Friday, December 26, 2008

More Bad News for CSU Applicants

Every year, students from California and across the U.S. apply to CSU campuses all over the Golden State. But thanks to the ongoing financial crisis, this year's high school seniors may find it tough or even impossible to gain admission to CSU campuses that are outside their local area.  

A message from the Director of Student Outreach and Recruitment Services at CSU Northridge landed in my inbox yesterday, bearing the bad news that Northridge is being forced to revise its admissions criteria and will now give priority admission to "those students who attend high school in a closely-defined geographical area, the local guarantee admission area or Tier I school districts, and meet the CSU eligibility index...Students graduating from a California high school located in an area outside CSUN's local admissions area--Tier II school districts--will be reviewed and rank-ordered using the CSU Eligibility Index which is based upon high school GPA and SAT/ACT scores." Unfortunately, there is a possibility that CSUN may be unable to admit all students from Tier II who are eligible; the university is advising students to consider applying to other CSU campuses. 

This development is just one more example of how the current budget crisis may impact student options for college admissions in the coming years. While the best plan is always to apply broadly to a range of "best fit" schools, students may now have a smaller pool from which to create their lists of "likely", "target", and "reach" colleges and universities. For those who plan to attend a CSU campus, their acceptance letters may end up keeping them much closer to home than they'd planned. 

More information and a list of CSU campuses still accepting applications from freshman can be found at CSU Mentor

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Is College Worth It?

The move to eliminate vocational education from high school programs and instead make sure all students were 'prepped' for college changed the landscape of American education forever. Twenty years later, some are asking whether this shift did our kids and society a disservice, and ended up pushing many young people who would have been better off in the work force into wasting time (and money) in our nation's colleges. 

A recent article in BusinessWeek chimes in on the debate. 

More insights from the Chronicle of Higher Education: America's Most Over-rated Product: The Bachelor's Degree

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Facing College Sticker-Shock

When planning for college, students and parents face two questions that can cause anxiety-attacks: Where will I get in? and How will we pay for it? The cost of higher education remains a key factor for most families in choosing an institution. Increasingly, there are also a greater number of options available to offset what can be a large financial burden.

Check out this current article on Newsweek for insight into how "merit aid" can help bring the cost of college under control.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Let the Rankings Begin!

Look out, U.S. News and World Report: There's a new competitor in the college rankings game. Forbes has joined the (supposed) effort to help students make informed choices about which college to attend with a ranking methodology that focuses on the satisfaction and success of graduates. While definitely throwing new factors for school comparison into the mix, the nagging questions about the purpose and efficacy of college ranking remain: Do rankings really help students make choices about the colleges that best fit their needs and goals? Or do rankings simply create a selection environment where students pick schools based primarily on the prestige they are granted by a subjective methodology?

While many college admissions counselors, educators and organizations like College That Change Lives advocate ignoring the "rankings game" when exploring possible colleges, students, parents and even alumni continue to be lured by the lists. Does more list makers mean more quality information students can use to make the best choices about where to apply? Or is this just another marketing strategy that encourages students to choose a college based not on which is a sound educational fit, but on which the media tells them are the best?

It's a decision students and families have to make for themselves.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Future of Financial Aid

Most American families ask two questions when anticipating college for their teens: 1) Which is the best school for us?, and 2) How will we pay for it? With the cost of college tuition increasing every year, financial aid is an absolute necessity for the vast majority of students. While scholarships, grants and college savings plans can offset the cost of attendance, student loans are usually needed to cover the bulk of the cost.

The credit crisis that is currently shaking up the housing market is spilling over into the realm of student aid. Some experts see this as a positive development, providing the federal government, lenders and institutions of higher education an opportunity to seriously evaluate and make changes to a system that most acknowledge is broken. But like any systemic shift, any alterations to the current student loan program will be slow in coming. Should the changes begin with the FAFSA system? Lenders? An insistence that colleges begin to look at ways to cap costs? And in the meantime, what impact will this uncertainty have on students preparing for college in the next few years?

Inside Higher Ed offers perspectives on these issues in its article "Rethinking Student Aid--Really?" While there are currently no easy solution for the challenges of the financial aid system, it pays for those heading to college to be well informed and get the best advice possible to make sure that the road through college doesn't lead straight to the poorhouse. Tune in to the Financial Aid Podcast for up-to-date info and advice.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

New SAT Score-Reporting Policy: Better or Worse?

Last month, the College Board announced changes to their SAT score-reporting policy, giving students who take the SAT multiple times the flexibility to choose which scores colleges will receive during the admissions process (see the complete announcement below). Current policy allows colleges to see the scores from all SAT attempts a student makes; as of spring 2009 (sorry, rising seniors!), students will be able to sit for the exams as many times as they like and "hide" all but their best scores from admissions officers.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Jump Start Your College Search This Summer

Whether you're a soon-to-be freshman or a rising senior, make the most of those long summer afternoons by launching your college search. Looking for colleges that meet your needs and goals can be much less stressful when it isn't something you juggle along with homework, extracurriculars and social life during the school year. These tips from Colleges That Change Lives can help you get started:

Start With a Map
Start by making a list of the colleges within four hours of home—the distance most students travel when choosing a college. There are many websites that allow you to search by geography, so pick your state and those nearby and hit "find"! Try the US Dept of Ed College Navigator.

CSI: College Search Investigator
Start asking the people you know and respect if they went to college and where they attended. Ask relatives, friends, teachers, neighbors, church members, co-workers and others in your life. You may be surprised to learn about colleges you have never heard of that will be great for you to investigate. This is also a way to learn more about colleges from an insider's point of view. Just make sure to get more than one opinion before you add or delete any from your list!

Anime To Ultimate Frisbee—Choice By Interest
It is not unreasonable to narrow the field by looking for colleges that have your non-academic interests, whether that is leadership, sports, or hobbies. Use search engines and college websites to investigate whether you can keep doing the activities you enjoy and find others who share your passion. Alternately, some students choose to eliminate colleges with activities they dislike, so searching for colleges without sports, fraternities and sororities, or other specific activities is another way to make your list. College Matchmaker from College Board may help you search this way.

Need professional advice and guidance to find the schools that are best for you? Visit my website to learn more about how I can guide you on your path to the college of your dreams.

To learn more about College That Change Lives and its mission, visit their Website .

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Make the Most of a "Gap Year"

Not long ago, taking a "gap year" between high school graduation and college was considered a euphemism for slacking off and postponing a young person's entry into the "real world". But recently, with increasing numbers of prestigious colleges and universities coming out in favor of gap years for some students (and even, as in the case of Princeton, creating "bridge" programs to help students gain valuable life experience before entering higher education), the option of pursing a productive year of experience between high school and college is not just acceptable, it's attractive.

Of course, the purpose of a gap year isn't to catch up on soap operas or perfect your gaming skills. A gap year is an opportunity to learn, grow and enrich your life. If planned and executed properly, it can even make you a more desirable and ultimately successful student. So how do you make the most of a gap year?

  • Get into college first. Most colleges will allow you to defer entrance for one year after acceptance. While it's certainly possible to complete applications, etc. while you're pursuing your gap year, it can be challenging to do the paperwork, especially if you plan to be in another country. Plus, who wants to fill up a gap year with completing applications?
  • Do your research. There are numerous reputable programs in which you can participate during your gap year. Find one that meets your interests, then check it out thoroughly. If necessary, hire a consultant to help you plan a rewarding year.
  • Create a plan and stick to it. Without a plan, it's easy to get derailed. Build a time line and set goals for yourself.
  • Take care of the details. Most of your friends are probably heading off to college, creating a social void in your life. Be sure to provide yourself with opportunities to socialize and network. And don't overlook the mundane considerations such as health insurance; without coverage through your parents or college, you may need to buy private insurance.
  • Pause and reflect. As you progress through your gap year, take time regularly to consider if the year is meeting your goals and expectations; if not, create a strategy to get back on track.
  • Live it up! If you've planned effectively, this will be a year you'll remember and reaps the benefits of for the rest of your life. Carpe diem!