With the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament tipping off tomorrow, it’s time for my 8th annual, University Generosity Bracketology.  I love talking colleges, and I love the game of basketball, so what better than to mix the two and offer an alternative approach to selecting teams in the greatest 3 week sporting event known to mankind.

You may think you know the game well, yet year after year you find that your bracket is doomed by Sunday afternoon when the pool of 64 (OK, 68) whittles itself down to 16.  Cindarella always finds her way into the Sweet 16 ballroom, so how to choose?

It may be zany and wacky, and it probably won’t win you much money in your office pool, but University Generosity Bracketology could save you thousands when you (and your student) are assessing colleges and deciding where to apply.  So it’s been my go-to approach when completing my bracket.  Here’s how it works.

I look at two criteria: institutional need-based financial aid generosity and 4-year graduation rates. My research comes from the College Board and the Education Trust.   Note that I also highly value Institutions that dole out merit/talent scholarships from their coffers, but these awards are so individualized, I save that metric for my tie-breaker (refer to meritaid.com), Don’t laugh, but I’ve done quite well in my silly pool with this approach – and my clients have done even better in the far more important arena of college acceptances and award letters.

This year there are some great matchups in the early rounds, including Villanova vs. Lafayette.  I have Lafayette, which meets 99% of demonstrated need, advancing all the way to the Elite 8 (a bit crazy, as many pundits project Villanova to go all the way to the final as the top seed in the East).  Perhaps the best early round matchup is between blue bloods (pun intended) UNC and Harvard.  While UNC is the most generous of state universities in the nation, I give the edge to Harvard based on their 86% graduation rate.  And while I love picking the ACC, I have an annual habit (even before I became College Pete) of choosing the Ivy League champ in the first round.  Another early round favorite is Notre Dame vs. Northeastern.  In fact, I have Notre Dame as the top school in the pool this year based on statistical generosity, graduation rate, academic excellence and basketball talent.  Duke would be a close second.

My Final Four: Notre Dame, Harvard, Virginia and Georgetown.  Certainly the Fighting Irish and the Cavaliers will be popular picks on many brackets, and Georgetown brings years of tradition.  Harvard may be the basketball outlier, but it’s hard to argue with it’s academic success and generous financial aid record.  And Coach Tommy Amaker may just replace Coach K at Duke someday.

Click here for the full bracket.  Go ahead and take a chance, but don’t blame me if your bracket ends up a loser.
Best,
Peter

P.S. Kentucky will win the whole darn thing.

P.P.S. For more info on financial aid generosity, check out one of my free classes.

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