College Choice for HS Senior

High school senior from the southeast here. Long story short, I have excellent stats (35 ACT, international awards for business/finance competitions, straight As, 4.0 GPA) but cost is definitely my biggest concern for college. I still want to keep as many doors open as possible when it comes to IB and other finance/consulting recruiting. I fall into that upper middle class trap that others have talked about. I only have limited needs based opportunities but not enough to pay for an expensive college without massive student loans.

I was accepted to University of Alabama and offered a full ride (tuition, room & board, stipend) and I would essentially get payed to go there for up to five years. I could even begin as a sophomore with AP credits and double major and or get a masters degree all for free. I would likely major in MIS or finance, and perhaps get a masters in applied statistics or something along those lines.

Obviously, UA is a definite non-target. However, it has a sizable student run investment fund with school-sponsored investment banking and management consulting programs. They are very selective, so they actually have a history of decent internship/job placements.

I am also applying to schools like Vanderbilt, Emory, Duke, and Wharton. I certainly have no guarantee of admission to any of these places, and it would likely be a great financial burden to attend.

How should I look at this situation? I am wondering whether it is best to splurge on a target school if I get in. Should I attend UA for free and transfer if there are really no good opportunities? If it helps, I am not targeting NYC offices.

I know that if I end up attending UA, I would have to hit the ground running with leadership in business/finance organizations and get some sort of finance related internship after my first year.

Comments (16)

  • Analyst 1 in IB-M&A

Just apply and see where you get in. You could get a great scholarship to somewhere decent. Don't settle on bama already.

Apply to a shit ton of places- Ivies, Duke, Georgetown, Emory, Vanderbilt, UMich, UVA, IU Kelley, Notre Dame etc

monkey502, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Think Ivy's aren't worth it tbh. Keep in mind no merit aid. Judging by OP's post, he's likely in the middle class where he doesn't qualify for aid but forking out even $50k/year would be a ton of stress. Applying to semi-targets with good track records of aid is just as good, since if the kid is truly Ivy League talent then he'll be leagues above his classmates and be able to lockdown the relevant clubs/internships

thevillage, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Some ivies cover tuition based on one's need

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  • Analyst 1 in Consulting

You have a great understanding of the tradeoffs, so congrats on having this much perspective at your age. A lot of people don't think this deeply about where to attend college -- you're already moving in the right direction regardless of where you end up going.

Your understanding of Bama's opportunity set is accurate. Bama is a non-target. However, and this is true for a lot of non-target but reputable state schools, students in the highly selective banking and consulting clubs place quite well. I went to UGA and our banking/consulting club has a 100% placement rate with about half placing into BB/EB IB and MBB firms.

Bama is a great choice, but if another school offers you merit aid I think you should strongly consider them. FWIW, there's no guarantee that you'll get a BB IB placement at Bama, but I got MBB from UGA and the ability to make a banking/consulting salary without taking on student loans is life changing.

TechBanking, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Just go to Bama, have fun and network. It's not that hard to explain. They gave you a full ride, and you needed the money. People will respect that. 

  • 1
uopl, what's your opinion? Comment below:

To second this, I have gotten a few internship offers solely based on the fact that I chose my current school over others since it was the right financial play. People respect the hustle more than you think.

  • Prospect in S&T - Other

If any school is going to give him aid it's gonna be the ivies excluding Cornell, which includes loans in their aid packages. I was on aid at an Ivy so depends on how high the family income is. Incomes of like 150k~ is about tuition free at the Ivy I go to or like 50k of aid a year. So keep that in mind. I don't think the issue is as bifurcated as OP is making it seem. Duke and the other semi targets will have much weaker aid programs than the ivies in general. Also most ivies allow you to do masters with your undergrad as well and I do that myself. You should focus on getting in first. Even with the stats you have now, your chances of not getting in is much higher than if you do by probably 9 to 1. At least try to get yourself the option to attend great schools instead of thinking about these hypotheticals and settling. 

  • Analyst 2 in IB-M&A

That's not true schools like Duke and Emory have endowments larger than the the lower Ivies and even handout merit aid. I know NYU and Georgetown suck at aid because of low endowments. The "southern Ivies" Duke, Vandy, Emory actually have massive endowments and give a shit ton of aid. 

did a quick google search- Vandy- 10 billion, Duke- 12 billion, and Emory- 11 billion

Cornell- 9 billion, Dartmouth- 8 billion, and Brown- 6.5 billion

  • Associate 2 in PE - Other

You can have a massive endowment but still be extremely stringent. I've been out of school for a while but I remember the Ivies being pretty generous with financial aid. It's not as simple as "X has a higher endowment so they'll give me more financial aid". I've known a handful of people who paid nothing for a Brown or Dartmouth but can't say the same for Notre Dame ($20B endowment according to Google). Anecdotal but it's pretty important to cast a wide net anyway.

  • Prospect in S&T - Other

Yeah endowment size is not exactly a great proxy for financial aid payout. Ivies in general will have the best aid programs and are pretty flexible with appeals for more aid to be honest. One friend of mine literally went from almost zero aid to 50k in aid after two appeals in the same month. But ofc if ops parents make more than 250k than he's probably out of luck. Also keep in mind excluding Cornell I think all the ivies have pure grant based aid and no loans. 

pajero, what's your opinion? Comment below:

As someone who has spent a lot of time in the southeast, I'd say apply elsewhere and see what happens. Nothing against bama and props to you for having options after working hard to achieve the accomplishments / credentials you listed. I went to one and my brother went to another one of the four other schools you listed so biased in that regard, but would say that even with debt I think it's worth it to shoot higher. Outrageous what these private universities cost without aid but it's one of those things that sticks with you forever. You sound like a go-getter, so maybe mentally can compartmentalize the debt burden knowing you will be successful and will pay it off relatively quickly. Maybe better than always having the regret that you could have done better when people ask where you went to school for the rest of your life. If you care about SEC sports and plan to stay in the southeast where college football chatter never ends, then maybe the Tuscaloosa experience fully paid for would be worth it.

fixedincominganalyst, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Go on linkedin and run a blank search. Then filter by the companies you want to work for + Bama as the school. See if people come up. If people do, look at their career path + shoot them a message and ask about their experience. If no one shows up... then there is your answer. 

WestCoastChimp4521, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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