Living in Central New Jersey I frequently bump into high school students who are looking forward to going to Delaware, James Madison and many other schools. I always ask if they considered Rutgers. They always tell me no. They thought that the school was too big or too close to home.
Last week, you heard from Carmela Sadaya, a Rutgers junior, who looked at other schools before choosing Rutgers. Others Garden State residents who passed on Rutgers chose larger schools such as Penn State thought that they would “have more fun” on that campus. I totally understand the decisions to go to schools such as Boston University, George Washington University or NYU. They’re as much about living in the city as they are about the school. And the Ivies, well they’re Ivies. Those who can get in and find the money to go will go.
Where I become concerned is with the very good student who ranks in the middle of the applicant pool for Rutgers, the student with a B+ or A- GPA, a 1300 (out of 1600) SAT and some AP courses. That student is also in the middle of the pool at Delaware, Indiana, James Madison, Penn State, Purdue, Syracuse and Virginia Tech. Reality is that student will pay more, often much more, to leave New Jersey for their college education. If that student chooses, for instance Delaware over Rutgers, s/he is likely to pay more than $80,000 extra in tuition and fees over four years.
But suppose your student is insistent on leaving the Garden State, though you have little or no more in the way of resources than you would have to pay for Rutgers or TCNJ. What do you do?
The smart person would take a look at those schools with a more open mind. There’s no rule that states: “you must go home on weekends if you live in New Jersey and attend a New Jersey school.” I have met people who live in Southern California who want their son or daughter or counseling client to go to UCLA–and the student wants to go there, too. I wish more families from New Jersey felt the same way about Rutgers.
For instance, a Rutgers applicant with a 3.8 and 1300 SATs would qualify for a generous merit scholarship as well as the Honors College at the University of Maine or SUNY-Albany. S/he could also get full tuition and admission to a very good Honors College at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. This student might get into the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers, but maybe not gain admission to one of the other undergraduate colleges on the main campus.
But, more important, would s/he be happier at those schools and others s/he finds in their search?
That’s a question I cannot answer.
Each student has different interests and motivations. Some will want to know that they will attend classes with equally motivated students, and that they won’t be lonely if they choose to study on a Friday or Saturday night. Some might want to take part in an honor’s community–and that might not be an option at Rutgers. Others might want to go to a school that is more likely to have a major bowl-bound football team.
It’s also important to ask where alumni of this school work. Those who go to SUNY-Albany will have no problem making connections in New York City. Same with Temple students who want to work in Philadelphia or WVU students who want a job near Pittsburgh.
But other schools might not have enough of an alumni base close to home to help you. The key for the “bread and butter” Rutgers applicant and their parents, when money is an issue, is to consider the academic and social fit after checking the financial fit. The best decision might be to stay in the home state. Carmela Sadaya, among others, did not regret the decision. Neither do many other Scarlet Knights.
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