Apply for Fall, Get Spring Semester. Why do colleges send "Spring Semester Acceptance" letters?

Why do colleges send "Spring Semester Acceptance" letters?

Are you familiar with the phrase "hedging your bets"? It describes a strategy whereby you reduce your risk of loss. You bet on more than one winning option, and reduce your chance of total loss.
Did you receive a Spring Semester Acceptance letter? Here's why and how you can approach it.

By offering some students Spring semester, rather than Fall semester admission, colleges are hedging their bets.

  • Colleges seek to fill every seat in the new, first-year cohort. Some of those students, a few, will drop-out, flunk-out, die (horrible thought); for whatever reason, create vacancies for the Spring semester. Colleges are not guessing, but rather forecasting based on decades of records.

  • A Fall semester drop-out represents a loss of revenue in the Spring. A Spring admit solves that problem.

  • Stats every college keeps them; and every college has to report them. The statistics in focus for this discussion are retention rates and graduation rates.

  • Both datum are required to be kept only on first year, Fall admits. Therefore, transfer students and Spring admits are not considered.

  • Spring admits are students who, by the college's reckoning, are less-well qualified academically and, therefore, more likely to leave the school short of graduation.

Your student has received a Letter of Acceptance, but for the Spring and not the expected, Fall semester. What does that mean?

  1. Your student is considered marginally qualified as a scholar for the college's academic rigor. In plain English, the college thinks they may be too hard for your kid. If you have other acceptance letters for the upcoming Fall semester, those options should be strongly considered.

  2. Your student will receive little or no financial aid, beyond what the family qualifies for based on financial need. The "scholarships" will have been given out to the Fall class. Even some federal dollars may be in short supply until the following Fall semester. That may be made up with financial aid in the form of loans (not really aid, but considered aid in the game of higher education).

  3. Most important, in this author's opinion, is the dilemma of what your student will do from June until the end of January. Students enrolling in a community college should check with the four-year school as to how those credits will be handled. Will your child now become a transfer student? Historically, that further impacts financial aid offered. Work? A great option, especially if your students saves most of the money for college expenses.

  4. Finally, and related to that last fact of what to do with the time, it is highly likely your student will not find the transition to be smooth. There are so many things shaping a student's experience of Fall semester admissions that simply cannot be replicated for the Spring admit. I am not speculating, but rather relating the experience of the few students I know who went ahead with a Spring semester matriculation.

Bottom line: decline Spring admission. Your child has better options.

Want to know the top 5 mistakes to avoid when sending your student to college? Be sure to grab your copy of our free download by clicking the button below! 

Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies. Tagged as #applyingforcollege, #applyingtocollege, #collegeapplications, #collegeplanning, #financialaid, #howtopayforcollege, #springsemesteracceptance.

Why do colleges "Wait List" some students and what to do if you're on the wait list

Why do colleges "Wait List" some students? 

The answer is found in the principle that colleges are selling higher education services, and parents are the customers. That means that Letters of Acceptance are issued primarily for the benefit of the colleges. They accept who they want, when they want, how they want.
how to handle the college wait list

Colleges track their admissions data very closely, over decades of time. Those large numbers give them a very accurate picture of how many letters of acceptance are needed in order to fill every seat available. Remember, each seat in a first-year cohort is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of the student's education.

In the administrative offices, "yield" is the number of students who actually matriculate from among the greater number to whom letters of acceptance were sent. Let's take some easy numbers to help your understanding. 

Big Time College plans for a first-year class of 2,000. Their historic yield is 50%. Therefore, they sent out 4,000 letters of acceptance, and notify another 1,000 they are on the Wait List. Suppose this year they miss their yield by 1%; 20 students. Big Time College's wait list is now accessed. Starting at the top, they go down the list until they find the 20 students who will accept an offer of admission.

What is the top? The wait listed students are ranked academically from most-well-qualified to less-well-qualified. Those at the top of the list probably missed by inches a letter of acceptance in the first place.

Should you wait on the wait list? Probably not.

  • You will never know how close to the top you are.

  • You will not find out if you are chosen until the deadline for commitment has passed for the other colleges that accepted you.

  • Financial aid will be little or none, because whatever aid they had to give, was committed to those who were accepted in the first round, and who sent in their deposit of commitment.


Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies. Tagged as #collegeplanning, #collegewaitlist, #financialaid, #howtohandlecollegewaitlist, #waitlist.

Is There a Scholarship Awarded With Your Letter of Acceptance?

Is there a scholarship awarded with your Letter of Acceptance?

Students who submitted college applications weeks ago are receiving Letters of Acceptance already. Those affirmations make everyone happy. Congratulations!

It is not uncommon, not at all, for a scholarship to be awarded along with the acceptance letter. That is also a good thing and, again, congrats.

What is it not, however?

  • It is not truly a scholarship as much as it is a discount off of the price. In other words, no money will ever exchange hands. The college is just offering to charge you less.

  • It is possible the scholarship is for only the first year; not renewable for years two, three and four. Be sure to ask.

  • It is contingent. Contingencies include your senior year of high school grades, your personal deportment both in school and in your community (i.e. don't get busted for doing something stupid) and whether you commit by any deadlines mentioned in the letter.

  • Finally, and most important, it is not the final and formal offer of financial aid. That will come, typically, in late March/early April.

What is that scholarship then?

An enticement to commit before you hear from any other colleges.

Therefore, wait. Wait until at least the end of 2020. By then you will likely have heard from every college to which you applied. If, by then, there are schools from which you have no formal letter of acceptance (or denial of admission) call the school(s) and check on the status of your application.

That last thing reminds me to remind you to check NOW with every college on your list. Make certain they have every requirement in hand. Don't wait. Deadlines are hard stops in college admissions.

Next time let's talk about Wait List and Spring Admission.

Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies. Tagged as #collegeplanning, #collegescholarships, #financialaid, #financialaidoffer, #howtopayforcollege, collegeacceptanceletter, scholarshipsforcollege.

Is Test Optional Permanent?

SAT/ACT Test Optional One time only?

The SAT/ACT tests were declared optional for high school students applying for Fall Semester 2021 college admission. Most colleges made that decision as an accommodation to the disruption caused by COVID-19. A handful, however, did not (e.g. University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, University of Florida).
SAT/ACT testing for college - will test optional be permanent?

What should you do if you took either test?

· If your scores have been published, get those sent to your colleges of choice.
· If you took the test and have not yet seen any scores published, contact your colleges. Most are flexing the application deadline to accommodate late score reporting. However, that is the only exception to their deadlines. Everything else required on the applications must be completed prior to the school's published deadline.

What are future plans for current high school juniors (11th grade) and younger?

"Test-optional" will most likely be dropped (with the exception of colleges that had been test-optional previous to the pandemic). That is, current high school students with college intentions, should plan on taking either the SAT, or ACT, or both (that is another article). Ohio State and University of Michigan have already made their intentions known test scores will be an application requirement.

Other important points:

· Regardless of anything written above, it is always a good idea to talk with your college admission contacts. Discuss what is going on in your world, and follow their guidance.
· Super-scoring has always been, and remains, the prerogative of the college. Most do, but none are required to do.
· SAT/ACT tests were developed in hopes they would be indicators of the likelihood of academic success in college. They are not perfect, but they are, for now, a key measure, along with GPA and the academic rigor of your high school transcript

At one time, conventional wisdom favored taking an SAT/ACT, and re-taking it after receiving your scores; combined with a test-preparation regimen leading up to the second test date.

Trends in test scores indicate that test-preparation prior to even the first test date proves worthwhile. There are free resources online (; However, those tests have become very well integrated into college admissions decisions, and test-preparation companies have become very sophisticated at "teaching to the test." Professional tutoring will help in evaluating your high school transcript and GPA, and understanding the predictive value of PSAT/PACT scores. Seek help understanding your rung on the competitive academic ladder. Test-prep is pricey. You need information in order to determine if it is worth the price for your student.


Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies. Tagged as #acttestoptional, #acttestprep, #collegeplanning #sat/acttest #sat/acttesting, #howtostudyforsat/acttest, #istestoptionalpermanent, #sattestoptional, #sattestprep #satacttestprep, #studyforact, #studyforsat.

Is Community College a good option after high school?

Is Community College a good option after high school?

You're going to hate me for this answer, but it is, in fact, "Yes and no."


  • For students who are borderline academically qualified for college-level academics. The academic rigor of college is harder than of high school. Most four-year colleges demand more academically than most community colleges.
  • For students who desire expressly to earn a technical certification and enter the job market from there. No one should consider that choice as lesser than attending a four-year college. It is simply a different choice. Every adult knows, once in the work force, job performance determines career advancement.


  • For families who think it will save them money. If any money is saved, and that is a proposition easily challenged from the data, the amount saved is modest compared to what is missed.
  • For students who think a community college will help them figure out what they want to major in, and what career they want to pursue (with the exception of a technical certification, as mentioned).

The original question (Is community college a good option?) reveals an underlying issue that parents and students should address. Why go to college?

  • To find direction for life as an adult? At $25,000 per year (or more) those are expensive directions. Instead, consider getting a job and learning what it takes to earn $25,000 in a year. Enlist for military service and be trained in a career-quality skill, mature as a young adult and, upon completion of active duty feel a sense of accomplishment.
  • Because that's what others are doing? That is seldom, if ever, a good reason for doing anything. To reiterate, get a job instead. Find out how hard your parents work to provide for your family. Save most of the money for college. Pay taxes. That's an education, too. 

Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies. Tagged as #collegeplanning, #collegeplanninglkn, #communitycollege, #howtopayforcollege, #payingforcollege.

The Future of Financial Aid and Scholarships, Part 2

Did you see it coming? I didn't. Epidemiologists report they have been warning about it for years. Never got above the horizon on the news cycle, did it?

The virus known as COVID-19 has changed every map of everyone's future scenario. Wafting out of China sometime during 2019, it has infected the planet's human population, and is killing-off hundreds of thousands of our kind.

Reports indicate that teenagers are not especially vulnerable to the flu virus of the current pandemic; nevertheless, their futures are greatly impacted. As you will read, the effects may not be all negative.

Among the negative side-effects of our very own pandemic, higher education is reeling. When colleges across America closed their campuses in March, 2020 an economic shock wave roiled us all. Few, very few college teachers were prepared to teach in a virtual environment. One, a personal friend, told me she was informed on a Friday that her classes would be online the following Monday. She had the weekend to prepare. She cobbled together decent content, and then faced the learning curve of the technology. It was not pretty, she reports.

As the academic year ended, and college students were pondering the fall semester, it dawned on parents that they had not received what they paid for on campus, in class, in person college education and campus life for their children. Law suits were filed, and the colleges began bunkering in self-defense. Not to be unsympathetic to the parents, but the colleges, in fact, had little or no money to refund. By the time the virus locked us inside, the costs to operate were already in accounts payable. There might have been a few unspent dollars for utilities, laundry and other minor budget items. But the big dollar items were irreversible.

Parents, most being convinced, shifted to "credit" for future enrollment and living costs. Once again, the colleges are caught between a rock and a hard spot. Most of the colleges and universities that the average person might think of are non-profits. That means they operate on close margins. Income pretty much equals expenditures year-by-year. (Remind me to talk about "yield" and other admissions office lingo.) Furthermore, the public universities are heavily dependent on their state legislatures' funding. Well, guess what has happened to tax revenue during the pandemic. Oh. How about that.

The fact is, there is little to no ability to offer credit for returning students, with one exception: financial aid. Reduce financial aid by thousands per student, and the cash flow may be realized to deal with parents' demands for credit.

Private colleges and universities are another story. They receive no taxpayer subsidies. They operate on similarly narrow margins (income-to-expenses). To compete for students with the public universities, private colleges often discount their tuition by tens of thousands of dollars. You need to understand this, so here's a hypothetical example.

The University of the North (public) advertises its annual cost of attendance as:
  • Tuition                                                           $11,000
  • Mandatory fees                                              $3,000
  • Room and Board                                            $9,000
  • Books and personal expenses (estimated)    $4,000
  • Total                                                              $27,000
  • Institutional Financial Aid average/student  <$4,000>
  • Net cost (before loans)                                  $23,000

The Bellwether University (private):
  • Tuition                                                            $40,000
  • Mandatory fees                                               $5,000
  • Room and Board                                             $10,000
  • Books, etc                                                       $4,000
  • Total                                                               $59,000
  • Institutional Financial Aid average/student   <$30,000>
  • Net cost (before loans)                                   $29,000

It's that Institutional Financial Aid that will be impacted in upcoming years. Whether in the public universities or private, the burden of the pandemic's financial impact will be, in large part, passed on to the consumer (just as increased production costs are passed to consumers in every other aspect of the economy). Parents, you are the consumers of higher education. One mitigation you retain is helping your child be very intentional about to which colleges to apply; and helping your child focus on the "Why" of attending college. Among the fatalities attributable to the pandemic of 2020 is "the four-year experience." Attend college for a pragmatic education, not for an experience.

Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies.

Home Schooling and College Admissions

In this article you will read three recommendations to help your home school student gain admission to a college-of-choice. First, however, here's a perspective that should interest you.

One recent May I was privileged to be given a tour of the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO. I won't take your time now to describe the indescribable beauty of its setting, in the shadow of Pike's Peak. The reason I mention it is my tour guide was a just-graduated, 2nd Lieutenant who was a home school scholar. That resolved forever my doubts about the quality of home school education.
homeschooling high school students, college admissions for homeschooled students, college admissions, homeschool, how to apply to college
Add to that, in the years since, I have proudly watched two of my grandchildren excel in education as home school students. I confess, I was nervous and doubtful when their mom, my daughter, announced the decision to home school. In this instance, being proven wrong is my great pleasure.

The anecdote above, along with my confession of doubts about home school is relevant because you may find people just like me (formerly) in a college's admissions office, reviewing your student's application. Here is a startling, perhaps alarming fact: admissions counselors at colleges across America have mere minutes to consider applications literally, just a few minutes per application. On the first run-through the filter is eliminate as many as possible. That means an application with omissions, or portraying circumstances that require extra time to understand may be among the first placed in the "Deny" stack.

Here's an example. In the most recent reporting year, the USAF Academy (mentioned above) received 10,354 applications, sent out 1,139 letters of acceptance and, of those, matriculated slightly more than 1,100 first year cadets. The point to catch is admissions counselors had to review more than 9,200 applications and send out letters of denial.

Another example: A very well known, public university recently received 33,012 applications. In order to fill their first-year class of 4,200, the admissions office had to identify more than 14,500 qualified applicants to receive a letter of acceptance. That means more than 18,400 landed in the "Deny" stack. That's a lot of work! The first irregularity in an application is all of the reason needed.

Here's the point, and the first recommendation: the application must be flawless.
  • My students begin working on their college applications in the first week of August. They submit them in mid-September. During those five or six weeks we begin, revise, edit, and add and subtract elements. We work on the applications every week. We double check everything. We get it right the first time because, very likely, there is only one chance to land in the "Accept" stack.
Recommendation two: emphasize your strengths.
  • That includes your individual characteristics and qualities. It includes your qualifications (SAT or ACT test scores are helpful, even though some colleges are going "test optional").
  • Most important, highlight the strengths of a home school education. Answer the unasked questions about science and math; about preparation for research and problem-solving.
  • Mention the many ways in which home schoolers are "well-rounded."
Recommendation three: in-person campus visits will serve you well.
  • In my book, College is a Consumer Purchase, I describe a three-visit regimen. The bottom line is, you want to be more than data on a computer screen. When the admissions counselor pulls up your application and your face comes to mind, that bright smile, the warm conversation, it may tip the scale in your favor. Of course, realize that you may not be the fit the counselor is seeking, but if it's close and between you and someone the counselor has not met, you are more likely to get the nod.
Home school education, when done well, is the best. Hold your head up and apply to college with confidence. There are colleges out there for every student who wants to attend college.


Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies. Tagged as apply to college with confidence, college admissions for homeschool students, college of choice, college planning, college planning company, homeschool scholar, homeschool students, homeschooling high school.

The Future of Financial Aid and Scholarships

Colleges will trim and revise financial aid offers for the next few years. High school Class of 2020 and 2021 will be the first to feel the impact.

College Admissions, Financial Aid, College Scholarships

Those statements are, admittedly, my own reckoning. I have no insider information. What I have is the ability to add 2+2+2 and come up with 6 as my answer.
  • The ongoing corona-virus precautions are generating new expenses (sanitizing alone!).
  • The onset of the pandemic wreaked financial havoc -- the closing of campuses.
  • The tanking of our economy is pressuring everyone -- citizen and university alike.
  • Every college in America is anticipating reduced enrollments and, consequently, reduced revenue.
  • Looking to the U.S. Treasury for bailouts?  Get in line, right?
Enough. You get my point and, I feel confident, understand the conclusions that present themselves. To parents and students anticipating college matriculation later this summer, 2020 --
  • Parents
    • Read again, and thoroughly, the agreements and contracts you and/or your student signed for financial aid awards. The colleges have language in there that is a backdoor for them. Understand what your rights are under the terms of the agreements, and what the college's prerogatives are.
    • Anticipate reductions in "scholarships" and other grants-in-aid (non-federal). Reductions in financial aid grants may not come this fall. You may see them Winter Term; and definitely anticipate revised financial aid offers for the 2021-2022 academic year. Revised -- what I mean is, you may not be proffered the same amount of financial aid for 2021-2022 as you received 2020-2021.
  • Students  
    • Now more than ever, devote yourself to academic pursuits. You do not need to make straight A's. Don't put that kind of pressure on yourself. You must, however, demonstrate maturity, along with focus and commitment to academic achievement.
    • Do NOT "cut" any college classes (i.e. skip school). Less-than-100% attendance will be a first consideration (my prediction) for modifying financial aid awards. If you miss because of illness, follow carefully the requirements to be excused. Read your student handbook.
    • On the same track do NOT veer astray of standards of conduct, honor codes, campus security, etc. Stay away from alcohol, marijuana, non-prescription drugs, and whatever else your peers are indulging. Violation of codes of conduct will result in revised financial aid awards.
    • Do NOT spend any cash deposited to your student account on personal-pleasure trips, non-academic gadgets, etc. Food, shelter, clothing and academic supplies only! Save those dollars to offset any reduced financial aid realities in your sophomore year, and so on. A school audit of your use of financial aid is not out of the question.
Financial aid appeals will, I predict, flood college offices in the spring of 2021. Staff will be overwhelmed and will grab the "Denied" stamp reflexively. Any deviation from excellence in academics, or personal conduct will be all of the justification needed.

Hang on tight, my friends. The decade of the 20's promises to be a wild ride.


Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies.

High School Seniors Win $14million in Scholarships -- true or false?

Did Hough High school students really receive $14,000,000 in scholarships?

That is how the headline read in the blog "Cornelius Today."

"How come my student didn't get that kind of money?" you may painfully wonder.

"I'm going to find those scholarships for my child!" you may resolve.

Take a deep breath and let's dig into the numbers.

college scholarships, paying for college, how to pay for college

Click this link and see the table breaking down all high schools in Charlotte-Mecklenburg's system.

$13,953,220 awarded in 287 scholarships. I could go on all day, but I will refrain and make just four, simple points.
  • There were approximately 700 seniors in Hough's Class of 2020, and 287 scholarship winners reported. +/- 400 students (apparently) were awarded $0.00.
  • Do the math and the average scholarship is $48,618, yet the cost-of-attendance at most UNC System universities is under $26,000
  • At the bottom of the report critical data is noted: over $23,000,000 were athletic grants-in-aid. That is NOT "Scholarships." Athletic-grants-in-aid are awarded to athletes for athletic prowess. Some athletes report only modest academic achievements.
  • Finally, the $48,618 average scholarship is an aggregate number. In other words, as students heard back from 4, 6, 8, 10 (or more?) colleges, and as each college tendered an offer of, let's say $3,000 per year, or $4,000 per year, maybe even $10,000, all of the numbers were added together for that student to aggregate at $48,000+

Let me tell you about Michael. He was awarded (rounding off) $30,000 by Rose-Hulman, $28,000 by Rennselaer Polytechnic, $3,000 by the University of Maryland**, and $22,000 by Virginia Tech. Using the criteria above, I could have reported that my student, Michael, was awarded $83,000 in scholarships. Instead, my report is that Michael is at Virginia Tech paying in-state tuition as an out-of-state student. An excellent deal for his family!

As the saying goes, if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.

Before I go, here's a final, encouraging note. Michael will pay around $100,000 - $110,000 for his bachelor's degree in engineering. Do you want to guess how Michael is spending his summer, between college junior and senior years? As I write this (June 18) he is starting an internship with General Motors in Detroit, working in the autonomous, electric vehicle research division.** I expect him to be amply rewarded for his excellence in academics, and to recoup that $100-G's quickly.

** University of Maryland and General Motors will not hyperlink. Copy and paste the URLs here:

Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies. Tagged as college planning lake norman, college scholarships, how to pay cash for college, how to pay for bachelor's degree, how to pay for college, money for college, online college consultants, paying for college, scholarships for college.

11th Grade, heading to college -- What should I be doing? Part 4

Are you coming back for part 4, or are you reading this Blog first?

If you are reading this one first, scroll down to find the first 3 of this series.

Keep moving. You don't have as much time as you may be thinking. Between now August 2020, when applications open for the Class of 2021, you have a lot to think about and decide. Financial aid is also tied to your good work now.

paying for college, heading to college, high school juniors

Here are the topics, and in reverse order.
5. Where are you going to apply?
4. Have I visited every college I am applying to?
3. What are my academic qualifications?
2. What will I major in?
1. What do I see as my future career?

At any college, ask anyone in admissions and they will tell you, "Don't come here if you haven't visited first."

That may seem to be an odd statement for someone whose job it is to enroll students in their college. However, hard experience and many tears inform the wisdom of the advice. Remember, college is the place you will live and work nine months per year, for four years. You'd better love the place!

Campus visits are not complicated, but they are important. First of all, do you, the student, feel at home when you set foot on campus? That is a matter of taste and preference. Some people like modern; some traditional; some open spaces and some an urban jungle. Your tastes, what makes you happy is key.

Second, is the school too far from home for weekends; or too close for comfort? Again, it's your judgment that matters.

Third, is the school too big, too small, or (as Goldilocks found with baby bear's bed) just right.

Fourth, what do students do for fun? When they are not in class? On weekends? Find out and think about how those things line up with your ideas of fun.

Finally, it's a good idea to go to the building where you will be taking most of the classes of your proposed Major. Meet the professors who will be teaching you. Check out the classrooms where you will spend many hours over four years. Watcha think?

It's okay to visit every campus under serious consideration once. It's better to visit your top three twice; and your top two three times. You're about to spend A LOT of money, and invest forty-eight months of your life on a college campus. Be sure.


Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies. Tagged as college planning company, college planning lake norman, college planning strategies, heading to college, high school juniors, paying for college, preparing for college.

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