When is Compromise the Best Option?

With only one week left to make a college choice, I offer to take (my son) K to Minneapolis for a college visit to get a small taste of campus life. Let me preface this by saying with his mad art skills, that he was accepted (in order of his preference) to Pratt Institute, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Ringling College of Art and Design, Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and wait listed at Rhode Island. He applied and was accepted to both IU and Herron School of Art and Design at IUPUI (neither of which were ever really in the running). On top of being accepted to all of these schools, he received some significant scholarships to help pay for the tuition and expenses at all of them.

The decision making process has been complicated by a combination of each school’s generosity stacked up against the staggering costs of their yearly tuition. Hypothetically, it’s like if your kid is accepted to Harvard and receives a $100,000 scholarship, and you’re thinking OMG how can we not send him there? But then you do the math. You sit down and add up the expenses only to discover that the total cost of tuition each year comes to $60,000. You divide up the $100,000 over four years and subtract that from the total for a remainder of $35,000 a year. That’s your out of pocket contribution, so now you’re thoughts have changed to OMG how can we afford to send him?

He’s talented, obviously, he was accepted at all of these prestigious schools, which makes him super special to begin with. But the yearly cost of his attendance is more than half of what you make in a year. You don’t want to say no, but you can’t really say yes, so you start looking for a compromise.

That is exactly what we’re facing. Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) is the “compromise” school. The scholarship they’ve offered isn’t as grand, but neither is their tuition, so our out-of-pocket expenses are a manageable number. Seems like going there would be an easy decision, but MCAD is not K’s first or even his second choice. It’s more like his fourth choice because it’s a small school – 800 students –less than his high school graduating class. He can’t comprehend that kind of academic atmosphere. So we’re going there to experience the campus and see the city of Minneapolis up close and personal. Thank God, at least he’s open to it.

What I’ve learned is that college visits can be a costly endeavor when you consider that some of the colleges you’ll visit won’t even make the cut. When you factor in a hotel room for two nights, air fare, food, etc. The cost can peak at a thousand for one parent and their child. Driving my car, with its 203,000+ miles on it would be insanity and renting a car (plus gas) would cost as much as airfare and require over twenty hours of behind-the-wheel time (not a scenario I’d advocate for any weekend trip, ugh). I’m starting to wonder if I can retract my offer….

Then, while researching the costs and options for getting to Minneapolis, I had this fabulous (even crazy) idea to expose K to the kind of travel experience he’d have no matter where he chose to go to college. And I thought I might save a little money on our trip. So I navigated my browser to the Megabus website and landed two round trip fares, Indy to Chicago to Minneapolis, there and back for $240. I looked up the two bus routes ($1.75 per person) we’ll need to take from the Megabus stop to our hotel and downloaded the five block walking map to the street corner where we’d need to catch that bus (at 9:00 at night). Since we’ll be walking a lot, we can only take a backpack each with essentials. I booked us a normal Best Western. At least I’ll get a good night’s sleep whenever we do arrive.

Honestly, I’m a little nervous about travelling this way because I don’t have a lot of experience with it. I know other people who do it all the time and I’m taking inspiration from them to convince myself everything will be okay. I warned K as I completed our travel arrangements, “Please, remind me to remain flexible.” He laughed.

When do you think its best to compromise? Have you ever had to settle for a third or fourth choice? How did it turn out?

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