Family Friendly Schools – Where are They?

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Would you be interested in finding affordable schools?

Do you have any idea how to identify “financially friendly” institutions?

Don’t focus on schools that provide the largest aid packages.

Look for schools offering the greatest reduction in the cost-of-attendance – those that meet the largest percentage of financial need, those whose graduating seniors bear the lowest amounts of student debt, and those that award the largest amounts of merit aid.

When researching schools, be sure to answer as many of these questions as possible:

  1. What percentage of students have their need fully met?
  2. What percentage of students receive gift aid, both need-based and merit-based? How much?
  3. What percentage of students received loans and work-study awards? What was the average amount of that aid?
  4. What is the average indebtedness of recent graduates?
  5. What are the number and types of non-need awards?
  6. What is the percentage of students graduating within four years?
  7. Does the school reduce gift aid after freshman year?

The closer your GPA and test scores are to the top GPAs and test scores of the most recent freshman class, the more likely you are to receive a generous aid award.  Just don’t get your heart set on any particular school.

Instead, be sure to have a number of schools to which you’d be comfortable attending. Finally, look for other factors that may impact your financial aid award. Those include:

  1. How do they handle private scholarships and grants? Will they reduce unmet need and loans, will they reduce gift aid, or will it be a combination?
  2. How large are their endowment funds? The stronger the endowment, the greater the likelihood of a generous award package.
  3. Does the school limit or eliminate student loans. Some schools do so.

In any event, if you haven’t started your family’s college planning campaign, there’s no better time than now.

Contact our Professional College Planners to schedule the first meeting of your family’s campaign!

Developing a “Stand Out” Admissions Application


Admissions officers (AOs) at schools throughout the country pore over hundreds of entrance application every year. What helps them to choose one over another?

How do you take a blank admissions application and transform it with your personality, achievements, and enthusiasm?

Be serious about the process.

Give yourself plenty of time to complete it. You’ll want time to double-check and allow others to review it for you. Stay within the word limit wherever stated. Don’t include any materials not specifically requested, especially no gimmicks (AOs find them irritating!).

“Hit the ground running” with essays and short answers.

Readers enjoy a great opening line; attention is captured with a small “slice of life” story. Write about how specific instances in your life affected you.

Demonstrate your knowledge about the school.

Nothing is more irritating (other than gimmicks) than using the wrong school name, reciting incorrect facts about the school, or essays/short answers so vague the reader has no idea why you want to attend. Be sure about the facts and identify why you wish to attend that particular school. Don’t create the impression you’ve submitted a cookie-cutter application.

Mention the interest you’ve demonstrated.

How interested are you in that school? Mention visits you’ve made and conversations with school reps, professors, and student leaders. Show you’ve pored over the school’s website by revealing information not easily found.

Other ways to stand out.

Apply early, include a resume of your accomplishments (be sure the school will accept it), and manage your social media (don’t give the school a reason to say no).

Find the right schools for your son and/or daughter at the right price for your budget.  Contact our Professional College Planners for assistance with your family’s college planning campaign.

College Website Goldmining

Much can be accomplished via a college website visit.

You can take a virtual tour, explore the social scene, learn about the professors, and even read the student paper.

Where do you begin?

Admissions. Schedule a visit or take a virtual tour. Check out the calendar of events and, if possible, attend an information session for potential applicants.

About the School. Learn about the history of the college, famous alumni, awards and honors—even the surrounding community. Plus, the mission statement can reveal qualities that make the college unique.

Financial Aid. Learn how and when to apply for financial aid; discover what scholarships and work-study opportunities the school offers.

News. Press releases and news stories illuminate the image of the school and what it values.

 Catalog. The online catalog lists majors, graduation requirements, and courses offered

Departments and Majors. Most schools have web pages, even entire websites, devoted to academic departments. There you can learn about the faculty, current research projects, support services, course requirements, and even financial aid targeted at majors in that field.

Study Abroad. If an international study experience is desired, be sure the school offers study abroad programs.

Volunteering/Internships. Many students report that volunteer work and internships are among their most meaningful college experiences. Discover what the school has to offer.

Student Newspapers/Campus Publications. Articles written by current students shed light on campus politics, social life, values, and the school’s collective sense of humor.

Diverse Communities. Look for a section on diversity, or look for diversity in pages about student organizations. See if the school has a statement supporting diversity.

Unusual Links. Look for links to unique and interesting experiences on the campus. This may show the character and personality of the college community.

Alumni. What do graduates do with their lives? Do you identify with their stories? Is there an active alumni community with opportunities for networking after you graduate?

Activities and Organizations. Student groups can range from religious to political to just plain fun. They provide a great way to meet people who share your interests and reflect the values and interests of the students.

The Arts. Even if you do not possess a single creative bone, attending performances—from fine art to theater to music—will enrich your college experience.

Sports and Recreation. From rock climbing to folk dancing to soccer, a roster of interesting activities means more options to relax and meet people.

 Student Services. Look for information about health care, technology, counseling, tutoring, and career support. You should also find descriptions of on-campus housing and residential life.

New Students. Sections devoted to incoming freshmen can demonstrate how the school welcomes its newest students and supports them during their first-year transition.

Employment. See if the school has a job placement office or career center and check out the possibilities.

Contact our Professional College Planners for assistance in finding the right school at the right price!

Factors Impacting the College Experience

While cost, location, size, weather, academics (not necessarily in that order!!) are obvious factors to consider, others are not so obvious.

It’s the not-so-obvious factors that may have an incredibly profound impact on the college experience…

Class Availability. How easy is it to schedule the classes you need? If you can’t register for them when needed, graduation may be delayed.

Support Services. Academic and personal issues might arise. What support services are available (e.g., academic advising, health services, counseling)? How easy are they to access?

Class Size Calculation. If important to you, find out how the school calculates class size. How they are calculated can make a big difference in how you view the school.

Applying What You Learn. If you’d like to learn outside the classroom, ask about service work or internship opportunities.

Outside World Interaction. If you’d prefer not getting stuck in the campus “bubble,” ask how often students volunteer in the community or interact through study and service work abroad.

Weekends. Do students stay around? Is it a commuter campus? Weekends and other downtimes should be a vibrant part of the college experience.

Break-Time. What relaxation spots are nearby (e.g., coffee houses, theaters, restaurants)? Can you head out of town with little trouble? Off-campus experiences, if only for a few hours, can make a huge impact on the experience.

Alumni Networks. How active is the alumni association? This can be quite important in finding internships, developing contacts, and post-graduation networking.

College Mission. While rarely addressed, the school’s mission can strongly influence values, culture, and future direction.

Diversity. If you can’t visit for a first-hand impression, the student body demographics should be available on the school’s website and in its profile on CollegeData.

Contact our Professional College Planners for assistance in choosing the right schools at the right prices for your family.




Athletic Scholarship Misconceptions

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Contrary to the prevailing beliefs of parents of today’s high school athletes, athletic scholarships are rare.

Even rarer – the “full ride” athletic scholarship…

Only the “head count” collegiate sports, found only in NCAA Division I, offer full rides. Only two men’s sports (football and basketball) offer such scholarships, while but four women’s sports (basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, and tennis) offer them.

Every other Division 1 sport, every other NCAA Division (II and III), and the NAIA sports are equivalency sports. This means that a particular sport has only so many scholarships to divide among the participating athletes.

One of the biggest misconceptions – everyone gets a full ride.

So, parents…

Let’s clear up a few things…

Everyone on an athletic scholarship receives a full ride.

Absolutely untrue, as indicated above. You can check out the numbers on the Athletic Recruiting tab on our website.

Scholarships are only available for football, basketball, and baseball.

Again, untrue. Scholarships are available for just about any sport, from golf, to field hockey, to rowing. Weigh your options. You may receive more free money from a school with a large endowment where you won’t play a sport than you might playing for a school with less money for aid.

It must be Division I or nothing at all.

While Division I schools are the most well-known, there are many superb programs at the other levels. If you really want to play in college, go to a school where you know you’ll have the opportunity to play. Even if you make a DI team, you may not play at all during your four years in school.

Good grades aren’t needed for a college scholarship.

Absolutely false. A letter of intent frequently stipulates a minimum GPA must be maintained. Moreover, why would a college coach recruit a player who may not succeed academically? If a player can’t perform well academically at the high school level no matter how athletically gifted, a coach typically won’t award a scholarship to a player who might lose eligibility. After all, his job depends on the recruit’s success, both in the sport and in the classroom.

So, mom and dad… WHAT IS YOUR PLAN B?

Contact our Professional College Planners for assistance in designing and implementing your Plan B.

College Planning Jobs for Parents

When it comes to planning for and getting into college, parents naturally want to help.

Unfortunately, many parents have no idea how to help.

The landscape’s completely different than it used to be (20-30 years ago!), confusing, bewildering, even more than a bit overwhelming!

Now, while getting into college is the student’s job, there are a few key areas in which a parent can play a role (without screwing things up!)…


Schools value students who commit to an interest, while showing initiative and leadership. Whether through bake sales, carpools, or from the bleachers, parents help by supporting that commitment. And, when disappointment rears its ugly head, parents both can provide reassurance when needed and be ready to celebrate the arrival of good news.

Chief Financial Officer

Parents must understand their finances, knowing what they can afford to pay and what they can expect their student to pay. Most parents have absolutely no idea what they can and can’t afford.

And, they must keep that number handy as their student considers both where to apply and where to attend.

Parents also must know what financial aid they might receive from, as well as the potential net price of, any potential school. “Sticker price” and net price often are two very different numbers.

Travel Agent

No brochure or website can truly capture the feeling of a particular school. An on-site visit may be one of the greatest gifts a parent can give. Such a visit can be all the difference in making a successful college choice.

Database Administrator

Parents can assist through researching key college data, as well as through tracking deadlines to maintaining lists of potential schools.

Copy Editor

Parents should offer an editorial eye, checking for proper grammar, errors, and coherence, helping to ensure a well-written, evocative essay that just may impress an admissions officer.

College Parent

Perhaps, most of all, parents should be parents.

Tackle the freshman paperwork – the enrollment forms, housing applications, tuition invoices.

Assist in the move-in, setting up the dorm room, offer practical advice; but, don’t be over-bearing.

And, most importantly, work with your student to discuss establish a budget, set up a bank account, and acquire a credit card for emergencies (and be sure to establish exactly what qualifies as an emergency!).

Overwhelmed?  Could use some assistance with planning?  Contact our Professional College Planners to schedule the first meeting in your family’s college planning campaign.

Is ED Right for you?


Yes, I mean Early Decision…

Sure… it can cut down on the wait, relieving the pressure associated with the college admissions process. And, you’ll know your fate before winter break.

What are the trade-offs?

Do you have a better chance of being accepted?

Do you really want to be “stuck” attending that school if a better school or a greater award of financial aid comes along later?

How does ED work?

You can apply for early decision to one school only. If accepted:

• You MUST attend that school;
• You MUST withdraw all other applications already submitted; and,
• You MAY NOT apply elsewhere.

The only exception – if the school does not meet your financial need, you may decline admission and apply elsewhere.

Because you must enroll if accepted, the worst step you can take is to apply ED from a school you know little about. Be sure both that you have visited the school (and others) numerous times and that your exhaustive research has you utterly convinced that school is the absolute best school for you.

If your top-choice school offers ED and you feel prepared and ready to apply, GO FOR IT!

But, there are times when applying ED may not be the best option for you or your family.

If receiving a large financial aid award is critical, you are better off applying regular decision. Doing so allows for the comparison and negotiation of aid offers before choosing.

And, if there is a chance of improving grades and standardized test scores, you also will be better off applying regular decision.

Finally, applying ED does not necessarily boost your chances of admission. Early applicants often are better qualified than regular applicants.

When must I decide to apply ED?

The application process for ED begins months earlier than the process for regular decision and standardized tests must be completed no later than October.

If you apply ED and don’t make the cut, the school may add your name to the regular admission applicant pool. If it doesn’t, usually you may be free to reapply under regular admission (but this is not always the case!). Be sure to check the admissions policies of the school.

If you feel you may need assistance with this issue or one of the plethora of other issues your family may face during the college planning years, contact our Professional College Planners to schedule the first meeting in your family’s college planning campaign.

The Dreaded EFC…

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Most parents we see have no idea what an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is or how it impacts the financial aid for which they qualify.

Once they see what it means, which typically occurs soon after they meet us, they’re even more depressed!!

And, after they’ve engaged our services and we’ve begun helping them learn the game of admissions and financial aid, they start understanding how the schools regard the EFC and how they can make a more informed, perhaps more affordable, college choice.

The EFC is the minimum amount the schools (and the government) expect the family to pay for a year of college. It’s calculated annually, based on the financial information provided.

Schools subtract the EFC from their published annual cost-of-attendance (COA) to calculate a family’s financial need. This, in turn, determines the amount of aid for which a family qualifies.

To calculate the EFC, the government uses the Federal Methodology (FM) formula. Schools must use the FM result when awarding federal and state aid. Most schools use the FM when determining eligibility for aid from their own resources (e.g., endowment funds).

A group of private schools use the Institutional Methodology (IM) formula when allocating institutional aid. The IM considers a variety of additional factors, such as the value of the family’s home and how much a non-custodial parent is expected to provide toward the cost.

Unfortunately, the EFC will not necessarily be what a family ends up paying for an education. The real cost, or net price, will be the EFC plus any need not covered by the school and any aid received in loans or work-study.

Unmet need will be met from the family’s resources. Loans will need to be repaid.

The true cost of an education includes every dollar you spend out-of-pocket to pay for school, either now or later.

Learn how to pay the least out-of-pocket for the best education available to your student. Learn how to reduce your EFC and increase your family’s eligibility for aid.

Contact our Professional College Planners to schedule your family’s first college planning campaign meeting.