College Without Debt–Is It Possible? Marilyn’s View

My goal in attending this week’s panel of college parents at our high school was to hear about how they financed their kids’ colleges (GW seemed to be a popular choice). The audience of about 50 people were mostly parents intending to send their kids to traditional four-year schools which drove the line of questioning. I doubt anyone was really there (except for myself and Aimee) to find out about how to send your kid to college without incurring debt.

My biggest takeaway from the meeting was this: Every family, parent and child has their own unique path and intentions when it comes to college. Maybe the common app is cookie-cutter, but not the path on which it is used.

Georgetown University campus. Georgetown seems to be a popular college destination for our students. Photo:

What Was Discussed

Much of the time was spent discussing the best way to handle campus visits and tours. Another chunk of time was spent discussing how to help your kids figure out things like early action/early decision and other factors regarding admission such as staying organized, getting to know your high school guidance counselor, getting to know your college representative, the stress that the kids go through, the stress the parents go through, learning Naviance (which I love, by the way), etc. All very valid points among some of the more maddening remarks (which I will not discuss here since it’s all subjective).

Valuable Tips

  • Our high school has a Gap Year Fair.
  • The most important predictor for college success is the GPA, not test scores.
  • Naviance site is valuable tool for kids and parents that is available in the Fairfield school district.
  • Professors who teach at community colleges are many times the same professors who teach at larger universities like UConn.
  • Stop looking at the schools all the other kids are looking at and think outside the box.

Financial Questions Left Unanswered

Only a few minutes during the evening were spent discussing the guts of college financing–which I think is pretty much the BIG point that I felt everyone wanted to avoid. (Note: our brave Aimee spoke up and asked to hear more about paying for college and student debt, and about the value of community colleges, but her questions were not answered at length.) Financial aid was brought up here and there, but mostly about the need to attend the upcoming financial aid night at the school.

I walked away with more unanswered questions, mostly about nitty-gritty details, especially about how each parent on the panel navigated the tuition bills, such as:

  • What scholarships were they awarded and some secrets to getting a lot of scholarship money.
  • What are scholarship opps for community college?
  • What exactly does a “financial aid package” mean…loans?
  • Will their kids graduate with student debt and how much debt and are they worried about that?
  • How much of the tuition did grandparents pay?
  • How much did they save over the years to apply to the tuition bill?
  • Do their kids work to make money towards costs? Are there still work/study programs?
  • What is the tuition versus the tuition/housing costs?
  • Does anyone still believe community college is a stigma? (A couple positive comments were made about community college, which was encouraging.)

Guess I have my research work cut out for me…

~Marilyn, TFF


Webinar flyer on college admission tips, etc. from — we received this PDF this morning, I signed up for all the seminars, but the next Graduating Debt-Free Seminar is in April (last one was in September). I am guessing it’s free but then again on the company’s website, you have to pay. Not sure if Fairfield has a subscription to this site?

Read this girl’s story, How I Graduated College Debt-Free, about graduating college thanks to loads of scholarships (but her website doesn’t seem to be working right now).


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