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College Talk Blog

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Safety schools?

Posted on June 28, 2016 at 11:48 PM Comments comments (308)
This afternoon a student who is in the middle range of GPA and test scores told me he was applying to two large southern universities as safety schools. I had to explain to him that these are not necessarily safety schools for him. He was surprised because his family and friends told him that anyone could get in to those colleges. I can't think of any college you could accurately describe in those terms anymore.

Most schools that parents think are safety schools are not. The level of competition for college admission is changing so rapidly that even student impressions of colleges in terms of ease of admission are often outdated.

When parents of this year's rising high school seniors went to college, few colleges had honors programs, fewer students were applying to colleges and the process was much, much easier. Current college bound students do several times the volume of work their parents had to do to get in to college. And safety schools? That term is falling out of favor. Now the term is whether a college is a good fit or good match for a student.

College is worth it

Posted on May 26, 2016 at 10:40 PM Comments comments (52)
Parents often ask whether a post-secondary education is still a good investment. They ask that because of the high cost of college and because everyone knows at least one family who has an adult child who has graduated from college but still living at home.

Studies indicate that students who did not go to college are not better off economically than those who did. College graduates make, on average, more than $30 per hour while high school graduates earn approximately $16 per hour. In addition to financial gain, a college education improves quality of life by equipping graduates to manage their lives, their money and careers.

College is Tough for Today's Teens

Posted on February 1, 2015 at 9:25 PM Comments comments (0)
Today's college admission competition is not your daddy's Buick. What used to pass for great High school GPA's and standardized test scores pales in comparison to what today's high school senior needs to have to have a chance at admission to many state colleges and universities. Notice I said state colleges and universities and not flagship schools or the most selective schools. 

The rising number of parents who encourage their children to apply to the state universities in their state to save on tuition and transportation has caused competition to increase. Faced with more competition for seats, colleges have a higher level of GPA and test scores to choose from. So a college that 10 years ago accepted students with a 3.2 gpa, might now only accept students with a 3.7 gpa.

Parents often still think of their state U as accepting the gpa's of a decade ago.  So they may have encouraged their children to achieve that benchmark only to find out too late that it is not good enough. Most ninth and tenth graders and their parents I talk to are unaware of the challenge that lies ahead.

The best defense against rising competition for college is to start early preparing children to do their best and to participate in programs that are available to them to increase their skills. When the benchmark for kids is their best as opposed to an artificial achievement ceiling, they are less likely to have regrets later because they have done their best.

College Myth #5

Posted on February 17, 2014 at 5:19 PM Comments comments (34)
You don't have to go to classes in college...unless you want to pass your courses, keep your scholarships or stay enrolled in your college. A REALLY long time ago, students could get away with not going to their college classes IF they had a way of getting their class notes AND their professor had made it clear that there was no penalty for not attending classes. Today, a student who does not attend classes is likely to lose his place at his university.

In the good old days when the current myth that you don't have to attend classes was born, many colleges did not require professors to take class roll in every class. Fast forwarding to today, the federal government requires colleges to keep student attendance records for financial aid purposes. Students who don't attend classes can lose their financial aid. Some colleges automatically withdraw students who are not attending classes.

Another reason that colleges like to know that you are going to classes is that the federal government keeps statistics on the percentage of students who graduate on time. There is a correlation between attendance and academic success.

An unpleasant side effect of not attending classes and being withdrawn is that the student could be in a situation where the college still charges him for the cost of the entire term at the same time that the financial aid and scholarships are pro-rated or withdrawn. That can result in the student owing the college money.

College Myth #4

Posted on February 13, 2014 at 2:16 PM Comments comments (82)
Parents and students worry about where they will be accepted. They are often confused by the statistics published in a variety of places about the grade point averages and standardized test scores related to who has been admitted to a particular college. Too often, they avoid applying to colleges where they could be accepted.

For most colleges, it is a myth that you have to have a specific gpa or standardized test score to be admitted. Most colleges look at the student in much more detail than that. Factors such as which school a student attends, the grading scale and the difficulty level of the courses that the student is taking are taken into account when looking at grade point averages. While standardized test scores are important, college admissions professionals say that grades are more reliable predictors of success.

Colleges also look at the application the student submits, his essay and his extracurricular and volunteer track record when considering a student. While gpa and test score data is helpful in determining how a student measures up to the average admitted student at a college, there is more to consider. Don't sell your student short over a test score.  When concerned about competitiveness level of your child, talk to a professional who has the experience needed to provide a balanced view. Most importantly, don't allow your anxiety level to increase as the result of anecdotes from other families.

College Myth #3

Posted on February 11, 2014 at 4:52 PM Comments comments (124)
I like to look at college from a long term view. The view that ends with the successful graduation of the student. I help students choose colleges with that in mind. I am a strong believer that graduating on time is related to entering a college with a well-defined curriculum. Myth #3 is about college majors.

Students and parents tell me that they are advised not to worry about college major and that it is better to start college as an undeclared student because they have plenty of time to decide. The problem with this popular idea is that it can later cause a student to transfer to another college because the major the student "decides" he wants later may not be offered by the college he has entered. So it is a myth that it is better to enter college undeclared. Needing to transfer can cause the loss of a renewable scholarship offered by the admissions department of the college the student presently attends. Such scholarships are less likely as a transfer student.

The other related myth is that you can sneak into a major later. Some students enter a college as an undeclared student in order to avoid being denied admission to the college if they declared a specific program. The problem with entering a college with plans to later enter a major for which you feel would get you rejected for admission is that it is likely that you will be denied entry into the program after entering the college. It is much better to enter a college and know that you are going to be highly likely to be accepted into your preferred program.

College Myth #2

Posted on February 5, 2014 at 11:33 PM Comments comments (42)

Middle and upper income parents often think they do not need to complete the federal FAFSA form for their children who are planning to attend college. They believe this because they know that they are less likely to qualify for need-based government grant aid. What they do not realize is that government education loans also require that they complete the FAFSA.

Another reason they need to complete the FAFSA is that an increasing number of merit-based scholarship applications require a copy of the Student Aid Report generated by the FAFSA.

I like to think of the FAFSA as a family's notification to their university financial aid office that they would like to be considered for any aid for which they qualify. Regardless of income level, most parents would like any financial assistance possible.

Filing a FAFSA is quick and relatively easy and is best completed by any family that would like to be considered by any type of scholarship, loan or grant assistance. State financial aid administrator associations often offer free help with FAFSA's in many communities.

College myth # 1

Posted on January 29, 2014 at 12:30 AM Comments comments (96)
Because college information and processes are so complex and change so frequently, there are many myths about college that parents believe to be fact. One myth that I was able to debunk this week for a family was their belief that their kids would be given in-state status (for tuition purposes) at an out-of-state college if they earn an SAT score above a certain score.

Each state has a domicile law which governs who can be classified as an in-state student. Domicile is usually determined by where the family of the student resides and other related factors like where they register their cars and pay taxes. Domicile laws differ from state to state.

Although colleges in most states can't give you in-state status if you are an out of state student, some colleges award scholarships that reduce tuition to the same level as an in-state student. Students should look at the scholarship page on the website for colleges of interest to see if there are scholarships that they can apply for that will help reduce tuition.

There are  situations where a student might pay reduced tuition rates as an out of state student. The Southern Region Education Board Academic Common Market has enabled students to pursue out-of-state college degrees at discounted tuition rates, through agreements among the states and colleges and universities for 35 years.
Presently there are 1,900 undergraduate and graduate degree programs available in the 16 participating states. For more information, go to