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GI Bill helps military kid choose her college

Apr. 17, 2014 - 07:35PM   |  
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WASHINGTON, PA. — For months, Trinity High School senior Sydney Dydiw toyed with an important decision.

The 18-year-old applied to at least a dozen colleges and universities, and quickly heard back she had been accepted. But with the commitment deadline quickly approaching, she was desperately holding out for one, Johns Hopkins University.

“Johns Hopkins is the total package for me,” the 18-year-old said before getting word on her application. “I fell in love with the campus ... I’m just trying to put it out of my mind.”

Unfortunately, Dydiw didn’t get in.

“I was anxious and excited,” she said. “I thought I could really get in.”

While she was let down, Dydiw was prepared with a back-up plan; she will attend Case Western Reserve University in the fall.

She’s making the decision just in time.

May 1 is decision day for high school seniors around the country — the final day to notify the school of their choice that they will be part of the fall freshman class.

While some students’ decisions will push the May 1 deadline, others are enjoying the last few weeks of high school without the added stress.

Military kid Marlee DeBolt knew right away that Penn State University’s main campus was the school for her. The Trinity High School senior visited the campus last spring, spent the weekend and fell in love.

“I heard back from them at the end of October and knew it was where I wanted to go,” she said. “It was awesome to have that weight lifted off my shoulders.”

DeBolt, the youngest of three siblings, had some idea of what schools were looking for, based on her older siblings’ experiences.

“I knew I had to separate myself,” she said. “My resumé is huge. I took hard courses and was involved in clubs, musicals, mock trial and student council.”

Increasingly, cost is playing more of a role in prospective college students’ decision about which institution to attend.

A recent survey of the country’s college freshmen found the percentage of students attending their first-choice school reached an all-time low, as cost and the availability of financial aid now plays an influential role in decision-making. The survey, which was conducted by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute, found just 57 percent of students end up going to their top school.

weight lifted off my shoulders.”

While cost played a role in DeBolt’s decision, it was for an unlikely reason. DeBolt’s father was a member of the military and was able to pass his GI Bill benefits along to her.

“He signed it over to me,” she said. “For 36 months, they will pay for my tuition.”

While different for each state, DeBolt said Pennsylvania’s GI Bill is tied to the highest in-state tuition at a state-affiliated school, which is the University of Pittsburgh. Nonetheless, DeBolt said she’s still been busy applying for scholarships so she can study abroad. “I’ve been given a great opportunity,” she said. “I don’t want to let anyone down.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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