As I said here
Costs matter, but the costs depend on your financial status, your academic status, and the institution.

For us, with a 2nd quartile income, elite institutions such as CalTech, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford would cost in the $10k-$20k range. That's a lot of money, but we can handle it. The difficulty is not the paying, but getting in in the first place. (I don't see any reason for choosing not to go.) It's good that it's hard to get in due to high academic standards, but it's bad that it's hard to get in due to all this extra curricular nonsense. But it is what it is, so the main thing is to understand it and assess one's chances, for these and other options.

Now "lesser", and easier to get into, but still high quality are places like Rice, Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech, U Virginia, which would cost us in the $15k-$25k range. Hopefully some merit aid would reduce that.

I really would rather not go over $20k/yr (with 3 kids that's $240k), so most places become irrelevant to us, and that's fine.

We're very frugal, saving 2/3 of income, which makes us secure, but we get that way by saying no to unreasonable expenditures.

And if our kid doesn't get into a good place at a low price? Well I agree with CFK that the state flagship is an option.

Originally Posted by CFK
Or your child can go to a university where he/she can get a lot of merit aid, and save the super selectives for grad school when (at least if in STEM) it will be funded.

My son entered with enough dual enrollment credits that he is now a college junior after one year. He will graduate from his university (an apparent bastion of mediocrity from what I read here) in three years total. He will have completed about 15 graduate courses if all goes as planned, enough to earn a Masters degree if that was desired. At 18 he plans on being at one of these "elite" colleges as a graduate student because he plans to stay in academia and the terminal degree is important for that. (note that in that bastion of mediocrity, otherwise known as our state flagship, almost all of his professors have degrees from Harvard, Brown, Berkely, Princeton, etc.. I wonder at what point did they lose IQ points?)

Honestly, my son is extremely advanced, always has been (I don't use the PG label because it is too loosely defined and widely applied in my opinion). He attended two other universities (flagship equivalents) for dual enrollment before he officially matriculated. He did not wither and die at any of them. Given enough AP/IB/dual enrollment credits an advanced student can probably complete a BS in two to three years and then head off to grad school where academic achievements and research are just about all that matters, thereby skipping the whole EC/clubs/athletics thing. My son is very well adjusted and can function in any environment but I think that even the most sensitive student could survive two years in a less than perfect environment.

Or you can start signing your children up for every club, sport, summer program you can find and plan on paying upwards of $50k per year. To each their own.

It's not what we'd want. But as a consolation, it's essentially free, with merit and living at home. Similarly to what CFK said, a very advanced kid can get a BSc in 2 or 3 years, maybe start early, and take grad courses, maybe tack on a quick MSc, interact with faculty who did go to much better universities, maybe start doing some decent research, and get into position to get into an elite university for grad school.

Actually this is basically what I did. I went to the local university (which was free), then I went to an elite university for PhD on a scholarship, in a different country. (Neither were in USA which is why I am so unfamiliar with the American system.) I actually didn't even really consider going elsewhere for my undergraduate, but I now regret this. I needed to be exposed to a higher caliber environment so I'd realize how much more mathematics there was to learn and how good people were. I got complacent and didn't realize how much harder I should be trying (even at the elite foreign university, where there was no coursework, just thesis, which I did the research for in 6 months the goofed around for the next 2.5 years of my scholarship).

So if you have to "settle" for a state flagship, or similar, you really need to stay aware of the very high standards out there and not get too complacent.

That's why I'd really like my kid to go to the best place possible for undergrad. (And "fortunately" our income is low enough that we can afford the elite places.