A Quarter Million Dollars Dilemma…

On April 4th & 5th, my daughter & I visited Penn to attend Penn Preview day for ED(Early Decision) applicants. Almost a month back, she became one of the fifty GaTech’s coveted President’s Scholars(full ride to GaTech). The difference between attending GaTech versus Penn is a little more than a quarter million dollars over the next four years. In terms of quality of education, I’m almost sure there’s no big difference between these two great institutions. However, based on personal experiences, I’m aware the college education is not just about tangible things such as a degree, a job etc. Several intangible benefits are associated with the college education.

Personally I became a better person when I went to the Regional Engineering College, Trichy (RECT)  in 1980 when I was 16. After graduation, I ended up working for a factory about 100 kms away from that great institute. I spent approximately 3 years there. Every minute I was there, I knew I didn’t belong there. I wanted to get out of there, right away. Had I gone to another school, I might have become a better engineer and would’ve loved that job. Actually other trainees who joined with me from other engineering colleges, loved that job. At RECT, I, for sure, became a better person.

As a result of my own experiences, I wanted to learn about Penn & participate in my daughter’s decision making process. Ever since she received her acceptance decision in Dec, she was almost certain about her choice: She very badly wanted to go to Penn. As a side note, she also changed her mind on Engineering. Three or four years ago, she didn’t want to become an engineer. She definitely didn’t want to study engineering. I was not sure why.

Two or three years ago, I met two great women Marilyn Pratt & Anne Hardy, both work for SAP. More details on Anne Hardy: http://anitaborg.org/news/archive/senior-technical-woman-profile-anne-hardy-vice-president-technology-strategy-sap-labs-us/. Both work to raise the awareness of the issues around Women In Technology(WIT). I shared my thoughts learned from them with my daughter. She slowly started changing her opinion on Engineering. Along with WIT thoughts, she also started realizing she was more comfortable with Math & Science than other subjects. As a result, she decided to apply to Engineering School. When she applied, she was still not 100% sure.

We attended Penn Preview Day on April 5th. As a part of the event, we attended a luncheon meeting with an engineering student & a professor. While we were waiting at the airport for our return trip home, she mentioned she, based on the luncheon meeting, would like to definitely do engineering. My daughter’s transformation from “Definite No” to “Definite Yes” to become an engineer was just incredible. The luncheon meeting was remarkable. The junior student we met looked highly motivated & knew what she was doing. Both she & her professor were knowledgable & answered all our questions about Penn & Engineering. I don’t know if everyone who attended the event was lucky enough to meet a student & a professor of very high caliber but we did. I was impressed with not just that student but all other students as well.

On April 4th, we met another student whom we knew from his childhood. He was another kid who not only knew what he was doing but spent time with us despite his busy schedule. His thoughts about going to Penn reminded my own thoughts about my college experiences.

Overall I’m very pleased with my trip to Penn.

At this point, as my son would say, the decision is not about picking the right college; but rather what we’re willing to give up…

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