Tag Archives: student success

The college waiting list becoming a grim reality

Read The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job and Never Find Yourself on a college waiting list.

The news was grim in the Boston Globe’s May 2 edition: The college waiting list has become a reality in today’s application process because more students are applying to more schools.

With students applying to so many schools, admission officers have a harder time estimating how many accepted students will enroll.

“Yield” rates can affect a school’s ranking in national publications and even its bond rating. Wait lists are one way to control both.

Last year, 17.7% of high school students applied to more than eight schools. The average percentage of students accepted off wait lists was 25%. At selective schools the percentage is much lower.

The New College GuideAnd even if you get off your first choice school’s wait list, your chances of receiving financial aid decrease. These are not great odds.

If you read and follow the guidelines of The New College Guide, you will never find yourself on a school’s wait list. You will have done all of the work before you apply to “match” your chances of admission with your college preferences. So read the first 42 questions in The New College Guide and forget about finding your name on a wait list.

 

The SAT is revised. Is it better? No.

Even with revisions, the SAT remains a seriously flawed – and therefore poor – indicator of college aptitude and qualification.

The first Scholastic Aptitude Test, or SAT,  was administered in June, 1926.  Students had 97 minutes to answer 315 questions.  For almost 90 years, the results of what most educational experts believe is a flawed test, have dominated admission applications and decisions.

Recently the College Board announced that it is altering the exam to include the following changes:

  • The mandatory essay has been eliminated.
  • A perfect score is 1600.
  • Changes in some sections of the advanced mathematics part of the exam have been eliminated. 
  • Obscure vocabulary words have been replaced.

Regardless of the suggested changes, the SAT remains a controversial exam. The poorest test takers score 400 points lower than richer students. The rich can pay for expensive test prep courses; the poor cannot.  Critics claim that this makes it relatively easy to game the system.

For too many years the most elite colleges and universities have used the exam to eliminate applicants with low SAT scores.  

  • Is there a connection between SAT scores and college rankings?
  • Has the exam become another “gatekeeper?”
  • How many college presidents and boards of trustees pressure enrollment management and admission deans to improve the average SAT scores of the next incoming class?
  • How many college presidents and boards of trustees examine, after one year, the grade point averages of the freshmen who entered with high SAT scores and those who did not?  
  • How many presidents and board of trustees examine the SAT scores of graduating seniors?

The New College GuideCritics of the exam, me included, believe that a better way to measure the academic competency of applicants is to examine their four year high school grades and progression. No one’s academic career should be judged by the results of one exam on one specific day.

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

  • Investigate the hundreds of colleges and universities who are SAT-optional.

College education: how much aid is available?

Most families in the United States and around the world know that financing a college education is expensive.  

But a college degree is an investment for both the student and family.  So how much financial aid is available?

According to a report by the College Board, in 2012-13 a total of $185.1 billion was awarded to undergraduate students.  Loans represented 37% of the total amount awarded and 24% was awarded in grant aid.  This represents an increase of 132% since 2002-03.

The following statistics are important as you search for the best school for you and your family.  Last year: 

  • $13.0 billion was awarded in federal grants other than Pell grants.
  • Pell Grant funding totaled $32.3 billion.
  • Federal loans totaled $67.8 billion.
  • Private and employer grants were $9.8 billion.
  • Institutions awarded $34.9 billion in grant aid last year.
  • State grant funding totaled $9.6 billion.

mjdennisbook-cover-1000-wideIn addition to federal loans and grants, the federal government funded $.9 billion in Work-Study funding.

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

  • Never eliminate a school because of the published costs.  Few families pay the full amount and as you can read in this blog, there is a great deal of money, from federal, state, institutional and private sources, that can assist you in funding your education.
  • International students should find out, before they enroll, all of the financial aid available at each of the schools on their lists.

Before enrolling in college, ask these questions.

We know enrolling in college is one of life’s biggest steps – and a very exciting one!

The world changes, a quantum shift – both for students and for parents. A lot of research and thought pays off prior to applying to your first choices.

Before filing an application to any college or university, I would schedule a meeting or speak with a financial aid counselor and get answers to the following questions:

  • Is the school blind to financial need when considering admission?
  • Is the school’s policy to meet full need?
  • What percentage of students receives merit aid and what percentage receive need-based aid?
  • Will my admission application be treated differently if we do not file for financial aid? Will I have an advantage?
  • If my high school grades are outstanding, am I certain to receive a merit scholarship?
  • If my family’s financial situation does not change, will I receive the same amount of financial aid each year?
  • How will an outside scholarship impact my financial aid award?
  • What can I do if I need more money to attend your school? Is there an appeal process?

The New College Guide by Marguerite-J-Dennis FeaturedThe New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job recommends:

  • Establish a relationship with a financial aid counselor before you enroll.
  • Be honest in all of your dealing with the financial aid office.
  • Get everything in writing and keep accurate records of all of your meetings with your financial aid counselor.

What is a College Financial Aid Package?

You know your child is headed for college and you also know your family is going to need financial aid to pay for your child’s education.

You are certainly not alone. In the last two posts, we covered facts you need to know about college financial aid and explained the all-important FAFSA.

college graduationOnce your family has filed a FAFSA and the EFC has been calculated, the staff of the financial aid office will determine what financial aid you are eligible to receive.

The official form letter you receive will list the type and amount of the aid you will receive.  That includes funding from:

 

  • Grants
  • Loans
  • Employment
  • Federal Aid
  • State Aid
  • Institutional Aid
  • Outside organization or private funding sources.

Examples of What Your Financial Aid Package Will Include:

Grant Programs

  • The largest federal grant program is the Pell Grant Program. Awards range from $600 to $5,500.
  • Most colleges and universities, especially private schools, have their own grant programs and awards are usually based on outstanding high school grades.  Individual states also sponsor grant programs.  Check your state’s website for further information.

Loan Programs

  • One popular federal loan program is the Perkins Loan Program. The current interest rate is 5% and the maximum amount is $5,500 per year.
  • Stafford loans are federally subsidized loans and have an interest rate of 3.4%.
  • Freshmen can receive $3,500, sophomores $4,500 and juniors and seniors $5,500 to meet their educational expenses.
  • Parent Loans to Undergraduate Students (PLUS) allow parents to borrow up to the total cost of education minus any financial aid awarded.  The interest rate is 7.9%.

Work Programs

  • The federal Work-Study program allows students to work part-time usually on-campus.
  • Many colleges and universities sponsor their own employment programs.

The New College Guide by Marguerite-J-Dennis FeaturedThe New College Guide: How to Get It, Get Out, and Get a Job recommends:

  • Compare all of your estimated financial aid awards before you apply.
  • Be honest and accurate in completing all of your financial aid forms.
  • Calculate your estimated loan bill with an estimate of what your first year salary is likely to be.  I recommend allocating 15% of your first year’s salary to meeting your loan bill.
  • Make employment an essential part of your financial aid plan.
  • Financial aid counselors can exercise professional judgment to increase your award if you can make a good case.

College financial aid: What is the FAFSA?

Getting accepted at a college or university can be confusing enough but applying for financial aid can be overwhelming,  particularly at one’s first glance at the FAFSA.

Just, exactly, what is the FAFSA and what purpose does it serve? Do you really need to fill it out? (Hint: the answer is yes.)

FAFSAThe Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the form families must submit to all of the colleges and universities on their list before being applying for financial aid.  

Based on the information on your FAFSA, an Expected Family Calculation (EFC), will be computed and based on that your eligibility for federal aid, most state aid programs, institutional aid and aid from private sources or organizations.

Families will be asked to complete the FAFSA with the following information:

  • Taxed and untaxed income
  • Specific assets (social security income and home equity are not considered assets)
  • Family size
  • Parental ages
  • Number of children in the family and the number in college

Families can file the FAFSA online.  It takes approximately three to four weeks for your FAFSA to be processed. You will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) after that time indicating what your family is expected to contribute to your college expenses.

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

  • Find out before you file a FAFSA if you can afford all of the schools on your list by meeting with financial aid counselors before you file any application.
  • You can also estimate your EFC by using a financial aid calculator. Check out the Department of Education’s website.   Another useful website is BigFuture .
  • Don’t try to game the system. It never works.  Financial aid counselors have heard it all before.
  • File the FAFSA as early as possible, even before you file your income taxes. You can go  back and amend your FAFSA after your taxes are filed. You can also have your tax returns automatically and electronically transferred into your FAFSA. 
  • If you really believe the EFC does not accurately reflect your family’s contribution, you should appeal your case to the financial aid director.

College Financial Aid Facts You Want to Know

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 71% of  undergraduate students received some form of financial aid in 2011-12.  

That is a 5% increase since 2007-08.

The average amount of aid increased from $9,000 to $10,800.

According to a report from Sallie Mae, How America Pays for College, in 2013, college expenses were covered in the following way:

  • Students borrowed 18%
  • Parents borrowed 9%
  • Parents’ savings 27%
  • Grants and scholarships 30%
  • Relatives and friends 5%
  • Student income and savings 11%.

Since the recession of 2009:

  • Parents have contributed less to meet college expenses.
  • Students borrowed more to meet college expenses.
  • Use of college savings plans increased.
  • Affordability has jumped to become the #1 factor in college selection.
  • Many colleges and universities have slowed the rate of annual tuition increases.
  • Some schools are charging different tuition rates for different majors.

The New College Guide by Marguerite-J-Dennis FeaturedThe New College Guide How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job recommends:

  • Finding out before you apply if you can afford the schools your list.
  • Meet with a financial aid counselor before you submit an application.
  • Ask the hard questions.
  • Debt is manageable or unmanageable only in relationship to starting salaries. Try to keep your loan payments to 15% of your first year starting salary.

The Gap Year: an option prior to college

It’s become known as, “Gap Year,” and it’s a rapidly growing trend among graduating high school seniors in the U.S. prior to entering college.

For an increasing number of graduating high school seniors, a Gap Year may be a viable option.

What should you do if, after graduating from high school, you feel you are not quite ready to enroll in college?  Maybe you have no idea what you want to study or maybe you want to serve in a local or national service community project?

Maybe you have been accepted to your first-choice school but you want to defer for a year?  Is there an option?  There is and it is called taking a Gap Year.

Gap YearTaking a year off before beginning university studies is fairly typical in many parts of the world and is generally followed by students in the United Kingdom.

When I was working in Downtown Boston I often observed, in the early morning, students in red jackets doing calisthenics. They were members of City Yeara Boston-based organization that allowed students to work for one year in community-based projects. The students earned money and gained valuable work experience.

AmeriCorps allows high school graduates to do the same while helping the country to meet its health, environmental and educational needs.

Graduates of AmeriCorps and City Year, receive financial aid that can be applied to meet their future college costs.

There are hundreds of Gap Year programs for you to investigate either at the local or national level.

What should you do if you think you may want to take a year “off” before beginning your college studies?

  • Have a clear idea of why you want to do this and some idea of how you would like to spend the year between high school and college.
  • Discuss with your parents.  Everyone needs to sign off on this.
  • Find out if the school(s) who accepted you will defer admission for a year.  Get the answer in writing.
  • Please know there is nothing wrong or peculiar about taking a Gap Year.  But you need to know why and have a plan.

Useful tools for selecting colleges and universities

Some students have little difficulty selecting the next step in education: colleges and universities.

Legacies, specific fields of desired study, perhaps even acquired preferences often play large roles in narrowing the choices for higher education.

But for many other students – and parents – the selection is not always so easy.  That is normal and natural, too.

International StudentsIf you’re at the beginning, middle or even at the end of your college search, the following tools may be of assistance:

  • Read my book,The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job.  This book will help you to ask the right questions before you even file one application.
  • The College Navigator provides lots of useful information on colleges and universities.
  • The College Scorecard gives families comparative information on colleges and universities.
  • The Shopping Sheet gives families a standardized financial aid form.
  • Net Price Calculators must be posted on all colleges and universities awarded federal financial aid funds. This gives the college applicant information on what the family is likely to pay if enrolled.
  • Salary Surfer is a California community college website that details how much money students earned before and after completing an associate’s degree or certificate program in the California system.

The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has produced a report on the investigations involving for-profit colleges.  Under investigation are: Corinthian, DeVry, ITT and Education Management Corporation.  Be very careful before applying to for-profit schools. There are many other choices available.

Sometime this year the U.S. Department of Education will produce a ratings system of all U.S. colleges and universities. The system will measure outcomes, like graduation rates and employment at graduation.

Stay tuned.

Get Employment Statistics!

Few colleges and universities readily distribute the employment statistics of recent graduates for a simple reason: they do not have this information.  

That will not do for anyone reading this blog.

In the March 17th issue of the Wall Street Journal,   Melissa Korn, a writer for the paper, raises the issue of employment at graduation and reinforces my belief that colleges and universities should do more to help students find suitable employment at graduation.

college graduationMs. Korn writes about College Measures, a partnership between the American Institutes for Research and Matrix Knowledge.  This partnership can give students employment information in several states, including Texas, Virginia and Florida.

They created a website to make this information available to interested families.

Don’t forget to stop by the alumni office if you cannot get employment information from the admission or career counseling offices.  Alumni can be a useful source of information on internships or even offer entry level jobs to recent graduates.

Be your own advocate.