Finding a college fit for my first three — FranklyStein

Sibs YorkWe are on the college fast track.

Acceptance letters are rolling in for my oldest, and college visits have started with my twins. I should be in full panic mode, but I'm not. I decided last year I was going to do my best not to get sucked into the college craze.

It seems every where I go, I find parents stressing about college. They are planning visits far and wide to find the perfect fit for their kid. But with three kids in college at the same time for at least three years, we are limiting choices. A school with a $40-$60,000 price tag is not in their future — unless they get a major scholarship. We have some money saved up for them in 529s, but we don't want them graduating in huge debt. So we aren't exploring Harvard, Villa Nova, or even my alma matter, University of Richmond.

When I was applying to college, it was all about where I could get in. I applied to a fair number of “reach” schools but for my kids, a reach school is most likely going to be out of reach financially.

College acceptanceSo our focus is on state schools, and private schools that are likely to give money. Maggie has applied to seven schools. She thinks she wants to study nursing and most likely swim Division III. So far, she's gotten nice merit packages from two schools — York College, a small private school in York, Pa., and University of Mary Washington, a state school in Fredericksburg, Va. Luckily, she really liked them both.

Maggie's been easy. She's level headed, realistic and knows what she wants. It's been a smooth introduction to the college search process. It might not be so easy with the twins, but I could be wrong.

Last week, I took them to St. Mary's College of Maryland in St. Mary's City. Lilly wants something smaller and the school seems to fit the bill. It's a public honors college with a private feel. They both liked it — especially the food in the dining hall and the fact that it's right on the water.

Neither of the twins really knows what they want to study. Lilly is thinking maybe history, she likes the idea of archeology. Adam has jumped from communications, to business and is now thinking engineering. Neither is sure about continuing to swim in college, and neither is as focused as Maggie, but that's ok. They both know they want to go to college.

Next we need to check out Salisbury University, Towson University, University of Maryland College Park, maybe even Frostburg State. I'm not sure when we will find the time, but at least we aren't jetting off to North Carolina or Massachusetts. Hopefully, they will all find a school they like that we can afford.

If not, there's always the community college less than a mile away. That's definitely in the budget. But the truth is, what matters is going to college and getting a good education. It's not really about finding the perfect fit. At least not in our house.

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FranklyStein is a blog by Chesapeake Family Magazine editor Betsy Stein, who lives in Catonsville with her husband, Chris, and four children, Maggie, 17, Lilly, 16, Adam, 16, and Jonah, 12.