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Strategies to Decrease the Cost of College #1 – The Most Expensive College?

What is the most expensive college? 

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“The one you don’t graduate from!”
It is sort of a trick question and the answer commonly elicits a chuckle from a crowd. Yet, when I ask this follow up question – “How many of you know an individual who did not graduate from the first institution they attended?” – without fail 1/2 to 3/4 of the hands shoot up. Most of us do.
Nearly 1 in 2 students do not graduate from the 1st school they attend. Maybe you know “Passive Aggressive Pete”:

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“Pete” was a young man whom I invited into my office at the University of St. Thomas. Pete a stellar high school student, was failing most of his courses. “Surely, there are resources UST can provide to assist”, I asked. Pete looked at me and candidly replied, “Nope. I’m pissing my old man’s money away”. Pete eventually revealed he didn’t want to be at St. Thomas – but didn’t have a choice – everyone in the extended family had attended UST…
UST is a fine institution. But in Pete’s case did not fit. This was his passive-aggressive way of making his point. In today’s dollars, this is an awful lot of $$ to flush away. 
Maybe you know an “Annika”? 

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Class valedictorian. Had many many colleges recruiting her, yet her parents refused to take her to visit any of them, albeit one option – The University of Minnesota – because it was close and “cheaper” than most. But, Annika didn’t want to go to school in MN – the U. was not a good match – she did not want an extension of high school and yearned to experience a diversity of thought, culture, etc. She certainly didn’t want to attend a school with 35,000+ other undergraduates. Annika managed for a couple of years, before dropping out. She is now working as a barista at a Starbucks.
Turns out the U wasn’t “cheaper” after all. 
You likely know someone who chose their college by following friends (or worse yet a boyfriend/girlfriend) or because they liked their sports teams or listened to crazy Uncle Bob who claimed, “XYZ University was great for me, it will be for you too” or relied only on “reputation” or waited until the last minute and “fell into a college” or etc., etc.
Unhappily, thousands of Pete’s and Annika’s begin college every year. Students who end up at the wrong school for all the wrong reasons – often leaving sometime during freshman or sophomore year. Annually hundreds of millions of dollars are lost on sunk costs you never get back (room/board/tuition/fees/travel/etc.), lost wages, credits which don’t transfer lengthening the time to degree completion, additional loan debt, and so forth and so on.
Contrast them with “Danielle” the Designer. 

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Egad, Danielle’s dream school is ranked 191st by a national college ranking service! Her dad, the practical sort, wants her to major in chemistry because it is a “promising” career field and of course he has a colleague whose daughter has a fashion design degree and is managing a GAP store at the Mall of America. Mom wants “her baby girl” to go to school close to home. 

What would you do?

Fortunately, Danielle never waivered. Cooler heads prevailed. Ignoring “rankings”, Danielle enrolled at her dream school. She recently completed her junior year and is on track to graduate in four years. This “so-called” 191st ranked program?
The Fashion School at Kent State University.  Industry insiders (those who really matter and do the hiring), consistently rank it as one of the top five in the country. According to one industry professional, “…with study abroad programs in NYC, Paris, & Milan; a large endowment for scholarships, a fashion-focused MBA program, a high profile within the fashion industry…this school is one of the top American fashion schools and keeps getting better…” It is/was a good fit for Danielle. 
“The one you don’t graduate from!” So simple, yet so true – the #1 college cost-saving strategy really is finding a “Good Match” school.
In fact, life happens, but research shows a strong correlation between enrolling at a “good match” school and retention and graduation from said school. 
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College is expensive enough. Follow Danielle’s lead. Chose the “right” college in the first place and it will save you thousands of dollars. 
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Need help finding good match colleges. Contact me. and I can work with you to shave thousand’s of $$ off a college degree.  

Jeff has spent 30+ years working in higher education as a Registrar and Director of Student/Academic Services. As an educational college planning consultant, he uses his experience and insights to save you $$$ by helping you in identify “good match” colleges to fit your academic, social and financial needs.

 

Strategies to Decrease the Cost of College #2 – COA Surprises

cost of attendance
Surprises, they can be good or bad.
Good, such as pulling a forgotten $20 out of a jacket pocket not worn over a long, long winter, an unexpected message or letter from an old friend, a thoughtful gift.
Or not so good, such as opening your tuition bill and realizing it is going to cost thousands of dollars more than you expected. How can this happen? Don’t colleges and universities advertise costs?
Yes and no.
Colleges typically advertise cost in terms of Cost of Attendance (COA). Federal financial aid guidelines define COA as:
    • Tuition & Fees
    • Room & Board
    • Books & Supplies
    • Transportation
    • Personal Expenses
Many (dare I say most) institutions are less than transparent when advertising the “true” cost of an education – typically they only market and advertise these five COA components. 
Now the rest of the story…
Smart higher education consumers need to play detective, sleuthing through brochures, web pages, letters, etc. to unearth hidden costs – to determine your “true” cost of attendance.
What are these shadowy hidden costs? From differential tuition rates – to loan origination fees and everything in between, hidden costs come in all shapes, sizes, and forms – real money out of your pocket. Let’s examine a few:
A common hidden charge is a differential (extra) tuition rate. It is fairly common for students majoring in nursing, engineering, business, computer science (to name a few), to be charged an extra fee on top of regular tuition rates – see examples below:

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Most families do not realize advertised room and board COA charges are the “average” rate a student can pay. The real cost can span thousands of dollars as evidenced by these 2018-2019 rates:

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Look at this statement from a college web site – “All students receive a laptop as part of our laptop program.” Cool! Not so fast. Dig deep enough and you find students are not receiving a laptop, they are paying for the use of one – the real cost:
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per semester.
Let’s talk disingenuous. In reviewing a financial aid award letter for a student this spring (see partial letter below), I noted the school understated their own cost of attendance (as calculated by their own Net Price Calculator) by thousands of dollars.
Note how they seem to have “forgotten” personal expenses or transportation in their “estimated” COA. “Luckily” when this was pointed out to the director of admission, this student’s award was adjusted upwards to include these real costs. 

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How about matriculation (new student) fees, course and lab fees, capital enhancement fees, tuition payment plan fees, credit card fees, excess credit charges beyond a full-time credit load, stadium fees, parking fees, health center fees – I digress… but I could go on and on and on…
Smart consumers need to shield themselves from COA surprises, by determining their “true” cost of attendance before choosing to enroll. Unearthing the “true” cost of attendance in many cases will be the difference between choosing one school over another – saving you thousands of $$ on the overall cost of your education.
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Need help finding good match colleges. Contact me. and I can work with you to shave thousand’s of $$ off a college degree.  

Jeff has spent 30+ years working in higher education as a Registrar and Director of Student/Academic Services. As an educational college planning consultant, he uses his experience and insights to save you $$$ by helping you in identify “good match” colleges to fit your academic, social and financial needs.

 

Strategies to Decrease the Cost of College #3 – Yield

 

What does “yield” have to do with college cost savings? Savvy consumers who understand how critical this figure is in admissions can often yield (pun intended) significant cost savings.
Yield is the metric most admissions directors obsess, fret, lose sleep over. Simply, yield = the number or percentage of admitted students who actually enroll and attend.
So, exactly why is yield important and why should you pay attention? Every college sets enrollment goals for its incoming class. Very few schools can boast of a yield rate like Stanford University of 82%:
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In reality, many colleges today scratch and claw for every student they enroll. In the 2018 State of College Admissions, the National Association for College Admission Counseling reported the average yield rate continues to decline – down to 33.6%.
Couple this with the fact the number of traditional college-aged students enrolling declined for the 7th consecutive year – Current Term Enrollment Fall 2018, National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. means colleges (and admissions directors especially) feel the heat when they do not meet enrollment goals.
Multiple years of “low yields” translates to declining enrollments – which means budget shortfalls. On more than one campus I worked this meant delays in campus initiatives, building projects/upgrades or worse yet – program cuts and staff layoffs.
Is it any wonder many campus administrators and admissions directors lose sleep over “yield”?
Don’t feel too bad for them, they understand the ground rules, besides colleges have been less than transparent over the years in the pursuit of enrolling students:
  • Bombarded with brochures – a college reaching out doesn’t necessarily mean they have any intention of admitting you – many entice applications for the sole purpose of lowering admit rates in an attempt to boost rankings. 
  • Bait and switch – awarding more “free money” (grant and scholarship) to incoming freshman, and converting a % of this free money to loans in subsequent years. (always read the fine print on your financial aid award). 
  • Preferential Packaging – The art of offering more grants and scholarships to students it really wants to attract versus offering more loans to those “less desirable”.
  • Hidden costs – differential tuition rates, hidden fees, advertising room & board as “true” cost of attendance when in reality these are the “average” prices students pay,  etc. 
  • Do you really think early decision and early action admissions deadlines are designed to benefit “students”? If you do I have some property I would like to speak with you about.
  • etc., etc., etc. 
I digress…
Most colleges want- in actuality need – to yield as many students as possible from its pool of accepted students. Colleges often do “whatever it takes” to protect their yield. How might one benefit?
Let’s say hypothetically, Luther College is your top choice. Luther at 19% doesn’t have nearly the yield rate as Stanford.

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Furthermore, let’s assume Luther tends to compete with say, Gustavus Adolphus College (18% yield rate by the way), for the same pool of students.
Remember it is best to never eliminate a school until the end of this process – even if you have no intention of enrolling. Thus, hypothetically, I might suggest you show enough demonstrated interest in both schools to receive an offer of admissions.
For argument’s sake, we will say Gustavus Adolphus offered you $2,000 annually more in merit scholarships than Luther. You really prefer Luther, but…
Wink, Wink. Nudge. Nudge. See how “hypothetically” leveraging Luther’s “yield rate” versus Gustavus’s higher offer might potentially work in your favor (theoretically of course)?
Understanding the dynamics of “yield” can and does lead to cost savings – remember the average yield rate is currently about 33%. It will not work at every school, every situation is unique, and results can vary from year to year, but families can and do successfully mediate better financial packages.
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Need help finding good match colleges. Contact me. and I can work with you to shave thousand’s of $$ off a college degree.  

Jeff has spent 30+ years working in higher education as a Registrar and Director of Student/Academic Services. As an educational college planning consultant, he uses his experience and insights to save you $$$ by helping you in identify “good match” colleges to fit your academic, social and financial needs.

 

Strategies to Decrease the Cost of College #4 – Graduation Rates

 

College Graduation

What is the admit rate to Harvard? Stanford? University of Minnesota?
Many know because so much gets written and too much emphasis is placed upon how difficult it is to get into certain colleges.
When considering colleges, rarely does one ask, “What is Wossamotta U’s graduation rate?” When the ultimate end game is to graduate – I want to know how long it will take to get out.
Today it takes students on average 5.1 years to graduate with his/her four-year degree, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Thus, it is important to understand the likelihood I am paying for four, five or six years to finish a degree.
The graphic below highlights how much a degree will cost (based on Fall 2018 cost of attendance) if completing it in four, five or six years at three different schools. 

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Sadly, four in ten families have no strategy to pay for four years of college, let alone five plus – Sallie Mae 2017 – How American Pays for College. – with each year beyond four typically funded by taking on increased debt.
It is extremely important to find and enroll at a good fit school. Statistics tell us tells there is a direct correlation between choosing a “good match” school and your retention and ultimate graduation from that school – even if it takes you > four years. But, the numbers do tell us something.
Look at the percentage of students who graduate from these schools in four years:
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Compared to:
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Comparing graduation rates can yield potential cost-savings. In a surprising number of instances, your overall out of pocket costs will be lower if you graduate in four years from a “higher cost” school than six years from a school with a lower sticker price.
Just as I advocate never eliminating a school based on its sticker price if Winona State University is a good fit and your top choice do not eliminate it solely because their four-year graduation rate is lower than others.
All schools have warts and many students leave for a variety of reasons having nothing to do with the college itself, and just because the typical student doesn’t graduate in four years it does not mean you will not, however…
Be mindful of certain realities – something systematic regarding how a school offers (sequences) classes or the types of students it attracts or its student services/resources or cost of attendance, or funding mechanisms or etc., makes it more difficult to graduate in four years than other schools.  
Focus less on admit rates. Pay more attention to graduation rates when determining if a college is a good financial fit.
After all, the goal is to graduate. And in my humble opinion – in four years or less!
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Need help finding good match colleges. Contact me. and I can work with you to shave thousand’s of $$ off a college degree.  

Jeff has spent 30+ years working in higher education as a Registrar and Director of Student/Academic Services. As an educational college planning consultant, he uses his experience and insights to save you $$$ by helping you in identify “good match” colleges to fit your academic, social and financial needs.

Strategies to Decrease the Cost of College #5 – Planned Transfer

 

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I was reading an article the other day about how community college students can transfer to “Top” universities even an Ivy League school. The article highlighted the journey of a young man from a community college to Harvard, the implication – you can too.
What bull#8@%. Not total bulls… but mostly. Why?
The reality is “highly selective” – any school admitting less than 25% of students are not transfer friendly. Sure a handful of students transfer to these schools every year, but look at the numbers for Fall of 2017:
You might look at Northwestern University and think, “Not so bad”, until you realize Northwestern received 37,000+ applications for Fall 2017. Your odds are less than good and planning to transfer to these types of schools is not a practical strategy. 
The good news – many many colleges are transfer friendly. In fact, a large number rely on a steady stream of transfer students to meet enrollment goals every year.
A planned transfer is a great way to save on the overall cost of a college degree. Note the emphasis on “planned”.

 

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The first step in any planned transfer is to determine how transfer friendly a school is.
As a general rule of thumb, the greater the % of students admitted, the greater the likelihood a school is transfer friendly. Fortunately, it is not difficult to determine how selective a school is. There are plenty of college planning resources to utilize.
My favorite is – College Navigator. Search for a college and expanding the admissions tab reveals the admit rate:  

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Once you have determined if a college or two “might” be transfer-friendly, next research how these schools actually accept transfer credits.
Many colleges publish this information on their web site. Some even have handy tools to help you determine how credits will transfer from another school.
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UW – Eau Claire Transfer Wizard 

Many will refer you to Transferology (if they participate) an excellent transfer credit resource or MN Transfer. If you do your homework, you can determine exactly how schools will transfer your credits. But… 
Beware of general catalog statements (and even many articulation agreements). Many read a statement such as 

Transferring with an Associate Degree

  • The Minnesota Transfer Curriculum (MnTC) will grant a waiver of General Education requirements 
  • Associates of Arts (AA) degrees from Wisconsin and Minnesota will grant a waiver of University Requirements AND General Education requirements
and assume two years at a community college and two years at a four-year school and bingo – done.
Not so fast… Failing to understand what these statements really mean could result in not saving any money at all.
At the University of Wisconsin – River Falls (online catalog statement above) what they are really telling you is if you complete an associates degree at a community college you don’t need to complete the approximately 42 credits every student regardless of major must satisfy – their general education component is covered by your associate’s degree.
However, at UW-River Falls (75% admit rate) it takes a minimum of 120 credits to graduate… the remaining courses in your AA degree may or may not cover the other coursework necessary to complete your major.

UW River Falls

Many students can and do complete their associate’s degree, transfer to UW River Falls and complete a bachelors degree in two years. Others think this is the case, yet fail to research and determine how each and every course will transfer and do not.  
Just like a dual degree cost-saving strategy, you need to understand there is a BIG BIG BIG difference between a course being accepted in transfer and how it will be used to satisfy a degree requirement. Did I mention BIG?
Sure, many schools will accept your Associate’s Degree classwork in transfer, but the critical question you need to ask yourself  – how many actually count toward the X number of credits I need to complete my degree program?
When working with a family on a planned transfer – we don’t focus on completing an associate degree or in many cases explicitly following an established articulation agreement. We work backward. Strategically, determining how each and every course will transfer and reduce the number of credits needed to graduate. 
Often this means a student only spends two or three semesters at a community college. Why? Pretty simple really. For many majors, you will maximize the number of credits which will satisfy degree requirements at your targeted transfer school before you complete an associate’s degree. 
A planned transfer is a great college cost-saving strategy. It may not get you into Harvard, but if you are strategic and diligent it will save you money at plenty of “good fit” schools!

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Seem like a great idea, but too time-consuming? Contact me. and I can work with you to shave thousand’s of $$ off a college degree.  

Jeff has spent 30+ years working in higher education as a Registrar and Director of Student/Academic Services. As an educational college planning consultant, he uses his experience and insights to save you $$$ by helping you in identify “good match” colleges to fit your academic, social and financial needs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strategies to Decrease the Cost of College #6 – Dual Enrollment

 

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A typical four-year state institution will cost you approximately $26,000 to attend for one academic year (see chart below). 
A dual enrollment strategy (taking AP, PSEO, IB, CIS or PLTW coursework in high school) is one of my favorite strategies to save families money on the cost of college.
Shaving one semester or even one year off a college degree is easier than you think – if you know what you are doing. 

 

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After a workshop recently, a family came up and asked, “Can you help us get our son more credits for his PSEO classes”. As a former registrar, I knew the answer would be no. 
As a cost-saving strategy, their son enrolled in a Post Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) program at a local community college. The hope – he would graduate in 2 to 2 1/2 years with his four-year degree.
The reality – his first choice school was only awarding him nine credits towards his degree requirements for the two years worth of PSEO classes he completed. Sadly, he had taken the wrong courses. Many mistakenly believe all college credit is created and awarded equally. 
There is a BIG BIG BIG difference between a course being accepted in transfer and how it will be used to satisfy a degree requirement. Did I mention BIG?
Many colleges will “transfer” in all your courses with a grade of “C” or better, but the critical question you need to ask yourself  – which courses will count toward my degree program? 
How colleges accept dual enrollment credit (or any transfer credit for that matter) is highly variable from school to school and even program to program within individual schools. 
Let’s assume you took AP Chemistry in high school with the goal of satisfying a lab science requirement in college. Let’s further assume you scored a 4 on the exam. If you enroll at Hamline University your AP Chemistry course will only count as an elective.  

 

At the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire the same result means you will be awarded 5 credits for their CHEM 105/106 course (satisfying a general education lab science requirement). Whallah – you are five credits closer toward your degree!

 

 

Why the difference? The reasons are nuanced and too numerous to discuss on this post, but the basic reality is the same – there is no universal standard for how an institution will accept college-level credits in transfer into their degree programs. Each school independently determines how a course will transfer. 
What are the keys to employing a successful Dual Enrollment Cost Saving Strategy?
  • sdrowkcaB gnikroW – research and understand Degree Requirements
  • Understand this will not work at highly selective schools (schools which enroll < 25-30% of students who apply). 
You need to be strategic and work backward. Start by determining which courses are required to graduate from a specific degree program

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then research which dual enrollment courses you can take to pluck off degree requirements. In this University of North Dakota (UND) example, taking AP Calculus AB (and scoring 3 or greater on the exam) is equivalent to UND’s MATH 165 Calc I course. One course down.
Taking POLS 1031 as a Century College PSEO student and getting a grade of “C” or higher is equivalent to taking UND’s POLS 115 course thus satisfying their Essential Studies Social Science requirementTwo courses down.
And so on!
Will this strategy work for everyone? No – you need to successfully complete college-level coursework. But plenty of students can and do.
Does it take time and effort to research? Yes. Is the research easy? No – you must meticulously determine how each course will transfer to multiple good match schools.
Simple strategy? I think so. 
Knocking off time and credits to complete your college degree by taking the “right” dual enrollment courses is an extremely effective way to save time and money.

 

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*Approximate Fall 2018 COA

Enrolling in and completing dual enrollment coursework is one of my favorite college cost-saving strategies.  
Seem like a great idea, but too much for you to handle. Contact me… I have helped numerous families shave thousand’s of $$ off a college degree, by counseling them on the “right” dual enrollment classes to take.
You have plenty of good fit options!

Jeff has spent 30+ years working in higher education as a Registrar and Director of Student/Academic Services. As an educational college planning consultant, he uses his experience and insights to save you $$$ by helping you in identify “good match” colleges to fit your academic, social and financial needs.

Tuition Tuesday – College Savings Event

college-fund

Find a great doorbuster deal this past shopping weekend.  Saved yourself a couple hundred $$. Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Passé.

How does saving thousands of $$$ grab you? Carol Merrill, what are we featuring behind Door #3…

College Tuition Savings.

There are many strategies to save on college tuition costs. Taking advantage of dual credit options offered by your high school is one such strategy. There are a number of programs:

  • Advanced Placement (AP)

  • Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO)

  • International Baccalaureate (IB)

  • College in the Schools (CIS)

that may be available at your high school.  However, be careful and strategic in planning duel credit options in a high school curriculum. Why? Consider the following quote from one university system,  “Many of our colleges grant credit to first-year students who have participated in such programs, but each institution has a slightly different policy. Find out which colleges accept what.”

Very true, but also very incomplete. The rub. Not all transfer credit is created equal. There is a BIG BIG difference between “credits being accepted ” and how they “satisfy degree requirements.” The key – satisfying degree requirements. This is how you reduce time to degree completion, thus saving you time and $$.

Working with a trusted college admission professional can save you thousands of dollars on the cost of a four-year degree by helping plan a strategy to maximize the number of dual degree credits which count toward degree requirements or by simply steering you to good match colleges thereby increasing odds of graduating in four years.

Let’s make Tuition Tuesday an annual college planning blockbuster savings event.   Start saving on the cost of college today. As an added bonus – sign up for any of my college planning packages by December 31, 2016 and I will knock 10% off the price.

Happy Tuition Tuesday!

 

 

 

 

The Most Expensive College?

The one you DO NOT graduate from!

Graduation

Only 48.5% of students graduate from the first college they attend.  Nationally 33% will transfer. Others simply never complete a degree. Think about that for a second. 48.5%. It is a pretty horrid success rate, not to mention a colossal waste of time and money.

Why the poor success rates? Far too many begin the college search too late – often waiting until senior year. Happy accidents do occur, but frequently a late start results in poor colleges choices – bad matches. Assessing good match (fit) colleges takes time and effort and cannot be done by simply reviewing college rankings list.

On way to mitigate the cost of higher education is to start early. Starting late does not leave enough time to properly research, analyze and carefully consider which colleges are good matches in three important areas – academically, socially and financially.

Top Ten Reasons to Choose a College

# 10 Because my friends, boyfriend/girlfriend is going there.
# 9A Its only 50 miles from home!
# 9B It’s 1,500 miles from home!
# 8 The Football team is good. It must be a good school!
# 7A Mom’s an Alumnus
# 7B Dad’s an Alumnus
# 7C Aunt Mabel’s an Alumnus
Wossamotta U. “it’s perfect for you”
# 6 It will make my “insert anyone but you“ happy
# 5 They sent me a brochure!
# 4 I toured. The Gals/Guys “Hubba Hubba”
# 3 I’m too busy. I will apply to several senior year and just pick one that admits me.
# 2 “Were only interested in the cheapest schools”
# 1 “It’s ranked in the Top 20”

NOT!

When only 48.5% of students graduate from the first college they attend, one simple fact rings true – the most expensive college is the one you don’t graduate from. Families who work with a college admissions expert significantly increase these odds and student’s often graduate from 1st choice schools in 4 years or less.

 

 

 

Athletic Scholarships – Buyer Beware

Kelsey Softball Catcher

November traditionally kicks off the holiday season. It also ushers in the NCAA “early signing” period (historically the 2nd Wednesday in November).

If you are intent on playing competitively in college, the NCAA National Letter of Intent (NLI) “early signing” period this year falls between November 9 – 16, 2016 for NCAA Division I and II athletic programs in sports other than football, soccer, and men’s water polo.

When working with prospective athletes, I have rules of thumb, among them: a) Like the school more than the coach and b) Like the school more than the sport. Before you sign on the dotted line consider the following:

1. The proverbial full ride is largely a myth. Most college sports teams are defined as equivalency sports  (a “head count” sport = full-ride scholarship.  An “equivalency sport” = typically a partial scholarship). All NCAA sanctioned sports have mandated scholarship limits. For example, a Division I men’s swimming and diving program is limited to 9.9 scholarships, with an average roster size of 28. What is a coach to do? Split those 9.9 scholarships up. Unless your name is Katie Ledecky (Stanford) or Michael Phelps (U. Michigan) do not count on a full ride. The average athletic scholarship covers approximately 30% of your annual costs. Individual families still pay 70% of the bill.

2. Another misconception – scholarship offers cover multiple years. NOPE. Most scholarships offers cover a one-year period. The majority of scholarships are renewed annually at the discretion of the coach. D I programs have the option of offering scholarships for multiple years, however it is the exception rather than the rule.

3. Signing a NLI IS binding. You are making at minimum a one-year commitment to attend and play. The institution is committed to giving you an athletic scholarship for one year. Failing to understand the binding nature of a NLI is can have consequences affecting your eligibility and options if you later decide you made the wrong decision and want to transfer. I aim to avoid this by helping you identify “good match” schools you will be happy to attend regardless if you are competing.

4. If you sign with a NCAA Division II school and are later offered a scholarship by a NCAA Division I school, you CANNOT sign with the D I school. Signing either a D I or D II offer is binding. The school you originally signed with must agree to release you from your commitment – sometimes easier said than done.

5. If a coach is fired or bolts to another program after you have signed your NLI, you ARE NOT released from your commitment. Many mistakenly make this assumption. Coaches are free to move about (by choice or otherwise), athletes are not. Your commitment is to the SCHOOL, not the COACH. It is one reason I preach – “Like the school more than the coach…”

6. Competing in college at the NCAA level requires you meet certain academic eligibility standards. No school will offer an NLI, unless you have registered with and have been cleared to play by the NCAA Eligibility Center. If you haven’t, register today.

7. Can’t decide? What happens if you don’t sign during the November early signing period? Your next opportunity to sign is in early April of the following year, commonly referred to as the “late signing” period. Are there risks to waiting until April? It depends. Coaches hope to fill as many open roster spots as feasible during the early signing period, but only the top top programs are consistently able to do so. For the majority of programs the recruiting season extends to the April late signing period.

8. Once I sign my NLI, can coaches from other programs contact me? No. When you sign it is binding. Once signed, other schools need to stop recruiting you. Does it still happen? Yes, but what goes around comes around.

9. A verbal commitment IS NOT binding.

10. Division III (D III) schools are prohibited from awarding athletic scholarships.

Buyer beware! Make sure YOU understand what YOU are committing to.

College Visits – 10 Tips

Leaves are changing color.  A nip is in the night air.  Students are eagerly awaiting some time off. Holidays already? Nope. MEA is in the rear view mirror.  For many MEA (Fall break in MN) means hitting the road, – it’s College Visit season.

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To my way of thinking visiting a college campus is a must. You will never get a true sense of campus life from web sites, brochures, virtual tours, your friends, or crazy uncle Louie.
Each college has a unique personality. Only by visiting campus will you get a true sense of what a college – and life at that college – is really like and whether any particular college is the right fit for “You”.
Enjoy fall break and if you happen to be visiting a campus or two over MEA (Oct. 20-23), consider these tips to help you get the most out of your visits.
Tip #1 – Don’t’ be afraid to ask questions, after all this is a big decision, but please, please, please let your son or daughter take center stage. During the formal presentation or tour, let them ask the questions and form their own impressions. Resist the temptation to be “that” parent – the one asking all the questions as your son or daughter slowly slinks into the shadows – you will have plenty of opportunity to corner an admission rep once the formal visit is over.
Tip #2Don’t drag the entire family along. Ten year old’s Tommy and Timmy incessantly asking “can we go yet”during the tour or enthusiastically enjoying video games during the information session only serves to detract from the experience of your college bound daughter or son.
Tip #3Don’t schedule more than 1 visit per day – a visit is more time consuming than you realize. How long will you be on campus? Plan to spend at least a half a day per visit.
Tip #4 – Have Fun. Don’t make college visits an ordeal. Treat it as a mini vacation. Relax and enjoy yourself. Plan time to wander around town after the formal tour and presentation. Take in the local sites. Grab a bite to eat at a local favorite – you just might stumble upon a local “secret”, like Cookie Dough Egg Rolls.  “MMMM…Egg Rolls”.  Explore the surrounding community – you just might be living there for four years.  
Tip #5 – Wear comfortable shoes. Visits require a lot of walking. Heels, sandals, flip-flops, soccer spikes. Really?  I’ve seen plenty of miserable people after an hour+ tour.
Tip #6 – Wear appropriate clothing. While it is unnecessary to dress up, your wardrobe will be noticed. Dress casual – don’t make admissions officers uncomfortable talking to you by wearing inappropriate clothing.  Don’t be the ”    ” who wears the “Bucky Badger” sweatshirt when touring the University of Minnesota. Check the weather, dress for the climate and season.
Tip #7 – The quality of tour guide(s) varies. Almost all will be current undergraduate students. If your gut instinct is “I love this place”, don’t let first impressions of one admissions officer, tour guide, professor, or student influence your overall feelings about a college.
Tip #8– Talk with Current Students! They are the best source of unvarnished information. If you truly want to understand what it is like to be a student on campus ASK THEM. If you visit during an off period and not many students are around, contact the admissions office for the names of current students (and contact information) who are willing to speak to prospective students.
Tip #9 – Your interested in biology, but the tour didn’t feature the biology lab…  Wander off the beaten path. Seek out areas of campus that interest you. After the admissions office spiel and tour take a behind-the-scenes peek for yourself. Campuses are welcoming and open. Don’t just talk to students. Talk to professors, staff, and the barista at the on campus coffeehouse. Each will give you a different perspective of what it is like to be a student at this school.
Tip #10 – Although not guaranteed, showing demonstrated interest can be a tip factor in your being admitted or not. The first way to show interest – Show up for an official campus tour and information session. It is one of many activities that earns a prospective student demonstrated interest points. Don’t try to game the system (by signing up but not showing). There’s a reason those sneaky admissions reps make you sign in.
Demonstrated Interest Hint: It is a good idea to introduce yourself to the admissions representative assigned to your school or geographic region. Ask if it is feasible to meet with him/her. If they are busy follow up with an e-mail.
Bonus Tip  – The ideal time to visit a campus is when classes are in session. Life happens and often you must visit during an “off time”. If visiting during an “off-time”, keep in mind that what you see may not be reflective of the normal campus environment. If you like a college when visiting during an off time, make sure you schedule another visit when school is in session.

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