So it's a huge financial windfall to get your kid admitted to an elite private university. It saves you a mountain of money. So it's important to understand what it takes to get into these places.

Ah, I missed that your kid is only 7 years old. You are setting your kid (and yourself) up for a miserable upcoming 10 years if you focus all your efforts on trying to get your kid ready for admission to one of the most elite schools for financial reasons. If you are really worried about cost or quality of education, move to a state where the public universities are strong, as obviously in-state tuition is more affordable (Michigan has U of Michigan, California has Berkley, Texas has UT Austin, North Carolina has University of North Carolina, Virginia has UVA or William & Mary, Wisconsin has U of Wisconsin Madison -- those would be among the top public university choices.) Not sure what reciprocity choices there are other states for these colleges -- at the moment I know Minnesota students can attend U of Wisconsin Madison for in-state rates. But it is hard to know whether any of those agreements will be in place in 10 years given the current financial difficulties many colleges have. But if you live in a state with a strong university, then you have that as a financial and academic option even if your kid does not get one of those very few spots at the top 2 or 3 colleges.

The Cal Newport book I recommended above is probably also something you should read because it is intended for exactly what you want -- figuring out a way to leverage ECs that are unusual/go against the normal tide of activity to get into top colleges. The basic idea is that every year there are 10,000 validictorians, 10,000 salutatorians, and just as many sports team captains, student body presidents, yearbook editors, etc. competing for the spots at top colleges. It is very difficult to compete head to head with that pool and stand out. Even things like AMC and the Olympiads are strongly represented in the applictant pool. So his idea is to follow things that interest you into some depth and stand out by being different (in a substantial way) from the rest of the applicant pool. It is an interesting perspective. But I do know this from having two kids who are past that stage (23 and 18 now) -- you can't force them to do things they are not truly interested in, it is easy to snuff out their interest and damage your relationship with them by pushing them too hard, and you can't make them into something they aren't for college admissions purposes.

One other thing I would recommend (other than saving your money, that is really the best strategy) is starting when your kid is in about 9th grade to spend some time on the financial aid topic. You can position yourself better in terms of assets and income stream if you understand what the colleges look at. It is really too early to worry about it now. And don't let anyone tell you that saving is a waste of time because it reduces financial aid. Most colleges take about 5% of your assets into account when awarding aid -- I would much rather be the family that saved 1/3 or 1/2 of what is needed than the family that has no savings. One bit of advice now is to NOT put any money into your kids' names or let any family members do so. That is weighted much more heavily in the financial aid picture.

Last edited by intparent; 07/16/13 05:40 AM.