After a long and very hot week touring Notheast colleges, I am thrilled that this message is coming to you from my cozy, air-conditioned office in Weston.  Jill and I toured 4 colleges in 4 days (Cornell, Ithaca College, Skidmore, and Vassar), and yes, we were pretty tired at the end of it.  But it was worth it.  There is simply no substitute to being there, and after meeting with Admissions and Business officers,  I have a few very important pieces of information to share with you regarding how you should be planning for college.

  • There is a great college for every student, and if you map out your admissions and funding strategy together and before your child begins applying, you will greatly improve the odds that s/he will pick and get accepted to schools that you will be able to afford.  Discounting is not a random exercise and it is no longer an afterthought.   Colleges strategically and intentionally use both need-based Aid and merit-based (or non-need based) aid   — though certainly not in equal measure — to induce students to attend their institution.  Without a doubt, the largest source of free money is in need-based aid (more than $150 billion worth – yes, I said billion).  It is a legitimate source of college funding for forgotten middle class families, and choosing schools that offer substantial need-based grants should be a critical component of your admissions strategy.
  • More so than ever, networking and the ‘Little Things’  can move the needle on admittance and funding offers.  Despite technology (or pehabs because of it), standing out today often requires showing up. Get out there and visit colleges!  Schools want to see you and want to know that you want to go there.  Nothing demonstrates interest like your visit to their campus.
  • Students with specialized interests such as Art or Drama should consider liberal arts schools that offer majors or minors in the specialized field.  We saw amazing theater and art programs at places like Skidmore, Ithaca, and Vassar.  At these schools and many like them, you’ll find great students, great professors, small classrooms, and a diverse student body with a wide mix of interests.  Oh, and they are MUCH more generous with financial assistance than any specialty school.
  • Just because a school has a need-aware admissions policy does not mean that it isn’t generous.  A school like Skidmore does not hide the fact that they are need-aware, but if you get admitted then they guarantee they will meet 100% of demonstrated need.  So for the students who do get in, they are awarded handsomely.  Many other schools follow the same principle.
  • And though I hate to admit it, there can be an admissions advantage to applying early decision.  This was confirmed by the officers I met with and by the numbers. However, don’t let your student apply Early Decision unless you are sure you can pay the bill.   If you apply early decision, you are ‘locked in’ and bound to attend that college – you’ll have zero leverage when seeking a tuition discount.  The student, the parents, and the high school guidance counselor must sign a contract and confirm that the Early Decision rules are understood.

I’ll be elaborating on these and other conclusions, as well as sharing money-saving tips to help families pay the college bill, during my upcoming LIVE webinar on August 9.

Topics we’ll cover include:

  • Why now EVERYONE, regardless of income, should apply for financial aid without exception
  • Accessing the precious and disappearing grant and scholarship dollars
  • Why it takes students 5+ years, on average, to graduate from college and how you can buck this trend
  • Dollars and Sense – how to successfully overlap your child’s admissions strategy with your ability to pay
  • How some assets can penalize you 5x, whereas other assets don’t count at all
  • How to get admissions officers to fall in love with your student

If you are the parent of a 10th, 11th, or 12th grader, and you are stressed about the entire college process, from admissions to financing, then you should tune in to this LIVE webinar.  If you are too busy for the webinar, you can catch me in person on August 25 down in Pinecrest.  Click here to register for either event.

Best,

Peter

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