Thanks, Ivy League. But No.

3 Minute Read

Imagine getting accepted into eight Ivy League schools, then deciding to turn them all down. Who would do that?

Ronald Nelson, that’s who.

Nelson rejected offers from all eight Ivy League schools—as well as NYU, Vanderbilt, Stanford and Johns Hopkins—in order to attend the University of Alabama.

Why?

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It’s all about the money. Ronald received a full ride from Alabama, and he also got into its honors program. The other schools didn’t offer Nelson any merit-based scholarships, instead offering loan packages.

“It took a lot of soul searching for me to push that first ‘accept’ button for Alabama,” Ronald told Business Insider. His dad added, “With people being in debt for years and years, it wasn’t a burden that Ronald wanted to take on and it wasn’t a burden that we wanted to deal with for a number of years after undergraduate.”

Ronald wants to eventually attend medical school, and his father says they’ll be able to put that money away to help him with that dream. “The Ivy League experience would certainly be something amazing, to make these connections and have these amazing professors,” Ronald told Business Insider. “But I really do think I’ll be able to make the same experience for myself at the college I chose.”

If only more teenagers would make smart, practical decisions like this when choosing their college! Ronald did his research, considered all his options—including finances—and chose the school he thought was best for him.

Dave Ramsey’s daughter Rachel Cruze agrees that this the way to approach this major life decision. Her advice for avoiding student loan debt is to “go to a school you can afford. You might not be able to go to a school you want to go to. But if you look at in-state schools or community colleges, they’re much less expensive than stepping over a state line. With out-of-state tuition, you’re paying as much as three times what you’ll pay in-state.”

Related: The Top 4 College Questions Answered by the Experts

There’s nothing wrong with attending an Ivy League school. But going into massive debt that you’ll need to start paying off six months after you graduate is not a good idea.

Think about it like this: The cost of attending Harvard in the 2015–2016 school year is $60,000, including room, board and fees. Even if a student manages to get half their tuition covered for four years, they will still owe $120,000 when they graduate. Congratulations, graduate! You’re now six figures in debt!

Too many students are choosing high-cost colleges, then heading into careers that will hardly support their loan payments. It’s easy to make the student loan decision now, because you don’t have to worry about the dark cloud of debt for several years.

“They’ve been told the lie that if they get a degree, they’re guaranteed to win. And that’s just not true,” adds Dave Ramsey.

But we want you to think long-term. The last thing you want is to be 35 years old and still paying off your undergraduate debt.

Follow Ronald Nelson’s example. Apply for as many schools and scholarships as you can—then pick the college that makes the most sense for you, both educationally and financially.

You can be a student without a loan. Just ask Ronald Nelson.

The Graduate’s Survival Guide is the gift you wish you’d had when you went to college. Don’t let the graduating high school seniors in your life leave home without it! Buy it now.

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