Choosing a college: reputation vs. financial aid


Tina Nguyen (12) commits to Washington University at St. Louis after receiving her acceptance letter. Nguyen is a QuestBridge scholar, which grants her a full scholarship for WashU.

With National Decision Day quickly approaching, seniors must weigh the pros and cons of each college to which they have been accepted. Should you go to college based on its clout or higher ranking or its impact on your wallet?

Students like Tina Nguyen (12) and Charlie Folsom (12) have varying opinions on what college best suits them.  

“Financial aid was one of my biggest decisions for choosing the colleges I’m applying to,” Nguyen said. “If I was not a qualifier for Questbridge, I would definitely go to a lower ranked college if they offered me more money.”

For Nguyen, financial aid was the main contender in her decision. Thanks to Questbridge, she was able to commit to Washington University in St. Louis on a full scholarship.  

Folsom believes that attending a more expensive, prestigious school is more important for graduate school students, and contests that many colleges, regardless of rank, present an equal quality of education. However, he does see the benefits of reputation.

“I guess an advantage would be having a prestigious name to put on your future resume, although experience eventually is the only thing that matters,” Folsom said.

An individual’s cultural background may also contribute to his choice. For instance, many parents at White Station and other competitive schools have a mindset of sending their children to a Top 20 or Ivy League school. Academic success often demonstrates the level of the family’s success in many cultures; however, personal success usually stems from work ethic and level of ambition.

“College is college. What you put into it is what matters,” Jeremy Bateman, AP Human Geography teacher, said. “If you go to Harvard, the only reason Harvard is Harvard is because the students make it Harvard. You make college what it is. You make the university what it is.”

In the end, colleges are meant to be chosen to fit each student’s specific wants and needs.