Friday, October 28, 2011

Graduate in 4 years and save

Dear Mr. Bradshaw — How much will my college education cost? My parents have tried to plan for my education, but the financial part is hard to quantify. We hope you can tell us what expenses we should expect. — Student

Dear Student — One of the best ways to cut the cost of college is to graduate in four years. If that sounds obvious, it doesn’t seem to register with many students who take five to six years to graduate.

Nationally, only 58 percent of full-time students graduate in six years, and three out of four part-time students fail to earn a bachelor’s degree within eight years.

Many colleges are not motivated to advertise their graduation rates, but they are easy to find by visiting College Results Online ( CRO is an interactive, user-friendly tool used to provide parents and students with information about college graduation rates for most four-year colleges or universities in the country.

One useful feature is the ability to compare graduation rates for colleges serving similar students. This information reveals that some colleges do a much better job of graduating students than others.

For example, Indiana University in Bloomington has a four-year graduation rate of 52.5 percent, and Purdue University in West Lafayette has a 37.5 percent four-year graduation rate. Compare that to the University of Chicago (85.7) and Notre Dame (90.1). These results show the best graduation rates are at private schools, and these numbers are representative of universities nationwide.

Clearly, a few colleges benefit by making a lot of money on the perpetual-student syndrome. But colleges alone are not entirely responsible for prolonging a student’s education.

Parents must take some responsibility because they allow their children to start college without a firm goal in mind. Many will say a student needs time to grow and experiment by taking classes in different areas before declaring a major.

However, if we compare graduation rates among most top public and private universities, we find that nearly 90 percent of students at private schools entered their freshmen year with a declared major. Fewer than 20 percent changed their majors before graduation.

Because most of the classes taken by these students apply to their degrees, it shortens graduation time.

Most of my clients have a very clear goal in mind when they apply. Even if they change their minds midway through their course work, it is generally from something like chemistry to biology to pre-med, where many classes fulfill both degree requirements.

Similar results apply if the student changes majors from applied math to economics or from history to political science. Radical changes to different majors add two to three years to what should be a four-year degree program.

With college costs soaring each year faster than the rate of inflation, graduating in four years is the surest way to save money on your education.

Simply put, plan ahead.

I suggest parents start talking about career goals when their children reach eighth grade. That way, they can start planning their high school curriculum with that goal in mind.

College Admissions Consulting Articles - Graduate in 4 years and save

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Consultant an asset for top school

Dear Mr. Bradshaw: I am considering hiring a college consultant to help me with the admissions process. My parents and I agree that applying to top colleges is a real challenge, and we would like to know how a college consultant could help make things easier. --Student

Dear Student:

If you are applying to a top college, a consultant can be a real asset, and the benefits are wide-ranging.

Although little is published on the subject, student surveys indicate that at least 40 percent of the applicants who were admitted to Harvard and Yale last year used consultants.

Even if your parents graduated from a top college and are familiar with the application process through an alumni network, hiring a top college consultant can help level the playing field in the admissions area.

So where should you start? I recommend you Google “college consultants” and examine their websites. Pick a few consultants who focus on top schools and call them with a set of prepared questions. Ask how much they charge, what services they include, if assistance with scholarship essays is a part of the package, and so on.

I highly suggest hiring a consultant who is a graduate of a top college because without these credentials, it is unlikely the consultant will be current with the admissions practices of exclusive schools.

Keep in mind that consultants who were admitted to top colleges will have scores and grades similar to yours. Ask them why they think they got in. Obviously, they were able to separate themselves from other applicants, and you are looking to them to help guide you along the same path.

Assuming you are near the top of your class and have scored in the top 10 percent on the SAT or ACT and on at least two SAT II subject tests, your next hurdle will be the essays required for the common application and individual schools.

Typically, top students apply to 10 colleges, which means writing 40 to 60 essays during the admissions process. The essays are designed to tell colleges something special about you, and each is given a score. Do not be fooled into thinking that the shorter ones don’t count and that only the longer ones matter.

You will find some of the essays can be downright silly (from my point of view), but they still reveal something about how you handle off-the-wall questions like, “What does ‘blue’ mean to you?”

Answering these questions is always difficult, as I dislike quirky questions that don’t have a logical base in my thinking.

What I would like to say and what a responsible answer might be often are different animals. I advise students how to approach these questions and turn the answers to their advantage.

A consultant will help keep you on track in the admissions process and provide a sounding board for you and your family. Making sure you meet deadlines, coaching you as you approach your scholarship essays, and cutting through the admissions clutter are some of the services a consultant provides.

College Admissions Consulting Articles - Consultant an asset for top school

Thursday, October 13, 2011

SAT Scandal Raises Questions About High School Pressure

Sam Eshaghoff, a 19-year-old sophomore at Emory University, was arrested for allegedly accepting cash payments to take the SAT for six students at his alma mater, Great Neck North High School – one of the top-rated high schools in the nation.

Great Neck North officials said they were appalled and reminded the public that all cheaters will face serious consequences while applauding the decision to hold the accused students legally accountable.

Having graduated from a top-rated, overly competitive, private high school only two years ago, I sympathize with the six accused Great Neck North students. While the media will undoubtedly portray these students as slackers who tried to cheat their way into top colleges, I will know the truth: These students just could not take the pressure any longer and cracked.

I have met a large number of students at the University of Southern California who were only one of fifteen students who somehow managed to graduate from an overcrowded public high school and attend a non-community college. I always hear about how few kids even consider going to college an option at these kinds of schools. It never gets any easier to hide my surprise when I hear about these stories.

Understand, in my graduating high school class of 140 students, 139 went to non-community colleges and universities, with about 40 of them ending up at ‘ranked’ top 20 schools. Sophomore year on, I had at least one daily conversation with teachers and advisors about what schools I wanted to attend. Not going to college was never an option.

In order to get into one of the colleges I talked about wanting to attend on a daily basis, though, I needed to do well on the dreaded SAT exam. Hours upon days upon weeks were devoted to SAT practice exams and classes. I never needed to truly understand the material on the test, but at least know it well enough to get the answers right on the standardized exam.

At the beginning of junior year, the U.S. News & World Report annual college rankings became my bible. I had the top-30 schools memorized back and forth. More importantly, I knew the scores I needed to get in.

Read More: SAT Scandal Raises Questions About High School Pressure | Neon Tommy