're applying as a transfer student while still in high school.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:40 PM on December 16, 2009


accept with reed, because regardless, you're transfer isn't until the spring (i assume you meant spring '10; otherwise, i'm confused). SVA should know that a fuck of a lot can happen to a person in one semester of college, and be OK with it.

(also, be wary of SVA, they're a for-profit school and don't provide a lot in the way of student support)
posted by Jon_Evil at 12:42 PM on December 16, 2009


In 2002 Reed was known as one of those colleges with a pathetically tiny endowment. I really, really, really would not count on any miracles from them on the aid front. I don't know exactly what course you should take, but do what you can not to give up that scholarship. Betting your future on Reed's financial aid would be a poor choice.

hmmm. I heard a slightly different story via news outlets/the internets, but I have heard similar testimonial. So I'm a little torn. For instance something just came out saying that Reed grads had the least amount of debt in the state - and the average debt upon graduation (from collegeboard) seemed to be something my family and I could stomach. They also tell me again and again that they meet %100 of aid...

But obviously, you're right. I really don't want to stake my future on Reed's promise of financial aid. That's why this is such a tough decision.
posted by Griffinlb at 12:43 PM on December 16, 2009


oops, sorry for double post. the second one is the correct one.
posted by Jon_Evil at 12:43 PM on December 16, 2009


I would go where you want to go and work out the money later. I made my university decision based on finances alone and I have always felt regret about that, despite the fact that I graduated debt-free. Virtually everyone has student loans these days and if you're smart about consolidation the payments don't have to be too bad, even with significant debt.
posted by something something at 12:51 PM on December 16, 2009


Well, it seems to me that the ethically dubious decision was to apply to SVA for January (?) while you were simultaneously applying for Early Decision.

This decision was in line with the ED contract (I made sure), but it seems like you mean...pragmatically dubious? On that account, you'd be right. Although, I didn't realize that I would have to be making these decisions in such a tight time-frame, and in actuality I wouldn't have to were it not for the scholarship offer.

could you ask SVA if you could defer your admission and financial aid package until the fall?

That's a clever suggestion! I'll look into it. Thanks!

Still kind of confused how you're applying as a transfer student while still in high school.

To clarify, I'm currently 3/4 time student at local college (previous college plans dissolved as mentioned in post). Depending on each institutions policies I either can or can't apply for transfer - so for Reed, I have a small enough amount of college credit to apply early; wheras, for SVA, I can still apply as a transfer student.

accept with reed, because regardless, you're transfer isn't until the spring (i assume you meant spring '10; otherwise, i'm confused).

I applied to SVA for spring '09 (and Reed for Fall 2010). I think that should be clear from my responses above. Sorry for being unclear before.
posted by Griffinlb at 12:52 PM on December 16, 2009


They also tell me again and again that they meet %100 of aid...

Right, but they determine via some crazy equations what they believe your need to be. I certainly thought I "needed" a lot more money to attend Reed than they were willing to hand me. Of course, I was in a financial situation that could be interpreted a lot of ways (my dad owns a small business and some colleges chose to interpret business assets as assets that could be used to pay for my schooling, which is pretty ridiculous and would require some shady accounting on his part). If you're from a family with a more straightforward case for need, where the financial aid office can't find an excuse to offer you very little money, you may go home happier.

Average debt upon graduation doesn't tell you anything at all. Well, I'd say the conclusion I would draw is that most of the kids who go to Reed are wealthy, and can afford to pay mostly cash for school.
posted by crinklebat at 12:55 PM on December 16, 2009


Yep, accept the SVA offer and wait for Reed to call. I've pulled this before when I transferred to a different university with no problems. I was studying abroad, had told my original university I was returning, though I was still waiting to here from a different school I applied to as a transfer. Got the transfer acceptance and told the original there'd been a change of plan. What are they gonna do?

Don't speculate on Reed's financial aid package. Just wait until you get it. You never know. I hope it works out for you; Reed will satisfy your artistic needs (to say the least) while positioning you better for a career (than SVA would, imo). Defo factor in the costs of living in NYC when making your decision. I went to college there, and the living expenses are just insane (fwiw, I live in Portland now and the cost is extremely lower and the quality of life extremely better).
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:55 PM on December 16, 2009


They also tell me again and again that they meet %100 of aid...

Yes, but this doesn't mean that it will be grant money. It will be grant money + work study + loans (fed or private). The school I went to also said they 100% of need - to make a long story short, I'll be making payments on my student loans until I'm 94.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:57 PM on December 16, 2009


Right, but they determine via some crazy equations what they believe your need to be. I certainly thought I "needed" a lot more money to attend Reed than they were willing to hand me.

No arguments here. I've been in this situation too. Happened to me with Sarah Lawrence - although it was probably a little more straightforward than your scenario. My parents inherited a house (which SLC expected them to borrow thousands and thousands against), when of course, my family's income hadn't changed and our mortgage payments put us in an even tighter position.

So yeah. No argument really. I'm biting my fingernails. The thing that gets me though, is that I've voiced all these worries to Reed, in great detail, and they've told me again and again how 'important it is' to them to help students afford, and how they're so much more 'generous' than SLC, etc, etc. And then I hear testimonial that goes in just the opposite direction. Seems dastardly to me.

Yep, accept the SVA offer and wait for Reed to call.

This seems like the best option to me too, it's just - how can I be sure it won't "come to bite me in the ass" as Admiral Haddock put it? (how do you link to people's comments, dangit??)

(fwiw, I live in Portland now and the cost is extremely lower and the quality of life extremely better).

Here, here!
posted by Griffinlb at 1:06 PM on December 16, 2009


Well, I'll tell you Reed was not the least generous of the colleges to which I applied, by any means (that honor goes to Smith College, which offered me $0). However, that didn't mean I could afford to go there :) You may have some advantage since as an ED student, your aid package is being determined early in the cycle when they still have all the funds they need in the budget.

All the best to you, I really do hope it works out. Keep us posted on the outcome...
posted by crinklebat at 1:12 PM on December 16, 2009


All the best to you, I really do hope it works out. Keep us posted on the outcome...

Thanks, you guys are so nice. Maybe the package will come early and I won't have to pull anything sneaky. I'll keep you posted.
posted by Griffinlb at 1:15 PM on December 16, 2009


This seems like the best option to me too, it's just - how can I be sure it won't "come to bite me in the ass" as Admiral Haddock put it? (how do you link to people's comments, dangit??)

If I were considering "pulling something sneaky," I wouldn't announce it on a forum that is linked to my real name and portfolio, for starters (you might want to get this anonymized). And it goes without saying that I wouldn't tell SVA where I'm actually going if I were to withdraw my application. But, as I said above, ethically and legally dubious, and I've seen it backfire. I personally wouldn't recommend it...

As for linking to comments, use the URL in the time stamp under the post.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:04 PM on December 16, 2009


Were you accepted with an art scholarship (as opposed to just federal financial aid)? If so, this is discretionary spending by the Department of Fine Arts, and they might be able to up their offer once they know that they are competing with another school. Anecdotal data point: a state university doubled my scholarship after I told them that I had been offered more money by another college.
posted by halogen at 2:05 PM on December 16, 2009


So mostly I'm worried about groceries if I end up going to NYC.

if you do your own groceries and learn how to cook (assuming you have access to a kitchen) or just research cheap eats and stick to a budget, you can eat very well for very little, even in very expensive manhattan. i live here and when i want/need to, i can eat both lunch and dinner out, deliciously and freshly-prepared, for less than $10.
posted by lia at 2:21 PM on December 16, 2009


If I were considering "pulling something sneaky," I wouldn't announce it on a forum that is linked to my real name and portfolio...

This is a very real concern of mine, and I'm not sure how to go about it. I don't want to do anything that is ethically/legally dubious - but some of the posters above seem to indicate that this kind of thing (accepting SVA's offer despite my ED contract with the understanding that if Reed finaid works out, I'll renege on my admission decision with SVA) is OK, or at least - not particularly dangerous.

I'm trying to figure out what the safest, most secure thing to do would be. I would think that waiting around for Reed's finaid package, and potentially losing the scholarship with SVA (and maybe even my admission status) is not particularly safe. But then, as you have indicated, neither is accepting SVA's offer of admission...

So, I don't really know where that leaves things. Shucks.

Were you accepted with an art scholarship (as opposed to just federal financial aid)?

Yes, it was a merit scholarship, however the award is to be used strictly for housing, and not to be put towards tuition (and the dollar number seems to come in very rigid increments), so I don't think there's any chance of upping the offer. But perhaps I'm mistaken. Either way, thanks for the suggestion!
posted by Griffinlb at 2:58 PM on December 16, 2009


You have to keep in mind the financial situation beyond freshman year. Will you be able to keep a scholarship for housing every year, or will you end up having to either pay for dorms or find off-campus housing in an expensive part of the city for SVA? Is your SVA tuition scholarship for all years or is it just the first year/are there stipulations on what you have to maintain grades-wise to keep it?
For Reed, same thing once you find out the aid package. You can accept SVA's offer and then back out later if you don't want to go. It's really not that unethical because they can end up offering your spot to someone else if they do waitlists, and people seriously do that all the time.
posted by ishotjr at 3:20 PM on December 16, 2009


Consider the bigger picture...there are many, many good art schools out there; many, many schools with good art departments. It's not a binary. If you want to be in NYC: Cooper Union, FIT, NYU (Tisch), are all still open for applications. And that's just in NYC. If you're good (and it seems like you are), there's no need to box yourself in by committing to SVA. To me, their offer doesn't seem that great, considering the strings they've attached. If they really like you, they can probably do better, or at least let you wait until Fall.
posted by kathrineg at 3:28 PM on December 16, 2009


If you want to be in NYC: Cooper Union, FIT, NYU (Tisch), are all still open for applications.

Parsons might be a good suggestion, too. It might be a little late to jump on the Cooper Union bandwagon, considering their really, really involved application process.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:02 PM on December 16, 2009


Oh, also, Pratt.

There really are a lot of excellent art programs in NYC, and it does seem a little silly to limit yourself to SVA.

I'm trying to figure out what the safest, most secure thing to do would be. I would think that waiting around for Reed's finaid package, and potentially losing the scholarship with SVA (and maybe even my admission status) is not particularly safe. But then, as you have indicated, neither is accepting SVA's offer of admission...

Well, one thing to keep in mind is that Admiral Haddock was talking specifically about a law school, whose applicants might have more stringent requirements for things like honor codes and ethical standards (see: character evaluations for the bar in various states, et cetera). If these were small graduate programs you were talking about, which a high likelihood of communication, I might hesitate, too--although I've known people who accepted spaces at graduate programs and then never showed up or went to different programs, too. My suspicion, though, is that you'd be really, really safe accepting SVA's offer and then canceling on them if you have to, though of course this isn't guaranteed.

In the future (graduate school), I just wouldn't mention competing offers unless you're trying to press one school to give you a better financial aid package or something along those lines; it really doesn't do you any good to show your hand unless/until you have to, and I know that for many graduate schools, at least, the fact that a student has until a set acceptance day is considered pretty important. In those cases, you're not obligated to say a word until then--and you shouldn't feel pressured to, either.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:12 PM on December 16, 2009


There really are a lot of excellent art programs in NYC, and it does seem a little silly to limit yourself to SVA.

I've looked into a number of the programs you've suggested in the past (Cooper Union was a little loosey-goosey for my tastes, as was parsons); although, Pratt - I always hear good things about that school. For me part of the issue is that I've been stuck in limbo since the summer of 08 and I really want to get started on going to school. Not to mention that I have a fragile constitution and applying to college for a third time might break my brain.

SVA isn't the only art school in NY. It's just the one that I applied to. Of all the schools I've researched it always gets compared with Art Center with regard to its high level of professionalism/intensive foundation

Thanks for the sense perspective though. I'm still weighing my options, but I'm leaning towards accepting SVA's offer. Golly, this is complicated.

Thanks so much everyone for the advice and suggestions!
posted by Griffinlb at 4:25 PM on December 16, 2009


I'll be honest and say you're the kind of person I hated in high school. I applied for college only a few years ago -- and when you apply Early Decision, you are supposed to be prepared for the consequences if financial aid doesn't work out. It's not supposed to work the way you are manipulating it.

Only, if you can't pay for it, then it's not binding. Funny how that works.

No! That's not true! It is binding. If your parents lose their jobs and you can no longer afford college in between application and acceptance? Sure, I bet they'd consider that. But you entered knowing your financial situation and knowing you would be taking a risk on FA were you accepted. But you agreed to pay whatever they decided.

I was also warned by my college counselor that rejecting an Early Decision offer would basically amount to a blacklist by other colleges. Perhaps SVA doesn't pay attention to that, but maybe they do.

Go ahead, accept SVA's decision if you want. Wait for Reed to call. You can ethically revoke your decision to SVA since you haven't made a binding agreement with them to go there upon acceptance. But if you reject Reed's offers because of financial aid, you're just abusing the system.
posted by elisabethjw at 5:17 PM on December 16, 2009


PhoBWanKenobi, Cooper Union is actually still taking applications, until January 8th. Transcripts, scores, and their home test are all required at various points after the application is sent. It is a rather involved process but not entirely hopeless. Of course the OP has already stated that it's not an option.

OP, more than suggesting particular schools, my point is that you're still well within the time frame to apply for Fall '10...you don't to wait until next year to apply to other schools! No pressure from me, though. I know how it feels to be really eager to start--just remember that it's easier to spend your money than to get back the money you've spent! And college can be very, very expensive.
posted by kathrineg at 5:21 PM on December 16, 2009


Oh, it was mostly the home test that made me hesitate--I applied in 2002 and the home test is something I really wouldn't advise doing unless you've mentally prepared yourself and already set most of winter break and January aside for it.

OP, send me a MeMail if you want to talk art schools a bit. My sister is a Parsons grad, and it's a very rigorous program--I'm not sure what gave you the impression otherwise--and I'd be happy to tell you a bit about her experiences.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:13 PM on December 16, 2009


I'll be honest and say you're the kind of person I hated in high school. I applied for college only a few years ago -- and when you apply Early Decision, you are supposed to be prepared for the consequences if financial aid doesn't work out. It's not supposed to work the way you are manipulating it.

I'd have to say you're mistaken about that. I was told explicitly by Reed staff, and many other institutional representatives, that if the financial aid package is not sufficient, the contract is no longer binding. Not to mention that the same information is elucidated on the common app in similar language.

Anyway, why would you hate someone over wanting to make sure they could both go to, and afford their college of choice? Strikes me as a strange response...

anyway, thanks for the advice...?
posted by Griffinlb at 6:20 PM on December 16, 2009


Thanks for the support everyone!
I'm going to fax the necessary paperwork to SVA, which will save me a couple days in which time (hopefully) Reed's financial aid package will arrive - and I'll know what's doable and what's not.

Thanks for all the suggestions.
posted by Griffinlb at 4:20 PM on December 17, 2009


Just got the letter from Reed with more aid than I could have dreamed of! I was definitely not expecting this to go well, but I guess things worked out.

Thanks for all the help folks!
posted by Griffinlb at 3:29 PM on December 19, 2009


Yay! Happy ending! Congratulations, Griffinlb.
posted by crinklebat at 12:27 AM on December 20, 2009


Great! Keep up the great work. Really liked your portfolio.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:30 PM on December 21, 2009


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