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Friday, May 7, 2021

5 Financial Mistakes that Destroy a Child’s Chance at College

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Mom used to always make sure she got my school and basketball tickets. What she might have missed is that I get them through various clubs (usually related to science, technology, engineering or math), and now I pay for the tickets myself, with various grants. At some point last winter she asked if I knew how many scholarships I applied for and the answer was “10.” While I’ve never done that math, I do know that some of those scholarships would be worth a lot of money, but in many cases not enough to make college possible.

Many of those applications (and scholarships) were “non-traditional” scholarships and were intended for students like me. In reality, though, these are often not connected with a student’s success in high school (usually high school grades, test scores and ACT scores), but rather with the student’s ability to endure rigorous academic courses, extracurricular activities and community service. For many kids, the most useful college money comes through a bank account with a $40 credit card; the most valuable, and most expensive, college money comes through a tax-refund check of many thousands of dollars.

I write this as a son but also as a person who has endured two unsuccessful efforts to do what I love: getting a college degree. Back when I was in high school, I was depressed and suicidal, and though it seems like a lifetime ago, I took myself out of school. But it was really only a phase. I soon realized I had no choice but to go back to school and make my dream a reality.

I’m here now and I’m grateful. But as I watch it take away everyone else’s chance at college, I wonder if more of us could see the value of this type of scholarship, too.

My advice to other families struggling to see the benefit in higher education is to take a good look at your kids’ resumes, and use them to educate yourself about what a college education means, in terms of your child’s future potential.

When it comes to spending your money on a college education, many other higher education choices have much better returns on investment. If you have one child, for example, maybe you can spend that money on a $30,000 soccer ball to play with, or maybe, on the other hand, you can spend that $30,000 on an MBA.

The goals are much the same: You want to make your kids’ future a little brighter. But what if all you do is make that basketball player look a little less bright?

I honestly do not know whether that better investment is better. All I know is that it is a lot better than wasting $1,000 a year to have college kids playing organized soccer.

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