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Watch Out for These Four College Admission Myths

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It’s hard enough making the best college decisions without getting bamboozled by stubborn college admission myths.

From a financial standpoint, misinformation can lead to your clients paying way too much for college and even forcing them to delay their retirement.

You can help your clients avoid this kind of bad decision making by sharing with them these four college admission myths:

 

1. It’s become increasingly hard to get into college.

UCLA researchers annually oversee a massive survey of freshmen, who attend four-year public and private colleges, and every year the results show that more than 75% of freshmen get accepted into their first-choice school. And nearly all freshmen (95%) end up attending one of their top three choices.

It’s not tough to get into college unless it’s a destination that primarily caters to smart, high-income students, who believe a highly rejective school is essential to becoming a success in life. Of course, we’re talking about the elite school darlings that U.S. News & World Report glorifies.

When the Pew Research Center took a look at this issue, it determined that extremely competitive schools amounted to just 3.4% of all the colleges and universities and they accounted for a mere 4.1% of total student enrollment. Only 17 institutions admitted fewer than 10% of its applicants.

By contrast, more than half of the schools in Gallup’s research universe of 1,364 four-year schools admitted two-thirds or more of their applicants.

Landmark research over the decades has shown that high-income students are not the ones who benefit from an elite education. After all, they were born into golden-ticket households. Research says it’s low-income and first-generation students who benefit the most from an elite education.

 

2. Test scores can make or break admissions chances.

More than 76% of schools are using test-optional or test-blind admissions which represents an all-time high. Nearly 1,800 colleges and universities will not require the ACT or SAT for the 2022-2023 school year. 

The trend of making the submission of test scores optional had been building for years, but it exploded during the pandemic when in-person testing was not feasible. The vast majority of schools that became test-optional during the height of the pandemic have remained so.

Your clients, however, need to be aware of a college’s policy regarding merit scholarships and financial aid and test score submission. Families will need to find out if a failure to submit scores would hurt chances for institutional awards.

Not submitting scores will be a non-issue for the still small, but growing number of test-blind institutions. Test-blind schools, which include all of the University of California campuses, refuse to accept ACT or SAT scores from their applicants. This is the best situation possible.

 

3. You must either accept or reject a college’s award package.

Except for the nation’s most popular schools, most colleges and universities have to hustle each year to fill their freshmen classes. According to the latest annual survey of admission directors by Inside Higher Ed, which was released in September, only 32% of schools met their freshmen admission goals by May 1, the traditional deposit day, and the majority hadn’t even met them by July!

Through sophisticated software, colleges often strive to determine what kind of an award package certain categories of teenagers will likely accept. The software is designed to offer just enough to seal the deal with a student, but no more. With the price of college so high – in some cases a bachelor’s degree can cost more than $325,000 – it makes sense to appeal awards.  

How successful an appeal will be could hinge on how much a college wants an accepted student and also what the status of the institution’s freshmen deposits are.

 

4. Paying for college requires finding private scholarships.

Actually, private scholarships represent a very small source of college money.

For affluent families, who won’t qualify for state or federal grants, the biggest source of money will come from the schools themselves via merit scholarships.

I’ve had parents contact me in the past who wanted to know how to find private scholarships after their teenagers had been accepted to colleges that they couldn’t afford.

Hunting for money after college acceptances is a backwards way of attempting to finance a bachelor’s degree. And it is usually an extremely ineffective approach.

At the start of the process, families should be evaluating schools that will give them need-based aid or merit scholarships. A good way to know, in advance, if a school is going to be generous to a child is to use the college’s net price calculator.

After inputting a family’s income and assets, a net price calculator will provide an estimate of a family’s net price after subtracting any expected grants or institutional scholarships from the cost of school’s attendance.

 



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