Cole Schenewerk has a tough choice ahead of him.
The high-school senior from El Cajon, Calif., already has gotten an acceptance packet from Southern Methodist University and a preliminary scholarship offer from an Ivy League college. And he is still waiting to hear from seven other schools, which he expects will dangle a variety of financial-aid offers.
“Definitely, finances are a big deal,” says Mr. Schenewerk, a coin collector who plans to work part-time in college while studying business. “A lot of these schools have really high sticker prices. If I don’t get the scholarships I need, I won’t be able to go there.”