Author Archives: Eligibility Advice

Attending College Is Expensive But Worthwhile

Financial Benefits

Current studies show that even with the rising cost of College, attending College is expensive but worthwhile, based on long-term earnings. For example, this Economist article considers the Return on Investment via Payscale.

Intangible Benefits

In addition to the financial benefit to attending College, there are also the intangible benefits that make College worthwhile. This 2016 article by the President of Arizona State University discusses some of the intangibles.

In this article, Michael Crow discusses the impact a College education has on many aspects of an individual’s life, stating, “The structure and outcome of American society now is being driven by college attainment. Educational attainment, now and in the future, drives class structure, medical outcomes, social welfare outcomes, children’s success and democratic participation. An individual’s education level is also a reliable predictor of life span.”

Crow also describes the impact the individual’s education makes on the world: “College education – additional learning – created a more adaptive population that produced a substantially different world in 20th century America.”

Your College Choices Make a Significant Impact On Whether College is Worthwhile

Pixabay Calculator

College is expensive, but worthwhile, if you are thoughtful.

In my house, we agree that College is important. The next question is the chosen field of study. My advice to my children is that if they choose a degree that is generally not well-paid, I support them 100%, if that degree is their passion. But I remind them that choosing that degree comes with consequences. These consequences include having less discretionary money to live their life, which means less or at least less expensive travel, home, car, etc. This is a very simple idea that all parents should pass on to their children. Your future financial life is significantly impacted by your choice to:

a) attend or not attend College
b) apply yourself while at College
c) attend an inexpensive vs. expensive College
d) incur a little or a lot of College debt
e) obtain a generally lucrative or non-lucrative degree

There are many people who are financially successful with a degree that is not known to be lucrative, but it is generally harder to have financial security with a History degree vs. an Engineering degree. While money is not everything, the security that comes with having regular employment and adequate money can not be discounted.

Check out Eligible College Student’s Facebook page for links to lots of relevant current articles.

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A Few More Tips for College Visits

Families with High School juniors likely spent their Spring Break on College Visits. And your summer will likely include more College Visits. If you have read ADMISSIONS INTERVIEW & CAMPUS VISITS, you have lots of tips to make your visit successful. But here are a few more tips:

  1. Express Your Interest in a College
Is it a College or University?

Let Colleges Know You Are Actively Interested

As discussed in YIELD, College’s Admissions Offices have a difficult task. If they want to admit 500 students, how many students should they accept? How many of those who are accepted will choose to enroll – what will their yield be?

Colleges pay attention to how much time and attention you have spent on their College. The more time, the more likely you are going to enroll if you are accepted. If you have decided Acme College is THE ONE, then a) you likely decided it was THE ONE after you spent a fair amount of time on campus and b) you likely spent a lot of time on Acme’s campus because you are excited about it. While there are some students who decide a particular College is THE ONE without having even visited the College, that is certainly more rare.

Therefore, whenever you visit a College, attend and off-campus Information Session or have any outside contact with the College, make sure they know you were there – document your College Visit. Even if you can’t attend an Information Session or College Tour, stop by the Admissions Office, talk to anyone who is available and fill out the forms that express your interest. It is best if the student is the one who engages in the Admissions Office. By filing out the forms, you will be added to the mailing list and they will make note of the fact that you visited their campus. At the very least, go onto the College’s website and sign up to be on their mailing list, another way to express interest.

2. Visit a College when Classes are in Session

When Colleges are on break, the energy on the campus dies. If your student is worried a College may be too small, a visit when there is no activity on campus is another nail in the coffin…. Students are very concerned about deciding whether the students on campus are “their people”, which is difficult to determine if hardly any students are on campus when you visit.

Unrestricted Stock Graphic Calendar

Plan Your College Visits in Advance

At the beginning of Junior year, determine all of the dates that your student does not have school. Teacher Conferences, Teacher Workdays, even some Holidays. Determine if your student has any other commitments on those non-school days. Then type <XX College 20– Academic Calendar>. This should lead you to XX’s calendar for that year. Compare the calendars, and now you know the best dates for your College Visit. The alternative is to pull your Junior out of school to visit XX College, but Junior year is an important academic year and your student may be resistant to miss school to visit Colleges.

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Student Athletes

Pixabay Swimming PoolStudent Athletes need to be strategic when they are applying to College. If you can afford to hire a counselor who has counseled several student athletes or specializes in student athletes, you may find that is money well spent. On the other hand, sometimes Counselors who specialize in student athletes may be weak in the many other facets of College Admissions. The best way to assess a Counselor is to ask other clients about their experience. In the meantime, here are some articles addressing the issues specific to student athletes:

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Prepare for College – Shortcut

While I have tried hard to not overwhelm you, I know that if you are short on time, sometimes you just want a short checklist to help you prepare for College. I have resisted making a checklist, because it’s hard to sum up a complex process with a short list. Having said that, there are many resources that have prepared a list or brief article about the steps necessary to be prepared for College. Why should I re-create the wheel? Here are just a few:

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Money, Money, Money

If you are a senior in High School, you may think it’s time to sit back, relax (or maybe worry), because you are applications are submitted. You may have heard back from “the one” and know where you are attending College. Or, like, most seniors, you are impatiently waiting for April 1st to come, which is the date many Colleges let you know the answer to a very important question. While I admit you may deserve a break, now is not the time…

Applying Early Can be a Good Thing... Unless it's Not

Keep on Top of Scholarship Deadlines

You may have submitted your scholarship application for the Colleges where you applied, but there are THOUSANDS of more scholarships out there, waiting for an enterprising Senior to apply to and win. Even if you don’t have the most stellar grades and/or test scores, you may be more qualified than you think. Need some examples?

How about the Gallery Collection’s 9th annual $10,000 Design-a-Greeting-card scholarship?

Or Sub Pop’s Every Loser’s a Winner scholarship – 3 scholarships totaling $15,000?

If that is too mainstream, how about:

Pixabay Prom Dresses

Design Your Prom Dress out of Duck Tape and You May Win Money

Wear Ducktape to Prom Scholarship?

Write a Fire Sprinkler Essay for the The American Fire Safety Association and maybe win $20,000?

There are also some very specialized scholarships for a relatively small group of qualified applicants:

The International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Scholarship for students who work 13 or more hours a week at a member IDDBA.

If you are bored, check out the Chick and Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Scholarship Contest on YouTube.

Yes, the possibilities are endless. Are you tall? Member of Clowns of America International? Have you promoted vegetarianism in your school? Think of ANYTHING that makes you unique, and there just might be a scholarship for that. If you are looking for more generic scholarships, alll you have to do is type “college scholarships” to get a long list of available scholarships, some for big money. Check out,,,,, etc., etc. Otherwise, type in whatever comes to mind, such as “ketchup loving college scholarship” and see what you find.

Pixabay Piggy Bank

Scholarships = Money

Make sure to ask your parents if there are any scholarships available through their work. If they belong to a Union, there is a good chance that the answer is yes. The more people you ask, the more likely you will find out about a scholarship that is not well-publicized, and then your chances of winning go up.

If you are trying to figure out whether this is worth your time, I remind my kids that a single $1,000 scholarship equates to over 100 hours at a minimum wage job.

Want some more advice on financial aid and saving money both before and while you are in College? Check out the Ultimate Saving Guide and Money Management for Students.

An Eligible College Student user recommended this page from Finance Guide for College Students.

Looking for other ways to get money to pay for College? Check out Finding Colleges with Generous Financial and/or Merit Money, Choosing Where to Apply Based on Your Financial Position and What Parents Can Teach Their Kids About Money for more advice.

Pixabay Sharing InformationHave you found any unique or extraordinary scholarships? Please share them by leaving a post.

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Finding Colleges with Generous Financial and/or Merit Money

If money is an important variable in your College search and you have read Choosing Where to Apply Based On Your Financial Situation, you know that a) a strong academic resume is important b) the the amount of financial and merit aid can vary widely by school, particularly whether or not they are a highly selective College and c) that you should read this post to figure out how to find Colleges with generous aid.

Is it a College or University?

Elite Colleges Offer Generous Financial Aid

Type in the words “Colleges with Generous Financial Aid” or “Colleges with Generous Merit Aid” and you will find many websites to help you in your search. Many websites intended to help you with your College Search will include a searchable database of Colleges, where you can specify all sorts of criteria, whether it’s location, weather, specific course offerings, housing, or even whether a Freshman can have a car on campus. While basic criteria will likely be the same across these websites, you may find that some of the more unique search criteria will vary widely, so it’s worth your time to spend a few minutes comparing criteria to find the best search database for your needs.

While I have not spent a lot of time comparing these websites, I believe a good College Search database can be found on College Boards’s website. Once you are on College Board’s website, click on College Search in the main menu. Here you can specify criteria that is important to you, including Paying, which allows you specify schools that meet a large percentage of financial aid of their students, the tuition, and other variables that will affect your bottom line. If you want to save your search, you can create a log-in account. If you will be soon or have already taken the PSAT, SAT or Subject Tests, you will already have a College Board log-in account.

Pixabay Sharing Information

Share Your Experience

If you have found a College Search database you really like, please comment on this post and indicate why.



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Choosing Where to Apply Based On Your Financial Situation

If money is in shortage in your household, you need to be strategic on where you choose to apply to College. That’s a simple sentence for a complex process, but I will break it down.

Pixabay JugglingOne thing that you may have had drilled into your head (certainly something I drilled into my kids’ heads) is that you need to get good grades in High School so you can go to a good College. This may be a double-edged sword, if your family can’t afford to pay for your College education, which is why you must consider your financial situation. I will repeat once again, DO EVERYTHING YOU CAN to avoid paying for College with student loans. Those payments will haunt you for YEARS after you graduate and may reek havoc with your credit rating. Students loans now exceed credit card debt in the US, and those loans have an incredibly high default rate, meaning a lot of students are unable to pay back their loans, which is very stressful and hurts their credit rating. A bad credit rating makes it hard to buy your first home or maybe even get a job, as many businesses are now checking applicants’ credit ratings. The double-edged sword is that DEPENDING ON WHERE YOU APPLY, good grades may qualify you for more financial aid and more merit money, but then again, it might qualify you for more financial aid but no merit money, or more merit money, but little-to-no financial aid. In this post, I refer to highly selective Colleges, which is a generic term. When I say highly selective, I mean Colleges who generally accept less than 15% of it’s applicants.

Colleges with Large Endowments

Colleges with Large Endowments

  1. Financial Aid – highly selective Colleges
    1. Highly selective Colleges have large endowments which often mean more generous financial aid.  Many selective Colleges will also emphasize that they consider their applicants “need-blind”. This means that while your application goes to the Admissions Office for consideration, your financial forms are sent to the College’s financial aid office, so that Admissions can decide whether to admit you regardless of your financial need. Here’s the catch – those highly selective Colleges are extremely hard to get into – better grades and test scores help your case, but even exceptional students who apply to a highly selective college have a low chance of acceptance.
      1. The Colleges with Large Endowments spreadsheet illustrates how large endowments often mean not only that more students qualify for financial aid (for example, Stanford University states that most students whose families earn less than $125,000 per year will likely qualify for free tuition), but also that all or most of your financial need will be met. Note that the spreadsheet is ranked in the order of the Endowment Per Student, because large universities may have substantial endowments that don’t add up to much, if you compare the size of the endowment to the number of students. My methodology for finding these Colleges means there may be other Colleges with a large endowment per student that is not included in this spreadsheet.
      2. The consequence of both financial and merit money is that a) some private Colleges may cost you less than public Colleges and b) many students with financial need AND good grades and test scores apply to highly selective Colleges. While it may be hard to get in, if you do get in, you are in a very good financial position. But you have fierce competition.
  2. Financial Aid – less selective Colleges
    1. Pixabay Gold Bars

      Some Colleges Run Out of Financial Aid Money

      Colleges with less money in their coffers often can’t afford to meet all of a student’s financial need; they often make up the difference with student loans.

    2. Their standards for who qualifies for financial aid are often more stringent than more selective Colleges.
    3. This is why it is important to apply as early as you are ready, because as Colleges use up their financial aid budget, they will be less generous with their financial aid. The early bird is more likely to get the worm!
  3. Merit Money – highly Selective Colleges
    Good grades and test scores often mean more merit money, but that is often not the case at highly selective colleges. Merit money is generally used by Colleges to woo exceptional applicants. But if you are a highly selective/desirable College such as Princeton, Yale or Columbia, for example, you don’t need to woo those applicants – they come to you in great numbers. That’s why you will see many selective Colleges offer little to no merit money.
  4. Merit Money – less selective Colleges
    This is where you can really make an impact on the amount of tuition you pay. All students should be considering a wide-range of Colleges, in terms of selectivity. The so-called “Safety” “Target” and “Reach” schools. If you have a strong academic resume, some of those schools will likely be generous in their merit money. They are wooing you to increase their perceived selectivity. How do you find those schools? Check out the post Finding Colleges with Generous Financial and/or Merit Money.

Want some more advice on financial aid and saving money both before and while you are in College? Check out the Ultimate Saving Guide.

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PARENTS: After Your Child Has Submitted Their Last College Application

A friend of mine told me about a website and Facebook page called Grown and Flown.

One of the first Grown and Flown posts I read is about what to say to your child after they have finished their last College application. After they hit send on their last College application, my kids (and to be honest, my) overwhelming emotion was relief. A lot of work and stress has taken place to get to this point, it’s nice to check this activity off the list. I’m not sure what my kids felt next, but I definitely felt frustration. After all that work leading to this moment that we couldn’t wait to arrive, we now have to wait, wonder and ponder. Wait to hear back, wonder whether they will be accepted and ponder where they will attend College.

Pixabay UndecidedIf your child applies Early Decision and gets accepted or applies Early Action and/or Rolling Admission and gets accepted and chooses to not wait to hear back from other Colleges, that wait could be as little as a month, Otherwise, that wait is likely a minimum of 3 months, but sometimes as long as 5 months, or even longer if they applied long before the application deadline. During those months, you may be wondering if they will be attending the nearby State College or that small liberal arts College is Northern Maine. Will they need sunblock and swimsuits or a warm parka? Is this going to cost $7,000 or $70,000 a year?

As the writer in the post above notes, it seems like things should be said at that point, but I had no idea what to say, other than “Good job”. The writer provides some great advice.

On a related note, for those of you who feel too busy to read parenting books now your child is no longer a toddler, the internet is a great resource for advice. Being a thoughtful parent is work, so if you feel too overwhelmed to be thoughtful, do an internet search on an issue and let others who have been thoughtful offer you some advice. Being a thoughtful parent of a teenager is one of the best ways to spend your time. Teenage years are really tough years, especially these days. Don’t think your parenting should be limited to setting curfews and asking if they did their homework. Another reason for being a thoughtful parent? Your teenager will soon be leaving the nest. You want them to think of that nest as a warm, comfortable, loving place, so they want to come back on occasion.

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Summarizing Important Variables

Defining and then summarizing important variables is a great tool for comparing options. In the College search, this process begins with deciding what should be included on the list of important variables to compare, but is refined as you realize you are willing to compromise when a College comes short on one of your variables but remains on the potentials list. Here is an example:

As you compare Colleges, you realize that a College you really like doesn’t offer both degrees you are interested in pursuing. Attending this College would mean either passing on one of those degrees or possibly lengthening your time in College, as you have to earn the degrees from two different Colleges. On the other hand, the College you really like has a strong music program and has both intramural and club swimming. The other Colleges that offer both degrees either don’t have much of a music program or don’t offer club swimming. You decide to leave that College on your potentials list, which leaves you pondering what is most important to you. If the College that doesn’t have a double degree isn’t eliminated, are there other Colleges you should re-consider, that you eliminated because they don’t offer the double degree? Does not having a strong music and swimming program a deal breaker?

Pixabay Spreadsheet

Breakdown of Important Variables

Here is a sample Breakdown of Important Variables Whenever possible, I try to make these breakdowns in Spreadsheet format, to make them both more sortable and for ease of comparison. But sometimes a spreadsheet won’t do, as in this case. Here is an explanation of what made it onto this sample breakdown.

  • The first four items all have to do with money:
  1. Tuition, Room & Board
  2. Scholarships
  3. Graduation Rate
  4. AP Credit

The first 2 items have to do with how much the College costs on an annual basis, the next 2 items are identifying how long you might attend the College. Notes are included about guaranteed housing or minimal required years on campus, in case how long you can/must stay on campus is an important variable for you. Knowing how many years you may be staying on campus can be important, because room and board may be less or more expensive off campus. If it’s difficult to graduate in 4 years and/or you are receiving very little AP credit, then you will likely spend more time on campus getting your degree, which increases the amount of tuition you will pay.

  • Campus Size

You may decide either the physical size of a campus, number of enrolled students and/or average class size is an important consideration for you. The person who made this breakdown was concerned mainly about the average class size, but wanted to consider the number of students, because even in a large school with small classes, the campus dynamic usually changes when there are many students on campus. They also wanted to consider whether graduate students were on campus, because that might mean graduate student teachers, less research opportunities for undergraduate students or possibly access to graduate level classes as an undergraduate. They chose to add campus size, because they felt it would be a consideration if the campus was unusually large, which might mean long walks to get to some classes, or unusually dense, in terms of the number of students compared to the campus size. In this case, there was one College that was unusually dense and another College that was unusually large. This might not be an important variable, but it may become one if it varies widely from the norm. I suggest looking not merely at average class size, but also how many classes have less than 20 students, more than 50 students, etc. You may choose to not list all of that information in this Breakdown, but you would add a comment if a College was unusual in the way the Class Size broke down.

  • Activities

The last 3 items have to do with activities that are important to the prospective student. Note that these items are not listed as a yes or no. The activities summary include factors the student has discovered that are relevant to their particular situation. For example, this student is interested in performing in a College Orchestra. They’ve learned that some Colleges give priority to music majors, which is important if this student is not planning on being a music major but hopes to play in the Orchestra.

Note that none of the items in this Sample Breakdown include any emotional/gut feedback. That information is compared separately. This breakdown is a logical summary to help you be practical about your potential Colleges. If the student fell in love with a College that did not show favorably in this Sample Breakdown, they will have to spend time either a) justifying why this College should remain on the potential College list, b) reconsidering what are the most important variables, or c) eliminating this College from the potential list.

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Be a Strategic College Applicant

After deciding WHERE to apply, a strategic College applicant must decide WHEN and HOW to apply to your potential Colleges.

Deadlines & Timelines helps you track what needs to happen before you can apply as well as follow deadlines. Early Decision, Early Action, Regular Decision, Rolling Admission and Restrictive Early Action help you determine the pros and cons of each application plan and identify which application plan may be best for your situation.

Pixabay Spreadsheet

Analysis of Application Plans Acceptance Rates

But that is a lot of information, so you need to create tools to help you evaluate how/when you will apply to each potential College – you need to be a Strategic College Applicant. For example, make a spreadsheet that breaks down acceptance rates by Application Plan for each of your potential Colleges. The spreadsheet will quickly help you identify clear advantages and disadvantages, in terms of acceptance rates.

Pixabay Sharing Information

Share Your Experience

Please leave a comment and share how you made your decision on WHEN and HOW to apply to your potential Colleges.

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