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Apologies for the long post....It's been a couple weeks since son returned from Stanford camp and he's received interest from and has been in communication with several D3 schools. Four local-ish schools with good academics (although not considered HA or top notch) and varying levels of baseball strength and 3 out of state very prestigious top HA schools (east coast, Midwest and CA).  We are very excited about these opportunities and have been discussing pros and cons of each school.  He's not interested at all in one of the local schools and one of the HA schools (east coast), so those two come off the list.  Sorting through the thought process for the other schools....

His grades are very strong and he's always been an academics-first kid, so his goal has been to use baseball to get him into a school he otherwise would not be able to get into.  With the very low admission rates at these HA schools, he likely would not get in without baseball.  No problem getting into the local schools.  He also has the option of going to big state school with strong academics, but baseball is not an option for him there.

The main issue we are struggling with as a family is cost:

--The local schools would offer him solid academic money (about $30K), so would bring the cost to below or at the cost of the state school. 

--One HA school actually offers academic money, although best case scenario, total cost for 4 years would be about $44K more than cost of state school.  

--Other HA school only offers need-based money (which we do not think we would qualify for), so total cost for 4 years would be about $192K more that cost of state school.  YIKES!!!!

Here's the question we're wrestling with--assuming we can somehow afford it--if a kid can use baseball to get into a prestigious HA school, is getting a degree from one of those schools worth the extra cost????  We obviously want to give our kid the best education we can, and if he gets into one of these schools because he worked his tail off in the classroom and on the field, that's a huge accomplishment.  But, in the long-term, will a kid that comes out of an average/good college with good grades have equivalent opportunities than a kid who comes out of a prestigious top academic school? 

If we go back to his original goal--using baseball to get into a school he otherwise wouldn't be able to get into--it seems the result for our situation will invariably mean we are paying significantly more in tuition.  Are we looking at this right, or is there something we are missing?

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3and2Fastball posted:

It depends on what type of career he is pursuing.  For some career endeavors, where one goes to Grad School or Med School etc matters much more than where they attended for undergrad.  For other careers (Engineering is an example, I think), where one attends undergrad is much more important.

Currently thinking science degree with likelihood of med school/other grad school, but of course, that can change. 

I would find it very hard to justify spending $192K on an undergraduate education. My son will be attending a HA D1 school that only offers athletic scholarships. If he stayed in-state at the large public university, we would only pay for room & board thanks to academic scholarships available - but he would not play baseball. When evaluating offers, we focused on how much more it would be worth, in our eyes and within our budget, to go to a prestigious school and play baseball. We ended up close to the $44K scenario you described above. He would likely not have been admitted to this school without baseball. Whether it pays off in the long run is hard to know - so many variables - and it will depend on his eventual field of study.

cabbagedad posted:

No matter what opportunities baseball presents, you don't choose a school that you cannot afford/ is not in the budget.  

Agree, but there are different ways to “afford” something (pulling out home equity; taking out loans, etc).  That’s why I qualified by “assuming we can afford it”.  There are lots of things we can afford that are not smart ways to spend your money, so really trying to wrap our heads around whether paying for a prestigious degree (with the added bonus of playing baseball) offers more opportunities for a kid in the long-term. 

This is a good question. I would say the only differences between HA D3s and flagship publics schools are the size of the school and the type of student you're getting there. A low acceptance rate and a higher price tag does not make it a better school. It just means you are most likely going to find a better, more academically oriented student at the HA school. The top undergrad business rankings are littered with state schools. The state school is actually more likely to have better facilities, more class options, more professors, more money for research, etc just due to the size. Now a HA private is going to get you more handshakes, more family and family friend connections, especially if you are interested in investment banking, accounting, etc. They run in different circles typically and that is not a good thing or a bad thing. If you aren't going to study at a special/renowned program then you might as well save the money and stay in state or at least cheaper. 

What does Loyola have that UMD doesn't? What does Franklin and Marshall have that Penn State doesn't? The does Conn College have that UConn doesn't? You're going to have a hard time convincing me to go to Swarthmore for 70k when PSU is only 15 is a good idea. What is Swarthmore better at other than acceptance rate? 

You have to know what you want. Business, engineering, comp sci you're probably better off going to a school with a reputation. But science is science everywhere. Chem is the same at HA D3 as it is with the 30k P5 public school. Psych is psych everywhere. English and sociology are the same across the board. Med school they look at GPA and Mcat scores. When you want to get into banking you're going to want some help securing an interview. Maybe a more tight knit community is what a student needs. 

Either way it all comes down to what your kid wants and if it can be funded. If he wants a small HA D3 then go for it. If he's so so on where he ends up maybe pass on the 250,000 investment and send him to a state school for 10k a year. If he wants to transfer he can. But if sports were not in the picture I would be sitting them down and saying can you get the same education at a public for half the cost? Unless it's a specialized program I'm taking the cheaper option every time unless it is step down dramatically. 

We have a son who plays at at HA D3 in the midwest.  He too used baseball to get into a school that academically would have been a toss up/likely would not have gotten into on grade alone (he's smart but ...).   He plans to go on to get his graduate degree and the acceptance rate for grad school is in the 95% range... So to me -- it is worth it.  Plus he is at the right place for him -- so he is thriving at the moment, which is what matters the most.




I've walked more than a mile in your shoes with 3 sons.   These were tough decisions.   For us, there was much more in play than just academics, baseball, and finances.  We sat down with each kid (each had an opportunity to play college baseball) and walked them through a roadmap for the next 10 years.  Each son had some financial skin in the game, and there were tradeoffs such as working in the summer and not playing summer college baseball.  We put the ball in each son's hand and let them decide based on our ground rules.   My oldest son (engineer) had a lot of confidence he would have a job after college and forecasted he could have student loans paid off in a year.   He had a job prior to college senior year (through summer internships) and his loans were paid off in 9 months to his private D1 school...he lived at home after graduation.   Middle son decided on a great state public school (ACC) and engineering, but decided against D3 baseball.  This was an easy decision for him, as he likes baseball but doesn't love it.   He loves engineering (3 summer internships), and he's somewhat of an entrepreneur.   His student loan was paid within 6 months.  He's bought a car and house and he's only been out of school for 2 years.   Youngest son decided against D3 baseball and went to a mid-size state school where he focused on ROTC and criminal justice.  He's currently in the Army at Basic Training.  

So, my advice is to sit down and talk about the next 10 years and find out what they are really passionate about, and are they willing to finance that passion for many years to come.  Two my kids said "no" as they really had something else they'd rather do with their money.  My oldest said "yes" and it was a great experience however, he had it all mapped out.

Good luck!

Last edited by fenwaysouth

I think the first question your son needs to answer is what's more important playing baseball or getting a good education. If he has to play baseball the path is a little clearer as you will have less options to choose from. If its the latter I would aim for the best education that you or your son can afford, especially if it is a STEM degree regardless if baseball is an option or not. My son now a senior had to make the choice of playing college baseball or going to a HA college to get an education. He is in a very good place with his decision.

Great post 2020Hopeful. In my opinion you are thinking along the right lines. With our 2019 we took the advice of a longtime poster here (Wally Lubanski) who advised a few things:

1. Each kid has his own academic/athletic/personality profile and it's best to understand it as early as possible in the game in order to plan accordingly

2. Go where you would want to be if baseball (any sport) weren't part of the picture (4 vs. 40)

3. If sports is part of the picture, go where you will play, BUT even if you don't play, if 1 & 2 have been prioritized correctly, you might be real happy at the end of the bench at one of the top 10 schools in the country

Like your son, academics are before athletics for mine. He is also on the quiet/nerdy side (in the best possible way)! He also knew what he wanted to study (physics/computer science - definitely STEM related). All of that helped narrow his focus to a situation where he will hopefully find his people and thrive primarily academically and personally. Our approach was the same as yours--let baseball get him in a school he really loves & is a great fit FOR HIM, where he might not otherwise get in. Through lots of academic and athletic legwork/trips he found that school in Caltech, where he received significant need based aid (we're not rich, but not poor either).

Now he had other options at very good schools, but not a top 5/10 school like Caltech. THAT, to ME is where the cost vs academic/career/ROI tradeoff lies. In my opinion, there is a significant lifelong difference between a top Ivy (including Stanford) or technical type school (Caltech/MIT) and other schools. Not saying it's right, or an absolute, universal rule, but in general I think there's a significant enough of a difference in that tier of school to justify the added cost (AS LONG AS THAT SCHOOL IS A GOOD FIT FOR THE INDIVIDUAL) as mentioned before. If he hadn't gotten into one of those top in the country/world schools, he would be going where points 1 & 2 above led him and also where he wouldn't have to pay very much, if anything.

So my suggestion to you is to shoot for the moon and see how things play out. File for the FAFSA on October 1st, and go for any need based aid you can get at every school--you never know unless you ask. And many top private schools have huge financial endowments available. All it costs you is time doing the "paperwork". Also get his grades and test scores as high as possible - lots of academic aid out there from schools who want to lure HA candidates to bump up their academic numbers. In short, you want to give yourself as many good choices as possible then whittle them down according to points 1, 2 and 3 above. 

Good luck, and try to enjoy the process along the way! 


Great information being provided here.  Understanding what career interests the kid has can be helpful.  My son has interest in the finance/hedge fund world or strategic advisory - consulting.  The top firms in these "career fields" have very specific lists of colleges they actively recruit from which greatly improves chances for internships and graduation opportunities.  These firms pay top dollar which can allow a kid to pay off loan balances quickly.  It was easy for me to justify paying extra 30k per year because of my sons earning potential.  If he had interests in other career fields which wouldn't offer the earnings potential I would have encouraged less expensive schools where he could still play baseball.

Last edited by Gov

Agree with 3and2. If you can swing it without going into major debt, I’d go with the best school without any reservations.  It’s true that in the end, it’s not just about the school but the kid and what he achieves/how hard he works. But that school name will open up doors. I’ve seen it over and over again in my own life, career. And having the athletics on top of it is also a huge door opener.  

The alumni support with many of the HA schools is very strong!  My son's HA D1recruiting class all had secured jobs in their chosen field of study prior to graduation.  We had to make similar decisions whether to choose Mid Major State U or HA D1.   Worked out for my son, although a little debt was incurred, he was happy with his decision. He believes that the door for his opportunity was opened because of his degree.

Part of out process was that we as a family had serious discussion outlining all the sacrifice that we were willing to make prior to making that decision. We all agreed to certain terms for us as parents to make financially and he as student will be making financially and his commitment to education and baseball (in that order).  Almost like a contract.  Worked out for us.


Last edited by JABMK

Thanks to everyone for the very helpful feedback and varied perspectives!  Both HA schools do have very large endowments, so we are not going to shut the door quite yet because of what we think the cost might be--let things play out, see which school is the best fit for him and, if it turns out that school is one of the HA schools, then work through the numbers and see if we can make it pencil out.

JCG posted:

You're getting some good advice, I think.  My only add is that as far as the HA schools go, you'll never know how much aid you can get unless you ask for it.

I agree with this!  Make sure you can't afford it before you pass up on the prestigious HA school.  You might be surprised at what the school considers your "need" for need-based-aid purposes.  Also, many (maybe most) private colleges, including HA ones, offer tuition discounts of up to 50% (they will dress them up as grants, scholarships, and fellowships, whatever), so that the sticker price is not the true price for many of the students attending.  Also, some HA schools (Bowdoin comes to mind) have committed to offering financial aid packages that have no loans in them.

So, while I agree that you should not send your son to a college you (and he) cannot truly afford, I would do your research about what you realistically can expect to spend there.  Unless you're in the top 10%, it's probably not the sticker price.

One HA coach gave us a contact in the financial aid office, and they did an estimate.  Each school calculates things differently based on the same financial information, with sometimes wide variations, so you really do have to ask each one.  Two sons next year at two schools, the EFCs differed by several thousand dollars.

I do think that the rigor and challenge of coursework is greater at schools that are more selective, and the students with whom you do groupwork are likely to be more capable and focused.  If baseball reduces the time available for out-of-class educational activities (jobs in labs, clubs, or serving as TAs, for example), then the classes themselves are more important.  However, what any student gets out of an education is what he makes of it.

My son works for an international as a consultant. His starting salary was totally based upon his school; graduates of other schools started lower (5 figures lower). The gap has not been closed in three years.

My daughter (same school) works in IB. She was not top 10% of graduating class; others in her cohort, from other schools, were required to be top 10%. While she is not objective, she claims her school prepared her better for this type of work; not in giving her actual, useful knowledge, but in teaching her how to think, analyze, communicate (orally and in writing), prioritize, work in hard bursts (often times 100/hrs per week), teach herself new areas and produce unique work product without constant supervision. 

Be sure you are narrowly defining HA; there is a difference between admit rates of 4% and admit rates of 15%. (Also, those 4% schools have incredible FA. We got roughly 40% off [over 6 years] sticker with no loans. Ask for a FA read before committing if ED is asked of you.)

Press the coach to tell you what players who graduated over the past 5 years are now doing. 

Last edited by Goosegg

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