Tag Archives: college enrollment

Applying for College: Stressed Out or Calm?

We should be honest: applying for college can become a stressful preoccupation.

Just relax, take a few deep breaths.

For those of you entering your senior year in high school – and your parents – you may be feeling the pressure of having to make a decision, filling out the applications. You perception is that time is running out.

You have an appointment with your high school guidance counselor the second week in September and you are tired of all the “road trips” and facts and figures.  Conversations at dinnertime focuses on costs and how your family can/will pay for college.

There was a wonderful article written by Doug Belkin, an educational writer for The Wall Street Journal on May 7th.  The article, Elite Colleges Don’t Buy Happiness, reported on a poll conducted by Gallup of 30,000 college graduates in 50 schools. The bottom line: it doesn’t matter so much where you study but what is important is what you study.

Earlier research by Stacy Dale, an economist at Mathematica, revealed that students accepted into elite schools but enrolling in less selective schools earned as much money as their elite counterparts.

So take a deep breath a re-read that sentence.  Do you really want the pressure of applying only to schools that admit less that 5% of all those that apply?  Is that you?  Maybe it is.  But maybe it isn’t.  Only you can decide.

The New College GuidePick up a copy (again) of my book, The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job, and review the following questions:

  • Question 1  –   School Location and Size
  • Question 2 –    Type of School
  • Question 3 –    Do I Know What I Want to Study?
  • Question 7 –    Who Will Teach Me?
  • Question 10 – How Many Freshmen Become Sophomores?
  • Question 11 – How Long Will It Take Me to Graduate?

Then take a break. That’s enough for today.

Today review the following questions:

  • Question 18  – How Safe Are the Schools on My List?
  • Question 22 –  Will I Fit In?
  • Question 25 –  Can I Afford This School?
  • Question 27 –  What Kind of Financial Aid Is Available?
  • Question 31 –  Does Everyone Get Financial Aid?
  • Question 34 –  How Do I Know If I Am Borrowing Too Much?

That’s enough for day 2.

By the time you review and write down the answers to these questions for all of the schools you are considering, some clear “winners” will emerge.

Remember:

  • You can be admitted to a school of your choice and your choice may not be a “designer” school or one even rated in a college guide book.
  • You want to know before you apply, that you can afford this school.
  • You have a plan to manage your debt.

Next week I will write about employment and jobs after graduation.

Relax.

 

Questions we wished we asked about college admissions

College GuideWe all have questions we wished we’d asked about college admissions.

Not long ago I met with friends Sydney and Tom Hale. They had just finished reading my book, The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job.

The Hales expressed their disappointment they never thought to ask some of the questions listed in my book when they applied to college and when their children were applying to colleges.

Based on what I heard,  I will answer in this space, over the next two blogs, the questions the Hales wished they had asked.

Transfer Credits

  • After Tom was awarded an associate’s degree, he applied to transfer to a four year college and assumed all of his credits would transfer.  No mention of transfer credits was included in his acceptance package.  After numerous phone calls, Tom learned only three courses would transfer.  He never enrolled in the four year college.

Takeaway:  Be sure you have a clear understanding of how many of your college credits will transfer before you send in a deposit.

Application Acceptance

  • Sydney was one of the few female pilots in her state at the age of 17.  Her high school guidance counselor never suggested her aviation skills, particularly at such a young age, could be a “hook” when applying to colleges.  Sydney did not enroll in her first choice school but transferred after six months.

Takeaway:  Be sure you and your guidance counselor agree on the best way to position your application for acceptance.

Financial Aid

  • When applying to college, Tom never applied for financial aid because he thought his family made too much money to qualify for assistance.

Takeaway:  Regardless of your family’s income, always apply for financial aid. You may qualify for institutional aid, not based on income.

Primer on College Reference Guides

There is no shortage of very good college reference guides to help students and families work through college selection.

I am happy to recommend several – and most have online components to make your research even easier.

I encourage you to visit and study:

  • College Navigator. This site is sponsored by the Department of Education and contains a database of thousands of colleges and universities. The schools are listed by location, program and degree offerings.
  • The University of Texas at Austin  Web U.S. Higher Education. This site provides links to the home pages of four year colleges and universities throughout the U.S.
  • Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities ((AJCU).  This site is sponsored by Jesuit colleges and will give you information on all Jesuit schools.
  • Hillel International. This is the official site of Hillel, the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.
  • Women’s Colleges. This site will give you information on women’s colleges in the U.S.
  • Black Excel. This site provides information for African American students
  • NCAA.  This website provides useful information for anyone interested in varsity athletics at schools who are members of the NCAA.
  • FAFSA.  This is the federal site for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  If you are applying for need-based aid, you will need to visit this site.
  • FAFSA.  This site allows families to get estimates of their expected family contribution.
  • Fastweb.  This site provides information on scholarships as well as expected family contribution calculator.
  • Finaid.  This is a general purpose site with lots of information about financial aid.
  • Federal Student Aid.  This is a comprehensive government site with information in both English and Spanish.

Please take the time to review any and all of the information on these sites.  It can only help you narrow your choices and find the best school for you.

Don’t discount the quality of community colleges

Once considered a “stepchild” of higher education, many community colleges are now innovators and well deserving of the title.

Half of all current college students attend a community college.

Federal and state funding for community colleges has increased over the past several years and a great deal is being done at the community college level to match majors with workforce needs.

I recommend, especially if finances are a major issue for you, taking a serious look at enrolling in a two year school first and then transferring to a four-year college or university.

This will save you the cost of a four-year bachelor’s degree at a more expensive school while still allowing you to graduate with a degree from that four year school.  Most community college students live at home so that saves you the cost of residence hall expenses.  And most community college students work and do not borrow to meet living expenses.

If you decide to go the community college route, do the same investigation that you would do if you planned on attending a four year school.

  •  Find out the successful transfer rate of the community college, the schools students transfer into, the percentage of students who stay for two years, the most popular majors, and the average debt.
  •  Find out how many of the students with an associate’s degree get a job at graduation.
  • Be certain that your future career interests can be met by the curriculum.

I have a colleague who recently told me that he put all three of his children through college and graduate school with a cumulative debt of $90,000.  And all three first attended a community college!

Make the most out of your college campus visits

College Guide Most prospective college students and their parents want to make college campus visits before deciding to apply.

And that is good strategy, a right of passage in many ways.

The guidelines in my book, The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job shows you how to narrow your choices so that you are not travelling all over the country to visit several schools.

One of my daughters visited 23 college campuses and enrolled in the first one she visited!  There is no need for you to do that.  Read the book and narrow your choices to perhaps ten schools. You may have more or less, but use ten as a benchmark.

When you visit a school try to spend more than the time allotted by the admission office. If you can, arrange to spend a night is a residence hall.  If you can, arrange to sit in on one first year class and one upper level class. Try, if you can, to meet with a professor in your major (if you have one).

Read bulletin boards and pick up a copy of the college newspaper. Forget about being shy and talk to students in the cafeteria, in the library, wherever you can.

Make sure you stop by the registrar’s office and get a copy of the catalog.  Don’t forget to meet someone in the financial aid office.  Pick up forms if they are available. Stop by the career counseling center and speak with someone about what career counseling you can expect from your first year through your senior year.

Be your own investigator and advocate.

Early College Acceptance Programs

If you have already picked your top choice for college or university, you may want to think about early college acceptance programs.

If you have read and followed the guidelines in my book, The New College Guide:  How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job, you may already know early college acceptance programs exist at most schools and the programs have advantages and disadvantages.

Some early acceptance programs include:

  • Early Action (EA) – You submit an application before November 1st,  notified of a decision by December 15.  However, if you receive an acceptance, it is not binding that you attend this school. You have until May 1st school of your decision and you are free to apply to other schools.
  • Early Decision (ED) – You submit an application by November 1st and will be notified of a decision by December 15th.  However, if you receive an acceptance, it is binding that you attend this school.  You may not apply to other schools.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Early Acceptance Programs

  • If you know for sure where you want to enroll and have done your homework and know that you have a very good chance of being accepted, then you should seriously consider applying as an ED candidate.  If you are accepted, this will save you time and anxiety for the rest for your senior year.  If you have done your homework,, you know you can afford to attend this school and that your academic and financial needs will be met.
  • If you are somewhat certain that you want to attend a particular school and you know you have a good chance of being accepted, then go ahead and apply as an EA candidate.  If you are accepted, you still have the opportunity to apply to other schools and compare financial aid awards.  But you have time, until May 1st to make a final decision.

College Guide
I seriously believe that after reading my book, you will choose one of these options.

Good luck.

Important College Enrollment Statistics You Want to Know

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, college enrollment has declined in the U.S. for the past two years.  

In 2011, total higher education enrollment was 20.5 million students. In 2012, the number was 19.9 million, a decline of almost 700,000 students.

Last year the decline in enrollment by region was:

  • -0.3% in the Northeast
  • -0.9% in the South
  • -.0 7% in the West
  • -2.6% in the Midwest

The college enrollment statistics are both bad news and good news.

What do these college enrollment figures mean for you?  

If you have on your list colleges and universities located in the Midwest, you may have a better chance of admission given the decline last year in that region of the country.

The New College GuideThe New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job recommends:

  • Contact the admission office for each of the schools on your list and ask to get the number of applicants, admitted and enrolled students for the past three years.
  • Also request the average SAT scores and GPAs for the entering class for the past three years.  Do not rely only on guide books. You will get only partial information.
  • Become your own investigator and dig deeper into a school’s enrollment picture.
  • You may be surprised at what you learn.