Every parent is all too familiar with the high cost of sending a child to college, but many people do not consider that the admissions process can get expensive too – unless you adopt some cost-cutting strategies. Jean Chatzky, the Today Show’s personal finance expert, reports that the average family spends $3,500 preparing and applying to college. But she has a number of tips for bringing that cost down. For example, are you interested in a campus tour? Narrow down your choices through virtual online tours. Then when it’s time to travel on site, see if you can combine the trip with your family vacation or business meeting. Another cost-cutting strategy is to avoid applying to literally dozens of colleges, which can get expensive in application fees alone. Ask your child’s high school counselor to narrow down the choices to schools that are both academically and financially feasible. Last but not least, consider the costs of standardized test-taking and preparation. By planning ahead and preparing well in advance, you can avoid many of the extra fees associated with testing. Or consider a university that has opted to go test-optional, Chatzky suggests. That way, you can send in your scores only if you do well, and avoid the angst – and expense — of taking the test again and again if your score is average or below.
Archive for November, 2009
The number of test-optional colleges and universities is on the rise with one-third of all accredited schools now no longer requiring applicants to submit SAT and ACT scores to be considered for admission. Agnes Scott, Assumption, Sacred Heart, SUNY Pottsdam and Washington & Jefferson are the latest to join the ranks of test-optional schools, bringing the total to more than 830, according to an article in the FairTest November newsletter. In explaining why the faculty of Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Georgia voted to go test-optional, English Professor Christine Cozzens said: “Going test optional is evidence of our confidence in our highly individualized admission process and our desire to see every applicant as a whole, complex person with many gifts and qualities and not as numbers.” Assumption College, which joined the College of the Holy Cross and Worcester Polytechnic Institute to form a cluster of highly selective, test-optional schools in Worcester, Massachusetts pointed to research that showed standardized tests were not a good predictor of success. An in-house study found that “high school GPA (cumulative grade point average) is, in fact, a better predictor of academic success at Assumption,” said Evan Lipp, Assumption Vice President for Enrollment Management. Assumption’s findings reflect. A comprehensive study by FairTest — Test Scores Do Not Equal Merit: Enhancing Equity & Excellence in College Admissions by Deemphasizing SAT and ACT Results — supports Assumption’s findings. With the numbers changing so rapidly, FairTest now is also making an updated list of test-optional schools available online.
There’s no doubt about it. Writing college essays is stressful! After all, it’s no easy task to answer questions like “describe the world you come from … and how (it) has shaped your dreams and aspirations.” (University of California). But what if you were asked, “How do you feel about Wednesday?” (University of Chicago) or “What outrages you?” (Wake Forest University) or even “Are we alone?” (Tufts). Katie Naymon, a junior at the Laurel School in Cleveland, blogs about these and other offbeat college essay topics on Mental Floss, and includes her own commentary about what motivates admissions officers to take such an unconventional approach. One insight: universities like to use unusual questions to draw in students that are both intellectual and a bit eclectic. See a list of other offbeat topics that have popped up on college applications this year.
With the country in the grip of a recession and the unemployment rate at its highest rate in decades, both the federal government and nonprofits are encouraging more Americans to go to college. President Obama recently announced the American Graduation Initiative, which would pump $12 billion into the community college system and move the nation closer to his goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. A new GI Bill, more generous Pell Grants and tuition tax credits also are aimed at boosting college enrollment. Meanwhile the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is moving forward with a plan to invest several hundred million dollars over the next five years to double the number of low-income young people who complete a college degree or a certificate program. Yet a small but vocal minority is questioning whether too many students are going to college. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently assembled an expert panel to address the question and heard a variety of dissenting views. “A large subset of our population should not go to college, or at least not at public expense,” says Richard K. Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity and professor of economics at Ohio University. “The number of new jobs requiring a college degree is now less than the number of young adults graduating from universities, so more and more graduates are filling jobs for which they are academically overqualified.” Not so, counters Daniel Yankelovich, founder and chairman of Viewpoint Learning Inc., which develops dialogues to resolve public-policy issues and Public Agenda, a nonprofit policy-research organization. “In today’s society and economy, virtually everyone who has the motivation and stamina should acquire some form of postsecondary education,” says Yankelovich. “That is a practical reality of today’s economy.” See what other experts had to say.
Let’s face it. Times are tough, and many parents are wondering exactly how they’ll pay for college, especially if their child plans to attend a private university. But there’s some good news on the economic front. Kiplinger’s Magazine reports that independent colleges kept tuition increases to the lowest level in four decades in the 2009-2010 academic year while boosting financial aid by 9 percent. The result is that enrollment held steady as families discovered that private colleges were still affordable, the magazine reports.
Kiplinger’s also ranks the 100 best values in private colleges and universities in its December 2009 edition and reports that the schools that made the list offer a “top-quality education at an affordable price – usually because of generous financial aid.” California Institute of Technology in Pasadena led the rankings of private universities, with institutions like Wake Forest, Princeton, MIT, Yale, Harvard, Stanford and Duke rounding out the top 25. In a separate ranking of liberal arts colleges, Pomona College in Claremont came in first for the second consecutive year. See how other schools fared.
Are universities more or less selective than they were in the 1950s? According to economist Caroline M. Hoxby, the answer is….it depends. Top universities, specifically those in the top ten percent, are definitely more selective today. But about half of all colleges are actually less selective than they were five decades ago, Hoxby writes in her NBER working paper entitled The Changing Selectivity of American Colleges.
While some speculate that the number of students applying to college is increasing faster that the spaces available, Hoxby hypothesizes that the changes in selectivity have more to do with students’ interest in attending an elite college far from home. Or for those versed in economic terms, “the elasticity of a student’s preference for a college with respect to its proximity to his home has fallen substantially over time and there has been a corresponding increase in the elasticity of his preference for a college with respect to its resources and peers.”
It is this geographical resorting of students that has caused selectivity to rise at some schools, while simultaneously falling at others. Another of Hoxby’s findings is that students are getting more for their money today at selective universities, in spite of higher tuition. So while it may be easier than before to get admitted to many universities, the stakes are even higher at the more selective top-tier schools.
What’s the difference between early decision and early action? Should I take the SAT or the ACT? Why are so many universities going test-optional? These are just a few of the questions that the Today Show set out to answer in a recent segment entitled Admission Possible. The six-minute clip features four admissions officers offering advice on what to do, and what not to do when navigating the college admissions process. They discuss the common application, the importance of transcripts and class rank, and how to stand out from among the crowd.
Watch the video: