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.

11th Grade, heading to college -- What should I be doing? Part 3

Are you coming back for part 3, or are you reading this Blog first?

If you are reading this one first, scroll down to find Blog 1 and Blog 2 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, high school juniors, preparing for college

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?

Do you play sports? Video games? Anything competitive?      

There is a competitive aspect to college. Not every student in every class will earn an A. Not everyone will earn a C. The difference between a C and an A is determined, in part, by how well the entire class is assimilating the subject matter.

Really good teachers (the kind we all want) feel out the academic ability of the class and adjust their teaching.

  • Is the class getting it, and catching on? Accelerate the curriculum.
  • Is the class giving you that deer-in-the-headlights look? Slow down. Take more time to explain each concept.
  • Tests and grades are based on what has been presented.

I was a soccer referee for many years. I worked just about the entire spread of players' abilities from recreation matches for children, to college and professional players. The child who is the
star of the recreation program team might well sit the bench, or even not make a premier level, youth team. There are college athletes who, although good, will not make the cut in a professional team tryout.

Applying the analogy to colleges, there is a difference between the academic rigor of a school like the University of California at Berkley and California State University at Chico. A student who will find his comfort level at one may not feel pushed enough at the other. Turn it around, and a good fit at one may well struggle to keep up at the other.

Look at a college's most recently published, First Year Cohort. What are the SAT/ACT score ranges? What is the average GPA of the incoming class; average Class Rank?

Another tactic is call the university you are considering. Ask about academic rigor. Tell them you are determining where to apply based, in part, on that criteria. They will pick up the conversation from there.

Come back next week for answers to questions 4 and 5 above.

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

11th Grade, heading to college -- What should I be doing? Part 2

I'm in 11th Grade what else should I be doing now for college admissions and financial aid?

Are you coming back for part 2, or are you reading this Blog first?

If you are reading this one first, here is a synopsis of the previous Blog. But, please, after you read this, find the Dec 2-7 Blog and read it.

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. Figure out what is a great career fit. Four years of college will be fun and rewarding if you graduate and land a great job.

paying for college, high school juniors, 11th grade prep for college
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?

Once you identify well-suited career choices, address the question of what to major in to be best prepared for that future. Some choices are obvious plan to be an electrical engineer? Major in EE. Some choices are less obvious. Many students pick generic such as business major; psychology major; sociology major.

They are generic until you have a specific career track for which that degree prepares you.

  • Which specific courses, as a college junior and senior should, you take within that major?
  • Will you need to master's degree? a PhD?
  • Do you want to go to school that long?
  • Will the potential income justify the probable costs of Bachelor's + Master's degrees + PhD?
Next and this is really big does the college or university offer that major? If so, how many students do they graduate with that degree? For example, if a college has a total graduating class of 3,000 (in all majors), and your proposed major only accounts for 10 of those 3,000, is that really a program you want to invest in for 4 years, at somewhere around $80,000 - $100,000 (or more)?

Check out the college's website. Call the admission office. Gather the information.

Stay tuned for answers to questions 3,4,5 above.

If you would like our one-to-one, personal, highly tailored coaching, please tap the "Contact Us" tab at the top of this page, or "Schedule an Appointment" upper right corner on our Homepage. There is no cost and no obligation. We'll enjoy talking with you.


Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies. Tagged as high school juniors, how to prepare for college, paying for college, preparing for college, prepping for college, what to do as a high school junior.

11th Grade, heading to college -- What should I be doing for admissions and financial aid?

I'm in 11th Grade what should I be doing now for college admissions and financial aid?

The first answer is, "Keep moving." What I mean is, you don't have as much time as you may be thinking. College applications are not on your radar until next August. True. However, between now and then you have a lot to think about and decide. Financial aid is tied closely to five topics.

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?

College planning as a high school junior

The most important question to answer, now, is "What career?" (Purchase my book here.)  Going to college without an outcome in focus is a HUGE mistake. Across America, for students attending a public university at in-state, resident rates, the annual, actual costs will exceed $20,000.00. At that price, how much time can you afford to meander through five or six years to a degree? Yet, that is the mistake the majority of college students in the USA make.

My students invest in a really good career assessment. It points them in the direction of what they are suited to do (aptitude), but more importantly, what they will enjoy doing for 40 years, more or less.

For example, I am good at taking and transcribing the minutes of meetings. But I do not enjoy it very much. I am willing to do it, but if given a choice, I'd rather not. Another example is I have had students who were science scholars. A medical career might be a logical choice, right? Many of them, however, freak out at the sight of blood. So maybe something else!

Do whatever it takes to figure out what you will love doing after college, and what is required by way of academic preparation to do that. What are the prospects for earning a living in that career? Is that job market expanding or shrinking? Check out That's the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Great website, and updated regularly.

You can read parts 2, 3 and 4 of this blog series by clicking here. Call us today for a complimentary session.

Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies. Tagged as Financial Aid.

Four-Year Myth -- What You Can Do Now

Complete College America's white paper The Four Year Myth proposes its solution to the problem of college students taking 5, or 6, or more years to complete an undergraduate degree. CCA calls it "Guided Pathways to Success" (pp. 14-19).

Their's is an impressive solution to a problem that must be solved; and the sooner the better. However, CCA's solution is systemic. It requires system-wide changes in states, universities and colleges.

That will be nice . . . when it happens. In the meantime, you've got a kid in high school. What can be done for your student?

It would take a book to detail everything Succeed Where It Counts does (and such a book is in the publisher's hands, right now). But even through a book, it is an impossible challenge to address every variable. Your student is a unique human being. Your student deserves a tailored fit. Your financial future also benefits.

In outline form, here's what SWIC addresses with each family:

  1. AFFORDABILITY: what is a realistic budget, annually, for you to pay for college? Components include ways to reduce spending, student employment, and dollars currently being transferred away unknowingly and unnecessarily that can be recouped.
  2. INDIVIDUAL ASSESSMENT: we use the Birkman Career Assessment to help every student begin to visualize what a career might look like.
  3. CAREER COURSE-SETTING: we use Candid Career, job-shadowing and other opportunities to help a student capture a clear and accurate picture of what a particular career involves on a day-to-day basis.
  4. ACADEMIC RIGOR: we encourage students to evaluate their own ability to do college level work, and to compete in rigorous, academic environments. Their high school transcripts are a key indicator.
  5. COLLEGE SELECTION: we lead students through a process of narrowing down, from many dozens to a manageable group of a dozen or so colleges, for finer scrutiny.
  6. CAMPUS VISITS: are essential, time consuming and costly ( parents' PTO, travel, overnight lodging, food). That process begins online, and on the telephone to minimize costs.
  7. FINANCIAL AID: (free+self-help+loans) we work with parents and develop their plan. It sets parameters for what may be possible for scholarships and grants-in-aid ("free" money) from the colleges; for students' employment during college (self-help); and for the Direct Student Loan program. We discourage borrowing by either student or parents beyond the Direct Student Loan limits.
  8. CONSUMER PURCHASE: (value + price) at the end of it all, the decision is a family choice and a personal choice. The least expensive is not always the best, and the best is not always the most expensive. College is a consumer purchase. That means price and value are factors to weigh when making the decision.
Contact Suceed Where It Counts today for a no-cost and no-obligation consultation. Click on the "Home" tab, and then on the red button at the upper right corner of the Home page.

Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies.

The Four-Year Myth -- why are students not graduating in 4 years?

Two more today and next week and that will wrap up my synopsis of Complete College America's white paper The Four Year Myth.

  1. What CCA concluded from the research
  2. How SWIC addresses CCA's solution
Complete College America's white paper did not address the underlying economics causing the explosive rise, over the past 20 years, in the costs of a college education.

They did uncover corollary cost contributors which are, primarily, students taking longer than the presumed amount of time specifically, 4 years to complete an undergraduate degree.
  • Students, overall, take unnecessary, non-degree-related classes. One reason is the schools themselves offer classes that have pop-culture, emotional or intellectual appeal, and are substituted for a degree-necessary class because students want a break from the academic rigor of their majors.
  • Students transfer from one college to another.  CCA's White Paper states that 60% of bachelor's degree recipients transferred colleges and, thereby, lost credits toward graduation.
  • Students need a class that is either full or otherwise unavailable. That may leave them short of credit hours sufficient for scholarship and grant requirements. Therefore, students take classes they do not need simply to generate a credit-hour load for financial aid purposes.
Finally, all of those are directly related to students entering college without a clear direction as to purposes and outcomes. Every first year student must define a major to pursue and, at least, an inaugural vocation for which that major is preparation.
Next blog will specify how SWIC strategically addresses the issue.

Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies.

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