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Is it worth going to my dream school if it costs significantly more than an acedemically comparable school?

I am a high school junior, and I am unsure of if I should choose my dream school (Notre Dame) over a school that is about as good but less expensive. I obviously have not applied to any schools yet, but I am trying to prepare for when I do. #college #financial-aid #choosing-a-college #colleges #finance

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Jacob’s Answer

Hi, Gordon,

Excellent question. I will answer it by asking one of you: do YOU think it's worth it? The fact of the matter is that there is no right or wrong answer. For some, it might be worth it. For others, maybe not. As I thought about your question, I came up with some items I think are relevant for you to consider as you make this decision:

  • What do you ultimately want to do? Does Notre Dame offer a program that is nationally renowned that you would not otherwise be able to find elsewhere?
  • Do you anticipate pursuing a graduate degree? Doing so will significantly impact your total tuition costs.
  • What does your financial aid situation look like? Will you be paying for college on your own? Have you found scholarships/grants to apply for? Are you prepared to apply for Federal Aid (FAFSA: https://fafsa.ed.gov/)? Will you work during your college tenure?
  • Introspection is key here. If you Notre Dame is your dream school and you chose to go somewhere more inexpensive, would you be disappointed? I think you are right - the difference between the education you get at an expensive, private school like Notre Dame and elsewhere is probably not significant. Weigh the pros and cons. Try to think about it from both perspectives - envision yourself at Notre Dame and envision yourself at a different school. How do you feel?

I hope this answer helps. Many of your peers are likely going through a similar struggle right now. Tuition costs were certainly a factor for me. I started with Federal Aid, Private Loans, scholarships, and a job. College is expensive no matter where you go. Planning for your financing will help alleviate stress down the road. Good luck doing so. Don't hesitate to reach out if you need to.

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Victoria’s Answer


The answer to this question is: "it depends" (I totally get sucks to hear). There are different categories you could spend some time analyzing to make that decision. Factors that are in play here in each category include:

- What do you value the most out of the college experience?

- What degree you are pursuing? Major? Minor?
- Extracurriculars
- Study abroad?
- Honors programs?

Job Prospects
- Career aspiration? (Different fields recruit heavily from different schools - some jobs care about pedigree more so than others, undergraduate schooling may not play into the recruiting as much if you pursue a graduate degree)
- School/alumni network

- Are you planning on graduate school?
- Scholarships? FAFSA?

Campus Life
- Social groups/organizations? Greek Life?
- Housing requirements
- Sports

By analyzing your values the rest should come easier in terms of seeing what the pros and cons are. I personally was in the same position as you and decided on a state school by flipping a coin and realizing that I could get to where I wanted to go with alternative means without paying for a private school.

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Joshua’s Answer

Follow your dream! However, look at the cost benefit to this decision. If it costs a drastic amount more than it might not be worth it financially. Many employers do not care where your degree is from, as long as you have one from an accredited institution.