Congratulations! Your child is in. Until now, college has been a sellers’ market. Everything your child has done in the application process was to convince selective colleges to admit her. Now, it is a buyer’s market as colleges compete to get your child to enroll. As the joy of earning admission gives way to the anxiety of figuring out how to pay for college, consider the following to reduce the cost of your child’s college education:
1. Determine if the college is offering your child real financial aid
Colleges will send financial aid packages either with their admission offers or in the following days. Colleges classify loans as “financial aid.” These loans are not aid, as they will leave your family or child with debt. Identify in the financial aid package any loan offers. Your goal is to reduce the cost of your child’s college education by converting these loans to merit scholarships and/or need-based grants that do not need to be repaid.
2. Negotiate larger merit scholarships
The size of a merit scholarship your child has received is not set in stone. Colleges can match scholarships from colleges that are similar with respect to ranking and admission requirements to entice your child to enroll. Your child should adopt a hard bargaining position, schedule a call with her designated admissions officer, and tell that admissions officer that she requires a larger scholarship that matches other scholarships she has received to enroll at that college. As an admitted student, your child has the leverage to negotiate.
3. Ask for more need-based grants
With a college education costing as much as $120,000 for a public university and over $280,000 for a private university, who doesn’t demonstrate a need for help with paying for college? If your child’s financial aid package does not reflect your family’s ability to pay for that college, call your child’s assigned financial aid officer, explain your family’s financial situation, and ask for a reevaluation of grant award it has offered. Financial aid officers may require additional documentation for a reevaluation, but filling out supplemental aid applications may result in additional grants.
Many students and families rail against the importance of the SAT and the ACT as part of the college admissions process. They lament the stress the entrance exam process causes them and the disconnect between what is tested on the exam and what students learn in the classroom.
Yes, the SAT and ACT cover different concepts than most students learn in their high school math and English classes. Yes, the tests feature intense time pressures and include multiple-choice formats that may not be the norm for most students.
So why do admissions officers rely on them as part of the admissions process?
Because the SAT and ACT provide an invaluable measure of how students are likely to perform in college and beyond.
The SAT and ACT measure how well a student is able to learn a new set of material and apply it to the accompanying questions in a short amount of time. Your child may not have previously interpreted a temperature distribution graph in their high school science classes, for example, but figuring out how to answer the question correctly, even if it seems like it is “written in Greek”, is a life skill.
Encourage your children to treat the SAT and ACT as a challenge that can be overcome. Developing the discipline to learn the material and identify resources that can help them obtain their target score will serve them well for future challenges. Admissions officers are seeking the next generation of problem solvers for their incoming class.
The SAT or ACT may pose a problem at first, but it can definitely be solved through effective prep. The Wall Street Journal recently published a fantastic article that highlights the role testing plays in this process. To access it click here.
Wishing your child success in the test prep process. May the experience of obtaining a target score provide guidance for future frustrating challenges that can be overcome with strategy and determination.
March means many things: madness (basketball), showers, Spring Break and college visits, and for many high school students, picking classes for the next school year.
The transcript is one of the first things that admissions officers look at when making admissions decisions. Your child will want to capitalize on it to demonstrate that she challenged herself in subjects relevant to her intended major and did as well as she could have in those classes.
It has been widely reported that many of the most selective colleges in the country spend six to eight minutes reading applications before making decisions. This means they do not take the time to determine whether Your Fancy High School is any more challenging than Crosstown Rival High School. Said differently, colleges will not take the time to determine whether a ‘B’ at your high school is the equivalent to an ‘A’ at some other school. Do not let teachers, counselors, or administrators convince you otherwise. Admissions officers do not have the time to make heuristic adjustments to high school transcripts.
One of my top priorities with students is ensuring that they take the classes that demonstrate an interest in their intended field AND that they do as well as possible in the classes they take. This means that students interested in studying biology in college consider enrolling in an advanced biology class at their high school if it is offered. This also means that they do not take too many AP classes in other fields that make it impossible to juggle such a rigorous schedule. We want the relevant biology and math grades to be as strong as possible.
Another important consideration for high school is avoiding teachers that are notoriously difficult graders. Colleges do not know who the teacher is, and students must, at all costs, avoid teachers who do not understand the importance of earning the strongest grades possible. Much of this process involves obtaining GPAs and test scores that are competitive to earn admission relative to other high achieving applicants. Avoid landmines that crater a strong transcript.
The best offense for building a strong transcript is a solid defense. Avoid teachers and classes that are known to be too difficult to earn an ‘A’ or a ‘B’. Do not overload the schedule with AP/IB/honors/accelerated classes that make it miserable or just down-right impossible to do as well as possible.
Above all, create a schedule that will allow your child to explore her passions and enjoy high school. Obtaining strong grades in challenging classes is a lot of work. This hard work should be consistent with your child’s long-term goals.
Wishing you a spectacular school year for next year!