Tag Archives: College Applications

College Application Platforms

There are several different online platforms through which universities accept applications. While the Common Application is still the strong favorite, the Coalition Application seems to be gaining in popularity, and the Universal College Application has several interesting features.

All of these platforms allow students to create a centralized college application and use it to apply to several colleges, saving time. Each online application approach includes an applicant profile, list of member colleges, checklist to see the status of applications, and application requirements; but the overall look and formatting differs.

Colleges decide which platform(s) they wish to accept, and this blog will be your guide to understanding the differences between all of them. At the end, we will recommend a course of action.

Common Application

Accepted by over 750 member colleges, the Common Application (CA) is still the most popular platform for the college application process. Most members are in the U.S., but an increasing number of colleges around the world are accepting the Common App, including schools from Canada, China, and the UK (including St Andrews, King’s College London, and the University of Glasgow).

Additionally, the Common App has a rollover feature that conveniently allows students to begin working on their profile before August 1 of their senior year. The platform is user-friendly and has been around for a while, so many high school counselors and educators are well-versed in using it.

Universal College Application

The Universal College Application (UCA) was launched in 2007 as an alternative to the Common App, and currently has 23 member colleges. The only schools that exclusively use UCA (and not the Common App) are the University of Charleston (WV), Fischer College, Landmark College, and the Milwaukee School of Engineering.

The UCA platform has the advantage of allowing applicants to make essay edits even after submission, which is great if you catch a mistake. This platform also lets applicants link to online content in order to share more information, such as online video, portfolio (pictures or photographs), musical composition, or newspaper article.

Coalition Application

The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success was developed in 2015 in order to provide greater access to college applications for under-resourced students.  A notable feature of the Coalition application is the Locker, in which students can begin storing documents, photos, and videos in 9th grade, which can later be attached to the Coalition college application. This information could include essays, artwork, and performances, as well as standardized test scores and awards. The Coalition feels that gathering this information early will reduce stress later.

The application has steadily grown in popularity, with over 113 participating colleges at present. 19 additional colleges will accept the application in 2018/2019, including Brown, Bucknell, Cornell, and UVA. As of the 2017-18 application cycle, the only colleges to exclusively require the Coalition Application were the University of Florida, University of Washington, and the University of Maryland.

UCAS (United Kingdom)

For international students, UCAS has traditionally been the UK’s centralized application form for higher education institutions. Notably, UCAS limits students to a maximum of five university programs. You are also limited to one school in all of the Oxford and Cambridge’s colleges, known collectively as Oxbridge. Several international schools have joined the Common App as part of a strategic effort to increase the presence of US students on campuses. These include King’s College London, St Andrews in Scotland, and Queen’s University Canada. More international students are now using the Common Application, which has the much greater limit of 20 total universities.

A critical difference between the UCAS application and the Common Application involves the essays.  UCAS includes only one essay, the Personal Statement, that focuses entirely on academics; the prompt asks students to discuss their chosen academic course(s), why it interests them, and why they are suitable. In contrast, the Common Application Personal Essay can be about any topic of the student’s choice; and colleges typically have supplemental essays that are specific to their universities.

For an in-depth look at how to apply to UK universities, see our blog.

Individual College Application

In addition, several schools continue to have only their own application and do not accept any of the shared applications. The motivation is to weed out students who are not genuinely interested in the college, and to customize the application and essays. A few examples are Clemson University, Georgetown University, and the University of Wisconsin.

A few other colleges accept a shared application as well as their own application.  Tulane has had its own application since it began in 1834, and several years ago began accepting the Common Application.

State System-Shared Application

Some schools like New York’s SUNY system and the California state universities share an online application platform that allows students to apply to one or more public colleges within their network.

Our Recommendations

While each student’s situation is unique, overall we recommend the following:

Use the Common Application wherever possible. Perhaps a decade ago, when the Common App was not as widely accepted, we may have recommended that you use a college’s own application, if available, in order to demonstrate interest. But with 700 member institutions, the Common App is now valued by colleges as strongly as their own application.

Coalition Application. Use this application platform if you feel that it would be helpful for you to start saving documents, artwork, and video content in the Locker, beginning in freshman year.

UCAS. Use this universal UK platform if you are applying to two or more UK universities that do not accept the Common Application.

When you have a choice, choose based on the essays. If you’re applying to a college that accepts multiple application platforms, examine whether the essay options are different, and choose the option that matches your needs.

For example, St Andrews (Scotland) accepts UCAS and the Common Application; if you apply through the Common Application, you can personalize your essays more.  You will have the opportunity to submit your Common App Personal Essay (which can be more creative than the UCAS Personal Statement) as well as a supplemental essay about why you are a good fit for St Andrews. The UCAS application does not allow for any university-specific essays.

Navigating your online applications and knowing how to best represent yourself as a college candidate can be daunting. Here at Collegiate Gateway, we’re always happy to help! Feel free to contact us.

Sibling Legacy in College Admissions: Does It Exist?

Is there such a thing as sibling legacy?

Broadly, watching your older sibling go through the college process can help you do the same; you’ve observed your sibling’s path through high school and college, tagged along on college visits, and maybe even picked up a few good work habits or new activities.

But what is the precise impact on your chances of being admitted to the same college?

Although much has been written about parent legacy, and colleges capture data on parent legacy, very little is published about sibling legacy. In 2010, Michael Hurwitz, at Harvard Graduate School of Education, conducted a landmark study on the impact of having undergraduate legacy on 30 selective colleges. Hurwitz defined “primary legacy” as having at least one parent attend the institution as an undergraduate, and “secondary legacy” as having a sibling, grandparent, aunt, or uncle attend the institution as an undergraduate or graduate, or parent attend as a graduate student.

Hurwitz’s study showed that legacy had a significant impact on admissions rates. For students with no legacy advantage, 41% were admitted ED, and 20% regular or EA. Students with primary legacy had the highest acceptance rate, of 57% of ED applicants and 41% of regular and EA applicants. Students with secondary legacy also exceeded those with no legacy, with 52% accepted ED and 29% accepted regular or EA.

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Legacy plays a much greater role in early admissions than regular admissions, and primary is far stronger than secondary. Hurwitz calculated the “legacy admissions advantage” and found that students with primary legacy have “odds of admission multiplied by 5.5 for regular decision applications,” and 15.5 for early action applications. For secondary legacy, the estimated advantage is comparable for early action applications (chances multiplied by 1.9) and regular decision applications (chances multiplied by 2.0).

 

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Why do colleges value sibling legacy?

Part of the motivation for institutions to accept students with parent or sibling legacy is tied to an expectation of greater donations. Parents are more likely to give money to their alma mater if one of their children attend, and are even more likely if two children attend and they do not need to split their charitable giving among several colleges.

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 7.55.10 PMSome colleges are very direct about the value they place on sibling legacy. The three May sisters graduated from three different schools at Villanova University: Meaghan May Hildreth ’08 College of Engineering, Kaitlyn May Rolston ’10 College of Nursing, and Erinn May ’13 College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. They articulate how their desire to contribute to alumni giving is a direct consequence of the impact of their college experiences at Villanova:

“The knowledge, friendships, and cherished memories from our time at Villanova is something we cannot put into words. Therefore our donations to the University and membership in the Young Alumni Circle are ways we are able to stay involved with the community and remember, Once a Wildcat, Always a Wildcat.

But for most other colleges, the role of sibling legacy is more informal. Ben Kavanaugh, Associate Director of Admissions at Bucknell University, states, “We certainly pay attention to sibling status but I wouldn’t say it acts as any kind of thumb on the scale.”

 

The Special Case of Twins and Multiples

Twins and other multiples represent a special situation in that admissions decisions are rendered at the same time, and the nature of the decisions may impact whether two (or more) prospective students choose to attend. Typically, each applicant’s file is reviewed independently, but at the end of the process, the admissions team may conduct one more review of twins or other multiples to make sure the decisions are justifiable and consistent, and adjust if appropriate.

Colleges are sensitive to the unique impact of admissions decisions on twins.

Relationships between multiples, as they refer to themselves, are often exceedingly close. When the rejection or acceptance e-mail arrives, sometimes on a single computer, the glory, disappointment, envy and guilt play out under the same roof, threatening the single most important relationship in their lives, beyond the one with their parents.”

Parke Muth, who served in admissions for selective universities for nearly 30 years, said,

“When I worked in admission, we always ran a list of twins before decisions went out. If at all possible, we tried to be consistent if they presented applications that were quite similar. In talking with a number of highly selective schools they would do the same.”

Anecdotally, some colleges actively seek out twins, and will ask specifically on the Common App supplement form. Duke University has such a question, and has been known to contact the twin of an applicant who has not applied.

Applying to college is a complex process! For guidance on how to maximize your chances of admission, contact us. As always, we’re happy to help!

Early Admissions Decisions: Your Next Steps

Early admissions decisions are in from most colleges, and if you’ve applied early, chances are you know whether you’ve been admitted, deferred, or denied.

But now what? Depending on your admissions outcome, there are a variety of actions you can – and should – take. If you’ve accepted a binding admissions decision, we’ll tell you how to start off your college career on the right foot. If not, we’ll help you maximize your admissions chances going forward.

Accepted, Early Decision

First of all, congratulations! If you were admitted Early Decision, your college search has come to an ideal conclusion. The steps for you to take now are to closely follow the instructions you’ll receive from the admissions office and make sure you meet all required deposit deadlines.  In addition, send thank you notes to everyone who helped you through this process, including your guidance counselor, recommenders and tutors. They’ll certainly be happy to share in your excitement!

Withdraw All Other Applications.  Make sure you withdraw any other outstanding applications to other colleges. Failing to do so will violate the terms of your ED contract, and be unfair to many other hopeful applicants.

Accepted, Early Action

Again, congratulations, especially if your Early Action (EA) admission was to your first-choice college. Unlike an ED admit, you are not obligated to communicate your decision to colleges until May 1st, the “National Candidates Reply Date” for all non-ED applicants except NCAA-recruited athletes.

Withdraw Applications For Colleges In Which You Are No Longer Interested.  You are now in a position to re-evaluate your college list. As a result of a particular EA acceptance, you may no longer be interested in certain other colleges; if so withdraw those applications. While technically permissible, don’t keep applications open just to see whether you’d get in if you have no intention of attending; doing so potentially takes away opportunities from other students, including your friends and peers.

Denied

If you’ve been denied, you’re probably disappointed, but don’t let it get you down, and don’t second-guess yourself or your other applications. In other words, stay the course. You have already identified an appropriate range of colleges and given the application process your best shot. Have faith that you will have options that are a great fit for you!

Focus on Regular Decision Applications. In order to strengthen your chances, make sure to take the following steps:

  • Check all your college admissions portals to verify that all the application components have been received.
  • If you have not yet visited colleges that you are very interested in, do so, preferably by the end of February. Learn more about why the college is a good fit, and include that in a follow-up email to the regional admissions officers.
  • You can also send follow-up letters with any news of honors or awards, special academic achievements or extracurricular projects.

Deferred

While in some ways the most uncertain status, being deferred – and not denied – means that you are in line with the college’s admissions profile, and that you are still in the running. Nevertheless, it is also important to realize that you are no longer dealing with higher early admissions acceptance rates, but rather with lower regular admission acceptance rates.

Note that a deferral releases you from your early decision binding commitment to enroll if you are admitted.

Strengthen Your Chances for the Regular Decision Process. There are several steps you can take in order to strengthen your application to the college from which you were deferred:

  • If there is a 12th grade teacher who could add a different perspective to your application, consider submitting an additional recommendation.
  • Try to visit the college again and meet with professors in your areas of interest, if feasible.
  • Write a follow-up note re-affirming your interest. Jeff Schiffman, Interim Director of Admission for Tulane University writes, “It will be nearly impossible to be admitted to Tulane if you do not, in some form, reach out to us.”

Be genuine. If you would attend if accepted, say so. If not, state that you remain strongly interested in the college. If you have re-visited, discuss the specifics of your visit in your note.  Summarize why the college is an excellent fit for you, and mention unique strengths and experiences you would contribute to campus.  If appropriate, include updates of awards, special academic achievements or extracurricular projects that have occurred since you submitted your original application.

  • Look at the college’s admissions website to learn specifically what follow-up information they would like to receive. For example, Johns Hopkinsdoes not require, but welcomes the following: “additional standardized test results, your senior year semester grades, additional letters of recommendation, an updated rèsumè, or an additional written statement of your interest in Johns Hopkins.” Nearly all colleges will accept informational updates that help them assess your candidacy from a fresh perspective.
  • Continue to engage in all your courses. Remember that colleges require your first semester senior year grades.

Additionally, follow the steps listed above to maximize your chances at the Regular Decision colleges on your list. This will give you the best range of options down the road. By the time you need to decide which college to attend on May 1st, your preferences may well have shifted.

For a closer look at deferral rates and other early admissions trends for the Class of 2021, see our blog!

Navigating the admissions process is complicated, even long after you’ve submitted your applications. If you need any further guidance, don’t hesitate to contact Collegiate Gateway – as always, we’re happy to help!

Teacher Recommendations: How and Who to Ask

Strong teacher recommendations personalize and differentiate you, place you within the context of other students, and round out your college application. To that end, it is important to develop your relationships with teachers by participating in class discussions and engaging in special projects and papers during your junior year. And when it comes time, choose teachers who can create a picture of you as an individual, share your unique qualities, and tell the colleges how you will contribute academically and in campus activities.

Listed below are tips for choosing recommenders and suggested responsibilities for students.

Who to Select

Many factors should be considered when you choose whom to ask for college recommendations. Keep in mind that colleges use the recommendations to forecast how you will perform academically in a college setting, so teachers of your more advanced courses will often provide you with the best options. And contrary to what you may think, you should not necessarily choose teachers from whom you earned the best grades; sometimes an excellent choice is a teacher who saw you initially struggle in a course, attend extra help sessions, and work hard to improve your performance. Consider the following characteristics:

  • Teachers of 11th or 12th grade
  • Teachers of core academic subjects
  • Preferably one teacher from math/science and 1 teacher from the humanities (English, Social Studies, Foreign Language)
  • Teachers of Honors/AP/IB courses are optimal to demonstrate your ability to succeed at college-level work
  • Teachers who also know you outside the classroom, for example sports coaches or club advisors, can discuss other facets as well

Also, requirements may be college-specific. Read each college’s instructions regarding whether it is preferable to ask teachers in specific subject areas, depending on your intended major or program.

Student Responsibilities

In May of your junior year, ask teachers if they would be willing to write a college recommendation.

In June of your junior year, write an email to the teachers providing background information. It is helpful for students to write an email to their teacher recommenders discussing your performance in their classroom and what you learned. The letter to the teacher can address the following questions:

  • Why did I select this teacher to write my rec letter?
  • What aspects of my classroom performance am I most proud of?
  • How did this class help me grow as a student or as a person?
  • What is my greatest achievement in this class?
  • What areas did I work to improve, and how?
  • What ideas, understanding and knowledge did I take away from this class?
  • What are my academic and professional goals?

In September of your senior year, finalize your college list and your choice of recommenders:

  • Enter your college list on your high school’s Naviance site (if your school subscribes) and the Common Application.
  • Find out from your high school’s guidance office if your school’s policy is for students to submit recommendations electronically through Naviance or the Common App; and enter the emails of your recommenders on the appropriate website.

In November of your senior year, after you have submitted your early applications, check on the colleges’ portals to confirm that your teachers have submitted their recommendations!

Other Recommenders

Many colleges allow students to invite recommenders in addition to academic teachers. On the Common Application, the options include: arts teacher, clergy, coach, college access counselor, employer, family member, peer, and other (such as research mentor). Some colleges will only accept recommendations from some of these categories, so check to see which categories each college will accept. This can be an excellent opportunity to round out your portrait in the admissions process.

Your recommendations provide another opportunity for college admissions officers to learn how you might contribute to campus life. For guidance on all aspects of college admissions, contact www.collegiategateway.com. As always, we’re happy to help!

Regular Admissions Trends for the Class of 2020

Once again, it was a wild year in college admissions. Assessing the likelihood of acceptance to highly selective private and public universities was as unpredictable as ever, and while some applicants were lucky enough to receive early admission to their top choice, many students were dealt an uncertain hand of deferrals and spots on waitlists.

As a follow-up to our previous blog on Early Admissions Trends for the Class of 2020, here’s an in-depth comparison of this year’s regular decision statistics to recent college admissions cycles. To assist applicants who will be applying this fall, our analysis will conclude with a helpful list of tips for crafting your “best-fit” college list.

Acceptance Rates

This year, regular decision acceptance tended to either hold steady or drop slightly. As in past years, highly sought-after private and public universities continue to receive more applications, offer lower admit rates, and fill more of their freshman class through early admissions.

Many schools had a record-breaking year of applications, including Bowdoin, Brown, Cornell, Princeton, NYU, Northwestern, Tufts, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale. Princeton’s applicant pool has doubled over the past decade.

Many of the country’s most selective institutions, with overall admit rates under 15%, became even more competitive over the past two years. For example, Johns Hopkins dropped from 15% to 11.5%, Northwestern fell from 12.9% to 10.7%, and Swarthmore declined from 16.8% to 12.5%. Stanford has the lowest admit rate at just 4.7%. This year, Barnard, Bowdoin, Duke, Harvard, Northwestern, Tufts, UC-Berkeley, and USC all reported record-low admit rates.

According to Richard Shaw, dean of admission and financial aid at Stanford University, these ultra-low admit rates are the product of several factors: top students applying to many more schools, higher demand across many demographics (including international applicants), and college advising that encourages students to apply to their dream schools, as opposed to schools that are a good fit and offer a better chance of admission. According to U.S. News, higher applicant numbers are the result of the Common Application and other online admissions processes, which most schools have adopted. Universities also use innovative ways to market themselves to prospective applicants, especially through social media.

Notre Dame has seen a 34% increase in applications over the past six years, and their overall acceptance rate has dropped from 24.3% to 18.3% over the past five years. According to Don Bishop, Associate Vice President of Undergraduate Enrollment at Notre Dame, as competitive as the Class of 2020 is, these numbers would be even more selective if the University practiced admissions strategies used by other schools seeking to improve their rankings.

“There are colleges being criticized for going out there and getting a large number of applicants that they’re going to reject. A group of schools that seemingly are recruiting students they’re going to turn down. Notre Dame has not engaged in that practice.”

Acceptance Rates for the Class of 2018 through 2020

College

 

(Note Early Admissions Plan:

ED vs EA)

Regular Acceptance Rate for Class of 2020* Early Acceptance Rate for Class of 2020 Regular Acceptance Rate for Class of 2019* Early Acceptance Rate for Class of 2019 Overall Acceptance Rate for Class of 2020 Overall Acceptance Rate for Class of 2019 Overall Acceptance Rate for Class of 2018
Amherst College (ED) 12.2% 39.6% 12.4% 35.6% 13.7% 13.7% 13%
Bowdoin College (ED I) 11.6% 33.7% n/a 31% 14.3% 14.9% 14.9%
Brown University (ED) 7.6% 22% 7.2% 20.3% 9% 8.5% 8.6%
California Institute of Technology (EA) n/a n/a n/a n/a 7.9% 9% 9%
Claremont McKenna College (ED) n/a n/a 9% 27% 9.4% 11% 10%
Columbia University (ED) n/a n/a n/a n/a 6% 6.1% 6.94%
Cornell University (ED) n/a n/a n/a n/a 14% 14.9% 14%
Dartmouth College (ED) 8.9% 26% 8.8% 26% 10.5% 10.3% 11.5%
Duke University (ED) 8.7% 23.5% 9.4% 26% 10.4% 11% 11%
Georgetown University (REA) n/a 13% n/a 13% 16.4% 16.4% 16.6%
Harvard University (SCEA) 3.4% 14.8% 3.2% 16.5% 5.2% 5.3% 5.9%
Johns Hopkins University (ED) 10.1% 30.3% 11% 28.9% 11.5% 12.4% 15%
Lehigh University (ED) n/a n/a n/a 44% n/a 30% 34%
MIT (EA) 7.4% 8.4% 7.1% 9.6% 7.8% 8% 7.7%
Middlebury College (ED I) 12.7% 53.1% 14.7% 45.3% 16% 17% 17.3%
Northwestern University (ED) 8.4% 35% 10.8% 36.2% 10.7% 13.1% 12.9%
Pomona College (ED) n/a n/a n/a 19% 9.1% 10.3% 12.2%
Princeton University (SCEA) 4.4% 18.5% 4.9% 19.9% 6.46% 6.99% 7.28%

Rice University

(ED)

n/a n/a 15.6% 20.4% n/a 16% 14.1%
Stanford University (SCEA) 3.6% 9.5% 3.9% 10.2% 4.7% 5.05% 5.07%
Swarthmore College (ED) n/a n/a n/a n/a 12.5% 12.2% 16.8%

UC – Berkeley

(EA)

n/a n/a n/a n/a 14.8% 17% 17%
University of Chicago (EA) n/a n/a n/a n/a 7.6% 7.8% 8.4%
University of Notre Dame (REA) 13.8% 30.3% 16.2% 29.8% 18.3% 19.7% 20.8%
University of Pennsylvania (ED) 7% 23.2% 7.5% 24% 9.4% 9.9% 9.9%
University of Virginia (EA) 28.8% 28.9% 26.6% 30.2% 28.8% 28.5% 28.9%

USC

(No early program)

16.5% n/a 17.5% n/a 16.5% 17.5% 17.8%
Vanderbilt University (ED) 8.8% 23.6% 9.5% 22.5% 10.5% n/a 12%
Washington Univ. in St. Louis (ED) n/a n/a n/a n/a 16.2% 16.7% 17.1%
Williams College (ED) 15% 42% 14.5% 41% 17.3% 16.8% 18.2%
Yale University (SCEA) 4.4% 17% 4.7% 16% 6.3% 6.5% 6.3%

*Regular admission acceptance rate calculations do not include early admission deferral numbers.

Large Percentage of Freshman Class Filled with Early Applicants

Some schools continue to admit large portions of the freshman class through early admissions, making regular admissions even more competitive. More students tend to apply through regular decision, so they are competing for fewer remaining positions in the class.

As a reminder, early decision is binding so universities are guaranteed the applicants’ attendance, as compared with early action, which is non-binding and allows students until May 1 to decide. As a result, colleges with early decision programs tend to admit a higher percentage of early applicants, who have demonstrated such strong interest, and their binding commitment helps in determining admissions yield for the incoming class.

This year, schools that admitted 40% to 50% of their incoming class through their early decision program include Brown, Duke, Northwestern, Penn, Williams, and Vanderbilt.

Expanding Enrollment

Some schools are accommodating increased applications with plans to expand enrollment. Princeton, Stanford, UVA, Washington University in St. Louis, and Yale all have strategic plans to increase incoming class size over several years. Princeton’s plan to expand the class size by 11% was motivated by the desire to “enhance the quality of the overall educational experience at Princeton and make more effective use of the University’s extraordinary resources.” At the same time, University President John L. Hennessy says that Stanford has plans to grow but wants to be careful that size does not diminish experience, and the school will make future growth decisions dependent upon feedback from students and professors.

Determining Yield

Many schools are struggling to predict yield, the number of admitted applicants who will decide to attend their institution, as universities increase in popularity and selectivity. This, in turn, can impact admissions rates. For example, Duke’s Dean of Admissions, Christoph Guttentag, said that one factor in this year’s low admissions rate was last year’s exceptionally high regular decision yield rate.

“Because the number of students we admitted last year resulted in over enrollment, we admitted fewer students this year on the assumption that the yield will be similar,” Guttentag said. “We have admitted 150 students fewer than last year.”

At Lehigh, the Class of 2018 hit overcapacity, and caused the university to accept fewer students in 2015. However, the Class of 2019 was still over capacity, forcing Lehigh to further recalculate yield predictions for the Class of 2020.

Similarly, MIT has also experienced increasing yield over the years, from 65% in 2011 to 73% in 2015. Stu Schmill, Dean of Admissions, only expects it to keep going up as students continue to recognize “the value and excitement of MIT.”

Increasing Diversity

Increasing the diversity of incoming classes has become a top priority for the admissions departments at many schools. This includes international applicants, students from varying socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, and first-generation college students.

Schools are seeking top-quality students from diverse backgrounds through a variety of programs. Pomona College, for example, partners with A Better Chance, Chicago Scholars, the KIPP Foundation and the Sutton Trust, as well as numerous local and regional programs, to connect with applicants from under-resourced schools. The University of Pennsylvania and Williams have similar programs.

This year, Duke began the Washington Duke Scholars, which nationally seeks to find first-generation college students who demonstrate financial need. Georgetown has a comparable program, called the Georgetown Scholarship Program.

Many schools are committed to increasing diversity and the makeup of their admitted applicant pool demonstrates this goal. At Cornell University, a record 27% of the admitted applicants self-identify as underrepresented minority students and 49% are students of color, which includes Asian-Americans and underrepresented minorities. UC-Berkeley has increased admission of Chicano/Latino students by 28.8% and African American admissions by 32% since last year.

Harvard also set records in admitting a freshman class comprised of 14% African Americans and 22.1% Asian-Americans. Nearly 37% of Johns Hopkins regular decision admits self-identify as members of underrepresented minorities, a school record. Northwestern admitted a record number of international and Chicago Public Schools students through early decision, and a record number of Pell-eligible students through regular decision.

Tips for Future Applicants

In a competitive admissions climate that’s increasingly concerned with yield, demonstrating interest is more important than ever. Therefore, apply to 10-12 colleges (a manageable number) so that you can visit all of the schools in which you are interested. When you visit, register with the admissions reception desk. Schools track visits, and see this as the strongest possible way to demonstrate interest.

If you are applying early admissions, visit the college by November 15. If you are applying regular admissions visit in the fall of your senior year, or by February 15 at the latest.

Many universities have made increasing the diversity of incoming classes a top admissions priority. If you identify with an under-represented minority, participate in diversity days hosted by the college, if appropriate.

Highly selective schools are experiencing higher applicant pools, acceptance rates are low and dropping, and many students are told to dream big. When crafting your college list, make sure that you would be happy to attend any school on your list. Do not apply to a university that is not a good fit, or about which you have reservations. Be very realistic about your chances and have grounded expectations. Your college list should have a healthy distribution of reach, target, and safe schools. While early acceptance rates tend to be higher than regular acceptance rates, applying early has become harder to predict. Think carefully and strategically about your early admissions choice.

The college admissions process can be overwhelming, and it may feel difficult to know where to start. At Collegiate Gateway, we are happy to share our expertise and guide you on the path to your “best fit” college. Please feel free to contact us! As always, we’re happy to help!

Early Admissions Decisions: Your Next Steps

Early admissions decisions are in from most colleges, and if you’ve applied early, chances are you know whether you’ve been admitted, deferred, or denied.

But now what? Depending on your admissions outcome, there are a variety of actions you can – and should – take. If you’ve accepted a binding admissions decision, we’ll tell you how to start off your college career on the right foot. If not, we’ll help you maximize your admissions chances going forward.

Accepted, Early Decision

First of all, congratulations! If you were admitted Early Decision, your college search has come to an ideal conclusion. The steps for you to take now are to closely follow the instructions you’ll receive from the admissions office and make sure you meet all required deposit deadlines.  In addition, send thank-you notes to everyone who helped you through this process, including your guidance counselor, recommenders and tutors. They’ll certainly be happy to share in your excitement!

Withdraw All Other Applications.  Make sure you withdraw any other outstanding applications to other colleges. Failing to do so will violate the terms of your ED contract, and be unfair to many other hopeful applicants.

Accepted, Early Action

Again, congratulations, especially if your Early Action (EA) admission was to your first-choice college. Unlike an ED admit, you are not obligated to communicate your decision to colleges until the May 1st, the “National Candidates Reply Date” for all non-ED applicants except NCAA-recruited athletes.

Withdraw Applications For Colleges In Which You Are No Longer Interested.  As a result of a particular EA acceptance, you may no longer be interested in certain other colleges; if so withdraw those applications. While technically permissible, don’t keep applications open just to see whether you’d get in if you have no intention of attending; doing so potentially takes away opportunities from other students, including your friends and peers.

Denied

If you’ve been denied, you’re probably disappointed, but don’t let it get you down, and don’t second-guess yourself or your other applications. In other words, stay the course. You have already identified an appropriate range of colleges and given the application process your best shot. Have faith that you will have options that are a great fit for you!

Focus on Regular Decision Applications. In order to strengthen your chances, make sure to take the following steps:

  • Check all your college admissions portals to verify that all the application components have been received.
  • If you have not yet visited colleges that you are very interested in, do so, preferably by the end of February. Learn more about why the college is a good fit, and include that in a follow-up email to the regional admissions officers.
  • You can also send follow-up letters with any news of honors or awards, special academic achievements or extracurricular projects.

Deferred

While in some ways the most uncertain status, being deferred – and not denied – means that you are in line with the college’s admissions profile, and that you are still in the running. Nevertheless, it is also important to realize that you are no longer dealing with higher early admissions acceptance rates, but rather with lower regular admission acceptance rates.

Note that a deferral releases you from your early decision binding commitment to enroll if you are admitted.

Strengthen Your Chances for the Regular Decision Process. There are several steps you can take in order to strengthen your application to the college from which you were deferred:

  • If there is a 12th grade teacher who could add a different perspective to your application, consider submitting an additional recommendation.
  • Try to visit the college again and meet with professors in your areas of interest, if feasible.
  • Write a follow-up note re-affirming your interest. Jeff Schiffman, Interim Director of Admission for Tulane University writes, “It will be nearly impossible to be admitted to Tulane if you do not, in some form, reach out to us.”

Be genuine. If you would attend if accepted, say so. If not, state that you remain strongly interested in the college. If you have re-visited, discuss the specifics of your visit in your note.  Summarize why the college is an excellent fit for you, and unique strengths and experiences you would contribute to campus.  If appropriate, include updates of awards, special academic achievements or extracurricular projects that have occurred since you submitted your original application.

  • Look at the college’s admissions website to learn specifically what follow-up information they would like to receive. For example, Johns Hopkins does not require, but welcomes the following: “additional standardized test results, your senior year semester grades, additional letters of recommendation, an updated rèsumè, or an additional written statement of your interest in Johns Hopkins.” Nearly all colleges will accept informational updates that help them assess your candidacy from a fresh perspective.
  • Continue to engage in all your courses. Remember that colleges require your first semester senior year grades.

Additionally, follow the steps listed above to maximize your chances at the Regular Decision colleges on your list. This will give you the best range of options down the road. By the time you need to decide which college to attend on May 1st, your preferences may well have shifted.

For a closer look at deferral rates and other early admissions trends for the Class of 2020, see our blog!

Navigating the admissions process is complicated, even long after you’ve submitted your applications. If you need any further guidance, don’t hesitate to contact Collegiate Gateway – as always, we’re happy to help!

 

Regular Admissions Trends for the Class of 2019

As a follow-up to our blog on Early Admissions Trends for the Class of 2019, we bring you highlights from this year’s Regular Admissions outcomes! From increasing selectivity to expanding financial aid programs, here are some of the most noteworthy trends in college admissions.

Overall Acceptance Rates

Overall, application numbers and acceptance rates were fairly steady compared to last year. Duke’s Dean of Undergraduate Admissions, Christoph Guttentag, said, “Nationwide we’ve stopped seeing that sharp increase [in applications] that we saw from about 2008 to 2013 across the board. I think for most schools that has settled down.” But many selective universities still showed modest increases in selectivity.  For example, Harvard’s overall acceptance rate over the past year declined from 5.9% for the Class of 2018 to 5.3% for the Class of 2019; Princeton’s, from 7.28% to 6.99% and Williams, from 18.2% to 16.9%.

In general, colleges continue to admit a much higher rate of students from the early, rather than the regular, applicant pool. The early versus regular acceptance rates, cited in the table below, illustrate the impact of students demonstrating interest to top-choice schools by applying early (and thereby improving their chances of acceptance). While this may make applying early that much more enticing, keep in mind a binding Early Decision admissions program (as opposed to a non-binding Early Action program) should only be pursued if the college is your absolute first choice, and you understand your binding commitment to attend.

Acceptance Rates for the Class of 2019 versus 2018

 

 

School

Regular Acceptance Rate for Class of 2019* Early Acceptance Rate for Class of 2019 Overall Admissions Acceptance Rate for Class of 2019 Overall Admissions Acceptance Rate for Class of 2018
Bowdoin College n/a n/a 14.9% 14.9%
Brown University (ED) 7.2% 20.3% 8.5% 8.6%
California Institute of Technology (EA) n/a n/a n/a 9%
California, University of, Berkeley n/a n/a n/a 17%
Columbia University (ED) n/a n/a 6.1% 6.94%
Cornell University (ED) n/a n/a 14.9% 14%
Dartmouth College (ED) 8.8% 26% 10.3% 11.5%
Duke University (ED) 7.4% 26% 9.4% 9%
Georgetown University (EA) 18.1% 13% 16.4% 16.6%
Harvard University (SCEA) 3.2% 16.5% 5.3% 5.9%
Johns Hopkins University (ED) 11% 28.9% 12.4% 15%
Lehigh University n/a n/a n/a 34%
MIT (EA) 7.1% 9.6% 8% 7.7%
Middlebury College (ED) 14.7% 45.3% 17% 17.3%
Northwestern University (ED) 10.8% 36.2% 13.1% 12.9%
Princeton University (SCEA) 4.9% 19.9% 6.99% 7.28%
Rice University n/a n/a 14.7% 14.1%
Stanford University (SCEA) 3.9% 10.2% 5.05% 5.07%
Swarthmore College n/a n/a 12.2% 16.8%
University of Chicago (EA) n/a n/a 7.8% 8.4%
University of Notre Dame (REA) 16.2% 29.8% 19.7% 20.8%
University of Pennsylvania (ED) 7.5% 24% 9.9% 9.9%
University of Southern California n/a n/a 17.5% 17.8%
University of Virginia n/a n/a 28.5% 28.9%
Vanderbilt University 9.5% n/a n/a 12.3%
Washington University in St. Louis n/a n/a n/a 17.1%
Williams College (ED) 14.5% 41% 16.8% 18.2%
Yale University (SCEA) 4.7% 16% 6.5% 6.3%

*Regular admission acceptance rate calculations do not include early admission deferral numbers.

Notable Moments from this year’s Regular Admissions Process

Some schools did see a jump in the number of applicants

Though many schools continued to see application numbers level off, a few did experience significant growth. Vanderbilt, an increasingly popular university, has had its acceptance rate plummet over the past eight years due to a significant rise in the number of applicants. This year, 27,822 students applied to attend Vanderbilt during the regular decision period, whereas in 2007, only 11,798 students applied regular decision. Vanderbilt’s regular decision acceptance rate was 31% in 2007. This year it was 9.5%, a continued drop from the 11% rate the previous year.

Douglas Christiansen, Vanderbilt’s vice provost for enrollment and dean of admissions, explains that the rise in applications is caused by increased interest from international students, as well as those who live in other regions of the country.

“[Students are] responding to the educational brand, to the educational experience we’re offering. Vanderbilt has really moved into being a true national institution with national (and international) reach.”

Similarly, the University of Chicago received a 10% increase in applications from last year. According to The Chicago Maroon, “Much of the University of Chicago’s steep increase in applications is credited to recent changes in the application process. Applicant numbers rose after the University announced earlier in 2014 that it would be utilizing the Universal College Application (UCA), an alternate application system to the Common Application, for the Class of 2019. Technical glitches in the Common Application system around the time of application deadlines earlier last year resulted in a decline in applicants.”

The University of Chicago has also increased construction plans, from the new Institute of Molecular Engineering to the Logan Center for the Arts, which has attracted many new applicants.

Financial aid expands 

Stanford University made headlines this year when they raised the income thresholds at which parents are not expected to contribute toward tuition from $100,000 to $125,000. For parents with annual incomes below $65,000, there will be no parental contribution toward tuition and room and board.

Similarly, The University of Chicago announced that “No Barriers,” an expansion of the Odyssey Scholars program and other financial aid policy reforms, will take effect beginning with the Class of 2019. The university aims to eliminate loans, waive application fees, and provide additional funding and support for low- and middle-income students.

“With UChicago ‘No Barriers’ and our other commitments, we are ensuring that people from all backgrounds and all incomes can afford to attend the University, and that they can thrive and succeed in whatever path they choose,” said President Robert J. Zimmer.

According to The Washington Post, Franklin & Marshall College has also expanded its need-based financial aid program and decreased its merit-based aid program.

A continued shift in the popularity of intended majors

Due to the economic climate, the overall popularity of business, healthcare, and STEM-related majors continues to rise. Swarthmore College states that engineering is the most popular intended major among the admitted students for the Class of 2019.

According to USA Today, four of the five fastest growing majors are in STEM or pre-pre-professional fields: health and medical prep programs (31%), homeland security and emergency preparedness (26%), physical sciences (25%), and engineering-related fields (23%). The only exception is behavioral science (89% growth), which falls within the liberal arts.

As a result, many schools have filled up the admissions slots in these areas, and are looking to accept liberal arts or undecided majors. At Georgetown, for example, science classes and spots for incoming science majors have all been filled. Therefore, the College waitlist is expected to only see movement for students with undeclared majors. The McDonough School of Business and the School of Nursing and Health Studies have also been completely filled for the class of 2019.

Likewise, the University of Notre Dame has recently capped enrollment in its Mendoza Business School at 550 students per class, due to overcrowding from internal transfers, especially from the College of Arts and Letters. Bloomberg Business has ranked Notre Dame’s undergraduate business program number one in the country for the past five years.

“While the total number of Notre Dame undergraduates has essentially held constant over the past 10 years, the number of undergraduates enrolled in Arts & Letters has plummeted,” said the Observer. “Political science, once the most popular undergraduate major with 684 enrollees, has lost 38% of its students since the spring of 2004. Likewise, the history department has dropped from 324 to 196 undergraduate majors, and English has fallen from 424 to 239. Over the same period, the number of finance majors has climbed from 368 to 482 (25%). It is now the most popular major at Notre Dame.”

Application extensions

This year, several colleges, including Bates, Chicago, Duke, Dartmouth, Columbia, and Vanderbilt, offered extensions for their January admissions deadlines.

The University of Pennsylvania gave applicants an extra four days to submit application materials. “The Office of Admissions chose to extend the deadline in order to provide students with more time to enjoy their holidays. Previously, the deadline had only been extended in the case of extenuating circumstances, such as Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and Common Application glitches last year.”

According to Bloomberg Business, “Colleges that extend deadlines say they are merely trying to give more students a chance to apply and receive scholarships. Yet students and even some colleges are asking whether the extra days are penalizing on-time applicants. The extensions are bewildering teenagers and high school guidance counselors.”

Another reason for these extensions may have to do with the fact that application numbers are beginning to level off. Perhaps colleges have extended deadlines in order to increase or keep applications numbers steady, so that selectivity figures are not negatively impacted.

The tuition cost of public universities continues to rise

As a recent New York Times article recently highlighted, most elite public universities are raising tuition for in-state students. At the same time, they are also restricting the number of in-state students admitted in order to make way for out-of-state and international students (who pay even higher tuition). Overall, the result is that college is becoming less and less affordable for many families.

The LA Times discusses the particularly heated battle between the University of California system and state government over university funding. “In recent years, UC sharply increased the numbers of students from outside the state because they pay about $23,000 more in tuition than Californians do. But the rising presence of non-Californians is a hot political item, and legislative proposals to increase state funding to the UC require a freeze on their ranks.”

UC President Janet Napolitano said the number of out-of-state students offered admission will be capped next year at UCLA and Berkeley, “where the demand is highest,” but she did not freeze non-resident admissions at the other seven undergraduate campuses.

Deciding where – and how – to apply to college can be daunting. For guidance deciphering your options and understanding the changing landscape of college admissions, contact Collegiate Gateway – as always, we’re happy to help.

Applying to UK Universities: A How-to Guide

Have you ever pictured yourself attending university in England or Scotland?  You may be surprised to learn that it’s a more attainable goal than you think.

The United Kingdom includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  This is especially true now, since Scotland recently voted to remain within the jurisdiction of the UK!  All the universities in the UK use the UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service).

 Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 3.43.30 PM 

Are there different categories of UK Universities?

Funny you should ask!  Universities in the United Kingdom (including England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland) are typically grouped in six categories, based on their date of origin.  In the UK, age matters!  The most well-known and distinguished UK universities are considered “Ancient Universities,” founded before 1800.  These include the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge (collectively known as “Oxbridge”) and the University of St. Andrews.

Another category consists of Colleges Founded in the 19th Century, including those within the University of London and the former University of Wales.  Most of the universities in London are part of the public University of London system, founded in 1836 by Royal Charter.  London University consists of 18 constituent colleges, which operate fairly independently. Several award their own degrees, including King’s College London, London Business School, University College London and LSE. Imperial College London left the University system in 2007.

The remaining categories include colleges founded in the 20th century, such as the “Red Brick Universities,” large public universities founded in the early decades of the 20th century; and “Plate Glass Universities,” chartered after 1966.


Step 1: Become More Familiar with UK Universities

A unique and highly beneficial feature of the application process in the UK is that universities hold several Open Visit Days each year.  For example, Oxford has Open Visit Days in early July and mid-September.  For American students, you may not be considering college visits in the summer, so take note that the best time to go is during July when you are not in academic session. While typically you do not need to register for open days, advance booking may be required for some events.

Students, parents, and counselors can register in advance for a full day of scheduled presentations on admissions, financial aid, student life, and housing, as well as attend talks by professors in different “faculties,” or academic areas. It is advisable to visit at least one college, as well as a faculty talk in  your academic area of choice.  Staff are available to answer questions throughout the day.

LSE-During-Open-Visit-Day

 

UK-town-during-Open-Visit-Day

Step 2: Choose an Academic Faculty

Attending college in the UK is fundamentally different than in the United States in terms of the high degree of academic directedness.  There is no such thing as “undecided!”  Students apply to specific “faculties,” or academic departments.  English universities have a three-year, highly focused academic program in which students apply for a specific subject or interdisciplinary grouping of subjects; and, if accepted, pursue this course of study throughout the three years.  Scottish universities have four-year degrees and a hybrid system in which students study three to five subjects during the first two years, confirm their preferred concentration(s) and study only those one or two subjects throughout their final two years.

Step 3:  Learn More About the Application Process

 Students apply to all UK universities through a common application called UCAS. Students may only apply to five applications to all UK universities, including only one to Oxbridge (Oxford or Cambridge).

The UCAS application opens September 1.  The application deadlines are as follows:

  • October 15: Oxbridge, and the faculties of medicine, dentistry and veterinary science
  • January 15: Most other UK institutions
  • March 24: Art and Design programs.

Admissions decisions are provided by March 31.  Your acceptance is often contingent on achieving certain academic outcomes at the end of senior year, such as attaining certain IB and AP scores.  For students taking AP courses, final decisions are not rendered until after mid-July, when AP scores are received.

UCAS-Applicaiton-Flowchart

Step 4: Write Your Personal Statement

The personal statement for UK universities plays a vital role in the process.  Since students are considered for particular faculties, the purpose of the personal statement is to establish that you are a good fit for your designated academic area.  The essay should demonstrate why you are drawn to a particular academic area, and what you will contribute to academic life at the university.

Unlike personal statements for US universities, the focus should be exclusively academic, not personal.  As such, the essay is more similar to the US graduate school personal statement.  The UK personal statement has a maximum of 4000 characters (about the same length as the US 650 word maximum).  UK admissions officers suggest that you spend 70-75% of your Personal Statement on academic aspects, such as courses and research. The remainder could discuss outside activities, but only if they are relevant to your intended courses of study.  For example, if you wish to pursue Politics, you could discuss the evolution of your interest in politics, relevant coursework such as AP Government, as well as your involvement in Model UN or Debate Club. Regardless, make sure you always tie your experience directly to your academic and career goals.

Topics that could be relevant to include are:

  • What are your primary areas of academic interest?
  • Why do you have these interests?
  • How would study of these areas relate to your future goals?
  • What are your relevant skills and perspectives?
  • What are your relevant extra experiences, such as outside reading, activities, work and internships?

UK Admissions Officers cannot emphasize enough how important it is to do your research about the universities and the subjects offered, and proofread carefully!  Keep in mind that the same Personal Statement will be read by all the UK universities you are applying to (up to five maximum), so only include information that applies to all the colleges. For example, only discuss courses of subjects that are available at all the universities you are applying to.

To learn more about the UK’s many fine universities, check out our blogs on Oxford, St. Andrews and Cambridge. And of course, contact Collegiate Gateway – we’re always happy to help.

STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: Graham Turk, Princeton 2017

Meet Graham, a member of Princeton University’s class of 2017! Graham is a graduate of The Wheatley School in Old Westbury, New York, and he is now pursuing his Bachelor’s in Computer Science.

What is your favorite memory from your first year of college?

Bus rides with the club hockey team.

What was the most challenging part of your first year?

Maintaining the high level of discipline necessary to block out all distractions.

What has been your favorite course so far?

COS 126: General Computer Science. It’s an introductory computer science course with no prior experience necessary. The course is organized extremely well with engaging lectures, fun assignments and infinite resources for help. In the third week we wrote a program to simulate planets’ orbits around the sun. In the sixth week we created a guitar simulator that you can play with the keyboard. The course is the reason I became a Computer Science major.

Describe a favorite extracurricular activity you have participated in during your first year at college.

Club ice hockey. I have been playing hockey since I was three years old and I knew I wanted to continue in college. The club team is the perfect level of commitment and competition. We practice twice a week and play about 20 games in a season. I met all of my best friends through the team. It’s also the ultimate escape from schoolwork. Finding a release from the academic environment is essential to happiness – once I step onto the ice I forget entirely about tests and essays.

What were your living arrangements for your first year at college? How did your roommates work out?

I lived in a two-room triple. There was a common room and a bedroom. The room itself was a little cramped but I became very close with my roommates. I am living with both of them sophomore year.

What are you most looking forward to as you begin your second year of college?

Beginning the computer science track. Last year I was in chemical engineering but switched because I realized that I should study what I enjoy, rather than what I think will be the best background.

What advice would you give to incoming college freshmen?

I’m sure people have told you these will be the best four years of your life and that you will absolutely love it. Don’t feel that you need to fulfill those statements immediately. You may not love it, and there’s nothing wrong with that. You aren’t doing anything wrong. Keep a positive outlook. Be open to try new things and meet new people. And despite being the most overused maxim in college, you really do need to find a balance.

 

The FAFSA: To File or Not to File?

If your family is able to fully fund your child’s college education, you might feel that there is no reason for you to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). You may think you won’t qualify, and may even believe there is an advantage to demonstrating to colleges that you are able to pay full tuition. There is some credence to these concerns. On the other hand, if your child is gifted academically or talented in a unique field of interest (for example, athletics, arts, or community leadership), you could be missing out on consideration for the segment of merit scholarships that require submission of a FAFSA form. In the end, deciding whether or not to file is a complex decision based on a number of factors.

Can filing the FAFSA hurt admissions chances?

Since the economic downturn in 2008, students who are able to pay full tuition are perhaps more desirable to some colleges. As a result, many families worry that indicating an intent to file the FAFSA will impact their child’s admission negatively.  This concern does have some validity. Whether or not it actually will depends primarily on two factors:

  • Whether the college’s policy is need-blind or need-aware, as well as the percentage of needs-met.  The “need-blind” and “need-aware” policies apply to the admissions process itself.  “Need-blind” means that the college reviews applications without consideration of the applicant’s intent to file the FAFSA. Examples of schools that use need-blind admissions policies include MIT, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Amherst College, and Dartmouth. “Need-aware” colleges, on the other hand, take the applicant’s intent to file the FAFSA into consideration when they make admissions decisions. Colgate University, Washington University in St. Louis, Occidental College, Gettysburg College, and Bryn Mawr College are examples of schools that use need-aware admissions policies.

“Needs-met” is a financial aid policy that refers to the percent of the applicant’s financial need that is met AFTER the applicant is accepted and decides to matriculate; it comes into play only during the process of granting financial awards. While Harvard and MIT are need-blind, these schools also meet 100% of an admitted student’s demonstrated financial need. On the other hand, Boston University and NYU use a need-blind admissions policy, but do not guarantee that they will fully meet a student’s demonstrated need. Therefore, a student might be admitted, but not receive the financial assistance necessary to pay the tuition. According to Union College, they are need-aware, because “once we admit you to Union, we will find a way for you to attend. We will put together a realistic financial aid package based on your family’s ability to pay, and you will most likely be able to afford our school.”

  • The college’s financial resources, as reflected in the endowment. Colleges use their endowment, not their annual operating budget, to fund financial aid.  After the 2008 economic downturn, most colleges’ endowment took a hit. As a result, many were required to alter their policies toward funding both need-based and merit-based financial aid.

Indeed, some colleges that were formerly “need-blind” became “need-aware.” Wesleyan University, Reed College, and George Washington University, for example, have moved away from an entirely need-blind admissions policy to a combination of need-blind and need-aware admissions. Wesleyan estimates that they admit about 90% of students through a need-blind process, and then consider need as an admissions factor for the remainder. Therefore, if a student’s application is on the fringe of qualifying for their admissions standards, their financial ability to pay is considered.

What if I don’t think I’ll qualify for financial aid?

Some families feel that a high income will not prevent them from qualifying for any financial aid. Others believe that their child’s grades are not high enough to be considered for scholarships, or that the FAFSA form is too confusing and time-consuming.

The perception that your family’s income is too high to quality for need-based financial aid may be inaccurate.  Filling out the FAFSA enables students to learn about the possible scholarships, grants, federal work-study programs, and student loans for which they might be eligible.

In reality, colleges and the federal government consider many factors in determining who is eligible for financial aid, including the number of children in your family, how many of these children are simultaneously attending college, and the age of the oldest parent.

More importantly, each college evaluates the FAFSA in a different way.  Colleges are now required to post a financial aid calculator on their websites to provide applicants with an estimate of the amount of financial aid they can expect from, given their particular financial situation. Mark Kantrowitz, a financial aid expert and the publisher of FinAid.org, provides several calculators to help families estimate how much school will cost, how much they need to save, and how much aid they will need, as well as a wealth of information concerning scholarships.

Submitting the FAFSA can help you obtain merit aid.

Even if you are able to pay the full sticker price for college, filling out the FAFSA can open doors to free money: merit scholarships. According to the Office of Federal Student Aid, “Some schools won’t even consider you for any of their scholarships (including academic scholarships) until you’ve submitted a FAFSA. Don’t make assumptions about what you’ll get— fill out the application and find out.”

If a student’s academic profile would place the student in the top 10% of the matriculating class (in other words, the student is likely to be admitted), the college may be more inclined to offer merit-based aid. Some schools, like Tulane University, University of Miami, University of Chicago, and University of Southern California, give many merit-based scholarships to entice highly qualified students to attend.

Merit offers can serve a variety of functions regarding yield, or the likelihood of attendance.  “Rather than lose bright students to less-expensive public colleges, universities like Tulane offer sizable amounts of aid based mainly on academic promise,” states the New York Times.  In addition, some public universities use merit aid to draw wealthy students from private universities, according to Donald Heller, dean of Michigan State University’s College of Education.  Finally, many of the most selective colleges in the country, including the Ivies, do not award merit-based aid, and other colleges, such as Chicago, use merit aid to lure high-performing applicants to matriculate.

When Should You File the FAFSA?

Even if you have not checked off an intention to file the FAFSA on your child’s college application, you can reconsider this option and still apply for financial aid. The FAFSA can be filed online on or after January 1 of each year, using your family’s estimated taxes from the previous year if your current taxes have not yet been filed. The FAFSA application takes the average person about 1-2 hours to complete, according to the Department of Education.

For students applying in the fall of 2014 for matriculation in the fall of 2015, the federal deadline for the online FAFSA is midnight Central Time, June 30, 2015.  Note that each state has a different deadline, and that colleges may have different deadlines as well.  Most importantly, keep in mind that there are advantages to filing as early as possible, because “Most student financial aid is limited (there isn’t always enough for everyone who applies) and awarded on a first-come, first-served basis,” according to Student Financial Aid Services, an established aid advisory group.

Navigating the financial affordability of college and opportunities for scholarships and grants can be an overwhelming prospect. There is no one right answer for everyone; each family must decide what makes the most sense given their financial situation.

For more information about financial aid and the scholarship opportunities available to you, contact Collegiate Gateway – we’re always happy to help.