The cost of college is ridiculously high, usually running between $20,000 - $60,000 per year. Over a four-year period, you're looking at a $100,000 investment for that college degree. That's staggering - and that's on the low end.
So naturally, everyone is in search of that elusive free money that will help offset this overwhelming price tag. While there are scholarships, along with financial aid, there's honestly not a whole lot of "free money" out there for the average, solid student who is not in financial need.
But, I have a remedy that is essentially worth a $15,000 - $50,000 scholarship.
What many people fail to realize is that nearly 60% of students do not graduate in four years which means that degree ends up costing up to 40% more than it should have. That's tens of thousands of dollars spent that was given no initial consideration in the early planning of college applications.
As many as 4 in 10 students transfer schools, and up to 50% change majors. And, some do both! In each scenario, college credits are usually lost in the process with the average loss equivalent to an entire semester of college.
So, want to save tens of thousands of dollars on that college degree?
1- Take the time to research colleges and make campus visits. Be sure that the university is a good fit culturally, socially, geographically, academically, and otherwise.
2- Take advantage of the many available career assessments and choose a major that capitalizes on your unique strengths, interests, and goals.
3- When college starts, print out that degree plan and stick to it. If necessary, take summer school classes here and there. It's much cheaper than an extra semester of college down the road.
Invest the time and resources to find the college and major that is right for you, and stick to that degree plan. Do this, and you've got, what I call, the "good-fit scholarship"!
Cassie Friend is a college admissions consultant who helps kids navigate all aspects of the college application and admissions processes. With a strong emphasis on college list building and extensive career/major exploration practices, she recognizes the long-term value in both a good-fit university and major in providing significant cost savings. Visit her website for complete package information and services: www.gatewaycollegeapps.com
Here we go again!
My favorite (and busiest) time of the year...college application season!
Here are some helpful tips for stress-free submissions:
1-Have a balanced list of well-researched, good-fit colleges. I have my students apply to 5-8 schools with no more than 2 reaches.
2-Create a GoogleDoc for both the main essay and all other supplemental essays so that all writing is in one spot.
3-As applications open, complete the entire profile and add all universities. Are there unexpected requirements such as supplemental essays? Add them to your running GoogleDoc and get back to writing.
4-Know your high school's process for requesting transcripts and letters of recommendation. Always allow at least two weeks for submission.
5-Many schools will utilize an online portal for the student to manage the remaining outstanding requirements after the initial application submission. Be sure that portal is checked regularly! This is where you will be notified of outstanding requirements or even an admissions decision.
6-Submit all items that are marked optional, unless they are not relevant.
7-Reach out to the area admissions representative at each university on your list (the student, NOT PARENT).
8-Have an organized system for tracking the requirements of all applications.
9-Consider re-taking the SAT or ACT. A higher score not only helps with acceptance potential but also increases the probability of merit aid or scholarship offers.
10-Keep track of all passwords. Resetting passwords wastes lots of time.
Above all, manage your time, and don't stress!
As long as you stay organized (and realistic), this should be a fun and exciting time. Soak up senior year, and wait for the acceptances to start rolling in.
This time next year, there will be boxes and books and a kid proudly sporting the new college logo (and probably a weepy momma too, but it's all good!)
Last March when the world literally shut down, we began a new way of living.
It was considered our civic duty to isolate ourselves for the health and safety of all. So, eh...it's okay that we may have binged entire seasons of shows in a matter of days in our PJs.
"But COVID happened"
is no longer a valid excuse to not be doing something
Plus, the lack of meaningful activities might hurt your college applications.
Here are some ideas:
Volunteer at a food bank
Start an online club
Be a tutor for a younger student
Take lessons in something new
Write a book or start painting
Learn a new trade/skill
Start an online blog/vlog/business
Be a pen-pal to a senior citizen
Study botany & grow a garden
Dabble in day trading
Learn a new language
Become an Amazon reviewer
Create a YouTube channel
Learn how to cook
Join a book club
Just. Do. Something.
You want to stand out in your college applications? Have something valuable to show for the last months of this pandemic. Do things that show initiative, character, innovation, creativity, drive, passion, empathy, perseverance, self-discipline. Show that you rose above our circumstances to develop yourself.
Whatever you do, do not allow yourself to become stagnant or apathetic.
Remember, your choices now may very well determine the opportunities in your future!
With schools going all online, cancelled SATs, and virtual visits replacing festive campus events, it’s been quite a year for college admissions.
But what many want to know, is whether the changes caused by the pandemic will have lasting impacts on the way universities evaluate college applications?
My answer - hopefully.
For one thing, the acceptances my students have earned indicate that colleges are more strongly considering other aspects of the application, such as essays and letters of recommendation. This trend seems to imply that, without the requirement of a test score, universities are free to appreciate the totality of a student’s application. I definitely have students who would have had a different outcome last year. But, 2020 brought them a gift – a test optional application!
On the other hand, as the world opens back up and testing becomes easily accessible again, I believe that many universities will revert back to their “tried and true” ways. Testing has historically, along with GPA and class rank, carried the most weight in college acceptances. And, I’m not sure that will go away entirely. SAT scores give perspective to grades…and vice versa. A good SAT can show potential in a student who may have not played the “GPA game.” On the flipside, a brilliant student who has test anxiety, can suffer from a poor SAT score, in spite of a stellar GPA.
This is a great experiment. Will these test-optional admittees perform at the level expected or will they have slid in under the bar thanks to 2020? This remains to be seen.
For the class of 2022, I say prepare for the SAT. Develop relationships with your teachers. Stay active. Get a job. Go to camp. Challenge yourself. No matter what, be prepared to put your best foot forward and prove that you will be an asset to the universities on your list.
I know one thing that won’t change in 2021: admissions will remain competitive.
As I look out the window now, there is a woman with a bright orange safety vest part of a crew painting the building next door. During her breaks, she sits on a nearby park bench with a little girl next to her working on a netbook.
Now, my assumption could be wrong, but it seems clear to me that this working mother has brought her daughter, who is doing online school, to her job site because she will have no other supervision nor help at home while her mother works. It's hot outside, and the wi-fi there is spotty - not to mention the fact that she should be learning from a teacher, surrounded by her peers, in the comfort of an air-conditioned building.
This can't go on. The learning gap widens.
School has started, mostly online, and I can't help but feel such compassion for the kids whose parents have to go into work each day. While there is a very real concern about crowds of people returning to school buildings, we can't overlook the other side of this. Countless kids are basically having to teach themselves, many unsupervised all day long, in social isolation. Will these kids learn what they need to? Not just math, science, English, and social studies, but will they learn properly how to collaborate, face rejection, take a chance, make a new friend, learn to love others who are different from them, or stand up for themselves?
We can only pray that the resilience of the American spirit is alive and well in our children and that the severity of the virus will wane. After all, they are our future.
If you know of a student with college aspirations whose family is experiencing unexpected financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic, please nominate the student to receive a free select package. Use the button below.
As more and more universities announce a test optional policy for this application season, many students and families are celebrating with the assumption that tests no longer count and that acceptances will be easier. This is a big, BIG fallacy that must be addressed so that students best position themselves going into their upcoming college applications.
First, it's important to understand what a school means by "test optional." Historically, the vast majority of universities have required an ACT or SAT score as part of the application process. The test scores along with high school GPA and rank normally carry the greatest weight in an acceptance decision. Yes, many schools consider their applicants "holistically" which means that many other factors such as the essay, recommendation letters, activities, demonstrated interest, etc. all come into play. But, we'd be delusional to think that anything matters more than grades and scores (except financial contributions, but that's a whole other blog post!).
As campuses were shut down and large group gatherings discouraged, testing has become impossible in most areas, Despite ongoing registrations, test administrations are continually being cancelled. This has meant that countless students have yet to even take an actual SAT or ACT. While there was some discussion of an online option, that has yet to manifest. Thus, there are tens of thousands of rising high school seniors preparing to apply to their colleges without a score to provide. This is why schools are being forced to go test optional for this year. Some students may not have the option of taking a test before they submit their applications.
It's important to understand that these schools (most of them) are not test-blind. In a test-blind application situation, none of the applicants are supplying test scores, so the applicants are being compared using the same measures. In a test optional situation. You may have some students submitting scores and some who aren't. And those who aren't may HAVE had the opportunity to take the test but just aren't pleased with their scores. So how are colleges going to compare students fairly?
I've been attending college admissions virtual sessions and reading up on how colleges are intending to make this shift. Overwhelmingly, I get the feeling that students who have had an opportunity to take a test, should absolutely submit their scores. In the case of students who were able to take a school-administered test at their high school, the university will likely be informed as part of the school profile provided by the counselors that the test was administered. There are few scenarios where not submitting a score (that you already have) can be advantageous.
Be sure that you are in touch with the universities on your list and are fully aware of any changes to their testing policy this year. It's important to understand that the application process is still extremely competitive, maybe even more so now than ever. It's imperative that you provide your colleges with a complete view of your capabilities and unique offerings. And, hang in there. There is much more to life than college applications, so stay safe, stay happy, and keep looking forward!
The COVID pandemic is forcing many colleges to re-think the admissions process. Here are my thoughts on what those changes may mean for your junior and the class of 2021.
When I wrote my blog on the impacts of Coronavirus on the college planning process last month, who could've imagined how quickly our world would change? Yet, here we are - at home (all of us), learning the world of Zoom and Google Hangouts while planning our next take-out. Wow. Just wow.
For my high school seniors who have unfinished seasons, missed milestones, and prom dresses hanging untouched in plastic, I can't begin to imagine how these holes in your story will be filled. You had a set of expectations and experiences that go along with earning your place as a senior in high school, and many of those will never be realized. There will likely be no prom or graduation ceremony. You may never see your favorite teacher again or some of those fringe friends you've taken for granted in all those classes you've ended up together in since elementary school. No prom king or class favorites or yearbook signing day. I know the full year closure is not yet official, but I think we all know that it seems to be inevitable. It's a loss, and as a former high school senior teacher, I feel your pain and your loss, but your story has not ended.
You will forever be the unique class of students who had a different twelfth chapter. You may not share the same prom stories or senior skip day as other seniors before you have, but that doesn't mean you should waste this blank page on Netflix and Fortnight. Write your story! Keep it going! Do things worth talking about and remembering. Make different kinds of memories. Have Facetime kickbacks with a group of friends. Play board games with your family. Take long walks at sunset in new places (with proper social distancing of course). But, don't think that because your senior year isn't ending as you expected that all is lost! Your story just has an unexpected twist.
For now, look forward to your freshman college orientation, even if it is virtual. Get to know your future roommate and start making memories with him/her in this crazy unifying experience of separation. Shop for your dorm essentials online with your mom, and savor these moments together even if you're feeling conflict in this confinement. Whatever you do, don't let this experience - this disappointment and interruption of your expectations as a graduating high school senior - distract you from your goals and your future.
Seniors, keep writing your story. I have a feeling it's going to be a really good one.
Cassie is a college admissions consultant with more than 25 years of experience in both education and advertising. She has helped hundreds of students navigate the often overwhelming application process and has students currently attending universities all over the country. Mrs. Cassie (as her students know her) has a passion for helping students find their way and spread their wings. She is married to her college sweetheart and has three boys who are all currently in college.
Well, it's official. My three college boys will have an extended spring break and online classes due to the Coronavirus. It's amazing how quickly this situation turned and how drastically it may impact some of our lives. Those of us in Houston couldn't fathom the cancellation of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, yet it happened. Now universities are cancelling classes, cities are cancelling activities, even cruise lines are cancelling sailings.
So, what does this mean for our juniors who are at the critical point in the college research and list-forming process? For one thing, campus visits will likely be restricted or eliminated along with any spring visitation events that are typically held this time of year. Also, travel to visit campuses could be impacted even if the colleges are still doing campus tours. This is a whole new experience that will most likely challenge everyone on some level.
One of my sons who had been selected for a special spring break leadership conference by a major oil and gas company will no longer be able to attend as the event has been cancelled. Internships, study abroad programs, career fairs, and conferences are all in the crosshairs right now as our society tries to digest the true dangers of COVID-19 and how it's spread. This is truly uncharted territory.
But, it's in my nature to find the silver lining. I'm a half-glass full kind of person, and I know that there will be positive things that come out of this. I encourage juniors to continue actively planning for their college applications and researching their campuses of interest. Look for the virtual tours on the college website, and use sites such as Niche to learn as much as possible about the universities on your list. If it's not a big inconvenience, take a road trip and at least drive through the campus, or reach out to the area representative for a meeting or phone call. This is an uncertain time for many of us, but I'm convinced that "this too shall pass."
I'm including a link below that has virtual tours of many colleges. Also, I offer virtual college consulting as well. I can't imagine this all coming to that, but I do have many local clients who prefer the convenience of online sessions even when we don't have a pandemic. Online college application and essay workshops will be offered this summer as well. Click here if you would like to be put on a list for future registration information.
Let's all just take a deep breath, and keep life in perspective. Maybe we won't be going to the rodeo this year, but a walk on the beach sounds nice or a trip to the zoo. Hey, I know I'm going to enjoy the extra time with my college boys, even if they will be busy with online classes.
Here we go again. Another application season of countless Texas A&M rejections. Well, they aren't full rejections since most applicants that I'm aware of are at least being offered PTA, but for the kids hoping that they'd get a full admit, it's heartbreaking news. And, it's only going to get worse.
In 2010 about 23,000 first-time students applied to Texas A&M. This year 36,000+ students applied. The hard reality for many Aggie legacies is that they are now competing with a lot more people for those coveted freshman spots. And, the competition is getting tougher and tougher.
This class was the last to have the academic automatic admission policy whereby students in the 1st quarter with a 1360 SAT or 30 ACT (with minimum subscore requirements) were automatically accepted. While the move to a completely holistic review process, similar to that of UT-Austin, may help some students, it's my belief that this is just a reflection of the necessity to control numbers and retain flexibility in admitting others with other than academic credentials.
I wouldn't be surprised if it's not too far in the future that Texas A&M is allowed to lower its auto-admit cap based on Texas House Bill 588 (otherwise known as the 10% rule). Last year, 63% of the incoming freshman were ranked in the top 10% while 92% were in the top quarter. The bill allows for a cap at 75%.
The great news is that there are plenty of other great universities with great traditions and programs. Check out my blog from this time last year on this same topic and the other options recommended.
It's the start of application season for current juniors, the class of 2021, and calculated planning is key to creating the greatest possible opportunities...not to mention keeping peace within the family too! Texas applications open as early as July 1st, and the process can often seem overwhelming. I offer comprehensive college application planning and preparation (including coaching on the essays) both in-person and online. I still have a few spots left in my class of 2021 applicant pool and offer a free initial consultation.
I am a wife, mom, and educator. I love learning and helping others learn. Few things are more rewarding than helping kids find their way.