Brianna Williams has a decision to make.
Williams, who was admitted regular decision to the Wharton School, has to choose whether to pay around $30,000 a year to attend Penn or slightly more than $2,000 a year to attend the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business.
For Williams, USC and Penn represent “two completely different schools.” While Williams considers Wharton to be “the superior school academically,” it will be difficult for her to turn down USC’s financial offer, which was greater than Penn’s because it was partly based on merit.
Williams began her public school days at a small school in rural South Carolina. Since then, she has spent time studying in Germany, Japan, California, Portugal — and is now in South Carolina once again.
This fall, Williams — whose parents relocate frequently because of their work in the military — is looking forward to finally settling down at college.
But before that time comes, she must weigh the cost versus the quality of her education. “Paying $2,000 versus paying $30,000 is a huge difference, but at the same time, I understand the value of a Penn education,” she said.
In an effort to make her decision easier, Williams, whose family falls under the lower income bracket, appealed her aid package to Penn’s Student Financial Services last week.
Williams is one of about 300 newly admitted students who request to have their financial aid reviewed by SFS, director of Student Financial Aid Bill Schilling said.
SFS will generally take around five business days to reexamine a student’s aid profile.
“We want students to make their college choice based on fit, not based on cost,” Schilling said. “Our goal is to give everyone who has been admitted the opportunity to attend Penn.”
During an appeal, SFS will check for any human error in the initial evaluation of a student’s aid application. In most cases, the review works out in the student’s favor, Schilling added.
“We’ve found that families are more likely to spell out any particularly unique circumstances the second time around,” Schilling said, adding that the appeal process often involves one-on-one interaction between financial aid officers and the applicant.
For a time, Williams said she was “positive” that she would be rejected from Penn because of the school’s low acceptance rate. After she received her decision and aid package from USC, she was all but decided that the West Coast would be her home in the fall.
But while she was attending a preview program on USC’s campus in early March, Williams received a likely email from Penn, informing her of her upcoming acceptance to the University.
“All of my future plans were shattered when I saw that,” she said. “I was happy, but at the same time, I was overwhelmed at the decision I’d have to make.”
Williams has since been accepted to the University of Michigan and the University of California at Los Angeles but said she is “pretty much 50-50” between Penn and USC at this point.
Whether Williams is able to attend Penn “is all up to the financial aid office” right now, she said. She is still waiting for the result of her appeal.
For Graduate School of Education professor Laura Perna, the number of low-income students like Williams on Penn’s campus “is definitely in need of an increase and should continue to be a priority for [the University].”
Dean of Admissions Eric Furda said “there’s always work to be done” in bringing low-income students to Penn, adding that Williams has a tough decision ahead.
On Tuesday, Williams will be flying to Philadelphia to attend Penn’s Scholars Preview Program. For the young woman who has traveled tens of thousands of miles before, a decision will likely come soon after she leaves campus on Thursday.
“I’ve come to do a lot of thinking on planes,” she said. “By the time I land [in South Carolina], my mind should be made up.”Comments powered by Disqus
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