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Do You Need a College Education that Costs as Much as a Home?

Many high school advisers and parents encourage high school students to go to the best college they can get into. For many, that means striving for Ivy League schools, even though the competition is fierce to get into those schools.

A recent report on CNN Money [3] found that those top schools now cost more than $50,000 for room and board for one year. Planning to go to Darthmouth? That will set you or your child back nearly $58,000 a year, or $232,000 for a four year education, not factoring in yearly tuition increases. How is that for sticker shock? To put it in perspective, according to the U.S. Census [4], the median home price in the United States in 2010 was $221,000. A Dartmouth education will cost you as much as a home.

Is it worth it?

If this type of education isn’t in your financial future, all is not lost. There are still things your children can do to get ahead and have a good career with a commanding salary. Consider these suggestions:

1. Choose your major carefully. Too many graduates find themselves in low paying jobs because they study what they love rather than what will make them money. I am not saying that you should only focus on the bottom line because passion is important, too. However, can you mix your passion with a practical major? If you want to teach, could you get a nursing degree and teach nurses? If you want to be a writer, can you study science or engineering so you can be a scientific or technical writer?

2. Get the most from the college you do attend. If you strive to get into the best school you can but can’t afford to go there, are there other ways you can set yourself up for success at the college you do attend? Can you join the honors program at the college you do attend? Can you take honors classes? These things will help set you apart from others in the school.

3. Make connections. Part of what makes an Ivy League education so valuable is that the graduates look out for one another. They may choose to hire a fellow graduate for a project rather than someone who graduated from another school. You can recreate this valuable network by making your own connections at the school you do attend. My friend joined a business fraternity at college, and the connections she made there have helped her secure several jobs. She has also referred her friends for jobs.

4. Use LinkedIn to expand your connections. Use LinkedIn to keep in touch with your college friends and acquaintances. The larger you can make your network, the more your network can help you, and you can help them.

While many of us might want the prestige that comes with an Ivy League education, the cost may make attending such a college impossible. However, you can still have a successful career by making an effort to stand out from the rest and network at the college you can afford.

(Photo: pagedooley [5])