In Jeff Selingo’s book, Who Gets In and Why A Year Inside College Admissions, he introduces the concept of “college buyers” and “college sellers.” In this blog post, I will focus on whether a private college is a college buyer or a college seller.
College sellers are the colleges that receive tons of applications and have a high yield (i.e., a large percent of accepted students choose to attend). Because of the high demand for these colleges they don’t need to “buy” students by offering merit aid or tuition discounts. College sellers typically offer financial aid to students who have financial need and a very small percent (if any) of really exceptional students.
College buyers on the other hand, are not in such high demand. They often provide as good or better an education than the sellers, but they discount tuition and/or provide significant merit aid to many students in order to make sure that they have a full freshman class.
Whether a college is a “buyer” or a “seller” does NOT reflect whether students get a great education there.
If you don’t have financial need, but you want your student to get a good price for college, be sure your student includes buyers on their college list.
Jeff Selingo provides these rules of thumb to differentiate buyers and sellers:
- Sellers typically admit less than 20% of applicants on average. Colleges as a whole accept 67%.
- The yield at most seller colleges is nearly 45%, as compared to about 25% at most buyer colleges.
- On average, 7% of financial aid that sellers give is a merit-based discount vs. nearly 33% of financial aid that buyers give is a merit-based discount.
On February 26th, I attended a workshop at Rutgers University featuring a panel of college admissions and high school guidance personnel. They reviewed college admissions issues, concerns, and trends for members of the NJ Association of College Admission Counseling (NJACAC). The common themes were increased applications, more applications from international students, more demand for certain majors, continued building on-campus, and NJ state colleges looking for students from outside of NJ. Do any of these trends surprise you?
Some questions discussed included the impact of the economy on colleges and financial aid. Some private colleges are offering additional financial aid, with some discounting up to 50%. The panelists didn’t see how that could be supported on a long-term basis. Parents are asking more questions on college completion rates; it is taking students 5.6 years to graduate on the average. Some colleges are seeing the willingness to pay for college going down among those who can afford to pay. There is also an increase in families appealing financial aid awards. As parents, how has the economy impacted how you view a college education for your son or daughter?
In my next post, I will review the comments from the admissions personnel from Rider University, Fordham University, and The College of NJ (TCNJ).
The time for the “big decision” for high school seniors is quickly approaching. For those who have been accepted to more than one college, it will soon be time to make the final choice.
Now is a good time to visit or re-visit the campuses and surrounding areas of the colleges you are considering. It is time to ask and get answers to any final questions. Here are some things to consider:
- Academics – Review the core curriculum courses and the required and available courses in likely majors and minors. Consider class size; opportunities for internships, research, a senior project, and travel abroad; accessibility to professors, and support in finding a job and/or graduate school when you finish your undergraduate studies.
- Social – Consider school environment (e.g., location, size, weather, distance from home), as well as your social, political, extra-curricular and religious needs.
- Financial – Know how much tuition, room and board, books, travel, and miscellaneous expenses will cost. Make sure you understand your financial aid package, including how much you will need to pay back each month on loans and how long it will take you to pay back those loans.
What other tips would you give high school seniors faced with the big decision?
Parents worry about how much college will cost and how they will afford college. Other than purchasing a home, college is usually the largest investment a family will make. Hopefully, families have been saving for college from the time their children were small. But with four years of college costing as much as a quarter of a million dollars, family savings are typically not enough.
A common misconception that parents have is that their financial salvation will come in the form of private scholarships. Private scholarships make up only 6% of all scholarships.
The biggest source of aid is through the colleges. Families can save thousands of dollars by selecting the right colleges. Some parents might jump to the wrong conclusion when reading this. They might think that this means their child needs to attend a college with a low sticker price. Colleges, however, are like airplanes. Different people are paying different amounts for the same service. Surprisingly, private colleges may be less expensive than a public in-state college.
Students need to select colleges that fit them financially, as well as academically and socially. The junior year of high school is a great time to begin the college selection process. If you are a rising senior, and haven’t considered the following financial questions, try to address them now.
On the financial side, you need to know:
- How much money has been saved for college?
- How much need-based aid do you qualify for?
- Which colleges meet a high percent of need?
- Which colleges meet the need primarily with grants, instead of loans and work/study?
- How much merit aid do you qualify for?
- How many years will it take to graduate? (Students will want to check the 4-year, 5-year and 6-year graduation rates at the colleges they are considering.)
- How much money is the most the student should borrow?
- How much money is the most the parents should borrow?
Some families, without the money to pay the college sticker price, ignore these issues and stick their heads in the sand. I don’t recommend that since the family may run out of money before college is completed or the student/family may be saddled with incredible debt for years to come.
Other families invest significant time to research these issues. Some families hire an independent college admissions professional like me, who understands these issues and the available resources, saving the family money and preventing the family from taking on too much debt.
What has your experience been? What questions do you have?