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Information College Admissions Officials Don't Like to Share

Updated on November 18, 2015

What Additional Questions Should You Ask?

You've narrowed down your list of colleges and you've selected your dream school. You also have a couple of backups, just in case. You've done your research, and you think you have a good idea what to expect during the application process.

But is there anything else you need to know? Did you realize that some very important information isn't shared, and isn't made readily available, to prospective students or their families.

Knowing these facts could, potentially, play a huge factor in your ultimate decision. It could also save you tens of thousands of dollars in the price of obtaining a four-year degree.

Colleges are Much like Businesses

Despite the fact that the vast majority of the 3,000 institutes of higher education in the United States are non-profit entities, they still keep a close eye on the bottom line. They must have income in order to stay open. Much of this cash flow comes from room, board and tuition. Revenue also comes from donations, as well as from research grants.

Colleges want students who will help them meet these financial objectives. That's part of the reason they place so much importance on high school grades and SAT scores. This helps raise their prestige profile, in order to attract additional applicants. (Each application fee generates money as well.)

Smart and successful students are also more likely to be generous after they graduate.

Secrets of the College Admission Process


Some Colleges are "Need Aware"

The common perception is that if you work hard and get decent grades you'll be able to go to your number-one pick. But this isn't as absolute as it used to be. Some colleges also consider the numbers in your parents' bank accounts, as well as your numerical scores.

This is something that isn't widely advertised though. In theory, the admissions department operates independently from the financial aid office. In practice, though, this doesn't always happen.

A notable case in point is Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Administrators at the small liberal arts college have publicly stated that they may consider family finances in some admissions decisions.

Need aware policies will most likely affect the students with the lowest GPA averages and exam scores. Students with stellar grades are still highly sought after, no matter where they apply.

With all other factors being equal, students who don't need institutional aid are much more valuable to the school, in terms of dollars, than those from struggling families.

How Much Will Your Education Really Cost?

You'll need to be a math whiz to figure this one out. Schools may advertise the average student loan debt, which may look like a manageable figure if it's paid back over the course of ten years. The average student now leaves college owing slightly more than $23,000.

However, this doesn't include Parent Plus Loans, which many families take on to meet the price of an education. It also doesn't factor in home equity loans and borrowing from retirement accounts.

One way to get a rough estimate of how much it will cost to attend a particular college is to run some figures through the school's Net Price Calculator. By law, each institute must have a NPC on their website. Although this isn't a perfect tool, it will give you some idea of what you will be expected to pay out of pocket. A package with merit aid scholarships can reduce this estimate.

Colleges are Increasingly Concerned With Generating Revenue


A "Four-Year" Degree?

There is another big admissions secret you should know as well. Nowadays, most students do not graduate in four years, and only 59 percent manage to earn their degree in six years. There are different reasons for this extended time on campus.

Changing majors, for instance, can set you back a semester or two. It's a good idea to know the track you'll take before setting foot on campus. You might want to explore a community college if you need more time to decide upon your career path.

Or, if a particular school's four-year-graduation rate is very low, it might be a good idea to ask why. Sometimes it's because students have difficulty getting into some of their required classes. You may need to have a backup plan to take these courses somewhere else, or during your summer break.

Your Application Essay Counts for Much More than You Realize

Administration officials receive thousands of applications and, after a while, they all start to look the same. So, what sets one apart from another?

Your essay is what makes you stand out. Keep it to one page and make it interesting and highly readable. Present yourself as a likable person whom they'll want to have on campus.

Conclude your essay with what you've earned, and let the admissions team know how you've grown as a person. Include information about what you plan to do with your life and how you plan to apply these life lessons after you graduate.

One tip: Don't write your essay and complete your application all in one day. Write it, and then get a good night's sleep. Then look it over. After a break from writing, mistakes are more likely to jump out at you as you begin to edit your first draft.

A Wave of Chinese Students Has Landed in America


Why the College Admissions Process is More Competitive than Ever

Colleges used to have more financial resources prior to 2008, when the recession rocked endowment funds. Now, to make up for some of the loss, foreign students are being welcomed to American campuses. These students pay the full cost of room, board and tuition, which, at some institutes, now exceeds $60,000 a year.

Right now, Chinese nationals are found at nearly all four-year colleges and at most community colleges as well. At some schools, as much as 10 percent of the student body is from China.

Although a top student shouldn't be affected by this wave of foreign students, there's only so much space available. This trend will affect admissions decisions for those with a more mediocre high school record.

An Admissions Expert Speaks Very Candidly


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Submit a Comment
  • Writer Fox profile image

    Writer Fox 

    5 years ago from the wadi near the little river

    You made some very good points in this article. It's so difficult for many students to obtain a college degree without going into serious financial debt. Voted up.

  • ologsinquito profile imageAUTHOR


    5 years ago from USA

    Hi FlourishAnyway, the prices of tuition are enough to make your head spin. But more families are wising up to the fact that a four-year-degree doesn't have to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Thank you so much for reading.

  • FlourishAnyway profile image


    5 years ago from USA

    Great information for prospective college students and their parents! I attended one of those pricey private liberal arts colleges and was appalled to learn just how much students are paying to attend there these days. It was expensive enough in my day, and I always suspected they peeked at financial background! There were just too many mediocre but wealthy students there for it to be anything else. Voted up and more, plus pinning.


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