Archive for the ‘universities’ Category

New College Blogs and Websites

August 19, 2009

A New Blog Designed to Assist College Students

Two brothers with more than 50 combined years of experience in higher education and counseling have just launched a new blog called College Success Tips.  Given the experience of the authors, we are confident that the blog will be worth frequent visits.

Two New Websites for Counselors and Educators and Parents

During our many years in education, we have been asked countless different questions about college admission.  The most often asked question, by far, has been which colleges an individual student might be admitted by.  In second place are questions about getting into individual colleges, such as “What will I need to do to get into Harvard?”.

Now there is a brand new website…so new that it is not fully completed…to help students, families, and counselors find answers to these questions.

On the College Admission  Profiles site, students can find profiles of incoming freshmen classes at hundreds of colleges and universities and see where they might fit.

Please note that the site is not yet complete so it only has a few hundred college profiles thus far, but many more are coming soon.

Another new site, Free College Info Search, offers students a chance to match themselves to online and traditional schools and colleges.

An Inside Look at College Admission

March 11, 2009

Today’s guest blog comes to us from Brittany Burton, one of the good folks at CampusCompare, a website that all college-bound students should check out.    CampusCompare offers lots of information that can help you learn more about which colleges and universities might be a good choice for you.

An Inside Look at College Admission

Once you’ve handed in your college applications, you are probably pretty nervous about getting into college.  Although you’ve finished your college application, included your high school transcripts, your SAT and ACT scores and your college essay, you are now probably wondering how does the admissions committee choose a college applicant to actually be an admitted student?   How do they wade through all this information and come to a decision regarding your college admissions?  What matters most and what gets glossed over?   We are going to give you more of an inside look into the admissions decision process so that you know what will allow you to find the right college for you.

Transcripts:  Your high school transcript is often the most important component of your college application.  Your class work load and grades reveal what type of student you are and offer a glimpse into how you would work at their university.  However, admissions officers are trained to know the discrepancies among different schools and class schedules.  For example, at some schools, it’s easier to land an A than others. They also look at what types of courses you fulfilled. If you took honors classes, advanced placement or international baccalaureate classes, admissions officers will take this workload into account when reviewing your GPA.

Test Scores:  SAT and ACTs are being de-emphasized in many colleges, but these standardized tests do help the admissions officers compare students from different high schools across the nation. Most schools have a range that the majority of students fall under when determining acceptance, but a low test score generally won’t break all chances of getting into college.

Admissions Essay:  The college essay is a way to make you pop off the page.  Now, instead of being a series of numbers and grades, you become an individual, unique person.  This is therefore an increasingly important factor in the college admissions decision process.  We suggest telling an anecdote about your life or your personality and describing how you have learned and grown from that experience.

Letters of Recommendation:  A really good letter of recommendation can really make a difference, but colleges don’t really penalize students when the letter is not written well or only offers superficial information.  Here’s some of the stuff that admission officers are looking for:

•    Comparisons to others in the class; to those whom the teacher or counselor has worked with in past years; or with students who have enrolled at the college in question.

•    Information about grading and/or competition.

•    Illustrative examples or anecdotes

•     Personal information

•    Other personal traits or study habits (e.g., maturity, response to criticism, acceptance by peers, timely completion of assignments, willingness to go beyond what is expected, participation in class discussions).

The law entitles students to see completed recommendations.  However, reference forms include a clause that most students sign to waive this right.  This enables counselors and teachers to be candid, which is what admission officials prefer.  Recommendations normally do become part of a student’s permanent file.

Extracurricular Activities: Extracurricular activities are important to show that you are an involved student.  But with so many high school students doing so much and with so many programs and organizations, teams and clubs and causes, it’s hard to predict what admissions officers will favor.  They are really looking for what the activities teach you—qualities like commitment, accomplishment, initiative and leadership and well-roundedness.

Here are some areas they look at:

•    How much time does this student devote to an activity?  How significant is the contribution?  Admission professionals often favor depth over breadth.

•    Evidence of leadership is a key factor that can tip the scales in your favor.  There’s a difference between the student who joined the Geography Club and the one who founded it.

•    Some balance is best. The student who participates in the Science Club, the Drama Club, and is also on the tennis team usually stands out more than the one who only chooses athletics as extras.  Similarly, a balance of school related activities (clubs, teams, choirs, etc.) and those which take place elsewhere (volunteering, scouting, church groups, community theater, etc.) shows your horizon exists beyond the schoolyard.

•    Volunteering is very important, and the key here is real hands on involvement.  Admission people are usually able to differentiate between the candidate who spends every Saturday tutoring and one who volunteered a couple of times so they can add it to their application.

•    A few collegiate candidates will up their stock in admission officers’ eyes by being extraordinarily talented in some area or with a truly off-the-wall interest or experience.

So now you know what happens behind the closed doors of the admissions decision.  Still, with so many factors go into college admissions decisions that the results can sometimes seem unpredictable and off-the-mark.  But don’t try to be someone you’re not—it’s all about being yourself, and that’s what’s going to really make you stand out in your college application.

SOME GOOD NEWS FOR STUDENTS & FAMILIES

February 13, 2009

Some Good Financial Aid News for Families

The current economy defines the term “dark cloud”, and like most, it has a silver lining.  Colleges throughout the country, including those offering online degree programs, are increasing their financial aid and scholarship budgets.  In addition, many are trying to minimize tuition and fee increases and extend their tuition payment plans to make themselves more affordable.

Some Good Admissions News for Students

Many public colleges and universities are actively seeking out-of-state students.  While the colleges and universities do, for the most part, value geographic diversity, their stepped up recruiting of out-of-staters is about something else; money.  It’s simple…out-of-state students pay higher tuition.

Of course, some states limit out-of-state enrollment to keep in-state taxpayers happy, but many do not. 

Why is the trend of increased out-of-state recruiting good news for students?  It’s because it is now much easier than ever before for students to get into many state colleges and universities.

In addition, it may mean that some state institutions will soon be discounting tuition for students from other states. 

And, it seems likely that online colleges will work harder to find scholarship and financial aid help for their students.

A University Closes and we Rejoice – Good New Web Pages

February 3, 2009

Good Bye and Good Riddance

Warren National University, formerly known as Kennedy Western University, is about to close.   Normally, a university closing is cause for regret, but not this time.  After some bad press, richly deserved in our opinion, the University changed its name and location.  But it could never attain regional accreditation and, in the end, could not survive the vastly improved educational licensing laws in Wyoming (long a refuge for educational scoundrels).  The University’s website directs students to Preston University, a State licensed institution in Alabama which is not accredited by a U.S. Department of Education approved agency.

Nobody should be surprised or saddened by the loss of Warren National University.  In fact, we recognized it for what it was years ago, and refused to list it on our online college or online degree websites. 

Good New Educational Web Pages

We are very excited about the two pages we have recently added to College Scholarships, Online Degree Programs, and Colleges: one is a college savings calculator; the other is the very best GPA calculator we’ve ever seen.  You can enter grades for up to 50 courses and determine your grade point average  almost instantly.  Try it.

New Financial Aid Tools Available Online

December 17, 2008

New Financial Aid Tools Available Online

Below is a message I received today about the new financial aid tools now available to students, parents, and counselors.

Dear friends in education
 
As you help students prepare to fill out the 2009-10 FAFSA on the Web, you might find these tools useful:
 
The FAFSA on the Web Worksheet is now online in PDF at www.FederalStudentAid.ed.gov/worksheet – students may use it to jot down their answers before going online (on Jan. 1 or later) to fill in the online application.
 
The FAFSA on the Web demo site is also ready. The site helps you increase your own understanding of FAFSA on the Web and show it to students and parents before they apply.  At the site, you can complete a sample FAFSA, make corrections, or check the status of the application.  However, when you choose “submit,” the information is not actually submitted. The site is purely a learning tool.  To access the demo site, go to http://fafsademo.test.ed.gov.  The user name is eddemo, and the password is fafsatest.  The site displays both the English and Spanish versions of FAFSA on the Web.
 
Also, the final PDF of the 2009-10 Counselors and Mentors Handbook has been posted to our counselors web site at www.fsa4counselors.ed.gov (the link to the handbook is on the home page, under the heading “Counselor Resources”).
 
 
Hope these items will be helpful to you!
 
Cindy
Cindy Forbes Cameron
Awareness & Outreach
Federal Student Aid
U.S. Dept of Education

for counselors and mentors: www.fsa4counselors.ed.gov
for students: www.FederalStudentAid.ed.gov
for everyone: 1-800-4-FED-AID

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The Big Brain:  A New Internet Directory

Check out and help build a new Internet directory.  The Big Brain wants to be “The Internet’s Smartest Directory”.

New Veteran’s Benefits Summary, College Announces Tuition Freeze

December 12, 2008

Our guest blog article today is provided courtesy of Allied American University (AAU), a military friendly college that offers online associate and bachelor’s degree programs.
New GI Bill Benefits Will Send More Veterans to College
This past summer Congress voted to increase GI Bill benefits for American veterans, and US colleges are expecting to enroll more and more veterans, many of them fresh from the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

The increased benefits will allow many veterans to focus solely on school when they get out, instead of trying to balance full-time work while they tackle a degree. Right now there are currently 320,000 students taking advantage of GI Bill benefits, which is based on the federal program created at the end of World War II to help returning veterans pay for college.

Modifications to the GI Bill now allow veterans to attend private schools, in addition to providing them with a monthly housing stipend, as well as money to help pay for textbooks. 

“We’ll see a huge increase in vets going to school,” Rodrigo Garcia, Midwest regional director of Student Veterans of America told the South town Star. “Before they were hesitant to go to school because many of the vets have families and wanted to take care of them. It was too pressing to take classes, work full time and provide for the kids.”

The new GI Bill benefits will go into effect in Aug. 2009 and many experts predict that as many as 500,000 vets will enroll in college using the benefits. Many universities these days are proactive in making sure veterans enrolled at their respective schools know about the new benefits. 

The transition from the military to the university is often a difficult one for veterans.   There is certainly a world of difference between a typical 19-year-old freshmen and a veteran who may be in his late 20s, with multiple combat tours under his belt.

There are also veterans who have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder or have physical disabilities as a result of war-time injuries. Veterans with disabilities qualify for special assistance through the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program of the VA, which may pay 100% of a veteran’s expenses until graduation.

Many veterans began their education before they separated from the service, by using Tuition Assistance to pay for classes at both community colleges and four-year universities. Some service members took classes online, which allowed them to study while deployed.

In the state of Illinois, for example, there are now 15,500 veterans enrolled in college. When the new GI Bill goes into effect next August, veterans who served on active duty after Sept. 10, 2001 will be eligible for benefits (some restrictions apply).

The government will pay the full-cost of tuition and fees for veterans who served three years on active duty or were injured. The housing allowance, for example, for a veteran in the Chicago, Ill.-area will be approximately $1,600 per month.  Veterans will also receive up to $1,000 annually for books and other school supplies, plus $100 a month for tutoring.

There are now a number of online universities that specialize in enrolling veterans and service members. Many of them offer textbook and military spouse scholarships, along with self-paced schedules and other military-friendly policies.
Good News from Merrimack College

Merrimack College (North Andover, MA) announced today that it will not raise tuition, room, or board next year.

Free Education, Rising Textbook Costs, College Grads Suffer Lower Unemployment, & More

December 8, 2008

Texas A&M University System Offers a Free Education to Some Students from Low Income Families

The Texas A&M University System has approved a new program that will provide full tuition and fees for incoming freshmen from families earning less than $30,000 a year who earn a grade point average of 2.5 or higher.

Textbook Costs Continue to Rise

According to the Baltimore Sun, college students now spend nearly $1,000 a year for textbooks.  Of course, students can reduce their cost by renting textbooks or purchasing used texts, but it is way past time for colleges and universities to demand that publishers reduce prices.

College Grads Fare Better in Joblessness

According to CNN.money.com, college graduates are currently half as likely to be unemployed as those without college degrees.  However, grads are not immune from the current ecomomic crunch.  In November, more than 1.4 million graduates were without jobs.

Online College Student Enrollment Rises

Although some traditional colleges and universities have experienced enrollment declines, the number of students enrolled in online degree programs is continuing to rise as more and more working adults further their education.

The Economy is in the Toilet; Is my College Education?

October 20, 2008

The Economy is in the Toilet; Is my College Education?

Financing College Costs in a Tough Economy

Virtually every family in America, regardless of its economic standing, is concerned about the current state of the U.S. economy.  In fact, the economy has displaced the war in Iraq as the single biggest issue in the current Presidential campaign.

Families with teenagers and children in their early 20’s are especially concerned about one economic issue; how to meet college costs.

Even families who began saving for college when their children were infants may come up short, particularly if their college savings are in stocks or real estate.  There seem to be two principal categories of families, those who had no college savings plan and those whose savings are worth at least 25% less than they were two months ago.

College and university endowments, because they are heavily invested in the stock market, are also down considerably.  That’s important because, for all but the very wealthiest colleges, a decline in endowment value may reduce the financial resources available for college-funded (institutional) scholarships.

These scholarships are a very important part of financial aid packages, especially at private colleges and universities, which tend to be more expensive than state colleges and universities .  In fact, currently, private colleges offer students enough institutional-based scholarships to offset approximately 35% of tuition costs.  As previously stated, the elite colleges have so much money that their ability to offer institutional aid will not be impacted seriously even if the economic downturn continues.

Other institutions will have no choice but to maintain or even increase their scholarship expenditures, even if it means deep cuts in other areas, in order to meet their enrollment goals.  Still others, however, may not be able to afford the level of institutional scholarships awarded in recent years.

It seems reasonable to guess that, until the national economy recovers, there will be changes in the way colleges recruit and select students, and in the ways in which students and families make their college choices.  Thus far, the economic downturn has brought a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty to families and colleges.

So, what should you do in the midst of so much economic uncertainty?  Here’s where you might start.

1. Do not panic.  Your ability to attend college may not be at all affected by our national economic woes. And, if you are affected, it will be a case of which college you attend, not if you can afford to go to college.

2. Meet with your high school counselor and admissions and financial aid counselors at the colleges you are considering to be sure you are aware of all of your financial aid options.  Remember, few students have to pay full tuition and fees.

3. See if your high school counseling office has a list of scholarships offered by organizations in or near your community. Remember, competition for these scholarships may be limited, which is good news for you.

4. Use Google or Yahoo to search for “college scholarships”.  You’ll find more than 60 free scholarship search sites.  Each will “match” you to appropriate scholarships.

5. Avoid at all costs any company which claims it can help you qualify for more scholarships or financial aid than you would otherwise receive.  Most such organizations, maybe all, are more interested in taking your money than in getting you money.

6. Look for educational bargains…lower priced colleges of high quality.  There more than you think, especially in the South.

7. Consider educational loans.  Remember that education is the best investment you can make in your future.  But, resist the temptation to borrow more than is absolutely necessary.

Remember the story of Chicken Little.  Although no responsible economist is minimizing the depth our current economic problems, there is no reason to believe that they will impact students’ ability to pursue higher education.  However, students and their families will be well served by careful college financial planning, increased emphasis on researching their options, and more frequent contact with high school and college counselors who have the expertise to guide them.

Integrating Financial Aid into the College Search

September 12, 2008

Integrating Financial Aid into the College Search

Our guest blogger today is Dr. Dean Skarlis, an independent college admissions counselor and college advisor.  As such, Dr. Skarlis assists students in identifying and assisting students in gaining admission to appropriate colleges and universities.

$53,000 per year.  That’s the current cost of attendance at George Washington University and the University of Chicago.  This includes tuition, room and board, fees, books and “personal expenses,” whatever that means.  It’s fair to say that the cost of higher education has grown at a ridiculously fast pace over the past 20 years.  In fact, college costs have increased at twice the rate of inflation during that time period.  And the pace of that growth will not slow down; it will only accelerate in years to come. 

This begs the question:  Why are colleges so expensive?  There are numerous reasons, not the least of which is a highly inefficient bureaucracy.  But another underlying explanation lies with students and parents, themselves.  You might say, how can you blame students and parents for the high cost of college?  I maintain that there are two valid reasons to indicate that college-going families must shoulder some of the responsibility. 

First, students and parents have become consumers, and rightly so.  With college costs increasing so dramatically, a vicious cycle has been promulgated.  It goes something like this:  Sticker prices increase along with our standard of living.  As a result, families have come to expect more amenities for the big price tag.  So colleges, not wanting to disappoint, have created pristinely gorgeous campuses, elaborate classroom facilities, trendy apartment style residence halls, coffee bars, and fitness centers.  The schools have thus engaged in an arms race of sorts by building and maintaining these high end facilities because students expect it..  This obviously adds to a college’s fixed costs, which are passed along to the end consumer. 

The second reason is a bit more indirect, but equally as important.  The dirty little secret of higher education is that almost half of all college students do not graduate in 5 years.  That means that about half of all undergraduates either fail to complete their degree at the college at which they began, or never get their degree at all.  It’s easy to blame the colleges for this statistic, and most of them deserve responsibility, but the primary cause is that families have not made the right choice during the college selection process.  This is because most families do not fully engage in the college search process.  In my practice, I sometimes meet families who have not researched or visited any colleges until the middle of the senior year.  This is far too late.  What parents do not fully realize is that a college education is an investment.  With the cost of a 4-year private degree eclipsing $200,000, it is imperative that families make systematic, well informed decisions with the ultimate goal of finding a college that’s the right fit, socially, academically, and financially.  If students and parents do not search for schools that will suit them in all three of these categories, then they are much more likely to drop out, potentially wasting thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

Aside from dropping out, one of the worst case scenarios is that a child picks a school to which his parents cannot afford to send him.  I see this far too often, and it can be devastating for both student and parent.  That’s why parents should be involved in the entire college search process.  They should assess their affordability early in the process – 10th grade is not too early.  They should ask:  Will we qualify for need based aid?  What about scholarships?  And because different schools use different financial aid formulas, parents should understand how each college assesses their ability to pay.  There are strategies that many educational consultants can employ that will help reduce a family’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC).  This may help them qualify for need based aid.  At the very least, parents should work with a college financial advisor to understand how much they can afford, and where the money will come from so they find a college that’s the right fit financially, as well as socially and academically.

Back to School Reminders

August 19, 2008

In some places, students are already back in the classroom.  On other campuses, they’ll be returning soon.

So, here are a few timely reminders.

For all students; moderate your alcohol use.  According to an Associated Press article appearing on CNN.com today, “Research has found more than 40 percent of college students reported at least one symptom of alcohol abuse or dependence. One study has estimated more than 500,000 full-time students at four-year colleges suffer injuries each year related in some way to drinking, and about 1,700 die in such accidents.”  Drinking, if you must do it, must be done responsibly.

For high school seniors who plan to attend college, organize your college search.  The University of Louisiana has a “what to do next” list for students like you.  You can request it at enroll@louisiana.edu or (800) 752-6553.  You should also read a brief article listing 10 rules for selecting a college.

And, for high school seniors and college students, it is never too early, or too late, to look for a scholarship.

We hope you have a great school year!