The importance of financial aid calculators for ALL families

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‘Tis the season for college list development with my juniors! Though some prefer to start this process earlier, I find that students are really ready to focus on their college preferences in a more mature way at this point. Often junior year classes become more interesting and students begin to actually engage with the material, sometimes honing in on potential college majors or at least identifying their preferred learning styles. Junior year also means SAT and ACT testing. Though some wonderful colleges don’t require these tests for admission, the majority still do, so official scores are a crucial part of making a well-rounded college list.

But those aren’t the only reasons I prefer starting with students junior year.

On the financial front, families with be applying for financial aid using the income information from the year that just ended (mid-junior year). This “prior-prior” year means families can actually get a fairly accurate picture of what to expect in financial aid (and sometimes scholarships as well), which can further help with developing an appropriate college list.

So if you are the parent of a junior, here are a few very important homework assignments to tackle in the coming months:

  1. Calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This will generate the annual expected cost for your child’s college education. It is a more generic formula that centers on income information and maps the best to colleges which only require the FAFSA application for financial aid consideration.
  2. Complete a Net Price Calculator for your child’s top college(s). If your child has already identified a top college (or two, or three), you can get an even more accurate sense of what you’d be expected to pay at that specific institution. This calculator can be found on each college’s financial aid website. These questions tend to be much more detailed and nosy for a few reasons. First, this calculator will factor in your child’s likelihood of receiving scholarships from that specific college (if offered). And secondly, many of the colleges that do the very best job with financial aid do so because they have gigantic endowments, so they are truly able to support students with demonstrated financial need. Since they are giving away their own institutional funds, they want the most accurate information possible and will dive deep to capture a family’s true financial situation.
  3. Have “the talk” with your child. I’m referring to the paying for college talk, of course. Be sure your family talks openly and honestly about the expectations of paying for college. Will your student be expected to take out loans? Or get a summer job? Do you have an absolute maximum budget for college? How do you plan to use your existing college savings, if you have one, especially if you have multiple children?

Many families assume they won’t qualify for aid, and therefore don’t follow through on completing these important tasks. Or they don’t establish guidelines with their child on the front end, leading to some intense arguments about paying for college once admission decisions come back in the spring. So start planning now!

For more information:

Guide to financial aid, including income brackets, college types, and rough “cut-offs” for aid

Filling out the FAFSA

CSS Profile overview

 

 

 

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Campus Visit Notes: Middlebury College

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College: Middlebury College

Location: Middlebury, Vermont

Type of Institution: Private liberal arts college

Size: 2,400 students

Admissions Advice: Like many super selective liberal arts colleges, Middlebury admits a large percentage of its incoming freshman class through Early Decision. For students who love Middlebury, this is the best option as the admission rate is more than double the admission rate for regular decision candidates. And because Middlebury is a school which meets 100% of demonstrated financial need, it is a potential Early Decision option for students requiring need-based aid as well.

Most popular majors: Environmental Science, Economics, Political Science, languages, Neuroscience

Words to describe students I met: Outdoorsy, passionate, collaborative, globally-focused, athletic

Unique academic aspects: Middlebury College prides itself on the Commons System, a living-learning community including students of all grade levels. For freshman year, students will select a writing-intensive freshman seminar which then determines their Commons / residential hall placement for the first two years (with some additional options, like the Academic Interest Housing options). There is a big support team of upperclassmen, faculty, and staff located in each Commons, and tons of social and academic programming throughout the year.

Middlebury is also one of a handful of colleges to offer a January term (J-term), a four-week intensive where students can focus on one specific class either on-campus or out in the world. This breaks up the academic year and provides a great opportunity for hands-on learning, internships, or just the chance to spend some time away from Vermont in the dead of winter.

Unique social/cultural aspects: Middlebury loves gap year students. In fact, there is a cohort of partial gap year students who enter Middlebury each year in February, “the Febs“. Nearly 20% of the entering freshman class takes advantage of this each year, giving students 7-8 months of time off between high school graduation and the start of college. My tour guide was a Feb and spoke enthusiastically about his choice to take time off for travel and work before the start of college. He also shared some insights into how Middlebury welcomes these students to campus mid-year and helps them build connections within the Feb starts and the greater Middlebury community. One of the coolest traditions for this group of students is that they ski down a hill on campus (in cap and gown!) for their winter graduation ceremony.

Colleges that seem similar:  Whitman College, Colgate University, Colorado College, Williams College, Hamilton College

Concerns about this college: Middlebury is truly in the middle of nowhere, and the downtown area encompasses little more than one square block. There are enough services on the outskirts of town for students to do the basics (a few stores, restaurants, drug stores), but there isn’t much else. For many, this isolation and immersion in the outdoors is a reason to choose Middlebury. But for city or suburban kids who want the convenience of big box stores and off-campus activities like concerts and restaurants, Middlebury probably isn’t the best match.

Overall impressions:  Middlebury is an amazing liberal arts college option for students interested in outdoor adventures, collaborative intellectual pursuits, and a social life that centers around campus activities. The college environment strikes a great balance between preppy and hippie/granola, academic and social, theory and real-life application. Students I met were all incredibly friendly and outgoing – you have to be in such a small community, and particularly in a community with such cold, long winters.

We’re Moving!

I am excited to announce that Parry College Counseling is moving! Starting in January 2018, I will be meeting with students and families at my new office space in the Madison Valley neighborhood of Seattle: 2910 E Madison St. Suite 109. 

Looking forward to having a quiet place to meet my families (sorry, Starbucks), and the opportunity to grow my business for years to come. While you are waiting for your student (if he/she doesn’t drive yet), there are lots of nice shops and restaurants in this commercial strip of Madison Valley, and the arboretum is right down the street.

Thanks for following, and happy holidays!

-Heather

 

Campus Visit Notes: Scripps College

College: Scripps College

Location: Claremont, California

Type of Institution: Private liberal arts college for women

Size: ~950 students total; 7,000+ including neighboring colleges in the Claremont consortium

Admissions Advice: As the Claremont Colleges become more popular, so does Scripps. The majority of successful applicants are at the top of their high school class and have strong test scores as well. (Scripps is one of a handful of women’s colleges that still require SAT or ACT). Because the entering class is very small, each application is read very carefully and holistically. Scripps is also one of the rare colleges that both meets 100% of a family’s financial need and awards some merit scholarships as well, even for students without financial need.

Most popular majors: Media studies, international relations, psychology, biology, English, studio art

Words to describe students I met: Independent, strong-willed, artistic, liberal, open-minded

Unique academic aspects: Scripps prides itself on its interdisciplinary core curriculum, a 3-semester series of classes that each woman must take to continue her education at the college. The focus of these classes center around “communities”, examining past and present problems with a variety of lenses. The Claremont Consortium is another unique aspect of academic life at Scripps. Students have the opportunity to seamlessly register for classes at any of the other nearby colleges and are even able to choose an off-campus major as well.

Unique social/cultural aspects: The social life at Scripps is fairly diverse, and isn’t necessarily in line with the “traditional” college experience. For example, while there are parties (occasionally hosted by Scripps), the majority of students will venture to the other Claremont Colleges for their party fix. Though many Scrippsies participate in DIII athletics on the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps teams, there isn’t a ton of school spirit surrounding sports teams.

Instead, Scripps students can be found attending ballroom dance shows, a cappella performances, gallery nights, and open mics. The Motley Coffeehouse regularly hosts student speakers and performers and provides a creative outlet for Scripps women. The coffeehouse is run by students, and there’s even an opportunity for talented bakers and chefs to sell their pastries at the shop. I spent many nights studying, learning, and listening at this coffeehouse during my college years at neighboring Claremont McKenna. Scrippsies can also be found soaking up the sun at the pool year-round, or hanging out with suitemates in the beautiful dorms.

Colleges that seem similar:  Wellesley College, Mt. Holyoke College, Bryn Mawr College, Smith College

Concerns about this college: As the college becomes more competitive, I’ve found it difficult to figure out what Scripps is looking for in applicants each year. The college is trying to become more ethnically, socio-economically, and geographically diverse, which is great. However, as a result, it is very difficult for even the strongest students to gauge whether they will be admitted in a given year. Though the admission rate is currently hovering around 25%, significantly higher than the other neighboring Claremont Colleges, it is still very tough to be admitted. For this reason, Scripps is a “reach” school for anyone in my opinion.

Overall impressions:  The Spanish and Mediterranean architecture, the intimate study spaces, the rose garden, and the shimmering blue pool put this campus on the top of my list of most beautiful campuses in America. I thoroughly enjoyed the many classes I took at Scripps during my time at Claremont McKenna, and really felt a strong sense of community and collaboration. I would highly recommend this college to students looking for the best of both worlds: a small and supportive community of young women, but surrounded by the resources and opportunities of a medium-sized, co-ed university.

 

Application changes for this season

Happy application season to all of the anxious seniors out there! Below I am including some of the big application changes for popular colleges among Seattle high school students, as well as a few notes on this year’s Common App.

University of Washington – UW has moved away from its own in-house application to the Coalition Application. This is intended to be a rival to the Common App, though it hasn’t gotten much traction quite yet. The UW has also changed its application timeline, opening a week ago on September 1st, with a final deadline of November 15th. This isn’t an early action or early decision deadline, but rather the one and only final deadline for freshman applicants. No more scrambling to finish the application over Thanksgiving break!

Whitman College – This popular liberal arts college in Walla Walla has eliminated its supplemental essay requirement for applicants this year, making the application via Common App even more straightforward. Whitman also became a test-optional college last year, making it a great option for strong students whose test scores don’t accurately reflect their academic potential.

Common Application – I’ve noticed more and more colleges across the nation are providing students the option to upload a resume as part of their application. This allows students to elaborate on their involvement beyond the measly 150 character limit in the standard activity section.

Many Common Application colleges now also include a space for students to insert a URL. This could be a link to a student’s artwork, YouTube page, Vimeo, personal blog, or ZeeMee site. Some popular colleges with this option include: Pitzer, Occidental, Colorado College, Pepperdine, and Texas Christian. For students who have talents or interests that are hard to describe in writing, this is a great opportunity. I’d also encourage students to take advantage of this if they are strong communicators and more confident in representing themselves through speaking or visual art as opposed to through the writing section, transcripts, or other more traditional parts of the application.

 

Campus Visit Notes: Villanova University

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College: Villanova University

Location: Villanova, PA (about 15 minutes from Philadelphia)

Type of Institution: Private Catholic research university

Size: 6,500 undergraduates; over 10,000 including graduate programs

Admissions Advice: Villanova has become incredibly popular and competitive in recent years. I was shocked to learn that the average admitted student GPA is now a 3.7+ unweighted, and average test scores are around 1400 SAT / 32 ACT. Wow! It is even more competitive for prospective business & direct entry nursing majors. Additionally, while Villanova does award merit scholarships up to $15,000 per year, these awards are mostly based on scores and GPA and the cut-offs are incredibly high.

Most popular majors: Business, nursing, communications, engineering

Words to describe students I met: spirited, outgoing, jocks/athletic, active in community service, preppy

Unique academic aspects: Villanova’s undergraduate business program was recently named the #1 program in the country, a fact that the university administration and student guides were not shy about during the presentation and tour. The campus was filled with signs and posters about this distinction, and you could really feel the pride the school has for this particular area of study. Internships and Co-ops are popular, and, unlike at many universities, students who participate are still able to graduate in four years. I was impressed to learn about the networking and recruiting events for students looking for full-time employment as well.

Unique social/cultural aspects: This medium-sized university holds the largest student-run Special Olympics event in the world each fall. Becoming a member of the Villanova Special Olympics committee is a competitive process and a big deal, as they are charged with organizing the event which brings thousands of athletes, coaches, volunteers, and media outlets to the campus. It is also very popular for students to participate in community service trips over breaks, often with small groups of fellow students. Villanova is tied in closely with Habitat for Humanity in particular, and sends dozens of students on programs throughout the United States each year.  

Colleges that seem similar: Boston College, Notre Dame University, Cornell University, Lehigh University, Marquette University

Concerns about this college: I was a bit concerned about the way some of the students I interacted with spoke about women and issues of diversity on the campus. My guide even remarked that women attend Villanova to get their “Mrs.” degree while our group stood under the Corr Hall arch. Perhaps I am just particularly sensitive to this coming from super liberal Seattle, or perhaps it was just the particular students I spoke to during my tour, but I left the tour wondering if some young women would feel out-of-place here.

Additionally, Villanova isn’t able to meet a student’s full financial need, or at least not yet. This university may not be the best match for students with significant financial need, as the school only meets an average of 80% of a family’s financial need through loans, grants, and scholarships.

Overall impressions:  I enjoyed my visit to Villanova and see how it could be a great match for the right kind of student. The university was incredibly proud of their 2016 NCAA DI Men’s basketball victory; I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many signs and posters displaying school spirit and pride on any college campus. They are also on a remarkable rise in the rankings and in popularity, even outside of the east coast. Villanova is a particularly great match for students interested in direct entry nursing programs, business, and engineering, students interested in a “work hard, play hard” social life, and those seeking a more conservative political culture and campus dialogue.

College Acceptances: Class of 2017

I’m excited to share the final admission and scholarship results for this year’s group of 23 seniors! In total, my students received over $4.6 million dollars in scholarship funding. In red are the colleges where at least one student will be matriculating in the fall.

WEST COAST EAST COAST ROCKIES/MIDDLE/SOUTH
Harvey Mudd College Middlebury College Tulane University
Gonzaga University McGill University (Canada) Colorado State University
Willamette University Lehigh University Macalester College
Occidental College Worcester Polytechnic Institute Butler University
University of Washington Muhlenberg College Kent State University
University of British Columbia (Canada) Eugene Lang – The New School Beloit College
Quest University (Canada) Fashion Institute of Technology College of Wooster
University of Puget Sound Stevens Institute of Technology Trinity University (Texas)
Reed College Syracuse University Coe College
Whitworth University Penn State – Erie campus University of Cincinnati
Washington State University Boston University Purdue University Polytechnic
Arizona State Trinity College Westminster College
Western Washington Parsons – The New School St Olaf College
Alaska Southeast Drexel University Savannah College of Art & Design
Linfield College Fordham University University of Denver
Oregon State Hobart & William Smith Michigan State University
Santa Clara University George Washington University Univ Wisconsin – Madison
College of Idaho Queen’s University (Canada) Miami University (OH)
Loyola Marymount Misericordia University Indiana University
University of Redlands Lafayette College Clemson University
Lewis and Clark College Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Marquette University
University of San Francisco Rochester Institute of Technology CU Boulder
Seattle University University of Rochester Regis University
Chapman University Goucher College Carroll College
San Diego State University Montana State University
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Boise State University
University of San Diego
University of Oregon
UC Santa Barbara
Pitzer College
Whitman College
Seattle Pacific University
UC Santa Cruz
University of Portland
Sierra Nevada College
Pacific Lutheran University
Univ. of Arizona

Very proud of their hard work over the past year… now on to the class of 2018!