Your Worst College Choices?                                              by Patti Brugman


Choose colleges that will throw money at you!

As I look back on 2011, I remember several of our students who were able to apply to any college they wanted because their parents were able to pay full tuition. Having money in the bank is a real advantage for college admission, but it’s not the reality for most students.

Imagine a situation where a student (I’ll call him Noah) wants to apply to a few schools where he is guaranteed admission, and the rest are reach schools. This seems fine, but Noah’s family has also told us that they have a maximum allowance of $15,000 per year to spend for all college costs!  Goodness, now we have a difficulty!

So, where is the disaster? I said he had some schools where he was guaranteed admission. What’s wrong with that? The schools on Noah’s original list were Cal State San Francisco, Cal State San Marcos, Cornell, and Notre Dame. The Cal State schools, especially those two, worried us because we knew that he would have trouble getting even a couple of classes per term. Any cheap school becomes an expensive one when you add on extra years to graduate. Students who take five or six years to earn their degree often run out of motivation and almost always run out of money.

As for Noah’s reach schools, he had two problems there. The obvious one was whether or not he would be accepted. Although an excellent student with great SATs, he wasn’t super-duper enough to fit the profile for admission to either these schools. Finding the right school requires careful study. Independent service and superior achievements were missing from Noah’s application. When we start early with students, we help them develop their strengths so that they can become the kind of student that their favorite schools will appreciate. We didn’t have this kind of time with Noah because he came to us late in the game.

But don’t worry. We came up with a solution and Noah is now well on his way to having some wonderful and affordable college choices. He’s a deserving student from a great family.  Happy ending!

What we did was to find some lesser-known schools that offer a great education and who would entice Noah with the merit money he needed. While Cornell and Notre Dame are great schools, they rarely admit a “very good student” and don’t need to entire any student with merit money. With just a few changes to his list, Noah’s college prospects skyrocketed!

For families that do not have bank accounts full to the brim and ready to spend, the right college list is essential. Remember that there are three hundred fabulous schools in this country and thousands more that offer a good education. Applying to the right school is essential for both your student and your family for the happy college ending. We hope yours is just that!