We got two years of prep school for less than one PG year was going to cost.
This from parents whose child was planning on a post-graduate year, but immediately changed his mind after visiting his first prep school and decided to go for his junior year instead.
Cameron had a good senior year playing for a low profile high school and received only D3 offers. She and her parents decided to invest their time and money in a post-graduate year, believing she had the potential to get scholarship offers.
By all accounts, Cameron played very well in her PG year. At the end of the season she took two official visits to NCAA D2 schools, but did not receive a scholarship offer from either. She was also offered a preferred walk-on spot at two mid-level D1 schools, one of which she accepted.
Many would look at this situation and say the decision to attend prep school was a bad one, a waste of time and money. While Cameron and her parents certainly had some disappointment, a closer look reveals a very good decision.
- Cost: This is often a big part of a PG year decision, and understandably so. Cameron’s family invested about $15,000 and got no scholarship to show for it. What they did get is an extra $12,000 per year in college financial aid. That’s what the school they chose offered compared to offers from similar schools that did not recruit her for basketball. That’s a payback of three times what they invested. That alone makes the PG year an easy justification and a great choice.
- Lower basketball risk: Cameron could have walked-on at a D1 school after HS, but the risks would have been much greater. She would not have been a preferred walk-on, so she might not have even made the team. She’d only have about a week to prove herself. As a preferred walk-on she is virtually assured a spot on the team. She’s also a better player than she was a year ago. The D2 offers are objective proof of that. Those offers prove it’s not unreasonable to think she can play at the D1 level, and possibly earn a scholarship. (It’s hard to overstate the value of that information in today’s sports world, where so many kids and parents struggle to accurately assess the athlete’s talent level). The PG year closed the talent gap, while reducing the risk once she gets there.
- Lower academic risk: A below average student, by all accounts she needed an extra year to figure out how to get her inherent intelligence to show up in her school work. As it turned out, she did just that. A different learning environment, in addition to being away from home, allowed her to achieve better grades than she did in high school. She’s now better prepared to handle the tougher course work in college. It also boosted her confidence in the classroom, which will increase her chances of success in college.
- Lower overall risk: Most families don’t understand the time and other demands of playing a sport at the D1 level. Combined with the more difficult classroom work, the athlete’s maturity is tested immediately and often. College has also changed since today’s parents attended. A much larger percentage of students are not graduating, or are taking more than four years to do it. Certainly the financial risks are greater. College debt is arguably the largest financial problem in the country today. Cameron’s transitional year of prep school did exactly what a PG year is supposed to do. It gave her the opportunity to mature as a person while reducing all of these risks.
No, Cameron didn’t get a scholarship – yet, but the PG year was subtly a very good intermediate step towards overall success. It allowed her to keep the dream alive and saved her family over $30,000, while getting all the other educational and maturity benefits and minimizing the risks. They would tell you it was still an excellent choice.
In November of their daughter’s senior year, the Powell’s weren’t sure about choosing prep school or college. They decided they wanted both options, so they pursued both and postponed the final decision until later.
As they applied to both colleges and prep schools, and started to negotiate financial aid with both, they discovered something they hadn’t expected. Worried the Powell’s would opt for prep school, colleges that were seriously recruiting their daughter offered them more financial aid to try to convince them to choose college. Just the option of seriously exploring prep school provided them financial leverage that was worth about $5,000 per year. While it’s not new for colleges to negotiate financial aid when competing with other colleges, competing with prep school is a different variable, and because it is it gave the Powell’s a different kind of leverage they hadn’t expected.
In the end, they chose college after getting an offer that was too good to pass up. Since they had opted for college, the Powell’s initially felt they had wasted the money spent on getting help with the prep school process. After some reflection, they came to the realization that it was a very smart move. They saved almost ten times what they invested by simply exploring the prep school option.
Many parents and coaches, especially those at the D3 level, think a post-graduate year is a waste of time and money if the athlete still ends up at the D3 level after the PG year. On the surface, it can look that way, but only if one mistakenly uses a D1 scholarship as the only measure of success. There’s a value opportunity most parents and coaches miss. A PG year is really an investment with minimal risk. At the right price, it’s a very good risk. Here are the benefits achieved, even if a D1 scholarship is not.
Return On Investment
- Better education
- The student is likely to be accepted at D3 schools with higher academic ranking
- Lower college cost
- The family is likely to get a better financial aid package at D3 schools
- $8,000 per year in savings results in an average net prep school cost of $0, while getting all the other PG year benefits, including college credits
- Better preparation for college
- The child will be academically more prepared
- The child will be athletically more prepared
- The child will be emotionally more prepared and more mature
- A PG year gives a student a much better chance to thrive in college, not just survive
- A years worth of college credits?
- College level courses taken as a PG can translate into college credits
- Students can graduate sooner from college thereby saving cost
- The cost of prep school courses can be less than college
- Students can take graduate level courses in their fourth year of college
- More and more students are taking more than 4 years to graduate from college anyway
The value is clearly there for a PG year at the right price. So, what is the right price? The rule of thumb is to spend what one year of college would cost. Spending less than that should be a no-brainer. Spending more makes it a much tougher/poorer decision.
The PG year provides all the benefits above, while keeping alive the chance for a D1 or D2 scholarship, and the four free years of education that go with it. Under the proper circumstances, this is an excellent decision.