College Interviews – Know Before You Go!

Know Before You Go…

Many colleges offer you a chance to interview with their admissions office or with alumni representatives. Some colleges require* that you interview as part of your application. Here are a few tips to help you prepare and convey that you are a top-notch candidate for their school.

Albeit gorgeous, the Wake Forest Admissions Building  can be scary right before an interview!

Albeit gorgeous, the Wake Forest Admissions Building can be scary right before an interview!

Before your interview, spend time on the college’s website. Learn about the programs, school traditions, and school culture. One HS senior went to their interview and said he planned to major in business. Unfortunately, the elite university did not offer a business major. The interview wrapped up quickly, with the student feeling embarrassed.

If you are meeting with a local alum, research the person by looking up their LinkedIn profile. There you may find that you have a common interest, such as: in their profession (if they are a lawyer and you want to go to law school), in civic organizations, or sports. This could be a great conversation icebreaker.

Practice a few interview questions with a family member or friend. You can Google “College Interview Questions” and it will give you a sense of what might be asked. Be prepared to have some answers.

Bring a fresh looking folder and pen. Include in your folder:

  • A list of questions to ask about the college. Often your nervousness may prevent you from asking a few intelligent questions, do not rely on your memory.
  • Your resume (2 copies looks good). Immediately offer the person a copy of your resume. This is helpful when they write their report.
  • Any personal “supplements” that you would like to share. A supplement is a conversation starter, such as photos from a service project, a super paper you wrote, a special note from a teacher or supervisor commending you. The alumni interviewer typically has not seen your application so it is fine to talk about something you wrote in your essays.
  • Conversation Starter: As an interviewer, I met one HS senior at his high school where he was building a 14 foot long hover craft. The student happened to tell me about it when I called to make the appointment, so I decided to meet him at his school. Cornell accepted him.

Arrive a few minutes early.

The appropriate attire is conservative, business casual. For guys this means a dress shirt, jacket, and ironed khakis. A tie is a bonus touch, but not required.  A suit is not necessary. For ladies this means conservative top, sweater or jacket and dress pants. Or if wearing a dress or skirt, be sure that the length skims the top of the knee and low heels. This is not the time to look like you are going to a party or a typical day in school.

Bring your best manners; firm handshakes, eye contact, try to smile, do not chew gum, and express appreciation for seeing you.

Try to find a Common Thread with the interviewer. This requires excellent listening skills. You are looking to hear something from the interviewer that you can turn into a question and then you can reveal more about yourself. Is it the town you live in, athletics, volunteering, interest in their profession?

Ask the interviewer for their business card. If they do not have one, then ask for their contact information. Take the time to write it down. You can say “May I contact you if I have any more questions?” But the true purpose of obtaining the contact information is to send a thank you note.

Send a thank you note immediately. Thank them for their time and any helpful information they shared with you. A handwritten note is superior to an email.  You may only be able to obtain the email address, if so, then an emailed note if acceptable. The sooner is better! You want the interviewer to receive it before they finalizes their report.

Last spring I was in the admissions building at Wake Forest, on an interview day. There was a large roomful of well dressed, nervous students and their parents waiting for their interview appointments.

It appeared that every one of those potential applicants were prepared. Interviewing at a highly competitive school is stressful, so preparation is your weapon. That and apply to several safety schools!

*Required interviews are tricky because there are deadlines for the appointments, require travel, involve expense and often conflict with your own schedule. This is a good reason why you should start the application process starts before senior year. You must plan early!


How about “Financial Safety” Schools?

It is tough to accept that you may be accepted to your dream school, but the modest financial aid package makes it impossible. It happens to smart students and families all the time.  Community college admissions officer will tell you they receive a rush of phone calls in late summer from upset parents asking if their really great student may be admitted because they cannot not afford their first choice school. Great grades does not guarantee scholarship if you are applying to the wrong schools.

In reality, most financial aid packages are loans. When the reality of taking $10, 000 to $40,000 a year in loans has set in, dreams are crushed. Although the student receives the modest financial aid package, which consist of mainly loans in April, often they had hope that it will work out. They send an appeal to the Financial Aid office only to be denied.

Alternatively, many parents will co-sign for big loans, send their not-too-mature child off to college. When the student performs poorly, they will pull the plug and have the student withdraw from school. Now they have one semester worth of big debt and a handful of “D”s. Furthermore, a terrible transcript does not bode well for transferring.

Now is the time to send a few applications to colleges which you can afford, without taking more debt than reasonable. Reasonable by some experts is consider between $5,000 to  $15,000  (gulp) a year, in loans. Remember a college degree from anywhere  does not guarantee that you will be hired when you graduate. When you graduate, in four years (or less! it can be done), how much money do you want to have to payback at 6% interest?

Find “Financial Safety” schools!  These may include:

  • Community college – delay the gratification of going away to dream school, save your money, get great grades, then transfer into super dream college. Watch a rerun of the movie “Rudy”, who goes this route and graduates Notre Dame and special bonus he accomplishes his dream and plays for the famous Fighting Irish football team! Not too shabby!
  • Instate public college – most of American students, approximately 80%, go to their public universities and colleges. You will be in good company.
  • Apply to lesser known colleges where your test scores and GPA are well above the college’s averages. If your grades are in that particular colleges top 10%, they may offer you a full scholarship! Note that schools that are highly selective, have very low admissions rates (less than 25%) are not awarding many full scholarships. They have too many applicants who can pay the full sticker price.
  • Colleges that have published, guaranteed scholarship awards if you meet test & GPA criteria.  Although there are not that many that offer this, here are a few: University of Alabama, Ole Miss, Florida A&M, U South Carolina-Columbia, Ohio U, and Choppin State (MD).

Your college education is what you make it, but it can cost big money. A really nice aspect of going to a “financial safety” school  is that there is economic diversity amongst the students. Most of your peers will also be working hard to pay their tuition. When I asked an adult friend how they enjoyed attending their elite, private university many years ago, she said, “My parents really couldn’t afford, I felt out of place. It was tough”. Ouch.

Many top students who are attending their financial safety schools, are planning to attend graduate school. They are looking at the big picture. It is not fun to go to dream school and worry about huge loans and keeping up with your classmates who go off campus for dinner. Going to a college with economic diversity is the real world. Find a forumla that works for your family’s finances.  You are going for a bachelors degree that will launch you into your chosen profession. It is not about the college name on the sweatshirt.

Top Graduation Gifts – They Won’t Return

graduation-gift-guideWondering what to give the high school graduate? First and foremost, college students always love cash. As college tuition sky-rockets and textbooks cost as much as $350, every little bit helps.*

Here are a few ideas to meet all budgets:

  1. Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies Gift Certificate – Send the graduate a congratulations card with a note promising to send a care package of homemade chocolate chips cookies. Nothing like homemade cookies to help make new friends! $20
  2. University Flag – great for dorm room decor and graduation parties. They can be ordered online from the campus bookstore or $25-$50flag
  3. Gift certificates– Bed, Bath & Beyond or Target for dorm room supplies.
  4.  Amazon Gift Certificates– these can be used for textbooks and all types of necessary supplies. Most students open an Amazon Prime membership, thus they can receive their orders within 2 days. So easy.
  5.  The Naked Roommate by Harlan Cohen, a fun read of behind-the-scenes look at everything students need to know about college. $9
  6. Guys- 24 identical pairs of Socks – Lose a sock and you have 47 more that match. Go to Costco or a Nike outlet and laundry will not become an issue. $50towel
  7. Girls- Shower wrap around towel, bonus points if it is monogramed $20 – $40
  8. Memory foam bed pad and pillow– college kids love their beds and they tend to brag about who sleeps best on their hallway. $100+
  9. “Off to College” Laundry Basket – this is for the creative gift giver! Pick up a new laundry hamper and fill it with laundry graduate's gift basketsupplies, snacks, Advil, first aid kit, flip flops, flash light, extension cords, etc. $30+
  10. Bonus! New Computer – Before purchasing, check with the University tech department to see if they have any special purchasing discounts and what systems they best support. If purchasing a Macintosh, Apple offers a $100 discount with student id.  $500 – $1200

*Great Tip – if your child receives a large sum of cash in gifts, consider dividing it into payments that they will receive over the course of four years. For example, if the total is $1000, and it is not going directly towards tuition, allot them $250 per year for spending money, books, etc.

Decisions, Decisions… Where to go?

choosing the right collegeCongratulations! The acceptance letters have come in! All of your hard work has paid off.  Now what do you do?  “Choosing the Right College” by John Zmirak, might help you decide, or follow the below check list to help you make a fool-proof decision.

Attend  “Accepted Students Day”. This is the college’s opportunity to shine. The agenda often includes a welcome by the College President, presentations and testimonials by professors and current students. There may be giveaways, free continental breakfast & lunch, the marching band, campus tours and afternoon sessions with department deans. Not all colleges host these events so take advantage of those who do. Both parents and students should attend. They are fun and will help you evaluate your decisioncollege_bound

Stay overnight with a current student. Do you have an acquaintance at the college you are considering? Reach out to them, find out more about the college and ask if you can visit overnight. It will give you a very good sense of the social life. Where do kids go on a Saturday night? Are frat or dorm parties  what you think they are?  Do kids travel off campus, go to the city, or is everything in walking distance?

What’s the “hidden” expense of this school? What is the spending culture at this college? Students’ recreational and spending money  varies greatly from college to college.  Go to a college in a semi rural area, expenses are usually modest since many social events are planned by the college to keep campus lively, i.e., hosting comedians, campus sporting events, concerts; $20 could last the whole weekend. Go to a city college and life is more expensive: the cab fare $25, lunch at a deli – $15 and dinner out could be $30.

It is uncomfortable to be the freshman that says no to social activities because they are too expensive. Yes, some students are above this social pressure, especially if they are in a rigorous academic program or an athlete, then study groups and practice become their social scene. Ask questions about what students do for fun.

What are the ramifications of Greek Life on campus? Does it feel like almost everyone is in Greek Life and you do not want to join? If you plan to join Greek life, are you guaranteed “a bid” or are many disappointed and not invited to join? Can you tolerate the disappointment if you do not get into your first choice?  Alternatively, Greek life maybe only a minor presence on campus. Is the pledge season in the fall or spring semester? Fall pledge seasons are challenging to most freshmen. Some schools do not allow pledging until sophomore year, this allows plenty of non-Greek friendships to form during freshman year which lessens the significance of joining.

Distance and Travel – The distance of a school from home is one of the most significant components in choosing a school. Many students do not return to a college because the distance created too much hardship or homesickness. If you live near a major airport and the school of choice is near a major airport than 1,200 miles from New York to Miami, FL may not be an issue.  A parent whose child was attending school across the country said, “I see him almost every six weeks so it’s not a big deal.” Apparently purchasing airfare was not an issue either. If your child is attending college that requires plane travel, budget in a few extra trips, for either you to go visit or to bring the student home. College life is intense and the normalcy of visiting home cannot be underestimated.

Also note that for school vacations, many colleges in the Northeast charter buses for affordable transportation. The buses leave campus and have planned drop offs at major malls off interstate highways, additionally they typically run chartered buses to the airports for vacation breaks.  Check if your college offers any of these services.

Fiske Guide  & – You have visited the colleges, spent time on their website and are connected to their Facebook page. Now read and study the profiles in the Fiske Guide (available at most libraries, photocopy the specific pages) and The Fiske Guide gives a good overview of the college’s culture and Niche gives you the “real scoop” of the students’ impressions of their college. Both guides try to give a balanced viewpoint. If they present a consistent specific tone, i.e., “We work hard and party harder”  then there probably is truth in it.

Your Major – Many students will change their major several times during their college career. An important consideration is is to determine how flexible the college’s policy is for changing majors. Often in a small liberal arts college it is not an issue. However, if you are attending a university that has separate colleges it may be nearly impossible to transfer between colleges. For example, if you start as an Engineer at Cornell and are doing poorly, you may not be able to transfer into the College of Arts and Science because your GPA is too low.

Tuition & Expense  – This is probably the #1  factor in determining which college you will attend. While ability to pay is critical, be sure to take into account the other contributing factors in making your final decision.  If the cost is the only driver in this decision, but you make an ill-advised decision, you may end up spending more. Many public Universities have low 4 year graduate rates. If it typically takes 5 years to graduate due to overcrowding, then going to a smaller, private may be the better investment.

One student we know went to an out-of-state, public college that offered a merit scholarship which made the school very affordable. Thus, he turned down other acceptances and their merit awards. Unfortunately,  he was extremely unhappy at the chosen school because it was too big, too far from home and “a suitcase school”. (A suitcase school implies that many kids go home on weekends.) He ended up transferring to a small, private school without scholarship. Yet, if he had gone straight from his senior year in high school there would have been a four year merit award.

When analyzing scholarship offers, be sure to read the requirements. Usually there is a minimum GPA requirement for each year.

Taking out loans to pay for college is common practice but be sure to not over do it! A reasonable amount of debt is exactly what is offered though the Federal Direct Loan program; approximately $5,500 per year, which allows you to borrowing the maximum amount of $27,000 over four years. To make it easy to understand, if you borrow in total $30,000 at 6% and with a 10-year repayment schedule your payments will be:  $30,000 = $333 per month.  Six months after graduation you must start to repay the Direct Loan.  Be careful not to have your student mortgage their future! If it is too expensive, attend community college for two years at a fraction of the cost.

School Expense Spreadsheet – Create a spreadsheet of all your schools. Include:

  • Tuition
  • Room and Board (Meal Plan)
  • Hidden Fees (i.e. Student Union, Lab expense, joining Greek Life)
  • Travel Expense
  • Computer (some schools include this in their tuition)
  • Books

Deduct any Scholarships or Financial aid packages to determine Net Cost.

Hang your chart up for the entire family to see and determine what is best! Can you afford to pay “X” amount for the next four years? How much per year do you want in loans? What about grad school? One student cried and begged her parents to send her to a college that would cost about $40,000 per year. Instead she attended the school that cost $20,000 and absolutely loves it and will graduate with no debt. It was very hard for the parents to make that decision, but they knew that did not want those loans to follow their child into adulthood.

Part II  Make a Contract! 

This is especially a great idea if you are the parent footing the tuition bill. It is also helpful to the student since it helps them create a plan. Many students think they have a pretty good idea of how they will live, study and make their way in college. However, their priorities are probably different from their parents. All students should write their own contract because it gets them thinking!

Elements of a New Student Contract or “Business Plan” 

  • How much time do they plan to study on a daily basis
  • What are their academic goals
  • What are their social goals
  • What is the spending money budget
  • When they should call home
  • Parental access to student’s log in info i.e. for transcripts, schedules, university notices
  • Purchasing of Books  (who is paying, when & where  you expect them to buy them, (1st day of class, amazon, rent through, etc.)

The student should make a 7 Day spreadsheet of their anticipated schedule*:

  • integrate class time
  • studying in the library
  • meals
  • Professor or TA hours
  • on campus errands
  • room cleaning
  • laundry
  • socializing and
  • sleep

* Yes, a spreadsheet with time blocks may seem over the top but it can be a “fun” exercise and it is especially helpful if you are concerned about maturity. This will truly help the student envision how their day should look and prevent them from becoming overwhelmed. If something goes awry at school such as illness, roommate conflicts, or a week without clean underwear, a new student can quickly go down a slippery slope and lose sight of their goals.

A  self-written Student Business Plan or Contract is empowering.  Students should write it and then discuss it with the parents. It may need to be sent for a rewrite if expectations are overzealous or too low.

You are assisting your child obtain the privilege of a college education. Maybe you will take out loans to do so. If you were borrowing money to launch a business the bank would require you to submit a business plan. Why not help your child understand the significance of the expense of a college education?

A Final Word- Attending Harvard  Happiness

A college education resulting in earning your degree, is a privilege and a worthy goal. You want a great experience of learning and growing while be able to pay for it. This does not mean going to the most prestigious or expensive college. There are many ways to accomplish earning a college degree. There are over 3,000 colleges in the United States and much to be said about being the “Big Fish in a Small Pond”. Many students who attend Harvard, Princeton and Yale are not happy, so think outside the box and find the right fit for you!

College Wait List – What to do

waitlistThe college wait list; you are not accepted, yet not rejected, you have been wait-listed. Yes! This leaves hope that you may still get in. If it is your dream college, then read on. If it is a college you were lukewarm about and you have an acceptance offer elsewhere, then proudly wear the t-shirt of the admitted college you will be attending.

Turning a “wait list” into an “acceptance” is not easy. You have to be proactive. You must advocate for your application.

 What should you do?

If you are on a wait-listed and are truly want to attend this college, you must do some research and plan a consistent campaign of:

  1. Letting the college know that you promise to attend if you are accepted
  2. Giving them new information as to why they should accept you.

How a wait list is managed varies from college to college. Some colleges have less than 100 students wait listed, while others have more than 800. Typically, waitlisted students are not ranked, so it is up to the wait-listed applicants to be active and keep their application on top of the pile.

The first step to the wait list usually requires the student to respond to the college letting them know that they wish remain on their list. This involves sending a return post card or signing into the college portal system. If you do not respond, you may be deleted from the list.

Call your assigned admissions officer and ask for feedback regarding your application. If the college does not have an assigned officer, call the general number and ask to speak to an admissions counselor. Ask how many others are on the list and if there are any questions or concerns that the admissions team had when evaluating your application. The person you speak with maybe be politely vague, yet they may give you solid information. The more you know the better your strategy. If you can get some concrete answers to what your application was lacking you might be able to do something about it.

Research the college’s Common Data Set (CDS), from the previous year.  Although not all colleges publish a CDS it is very helpful in researching specific statistics about the school. (You should read the CDS of any school you ultimately decide to attend.) The CDS is the college’s annual self-reported data includes student demographics, test scores, courses, tuition, enrollment, acceptances, retention rates, etc.

The CDS often includes information regarding the previous years wait list; how many applicants were placed on it and how many were later offer admissions. This will give you a realistic view of the opportunity to move off the wait list.

Write the admission department a letter professing your love for their school. Tell them that if you are accepted you promise that you will attend. However, you must be true to your word.  Be specific and state why you would be a good fit for their college. What talents do you offer? Highlight your interests in leadership, community activism, a specific major, and tell them how you would employ these skills on their campus.

Send them any additional highlights of your senior year that they may not have seen since you first applied. Did you win a special award or receive any recognition? Have you had an article published in the school newspaper, or have your grades gone up? Did you get an after school job? Send them evidence of you being an achiever so it distinguishes you from the rest of the other students on the waitlist.

Send updates by mail or fax and then follow up with an email. It is a good idea to create a paper trail. Emails often get lost, deleted or go unnoticed.

Reach out to the admissions department frequently, politely and consistently. Do not send any gimmicks and do not show up unannounced at the admissions office. This works against you.  It is embarrassing for the admissions committee to receive fruit baskets or homemade cupcakes.

Do you really want to attend this school? Then send them another letter highlighting new information that makes you sparkle! You have anywhere between 4 to 10 more weeks to show them that you are motivated and a “go getter”. It may mean creating a special charity event, food drive, clothing drive, senior citizen luncheon, Habitat for Humanity, or landscaping project for a nonprofit nursery school. You organize, gather friends and family, execute the project, take pictures and then let the college know about it.

In the meantime, grow to love where you have been accepted. If you do not have any college acceptances, go for a semester or two at your local community college. It will save you money and give you a second chance. Get great grades while attending and reevaluate your list of where you applied. Find a few more schools that have higher acceptance rates and are a closer match to your GPA and test scores. You may even want to consider a well structured GAP year program. Also note that there are many excellent colleges that will still have spots available in the incoming freshman class. In early May, the NACAC, (National Association for College Admission Counseling) maintains a list of colleges that still have openings, go to their website for and search Space Availability Survey.

Don’t be discouraged, there are many options for you. Your future does not hinge on going to one certain college. You may just want to wrap your arms around the accepted offer you have in hand and enjoy the rest of your senior year.  Remember even people who go to the most coveted college in the world, Harvard, can end up dropping out.

Harvard dropout, dream schools are not always what they seem to be!

Harvard dropout, dream schools are not always what they seem to be!

Timely March Tips regarding Applications

Seniors – You are closing in on making a decision.

You have done the hard work of submitting applications, filing financial aid forms, test taking and visiting campuses. Maybe you have received some acceptances. Now finish strong with these tips:

  • Check in with all the admissions offices that your application is complete: recommendations, SAT scores, and high school transcript.
  • Revisit the colleges where you have been accepted. Try to arrange staying overnight with an acquaintance. This is when you will get a real snapshot of the school. Stay at more than one school so you can make comparisons. Is nightlife important to you? This is how you find out.
  • Attend accepted student programs.
  • Make a list of pros and cons of each school. Use the College Comparison Spreadsheet. Go to home page  >”Freebie Worksheets”.   
  • Read the college campus reviews on Know what culture of the school is. Does it work for you or would you be a fish out of water. Push yourself for growth and self-awareness and be truthful with yourself.
  • Discuss the finances of paying for your education with your parents. Can you afford attend a residential college? Or should you start slow and take a few community colleges first?
  • If you are ready to make a decision, submit your deposit. *  Many schools give priority housing on first come, first serve basis. This could be the difference of living in an awesome location or in a “forced tripled” off in the no man’s land part of campus. Please note that it is unethical to submit more than one deposit, although some schools do allow you to submit a non-binding, refundable deposit. Read the fine print.
  • Local Scholarships, apply to all! Contact your guidance office and reach out to organizations, i.e., church, scouts, etc. to find out if any are offered. Although the award may only be a few hundred dollars, the odds of winning are usually good and they are impressive on your resume as you search for internships later.

P1010457 DAS Amer 4

Juniors – Now the fun begins!

  • Visit as many college campuses as you can in the next few months. It is better to see a campus while school is in session and the campus is full of students. Saturday day trips are economical and valuable (see below).
  • If a college is on break when you plan to visit, do so anyway. Never miss an opportunity to see a college campus. Every visit you make will help you in understanding what you want in attending college.
  • Even if you have no intention of attending a college that is within a 1-2 hour drive from home, visiting “local” campuses and going to an information session is a tremendous, low-cost (since there are no hotel rooms involved) opportunity for discovery. Get up early on Saturday morning and make a road trip.
  • Visiting several schools in a few days is exhausting. This is why day trips to nearby schools are excellent opportunities for determining the right school for you.
  •  Start thinking about the summer.  The more planning you, before the start of senior year, the better your application! A few summer jobs, essay writing, visiting more campuses, and studying for the ACTs and SATs. This is the summer to kill it! 

 Sophomores and Freshmen: Enroll for the most challenging classes.

  • Keep up the hard work in your classes. Don’t get lazy! If you are struggling in a class, be sure to seek extra help. Let your teachers know how hard you are working.
  • Do you have any special interests? Figure out ways to expand on them, maybe through volunteering or through a job. Are there any community college non credit classes that interest you? Take them! You learn a lot being on a community college campus. Bill Gates & Jeff Zuckerberg want you to take computer coding classes. Go to to learn more.

Campus Visits – A Parent’s Point of View by Kathleen Thometz

Welcome  Kathleen Thometz to CollegeintheBag’s guest blog spot! Kathleen, is a  very cool & creative mother of four who is preparing to send her oldest off to college in the fall of 2013. As she shared tales of recent college visits, I begged her to write about them. Thanks Kathleen and enjoy everyone!   

Up until Thanksgiving my husband had been in charge of our son’s college visits.  As we are from the Chicago area, they had been driving through the Midwest looking at various small colleges, Loras and St. Ambrose, in Iowa and Bradley in Peori, Loyola in Chicago.

As I was driving out to the east coast for Thanksgiving, I was charged with taking him to McDaniel (formerly Western Maryland) in Westminster and Goucher in Towson, Maryland.

I was surprised that I actually found myself enjoying those visits, in spite of the fact that McDaniel gave a lively 2 hour presentation to the parents before a tour of the lovely, colonial-feeling campus, and delicious lunch in their brand new cafeteria.

Goucher’s presentation was a one-man-band affair and down and dirty.  The one thing I liked about the school, besides the prairie style architecture, was the fact that it is the only school in the country that requires every student go abroad.  This is wonderful because it gives our students the much-lauded global experience.  It also allows them to savor the experience long after it happens because all of the older students have already done it and will want to continue to share their experiences and the younger students are gathering information to choose their experience abroad.

While I enjoyed the tours for the most part, I think these schools need to come up with a better way to give the tours.  Following a young man or woman across what feels like miles of campus, while they walk backward is disconcerting.  How about a mini-PA system or just walk frontwards and make the groups smaller? Since the writing of this piece I’ve discovered that it is very good for you, both physically and mentally, to walk backwards.

I was struck by the amount of great things, that don’t cost anything, offered at these schools that I don’t remember being offered when I went to college nearly 30 years ago.  I was impressed with the affinity housing, students with similar interests living together.  At McDaniel there is a house where the students raise a service dog together each year. I love the writing clinics both schools had available to students.

I know I’m a dinosaur but what I don’t like about college campuses in general is the too-fancy facilities. McDaniel just built a state of art cafeteria. I’d rather send my kid to a dumpy college with great professors and have lower tuition. I am not keen on paying to

High Point’s waterfall wall at the entrance of the cafeteria.

have my child eat in a kitchen more gorgeous than mine.  These kids will be in for a rude awakening when they move into their first dumpy apartment.  I’d rather have that experience come in college at less financial cost to me.

Trends in College Pricing for 2012-2013

What are the Trends in College Pricing for 2012-2013? Going up of course. The CollegeBoard, same folks who write the SATs, has released their annual 40 page college pricing report, , which painstakingly details college tuitions, fees, endowments, revenues, etc.

The Good News is the increased percentages are not as high (on average) as in years past.

The Bad News is cost of college continues to increase.

Public colleges for in-state student average increases:

  • Tuition & fees: +4.8% to $8,655
  • Room & board: +3.7% to $9,205
  • Total average cost: $22,261

Public colleges for out-of-state student average increases :

  • Tuition & fees: +4.2% to $21,706
  • Room & board: +3.7% to $9,205
  • Total  average cost: $35,312

Private colleges average increases:

  • Tuition & fees: +4.2% to $29,056
  • Room & board: +3.7% to $10,462
  • Total average cost: $43,289

How can you spend less on college tuition? One way to do it is if you are a very good student is to apply to a less selective school, where your GPA and SATs score are well above the school averages, thus qualifying for significant merit scholarships and grants.

Another route is to go the first two years to community college, commuting from home (don’t forget to take into account the cost of transportation)  and the transfer to your in-state public college. Furthermore, there are elite colleges that have scholarships for transfer students. More information to come!

Freebie alert! Application Progress Chart


You don’t need  to be high tech to chart your progress!

Organization is your Best Strategy!  You are probably in full swing of getting your college lists and applications organized. You may have a list of several schools that you plan to apply to or may have already sent off a few applications. Now is the time to chart your progress.

Do not let a lost transcript or a forgotten SAT score railroad your application to the incomplete pile. It is your responsiblity to confirm with the admissions department that all the components have been met;

  • SAT or ACT scores have been sent (go to to pay a fee to send the scores),
  • teacher recommendations sent,
  • high school transcript have been submitted, and
  • Financial Aid Forms (the FASFA and maybe the CSS Profile).

True story, identical twins apply to the same elite college with very similar excellent test scores, high GPA, and extra curricula activities. Additionally, they are double legacies (both parents attended) at the desired college. When decision letters went out, one twin is accepted, the other twin is not accepted. A call was place to the admissions department and it was discovered the nonaccepted twin’s application was incomplete. A recommendation was missing from the file.  Yikes! :(

There is a somewhat happy ending, the non-accepted twin’s application was reviewed and it received a acceptance for January admission.

Lesson learned: keep track of the application requirements.

Check out CollegeintheBag’s easy to use Application Progress Chart which will help you keep orgainzed. Post this chart next to your computer or on your refrigerator. This chart is helpful for both the student and the parents to monitor the progress on this very complex process.

Swag Giveaway # 3 to be announced!

Did you miss our last Swag Giveway contest?  You got to be in it to win it! Go to the Swag Giveaway tab to enter the next win giveaway… :)