Thanks. It looks like my decision will come down to the same two schools and I've tried to tell myself that the money does not matter in the long run, given a distant horizon. However, it seems like financial constraints will impact the school experience and may cause happiness issues (which many people seem to think will affect grades). Just one issue of many I've been working through...
This was, perhaps irrationally, precisely my thinking. Tuition is just a check I have to write once it comes in. If I have to write a bigger check because of less scholarship money, whatever. It's a completely sunk cost once I commit to a school.
On the other hand, entertainment while at school is a pure marginal cost. Even if I tell myself "Oh, I can take out extra loans to support my going out in the evening," I still face a night-to-night choice of "Do I go out tonight and spend money? Or do I stay in?" Being able to go out really cheaply makes it a lot easier to have fun, and raises my quality of life substantially.
It certainly was not a decisive factor in my decision making. But prior to really thinking it through, I was in the position of "I'd rather attend school at the University of Chicago; but being able to live in NYC for three years would also be a once in a lifetime experience." Once I started thinking about what my life would actually be like in NYC, it made the final call a lot easier.
I had the same conversation with my dad last night; granted, I'm not in the position of choosing, since I've yet to hear from NYU and I've been waitlisted at CLS, but I was talking to him about which I would choose if I do get accepted to NYU. What MTG says is pretty much what I was thinking - I know NYU's student budget's pretty low, and considering the high COL in NYC, I don't think, finances-wise, it would be all that great. And I had the same thought: I think I'd rather go to Chicago, the school, but living in NYC for 3 years woudl be such a great experience. Anyway, it's really helpful to see that you went through the same thought process, MTG, and how you came to your decision.
If you don't mind, I only discussed CLS/Chicago above, let me throw in a few comments on NYU.
(Please note, all of this reflects my experience two years ago; absolutely reverify all this information before you listen to me, as things may have changed—as I had shown to me in a discussion about CLS's LRAP program in another thread)
If you look at the CLS/NYU/Chicago student budgets, they are all approximately the same. Yet, the cost of housing is exorbitantly higher at NYU. When I visited NYU for ASW, they took us on a tour, including the D'Ag dormitory. The tour guide led us into a literal shoebox of a dormroom that two girls were living in. I kind of looked obviously a bit scared by how tiny it was, and the girl who lived there apologetically offered "We picked the cheapest one to save money; if you want a little more space, there are bigger rooms."
"Oh, well how much is this one?"
"This is $1250 a month... per person."
"$1250 a month??! But if you look at the student budget, it only allocates $1225 a month for housing. I thought you said this was the cheapest one?"
"So how do you afford it on the student budget, let alone living at a bigger, more expensive place?"
Later, I asked the tour guide about the student budget. She said "Oh, the budget? It's completely unrealistic, you might as well just tear it up." In contrast, I was told at CLS the student budget was "tight, but manageable" and later at Chicago that the student budget was "completely reasonable."
I already wasn't liking NYU (I seem to be one of the few people who have an instant negative reaction to the place; and it's happened twice), so I just left ASW after the tour and went and wandered around NYC for 4 hours and saw a play.
lol, saw a play...that probably wouldn't fit in the student budget if you attended NYU, especially if it was on Broadway.
More seriously, UChicago's budget is actually quite generous for a single person with no car. They allocate something like 8.5k for room, 4.5 for food, and 4k total for transportation and personal expenses. From a quick check of rental rates and grad housing prices, housing is closer to 6.5k, food 3k, and without a car, transportation would be nothing except maybe about $500 for trips back home. The total budget is 59k but 55k is more than doable. The differential could be larger if you extend these costs to the summer months assuming you chose to stay in the same city over the summer.