Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What if I'm Wait Listed at My Favorite College?

Unless you have only applied to one school, this feels like one of the worst responses to receive from a college.  It leaves you wondering what to do next.  What would you do if you asked someone to prom, and they said, "Maybe?"  Let's look at some statistics to try to evaluate odds, and then put together some action steps.

Receiving a wait list notification means simply that you are not accepted and you are not denied admission.  Specifically, the school has put you in line for consideration, and you might be chosen.  It does not necessarily mean that the college is waiting on more information from you, although there are a few exceptions with specific schools.  Wait lists at the top universities tend to be a smaller percentage of the freshman class size, because most applicants accept the invitation.

Last year, Yale's wait list was 996, Duke University's list numbered 3,382 and Princeton's list was 1,472.  Different schools have different philosophies in putting applicants on a waiting list.  For instance, Duke granted admission to only 60 on the wait list (about 2%), while Princeton accepted 103 from the list (about 7%).  Notre Dame admitted 86 of the 1,153 who accepted a place on the wait list.  Wait lists are on the rise.  According to the National Association for College Admissions Counseling, in 2010, 48% of colleges used a waitlist; in 2009, the number was 39%, up from 35% the year before.

If you would like to gather info on how a specific school handled admissions last year, including the number of applications it received, accepted, wait-listed, confirmed and accepted, visit The College Board Big Future.  In the upper right-hand corner of the main screen, enter the school you are interested in, and on the next screen, click "Applying" on the left-hand side for the statistics you need.  These statistics will give you some feel for how the schools to which you applied handle their wait lists.  According to the National Association for College Admissions Counseling, nationwide, 28% of students that landed on a wait list were admitted, a decrease from 34% the year before.

So, what can you do if you are really serious about attending the school where you are wait listed?  Check with your particular college to verify their contact policy after having been notified on wait list placement.  If appropriate, follow through periodically with the school, based on their suggestions or requirements. The idea here is not to inundate them with communication but, if you are allowed to, touch base periodically to let them know you continue to be interested in attending. Develop a solid "Plan B" so you are prepared with a fall-back plan for attending college should your name not be released from the wait list. In the meantime, if you decide to commit to attend another college and you have not received a final decision from your wait list college, you should contact them to notify them of your desire to remove your name from wait list consideration.

Once you've reached the wait list for a college, the odds are against your being admitted.  Hopefully you received good counsel as you determined your "best fit" colleges for application, and you are sitting on other acceptance letters. Remember, the school does not make the future - the student does.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Federal Stafford Loan Information 2013 - 2014

The Federal Stafford Loan ("Stafford Loan") is the most popular low-interest loan offered to graduate and undergraduate students.  Schools that offer Stafford Loans participate in the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan ("Direct Loan") Program.  There are two types of loans offered - Subsidized Loans and Unsubsidized Loans.

Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans
Each participating school specifies the type of loan to be offered.  The biggest factor in determining which type of loan is offered is household income.  In some situations, students may be offered both types of loans.

  • Subsidized Stafford Loans are awarded based on financial need. The U.S. Department of Education is responsible for paying loan interest while the student is in school, in deferment, and during the grace period before repayment must begin.
  • Unsubsidized Stafford Loans maximum amounts are decided by the student’s year in school, their additional financial aid awards and the estimated cost of attendance. Student who take advantage of  unsubsidized Stafford Loans are responsible for paying all interest that accrues while they are in school, in deferment, and during the grace period before repayment must begin. As long as the student doesn’t exceed yearly Stafford Loan borrowing limits, they may take out both subsidized and unsubsidized loans.
 Maximum Allowed Loan Amounts

Type of Student             Year of Study    Total Loan Eligibility    Max Subsidized 
                                                                                                          Loan Amount

Dependent Undergrad            1st                         $5,500                          $3,500

Dependent Undergrad            2nd                        $6,500                          $4,500

Dependent Undergrad           3rd +                      $7,500                          $5,500

Independent Undergrad          1st                         $9,500                          $3,500 
or Ineligible for PLUS Loan

Independent Undergrad         2nd                         $10,500                        $4,500
or Ineligible for PLUS Loan

Independent Undergrad         3rd +                      $12,500                        $5,500 
or Ineligible for PLUS Loan

Loan Eligibility
  •  Enrolled at least half-time at an eligible school and maintaining satisfactory academic progress
  • A U.S. citizen or a permanent resident of the U.S. or an eligible territory
  • Registered with Selective Service (if borrower is a male under age 25)
  • Not currently in default. Must not owe a refund on any Title IV loan or gran
 Loan Costs
  •  Interest rates are fixed at 3.4% on subsidized Stafford Loans used between July 1, 2013, and June 30, 2014.
  • For loans first used between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014, up to 1.0% in fees will be added to a student’s loan profile.  
Loan Repayment Requirements
  • After graduating, students will have a six-month grace period to begin payments.  In addition, six months after leaving school or dropping below half-time status, payments must be made.
  • During the six-month grace period, interest will not be charged on subsidized loans but will be charged on unsubsidized loans.
  • Payments are usually due on a monthly basis, unless some special arrangements have been made.
  • Under certain circumstances, such as health issues, a student may be eligible for loan deferment.
For more information on Federal Stafford Loans, please go to

Sunday, February 24, 2013

39 More Colleges Now Use the Common Application for 2013 - 2014

The common application simplifies the process of applying to multiple colleges and universities, when those colleges and universities recognize the common application.  In a separate article, we'll discuss how the Common Application, or "Common App" works.
There are now 527 colleges and universities which will be utilizing the Common App for 2013 - 2014.  The list below can also be found at  The new schools are:

American International College
California College of the Arts
Central Connecticut State University
Chicago State University
Eastern University
Felician College
George Fox University
Georgia Institute of Technology
Georgian Court University
Hawai'i Pacific University
Kettering University
King's College London (UK)
Lexington College
Mary Baldwin College
Marywood University
Mercy College
Modul University Vienna (Austria)
Monmouth University
Newberry College
Pine Manor College
Purdue University
Saint Joseph's College (IN)
St. John's University
Sterling College
Temple University
Trinity Christian College
Unity College
University of Aberdeen (UK)
University of Birmingham, England (UK)
University of Bristol (UK)
University of Cincinnati
University of Colorado Boulder
University of Maine at Presque Isle
University of New Hampshire - Manchester
University of North Carolina Greensboro
University of Oklahoma
Virginia Commonwealth University
William Paterson University of NJ
William Peace University

Saturday, February 23, 2013

College Lists can be Deceiving

I don't know about you, but I just love lists.  For me, it's not to the point of obsession, but I've reached a stage in life when lists are a great way for me to keep track of too many things to do, in too little time.  As a result, I rarely have an empty list.  Lists for me are very effective, because they are of my own making; my lists take into account my priorities, my abilities and my personal needs.  Not all lists work this way.

Take college lists, for example.  There are lists of The Best Value Colleges, The Best Colleges, and the Best Schools for Earning a High Salary after Graduation.  These lists certainly have validity.  Very intelligent people have painstakingly boiled down tremendous amounts of data to assemble some very simple lists.  The only flaw I have found with lists of this type is that they lack the caveat: Your Results May Vary.  There are students at the colleges listed that are having wonderful experiences, are at the top of their class, and will earn hefty salaries after graduation.  The lists worked well for them.  Not so for many other students.

There are many ways to slice and dice how "well" or "poorly" a college ranks, and few agree on how schools should be evaluated.  Here is a brief analysis on how many well-known authorities make this evaluation.  It reminds me of the output of a Spirograph I had as a kid.  A student's list needs to be developed taking into account their needs, priorities, interests and abilities.  Their list needs to be their list.  I have found that the more often we start from this point, the more likely that the student will find the college that is the best value for them, has the best culture, the best curriculum, will result in a bachelors degree in four years, and sets the stage for stable employment afterwards.

Friday, February 22, 2013

New Common Application Questions for 2013-2014

If you were thinking of using your older brother's common app essay from last year to help write your own for this year, it's not going to work!

Last week, The Common Application board of directors announced new prompts for the 2013-2014 essays. After two years of discussion, the new topics were formulated to better encourage applicants to present information about their personalities, character and other traits that aren’t otherwise available to colleges through test scores, grades, or extracurricular activities.

The total word count for the responses has changed from 500 words to 650 words.  Here are the Common Application essay questions for 2013-2014:
  • Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

  • Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
  • Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

  • Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?

  • Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

One prompt which has been eliminated allowed students to come up with their own prompt.  This was used 33% of the time last year.