Speaking of nuances, this video shows how middle class and wealthy folks can get more merit aid from colleges. This presentation was done in North Carolina, but the information transfers to other states as well. We just need to substitute our own state universities in when he talks about North Carolina's public universities (except the UNC-Chapel Hill meets full demonstrated need for all students admitted). Low income folks have fewer options. If low-income students are very strong students with some rigorous courses, they should definitely apply to colleges that promise to meet full demonstrated need. There are about 80 colleges in the United States in this category. They are also the most selective colleges in the country, which means they are the hardest to get into. In this video he uses Gettysburg College as one of his example colleges. Gettysburg offers both need-based aid and generous merit aid. Usually, colleges that meet full need offer no merit aid or much less merit aid than the majority of colleges in the states. ScholarFits video
If you want to hear excellent and detailed information about the college admission process as it relates to highly selective colleges, check out this podcast. This father and son team did an especially good job at not trying to reduce this process too simplistically. It's also engaging and fun to listen to. (Note: this is not about most colleges that accept most of their applicants). Start with episode 1 in their College Admission Series(CAS). Hold Me Back podcast
This video covers FAFSA issues and paying for college. Let me know if you have questions. This was done by Jennifer Satalino at The College Place in Portland. FAFSA video
The CSS Profile is a financial aid form required by many selective colleges and universities. If there is nothing unremarkable about your tax or financial situation, it just takes time and patience to navigate this document. Uploading all the required documents to the IDOC system which appears after you have submitted CSS Profile is confusing and requires good technical skills.You will need all documents in PDF form. I help students with this form every year. For divorced families or any number of other situations, this form can be extremely frustrating. Calling the CollegeBoard (creators of the form) for assistance is usually not very helpful and exacerbates the frustration. Colleges refer you back to the CollegeBoard if you have problems, because they are not experts in filling out the form as well.
Low income students should be eligible for a fee waiver. It is automatic if the family earns under $45,000. Students are also eligible for a fee waiver if they are on free/reduced price lunch and registered for or used the waiver for an SAT test. Occasionally, a college will give a student a code to waive the fee. This document is required in order to receive financial aid from the college, which is where most of the financial aid comes from.This document should not stop students from getting the financial aid they deserve.
This article describes the difficulty of the CSS Profile. Please call me and I will help you. The Most Onerous Form in College Admissions
This is an excellent workshop allowing rising seniors to get their essays completed early in the application process. This will make the college application process go much more smoothly. It is best to do much of the application work during the summer before senior year. Click here for more information: College Essay Workshop
This wonderful article is an old one from Swarthmore College near Philadelphia. I'm in agreement with its principles. The liberal arts include math, chemistry, literature, languages, philosophy, history, sociology, physics, biology, art, theatre, speech, writing, economics, geography, political science and many other topics. The point in studying these topics is to learn to communicate effective and to learn to think for yourself. You need to learn to determine what information is true and which is not. You also need to learn that many topics do not have simple answers, but encompass tons of nuance. I believe that the results of serious and open-minded study are the basis for good citizenship. It is important to continue learning during your entire lifetime. This article says all this in a more nuanced manner. I hope you enjoy it. It's called The Usefulness of Uselessness.
Here are some tips from Adam Sapp, Director of Admissions at Pomona College.
Keep a short accounting of how you are spending your time. This is a moment where everything counts. Keep a reading list of the books you read for fun. List extra time spent babysitting siblings unexpectedly. Did you work hard to call grandma a bit more? Jot that down. Make a resume of summer programs admitted to or summer events you planned to attend that were cancelled due to Covid. Draft some reflections on how you developed ways to cope and manage during this difficult time. I don’t know if you’ll use ALL of this; I can’t promise that, but I do think this fall that colleges may find creative ways to ask students about this stay-at-home time on the application. If and when they do, your students will be glad they have some previously created documents to refer to for accuracy and to help them reflect.
This is a great article by Julie Lythcott-Haims former Admissions Dean at Stanford University. I disagree with her suggestion for Plan B, 2a. If seniors take a gap year and take college classes at the local community college, they will lose the financial aid they got as a first year student. Check with your specific college. Most financial aid goes to first years. If they apply as a transfer student, it is highly likely that they will get much less financial aid. For some colleges, especially highly-selective institutions, it's much more competitive to apply as a transfer student.
Here's Julie's take:
To Go or Not To Go: That is the Question
How to talk about starting college amid COVID-19
April 25, 2020
You’re not alone in stressing about this: The college decision is a big deal in any year. But in a year of pandemic, where data is imperfect and no one really knows when life will return to “normal,” it makes for a lot of confusion, bewilderment, and anxiety. If you’re feeling any of these things, please know that you’re not alone, your feelings are valid, and I’m here to help.
There are actually two separate topics to ponder: “Which admission offer does your kid want to accept?” And “What do they want to do if their college is only open virtually in the fall?” I think the questions have to be answered in that order; choose a school regardless of COVID-19 and with that decision made you can move on to the second conversation about contingency planning in light of COVID-19.
Before analyzing the second topic, step back and look at what the colleges are facing this fall. They may:
So, what does the student want to do if it’s Plan B? Reasonable responses include:
B1. Great, sign me up, virtual learning is fine with me and it won’t be like this forever!
If this is your kid’s response, and you agree that you want to pay those dollars for that experience, great, go for it. The schools will be thrilled to have your kid because they need those tuition dollars to help them through this difficult time. So, go ahead and put down your deposit (check the deadline – many schools are pushing it to June 1 to give you more time to decide) and feel confident that no matter what, your kid is starting college this fall. (This is the second-most expensive option—Tuition but no room + board. But note, the schools know that families are questioning whether it’s fair to be charged full tuition for a distance learning experience, and literally as I write this, schools are figuring out whether they can afford to discount tuition accordingly. UC Berkeley announced on 4/23 that it will NOT discount tuition, for example. So, monitor the schools you’re looking at – this issue of full/discounted tuition should be settled relatively soon.)
B2. Hey this isn’t what I worked my tail off for, I want the full college experience (or hey I’m not paying full tuition for online learning)!
What we’re talking about here is the desire to put off going to college until the institution can welcome you literally with open arms, otherwise known as “deferring.” The colleges are afraid to allow this – if not enough students enroll, the college may have trouble staying afloat. (Some may not allow deferrals, or may limit the number of deferrals granted, for this reason.) But at the end of the day, it’s your money and your life. It’s perfectly valid to feel this way, and if you do, I think you have two options (the philosophy behind both of which is you don’t want to sit around and do nothing for a year because that will definitely set you back):
B3. Wait, what? I’m starting college but still living with my parents? I need to get out of here!
For the really mature high school senior, getting on with adult life may be the primary imperative. If this describes your kid, you might explore the idea of them renting a place near the college with housemates who attend the same school, so they can get to know and care about the local community while taking classes online. If this option is chosen, the student will effectively be joining a new germ circle with their housemates. i.e. If we as a society are still “sheltering in place” they will not be allowed to go back and forth between their new place and their childhood home (aka your house). So, this is a commitment! But for the right student, it’s an exciting opportunity to continue growing, maturing, and building skills despite the pandemic. If this is your situation, put down your deposit by the deadline (again, check to see if that date has changed) and in a few months start looking at places to rent in the town in which the college is located. (This is the most expensive option—Potentially full tuition (unless they discount it) plus the cost of off campus housing, groceries etc. Although, note, off-campus housing is usually cheaper than on-campus housing except in cities with a very high cost of living.)
B4. It’s too soon for me to decide. I need to wait and see what happens.
This is valid. If this is what your kid is feeling, they can put down a deposit at the place they honestly will most likely attend. The deposit holds their spot, and they will not get the deposit back if they decide not to enroll after all. Please note, it’s unethical to put down a deposit if you know you probably won’t go there – so don’t let your kid be that person!
This is a great letter to juniors, written by the Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts.
Link is HERE.
Over the past several weeks, I have spent a great deal of time considering what you must be going through as covid-19 has spread across the globe. As if junior year isn’t already stressful enough, now you have to learn remotely, grapple with a pandemic and worry about your basic health and safety. Some of you may be dealing with food and housing insecurity, and mental health and wellness issues; others are impacted by the coronavirus directly as our country goes through a dangerous surge in cases. I hope you are managing and getting the support you need.
Meanwhile, your friends in the senior class are making difficult decisions as they finish their college searches. I’ve seen first-hand how difficult this is for them. But starting your college search in the midst of a global pandemic while you’re practicing isolation and social distancing with no clear end in sight? You’re facing a whole different set of challenges; I feel for you.
So many of you are calling and writing to me and my colleagues in admissions and financial aid offices across the country. “How will pass/fail grades affect my application?”
“Will I be able to visit schools?”
“Will I get credit for my AP courses?”
“My SAT/ACT testing date was canceled. Now I might have to take these test in the Fall as I’m catching up on school work and applying to schools? And they might be online?”
“I don’t know where to start...”
I am writing to you not because I believe I have all of the answers, but because I know that you have these questions.
The college admissions process has always brought with it a high level of uncertainty and anxiety for most students. Of- ten, applicants and their families are puzzled by admissions decisions. Every college has its own requirements, values, and decision-making process. The process lacks a feedback loop, often leaving students disappointed and wondering “why?”
The covid-19 pandemic has added a level of uncertainty never experienced by students wondering how to navigate the college admissions process; that’s potentially the hardest aspect for you to wrap your head around.
Uncertainty marks today, tomorrow, and the foreseeable future. But I encourage you to accept what you can’t change and try to focus on the things that you can.
Take care of yourself. Do everything in your power to eat well, exercise, get the rest that you need and, of course, wash your hands and don’t touch your face. Keep up with the passions that make you who you are. While colleges need to see your transcript, your essay, and letters of recommendation, we’re not admitting a collection of credentials, we’re seeking out the people who we want to welcome into our community.
Look out for your friends and family. Nothing is more important than the people you care about. Support those who you are living with and be sure to reach out to friends and family who are remote. It’s easy to become isolated and focus on ourselves and our immediate surroundings. Don’t underestimate the positive impact that a phone call, a letter, or an email can have on the people you care most about.
Do your best to focus on your education. I mean what I say: do the best that you can given the circumstances. But don’t try to do more than that. Far too often, I speak with students in the midst of the college admissions process who are striving for perfection or who want to “please” me or my university. There is no “perfect;” your education should be driven by your passion and interests, not by what you think colleges want. It’s okay to struggle. This is es- pecially true in a time where you are likely learning in a remote environment and may be lacking accommodations, services, and the individual face time with your teachers that you might normally have.
Finally, here are a few things you should not worry about:
“Take care of yourself. Look out for your friends and family.
Focus on your education to the best of your ability. The rest of it?
We’ll figure it out together.”
Pass/Fail grades: There are countless ways that high schools assess students’ performance. Admissions professionals see a range of grading point scales (4.0, 4.5, 5.0, 12.0, 100, etc.), narrative transcripts and, yes, pass/fail. Our goal is not to set expectations for your school; instead, we’re responsible for understanding your school’s grading system.
SAT/ACT: They don’t matter as much as you probably think they do. High-stakes standardized test scores have always been a point of contention for many of us in admissions. These scores don’t provide as much value as your high school transcript, and they have a problematic correlation with family income, sex, and race and ethnicity. Admissions offices never “need” a test score to make a sound admission decision. Now more than ever, schools are stepping away from this antiquated metric. Well over 1,000 schools had test-optional admissions policies before the covid-19 pandemic. In the wake of canceled SAT and ACT test dates, dozens more are rapidly eliminating these test score requirements for you and your classmates. The College Board just announced a plan to squeeze in additional test dates during your senior year and possibly host an online SAT. ACT responded that it will be offering an online version of its test. But these plans ignore what’s most important to all of you. Save your energy and focus for more important pursuits.
The Admissions Committee: The faceless group that sits around a long table discussing your greatest achievements
and tries to identify critical flaws in your character and academic record? That’s a caricature of the real process and the dedicated admissions professionals who are eagerly looking forward to supporting you through your college search process and advocating on your behalf. The past five weeks I have sat in daily on Zoom meetings with an incredible group of people who are spending their days thinking about how they can support you. They are dealing with remote working issues that include caring for children and families, sharing work spaces with partners and roommates, and dealing with annoying (but adorable) interruptions by pets and children. Their lives and work aren’t normal, and they know that yours aren’t either. As a result, our admissions team — and others as well — are coming up with innovative ways to connect with you and to provide you with the information that’s critical for your college search. This is playing out at universities across the country. We are here for you. Call, email, connect on social media. We are here.
The rest of it? We’ll figure it out together. Be safe and be well.
Andrew B. Palumbo,
Dean of Admissions & Financial Aid
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Consider signing up for this wonderful essay workshop offered every June by the Oregon Writing Project. Students procrastinate most about writing essays. This workshop offers dedicated time in a group of peers with professional guidance to get it done. https://graduate.lclark.edu/programs/oregon_writing_project/events/writing-the-college-essay/
Kathy Garrett has been a school counselor for over 30 years, and a college counselor for well over a decade.