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Recognizing Buyers from Sellers in Your College Search

Posted by Neal Schwartz on March 11, 2021


How to build a balanced college list

When students start thinking about their college lists, a few key questions come to mind: Do I want a big campus or a small campus? Do I want a city or rural location? Do I have the test scores and GPA to get in? However, when it comes to students themselves constructing their lists, the financial factor is often overlooked in the “college fit” equation. This leads to good students getting into top schools because of their academics, but not qualifying for financial aid. With a sole focus on academic, social and geographical factors, students might find themselves stuck when admitted to an elite institution that they can’t afford.


 Jeff Selingo, an author and expert on higher education, recently published a book called Who Gets In & Why: A Year Inside College Admissions, where he offers valuable insights and research on the selection process from diverse admissions offices. While conducting research for the book, Selingo developed a theory of college “buyers” and “sellers,” which will help students create a more balanced college list, allowing college dreams to be financially attainable. Though the research was done prior to the pandemic, the overall premise still holds.

 While the social and academic aspects of a college might be easier to measure, what appears on that college bill can seem less predictable. That’s why Selingo analyzed which colleges are more likely to make both students and parents happy from all perspectives.

Selingo first coins the term “sellers” to define name-brand, popular and elite colleges. These can include big universities such as New York University or Ivy League schools such as Harvard. These schools benefit from having an extraordinarily high application rate, so in turn, they’re not likely to discount their tuition. Why do it when so many students are willing and able to pay the price of an “elite” education?

 “Buyers,” however, are the institutions that are less recognizable and therefore have a heavy focus on recruitment to fill their seats and dorms. Because these schools are less well-known, they are more likely to offer tuition discounts and merit-based scholarships to students that don’t necessarily need it, as an attempt to lure them in.

 A lot of students (and parents) might seem deterred from “buyers” because of their lack of reputation. In a community where brand name and alumni connections have a lot of power, choosing a college that no one’s ever heard of could seem detrimental. However, there is not necessarily a difference in academic education between buyers and sellers; that is the myth that needs to be debunked. In fact, many lesser-known colleges that give out hefty rewards can provide just as rich an education as the brand-name schools.

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Topics: College Costs, college admissions, SAT/ACT, college selection, Financial Aid, college counseling, high school senior, high school junior, Colgate University, RPI, Carnegie Mellon, Emory, Tulane, college search, New York University, Case Western University, Rensselaer, Jeff Selingo

Will College admissions be more competitive than ever?

Posted by Neal Schwartz on February 04, 2021

Will college admissions be more competitive than ever for 2021-2022 high school graduates?

With application deadlines nearing for some, students and parents have shared a fear that college admissions will become more competitive as a result of the pandemic. A number of factors are contributing to this fear, such as a theoretical increase in international student applicants that were unable to attend US colleges and universities last year, and those taking “gap years” flooding the applicant pool for fall 2021 admission in hopes that the pandemic will “clear.”

On the flip side, financially-strapped families and those who don’t believe that remote learning is worth the extreme financial commitment of college might be hesitating about certain applications. They also might be more heavily considering colleges that are closer to home, to facilitate any potential future problems should another lockdown occur.

From what we’ve seen so far, despite these conflicting factors across populations of students, all indications from many colleges are that they do not expect a boom in applicants for the next couple of years. Some suggest that the reticence of certain families and the risks of others will end up with a balance in the applicant pool.

Starting from last week, some colleges have been releasing information about either the surge or decline in their admissions. According to an article in InsideHigherEd, these statistics can be explained by a variety of reasons.

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Topics: College Costs, College Applications, college admissions, college interview, SAT/ACT, college selection, college counseling, high school senior, virtual tours, high school junior, test optional, college forecast

College Board Drops the SAT Optional Essay and Subject Tests

Posted by Neal Schwartz on January 20, 2021

In response to the crippling effect that the pandemic has had on colleges and students, the College Board has decided to make major changes to testing. Effective June 2021, the SAT optional essay and SAT subject tests will be discontinued. According to a New York Times article, “The changes to the SAT come as more and more colleges are dropping the requirement that students take the test, as well as its competitor the ACT, a trend driven in part by concerns about equity that received a boost during the pandemic.”

These decisions have been made in part to ease the administrative costs of taking the tests on a company that was hit significantly by COVID-19, as tests were cancelled and postponed. However, the main resultant is some reduction in student stress revolving around college entrance exams. With these tests discontinued, students will have more time to focus on pursuing academic success in their classes and beyond.

The College Board recognizes the extreme toll that the pandemic has taken on students, and is therefore adapting to the current landscape. But what are the ramifications of these decisions for students?

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Topics: College Costs, College Applications, college admissions, early decision, early action, early decision 2, SAT/ACT, college selection, college counseling, high school senior, Guidance Counselors, virtual tours

How COVID-19 is changing the way we finance college

Posted by Neal Schwartz on January 07, 2021

While the pandemic has taken its toll on everyone, one silver lining is the changes to core Financial Aid submission. According to a recent article in Forbes by Mark Kantrowitz, the FAFSA will be undergoing massive changes in response to the COVID-19 relief bill. According to the FAFSA Simplification Act, financial aid determination will be adapted from both the federal and institutional levels. 

However, these changes will not be coming in the near term, but rather will affect the Freshman class of 2023—current high school Sophomores. It will of course have an impact on the earlier classes as Financial Aid is required to be submitted and reviewed each year prior to a student’s college year.

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Topics: College Costs, College Applications, college admissions, early decision, early action, early decision 2, SAT/ACT, college selection, college counseling, high school senior, Guidance Counselors, virtual tours

Are the SATs and ACTs still necessary?

Posted by Neal Schwartz on December 15, 2020

Due mostly to the pandemic, nearly 75% of colleges have gone the test optional approach, many of which are extending test optional policies forward several years. The question of how important the SAT and ACT tests will be for the upcoming graduating classes has resulted in many opinions.  Is the pivot to test optional for college admission going to be a temporary or long-term situation? To predict what may happen, it is wise to take a broader historic view.

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Topics: College Costs, College Applications, college admissions, early decision, early action, early decision 2, SAT/ACT, college selection, college counseling, high school senior, Guidance Counselors, virtual tours

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