College Choices

Choosing a College

Snapshot of college options and information for one student in early Feb.

Ultimately, it is JumpStart Jr.’s life, and he can do as he pleases.  It is also our life, and we don’t want to go bankrupt, or delay retirement, based on his decisions at age 18.  Luckily, I believe that fiscal responsibility is a lesson that has sunk in, and I know finances will be a strong consideration in choosing a college and in his choices in life. After examining our finances, even though it will be tough, we are prepared to assist with $19k per year.

The table below shows prices, scholarship offers, and potential scholarship offers. If a school can be done cheaper, we both win, we pay less, and my son will get some book and spending money. More expensive schools will require some funds from my son.  JumpStart Jr. can use summer jobs, work during the school year, or loans to fill the gap.  I hope he will choose to work enough to avoid loans, but it will be his decision.  The right column displays the bottom line for my son.  High school kids tend to make emotional decisions, and I hope the table will help organize all the information for my son.


He was accepted to Christopher Newport University, but they deferred their decision on admittance to the Honors/Leadership Program.  Considering CNU’s high cost of attendance, and without the scholarship money from the Honors/Leadership Program, CNU is out of the running.

Va. Tech and JMU

Va. Tech and James Madison University are probably the most obvious and popular choices college choices for students in this area. Va. Tech has a huge academic and athletic reputation and is kind of a tradition in our family.  JMU is also a hugely popular choice among his peers.  He would arrive at either of those campuses already knowing a bunch of other students.  Our EFC came in at $23,200, and I do not expect to get any aid from Va. Tech or JMU.  Their admittance decision doesn’t happen for another couple of months.  It would be great to add some money into the scholarship categories, but we are not counting on it at this time.

Both Radford and Roanoke College waived application fees and 50$ might have prevented him from applying.  I am thankful they waived the fees, because they have become real contenders.


Recently, a surprise letter awarding a scholarship came from Radford.  The timing was about a month after his acceptance letter.  We do have a couple of Radford graduates in our family.  Despite the close location, my son has never set foot on the campus.  High school can be a ruthless place.  Students will snicker when Virginia Western Community College is mentioned, despite the fact that tons of their fellow students are headed there.  Radford gets some of those same snickers, and is not a consideration by many competitive students.  I know quite a few people that love Radford, and it is important to avoid high school mob mentality.  With the $3,000 recurring Red and White Scholarship, Radford is competitive on price.

Roanoke College

Contrary to the name, Roanoke College is just outside of Roanoke in Salem.  Despite being 20 minutes from our house, JumpStart Jr. never set foot on the campus, before the college search began this year.  Many Roanoke students overlook Roanoke College because it is too close, and they want to venture away for college.  The $54,000 price tag also scares away some students.  I keep hearing that private schools should still be considered, and after scholarship money they can become affordable.  Roanoke College is interesting, because they have already awarded $27,200 in merit money, and there is an upcoming scholarship competition day.  The Bittle or Bowman scholarship would put the price of the school competitively in line with the others.  However, if JumpStart Jr. does not earn one of the top tier scholarships on competition day, Roanoke will be too expensive.

The recruitment team and process at Roanoke College has been a step above.  We took the campus tour, and it was the first college that gave us vouchers for lunch in the cafeteria.  Just going on the campus tour earns a $1000 recurring scholarship.  On a separate evening, Roanoke College hosted a financial aid workshop, and provided free food.  There was a little RC propaganda, but is was mostly information applicable to the financial aid process at any school.  A few weeks ago, JumpStart Jr. was hanging out with some buddies, when the Roanoke College recruiter called him. The recruiter was just calling to check in, but it made him feel cool in front of his friends.  It is one thing to get a bunch of junk mail, but another thing to get calls from recruiters.

It will be interesting to see the final Roanoke College numbers after the scholarship competition day.  We are anxiously waiting news from Tech and JMU.  A visit to the most affordable choice Radford will happen soon.  Senior year is certainly an important and exciting time.

Posted in Paying for college..


  1. Thanks for sharing the real numbers! I’ve done a lot of reading up on the various “real” cost of colleges (vs. the published prices) to try and get a sense of the best target number for saving for my three boys. It’s good to see that you have a lot of solid options under $20k per year!

  2. It is funny how money is such a private matter. It would be easy to look up the salary of a teacher in my district, but discussing the size of a paycheck is taboo. I know tons of parents that are going through the exact same college process, but people talk vaguely, or not at all, and I am unable to apply it to my situation. When it comes to college, I hear a lot of talk about the right fit, and I hear about total cost of attendance, but I never hear about the final numbers that matter.

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