Everything Equal

High school juniors and sophomores looking beyond high school are planning for college or other paths while focusing on their academics and continued personal development. Seniors are finalizing offers, comparing financial aid award letters, and discussing the next steps at the kitchen table. Questions are being answered with visits to the guidance office, attending an accepted student day invitation, and speaking with former students now in attendance. Maybe the path after high school is instead moving into a skilled professional position or pursuing an Associates’s degree or serving our country. The process of elimination is in full swing.

[Insert the sound of screeching tires}

COVID-19 – Now we’re pivoting!

Normalcy may be out the door; however, sticking to the plan should still be the PLAN. Yes, adjusts are now required; the norm is no longer the status quo.  Changes and modifications are the new norms, but sticking with the script should be the climate for every household.  Normalcy will return with a few twists.  On-line and on-campus experience may split the interest scale. More students won’t feel pressured to go just to go, and becoming a skilled professional will again be applauded.

With a Plan in hand, college or not, students and their parents will be able to navigate the current emotional and personal challenges. The key will be how we adapt and seek clarity through the nose. While bobbing and weaving, the key will be for students and their parents to make their modifications but remain on track by executing their plan.

Everyone Needs a Plan

Know YOU’RE Criteria:  Distance, size, location, athletics, performing arts, courses, and affordability are just a few of the want and offers that remain constant when a student builds their college list. Students need to stay committed to their needs and wants in the early stage and when conducting that final review before committing.

Register Your Interest: Visiting a college or university website and drilling down to the Admissions page allows a student to register, acknowledging one’s interest in the specific school.  Welcoming information and other communications will follow. Students can inquire about particular areas of the campus, academics, and student life. You’re now part of the college’s database, step one of showing your interest.

Recordkeeping: Create a way of recording and retaining information: emails, e-viewbooks, contact information, and other documentation from schools under consideration.  When researching a school virtually, keep notes, and maintain them by the school.  As one moves through the process of elimination, one cannot rely on memory!

Your School Counselor: Work with your School Counselor. Today due to the COVID-19 concerns were all at home. So is your School Counselor. Now that you are at home navigating either the beginning, midpoint, or end of your college search, reaching out to your Counselor for assistance is vital. They can provide insights on schools, locate a former student who is enrolled, and generate all to critical documents that are part of the application process.

Use the Eyes of an Insiders: Gaining hands-on feedback from individuals who are attending or are recent graduates is a great way to learn about a school. Former high school classmates, friends, relatives, and alumni are a great source to learn college back story. Don’t know someone, check in with your School Counselor or Admissions Office.

What’s Changed?

Campus Visits & College Fairs: For the time being, Informational Tours, Accepted Students Day, local and regional college fairs are all on hold. The stay home, 6FT of social distancing, and the critical need to protect everyone’s health, the school needed to cancel all events on campus. They’ll be back, but for the time being, virtual is the new tool. Virtual Tours – Webinars – Facetime

Virtual Tours: While nothing can replace walking across the quad, peeking into a classroom or dorm, or sampling the latest culinary delights, technology can be the next best friend. Navigating to a school’s website or through one of a few different third-party providers, students can investigate college options.

 On-Demand Streaming- Along with virtual tours, colleges and universities are offering streaming video, live and taped webinars, and other events. Check their websites for events and schedules.

 Facetime: Chatting, answering questions, and providing specific insights to campuses is available to prospective and accepted students. Students and parents can speak with a current student, Admissions Counselors, Coaches at designated times, or on-demand.

Meeting College Representatives: With the closure of college campuses around the country, Admissions Counselors, Coaches, Performing Arts Advisers, and Faculty are all working remotely. Getting to know these individuals should not be a barrier during these times. They’re just an email and text away! Admissions Representatives who frequently visit high schools and attend college fairs are not traveling. But, they are working to build the next two enrollment classes. So are those looking to field the next team of student-athletes, dancers, and performers? If the contact information is not known, searching a school website or contacting the high school should produce their name and info. Getting to College Representatives are essential to building relationships and communicating why you are the top candidate to accept, this year or next.

 With or Without COVID-19

Where I’m Applying: When it is all said and done, selecting a college or university to attend is a personal choice. A choice based on multiple factors, including educational training and personal development. An institution whose internal structure supports a student’s emotional wellbeing and leads to a career outcome. Through the process of elimination, a student’s final list of choices, schools I want to apply to fall into three categories where the average student is:

  • Above MY Profile – I’d be psyched to get in!
  • Right ON MY Profile –perfect match, and
  • I’m Above the Profile –”I’m the big fish in their small pond!”

 Let’s Not Forget Affordability – Colleges are not free. Attending an institution of my choice is an investment. Today, yes, it is troubling to consider how to finance a college education; however, even in prosperous times, affordability must be a critical consideration. Getting in is one part; paying the bill throughout four-years must is equally essential and should not be ignored while narrowing the list!!

Explore| Evaluate| Refine| Select –  Don’t Let COVID-19 Change the Process; Continue to Work Your Plan

Care Is Needed When Saying Yes to a 2020 College

Care Is Needed When Saying Yes to a 2020 College

Yes, these are unusual times for everyone, including millions of college-bound high school seniors and their families. Within the last two months, everything has turned upside down, affecting even the greatest of plans. Or so, one might think.

Financing one’s college education has become one of the top five most significant financial investments an individual will make in their lifetime and that of their parents. Choosing to go to college should be treated as an investment, one that doesn’t put the student or their parents at a financial risk.

But How?

Depending on where a student and their parents are in the college planning process, multiple strategies can apply. Plans should take into consideration college choices, financial resources, dependency on financial aid, and future goals. Wise steps are needed next today.

Seniors: Unfortunately, you are under the microscope, experiencing the most significant impact. You and your parents may have chosen a college, submitted a deposit, or you have been narrowing the list and were ready to pull the trigger. However, now as you compare financial aid awards and calculate the net cost, the gap has grown. In both cases, filing an appeal is your next step. Deposited or not, if your ability to meet the cost of one or more college on the list, a request is in order. You must convey the new, current financial status of the household and the specific reason (loss of or drop in income). The appeal is sent to the Financial Aid Office and copied to Admissions. Then give them time, monitor emails, and follow up.

Deposited Days Extended:  By now, most college-bound seniors know that the official May 1 Deposit Day is on the move. The vast majority of colleges and universities are moving their deposit date to June and a few even, July. For students and families who are evaluating the cost side of choosing, enrolling this is a helpful sign.

New Recruitment Practices: I’m not referring to athletics, all though they too are affected by the current COVID-19. I am speaking about potentially new recruitment practices coming to the forefront of higher education. The idea of schools reaching out past the deposit date to have a conversation about considering their campus. A practice generally unheard in higher education, but one that this Adviser feels its time has come. Maybe call re-inforces second or third might just be the best fit. A call the student can also make!!

Financing Resources: Traditional funding resources are still here. As is typical for this time of year is the exercise of finalization of payment strategies. What current savings or income as part of the financing plan and what if any future income, loans were going to be needed. Of course, now, for many families,  learn if an adjustment to merit and financial aid awarded will accrue and if it will be enough.

  • Family savings: Potentially hit the hardest due to the COVID-19; families may continue to have resources through 529 Plans, other college savings programs, and investment programs. It may be too early to learn of the overall effect COVID-19 has had on families.
  • Monthly payment plans: A program offered directly through the school, providing 5, 7, 10 installment payments over a semester or year. Most plans require a small application fee and are interest fees, a very cost-effective loan program. The question becomes, what resources within the current budget are available?
  • Federal Direct Student Loans: A loan extended to the student directly as part of the completion and filing of the FAFSA, awarded based on grade level and academic progression. A first-year student may be eligible to receive up to $5,500 with payments are due six months after graduation or early separation from school. The loan carries a fixed interest rate, which, based on current projections, maybe as low as 2.89%* for the coming academic year.
  • Federal PLUS Loan: A credit-based loan available to parents of a dependent student. This fixed-rate loan (projected to be as low as 5.44% for July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021*) allows a parent to borrow a portion of or the entire remaining balance owed to the college or university. Payments begin 30-45 days following the disbursement of the full loan. The loan is repaid monthly between 5-20 years. Although not recommended, loan payments can be postponed during the student’s enrollment period. Interest accrues during the postponement and is either paid or added to the balance at the end.
  • Private Education Loans: A credit-based loan is provided through a small nucleus of lenders and credit unions and may be available to an eligible student and parents. Interest rates are based on the creditworthiness of the borrower and co-borrower if required (90% of undergraduate students require a co-borrower) and whether the loan will is repaid or deferred while the student is in school. The average fixed interest rate today can range from 3.99% to 12%. A private loan has become prevalent resources, but one that can be the most costly. It should only be one’s last resort!

Alternative Decisions: Looks like I will be the one to address the elephant in the room. Students’ first choice may not be their choice today. The decisions to select a top runner from the second or third row may be in the best interest of the student and their family. Shouldering the cost of high-interest private loans, allowing a parent to (never) think of using retirement savings to enroll in a school that yes, is the dream, but an investment risk needs to be studied, evaluated and questioned.  Moving to a top second and third choice may be the wises decision, a new first-year college student will make in their life!!

In such trying times, we are here to serve as a resource and provider of useful content from the college industry. Our team has walked thousands of families through the college process over the last few decades. Please feel free to call, text, or email your questions. We hope you find value in our information and welcome you to join us virtually.

Reference: Mark Kantrowitz March 11, 2020,