Here’s what we learned this week:

First, several more schools (including many deemed ‘highly selective’) announced that they would be dropping the SAT/ACT requirement for admission. In just the past two weeks, Tufts University (my alma mater), Case Western Reserve University, Boston University, and all of the University of California (UC) schools have decided to move to a ‘test optional’ admissions process for the upcoming admission cycle (2020-21).

While this is a rather large development, likely precipitated by the cancellations of the March SAT and the April ACT, one (ok, I) might argue that these schools are late  to the test optional movement, especially considering at least 1,000 other colleges and universities already have de-emphasized test scores as a consideration in their admissions decisions. For a full list of all test optional schools, you can visit the National Center for Fair and Open Testing. 

I’ve written fairly extensively on why schools regularly reevaluate their admissions policies and just how this trend may affect your child’s college prospects. You can click here to read ‘Are You Using A Test Optional Strategy – If Not, Maybe You Should Be…’ and see some of the more relevant articles and analysis.

In related news, the College Board, which is the maker of the SAT and the AP tests, has announced that A) it will be conducting AP tests in May as scheduled, but online; and B) it is currently considering adding additional SAT test dates in the fall (of course they are – they need to stay relevant!).

Finally (and perhaps most importantly), some inspiration!

For the past 13 years, I’ve had the privilege of providing college-related information and analysis to a growing community of now more than 10,000 readers. If you’ve been a long-time member, you know that in ‘normal’ times, I’m prone to cautioning families and students that ‘hope’ is a poor substitute for a ‘strategy.’ But these are not ‘normal’ times. In fact, a little hope might just be the best strategy for today’s circumstances.

So with that in mind, each week I’m going to share a true and truly ‘hopeful’ story about one of my students. While every family and every student’s circumstances are unique, as you read these stories, please keep in mind that we customize the program to create outcomes tailored to each family’s goals and economic circumstances. Also, though I have permission to share these stories, I have chosen to keep the names withheld for privacy.

Vanderbilt Is Awarding ‘Marco’ $63,494 PER YEAR!!  

Please meet Marco, who will be off to Vanderbilt next Fall. Marco is like many of our kids; he’s hard working, a good student and contributing member of his school community. He’s not a Division 1 Athlete or a Mathlete and he hasn’t founded a nonprofit. Marco’s a great kid from a fairly typical middle class family. Like many, his parents were both born overseas, and through their hard work and ambition, they now own and operate two small/mid-size businesses in South Florida. The family’s adjusted gross income average is just below the six figure mark. Marco applied to numerous colleges and was admitted to many but not all. Importantly, when the dust settled, he had several great college options, all that matched his academic and social aspirations AND his family’s financial circumstances, to choose among.

He was admitted to Vanderbilt — a school that on paper is VERY expensive ($78,000 per year) and also VERY selective – only 9% of all applicants are admitted.

BUT, $78,000 is Vandy’s ‘gross’ price… we know from our historical experience and data, that the NET price at Vanderbilt CAN be significantly lower for the right student and family. And, it was for Marco.

A few days later (this week) he was offered a Vanderbilt University Scholarship worth $63,494 (the actual award is below). So, when all of Marco’s options were evaluated, it was clear that the ‘priciest’ option, Vanderbilt, was clearly his best option – the family will be out of pocket for just over $12,000 per year for him to attend this prestigious university – and that amount includes all incidental expenses. By comparison, this is the same or less than what Marco would have to pay out of pocket to attend a local public university.

Vanderbilt Award

The bottom line: there are numerous post-secondary options that will meet both your family’s economic needs (even in difficult times) and your child’s personal aspirations. We’ve helped all kinds of families with all types of students keep their child’s college dreams and their life savings safe, AND save tens of thousands (even hundreds of thousands) on college in both horrible economies and thriving ones. There are always two ‘prices’ for college – the ‘gross’ amount that you see published and the ‘real’ or ‘net’ cost (which can be SUBSTANTIALLY less) which is unique to each student and family. We’re able to project the true cost for each family for every school on their child’s list BEFORE the first application is even submitted. We did this for Marco, which helped his parents plan and prepare for what to expect.

In the coming weeks, we will be opening up our annual college admissions and application program, which we have offered for 13 years – the last four of which were virtually-delivered. We’re doing this a little earlier than in a typical year. This is a 6-week program during which  students complete the Common and Coalition Application (including the essay). It is ONLY for students who are applying to college this coming Fall. Not only will it give your child something productive to do during this lock-down/quarantine/social distancing, it will free up their time to pursue something more enjoyable this summer.

And just to circle back to the very beginning of this email…

Putting together a compelling college application, including the essay, will be much more critical to success this coming year. When a school eliminates the testing requirement it means they are focusing on other areas when evaluating applications. While the transcript (grades and courses) remains paramount, the application and essay take on more importance. This is what colleges refer to as “holistic”.

If you are the parent of a college-bound 11th grader, please reach out to us and we can share the syllabus with you. If you are not the parent of an 11th grader, but want to forward this email to someone you know who is… please feel free.

Finally, and not trivially, please do try and stay safe and healthy. And when it comes to college applications and financial aid, we are here to help you keep your sanity – and find success.

Best,
Peter Ratzan

p.s. Parents Mindy and Tom J have used this College Application Summer Boot Camp
for all their of children. Mindy said, “…Your College Concierge helped make the application process for our daughter easy and efficient. She worked on everything over the summer in their online College Application Program. She was done with all the basics by Sep so she met all the deadlines for early action. Our daughter was accepted to most of the  schools she applied to and was offered great scholarships from 6 of her top choices. She will be attending Notre Dame in the fall with a $23K scholarship per year. I know a lot has to do with grades and accomplishments but the essay advice and being prepared helped her as well. We are grateful for all that they have done and have one more child who will definitely be using their YCC program.”

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