New Year’s Wishes

Rana Slosberg, Slosberg College Solutions

My New Year’s wishes for college admissions are increased transparency and simplified applications.

I would like to see increased transparency in both acceptance rates and financial aid. For example:

  • Colleges should provide readily available per cent acceptance data including:
    • In-state vs. out-of-state applicants applicant acceptance rates at public universities
    • Acceptance rates by college within a university or by major, when the acceptance rates are not uniform.
  • Better visibility of net cost before application and after acceptance:
    • Families should be able to get a good cost estimate of what they will pay before a student applies. Only a few schools like the College of Wooster and Whitman provide this. The Net Price Calculator is not good enough.
    • The financial aid letters from different colleges should be uniform so families can easily compare the out-of-pocket costs of these colleges.

I’d like to see the application process simplified. For example, I wish there were only one form for self-reported grades across colleges. I have had students who had to fill out three different forms to self-report grades: the SRAR, the Common App Grades section, and the section of University of California application. Each of these forms is tricky and prone to error.

Buyers and Sellers

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:     

  1. Sellers typically admit less than 20% of applicants on average. Colleges as a whole accept 67%. 
  2. The yield at most seller colleges is nearly 45%, as compared to about 25% at most buyer colleges.
  3. 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.

College planning and COVID-19

Here’s a summary of some college planning activities that have changed because of Coronavirus and how you might respond:

  • SAT and ACT – A number of SAT and ACT test dates have been cancelled. So far, the College Board has added a September 26 test date. Some additional colleges have announced they will be test optional.
  • AP – The scope of both the AP classes and exams have been reduced. There is a new at-home testing option.
  • College visits – Most colleges switched to virtual visits and information sessions. Attend virtual visits and information sessions, communicate with admissions personnel to get your questions answered, look at college videos online, read student feedback on sites like and, read online versions of the college newspaper, talk with current students or recent graduates, and follow the college’s social media to get a better feel for the colleges you are considering. Be looking for changes in college visit policies. Come colleges are planning to switch to in-person campus visits starting in June (many of these will be of one family at a time and limited to outside spaces at their college.
  • Deposit date – Some colleges extended their deposit dates from May 1st, often to June 1st for 2020. The extra time may help students learn more about the college, determine if they can still afford the college, and appeal the financial aid where there has been a significant change in family income and/or assets due to Coronavirus.
  • Summer activities – Summer plans (e.g., jobs, summer classes, volunteer activities, travel) for many high school students have or will be cancelled. Plan meaningful alternate activities. There are a lot of things you can do from home. For instance, you can take a free or low cost online class on Coursera, Udacity or edX, learn a foreign language on, practice a foreign language in Language Bird’s Chirp Room™ Chat or volunteer from home.
  • Extracurricular activities – Many extracurricular activities have been cancelled this spring and/or will be cancelled in the fall. See if you can move your activity online (e.g., via Zoom) or pursue your passion in an alternate way. You may want to explain extracurricular activity changes that were out-of-your-control in your college applications.
  • Online classes – Many classes have moved online. It is likely that in some areas of the country, high school and/or college classes will be online or hybrid (i.e., partially online and partially in-person) in the Fall.
  • Grading – Many schools are switching from letter or numerical grades to Pass/Fail or Credit/No-credit grades. When you have a choice, consider how this will impact you (e.g., college or grad school admissions or merit aid).
  • Finances – Families may have fewer resources available for college funding because of the loss of job or an illness/death in family. Appeal your financial aid package, if your family’s financial situation changes significantly.

I am working with high school sophomores and juniors on college selection and applications remotely through Skype. Contact me at to schedule an appointment.

Curry College

Curry College is a small, private college in Milton, Massachusetts with about 2100 students. The majority of the students are from Massachusetts. The rest come from 35 states and 21 countries.

Academics – The most popular majors at Curry College are Health Professions, Business, Security and Communication. Curry has a 5-year Bachelors/Masters in Education and a 5-year Bachelors/MBA in Business. The most competitive major at Curry is Nursing. There is also an Honors program.

Learning Differences Program – Curry has a fee-based Learning Differences program called PAL (Program Advancement Learning) for students with language-based learning differences and/or ADHD. This program was established in 1970.

Typically about 20-25% of the freshman class participates in PAL. The PAL program costs about $7000 a year and students typically stay in the PAL program for one or two years. PAL students need to be able to advocate for themselves and they are not segregated in classes or housing. The PAL building includes an assistive technology center and a study lounge.

Over thirty learning specialists work in PAL. Students in PAL are matched with a specific learning specialist for consistency, and that learning specialist is their first year academic advisor. PAL students typically meet with a learning specialist twice a week for one and a quarter hours each time.

PAL students receive an iPad containing assistive technology. There is a full-time assistive technology professional aided by ten students knowledgeable in the use of assistive technology available to help PAL students.

Academic Supports – All Curry students can take advantage of the Writing Center, Speaking Center and Assistive Technology center.

For Fun – About 37% of the student body is involved in NCAA Division III Athletics. Students participate in many clubs and sports activities; they like to watch the hockey and basketball games. There is no Greek life on campus.

A shuttle takes students to Boston, the Legacy Place Shopping Center and the T station. The Orange and Purple line T station is about a mile from campus. There is also a small ski resort in walking distance from campus.

Internships – Some students get internships at Dunkin headquarters about a mile from campus. Students can work at the on-campus day care.

Admissions – Students with a high school GPA of over 3.3 are considered for the Honors Program. There is Honors housing.

There are 105 seats in Nursing each year. Students accepted into the Nursing program must have a GPA over 3.0 and average a 3.5 GPA. Their average SAT score is 1250 and their average ACT score is 24.

Merit aid – Merit aid of $2K – $30K is available.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

RPI, established in 1864, has about 6300 undergraduate students on a 275-acre campus in Troy, NY.

Schools – RPI has 5 schools:
Architecture School
  1. Architecture – The Architecture school has two programs: a five-year B.Arch. and a B.S. in Building Science. Architecture classes are located in one building and there are less than 70 freshmen studying in the Architecture school. 
  2. Engineering – Engineering is the largest school and has about half of all undergrads in 11 majors. The first three semesters are the same for all engineering majors, so students can be undeclared engineering to start. The school encourages project-based, collaborative learning. A capstone is required for all engineers.
  3. Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences – This school houses a number of interdisciplinary majors including Cognitive Science; Electronic Media, Arts and Communication; Electronic Arts, and the most popular major at this school, Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences. The school recently started a music major (technical or performance).
  4. Business – This is the smallest school with about 50 – 55 freshmen. This is an AACSB accredited school with strength in technical entrepreneurship. The school has a business incubator.
  5. Science – This is the second largest school and it houses RPI’s largest department, Computer Science.
All majors have a 24-credit humanities requirement.
The Arch – Students must participate in the Arch. They take their first semester junior classes in the summer after their sophomore year. In the fall or spring semester of their junior year they must spend a semester doing an internship, a co-op, a research project, civic engagement or study abroad.
Research – About 700 students participate in undergraduate research each year, as early as the second semester. RPI is a leader in Alzheimer’s research.
Accelerated Programs – Students can gain a Bachelors and a Master’s degree in 5 years, with financial aid carrying into the 5th year. The Bachelors and Master’s can be in different disciplines. Students apply for this opportunity when they are an RPI Junior. No GRE exam is needed.
There are also BS/MD, BS/JD, BS/MBA and BS/Ph.D. programs.
Admissions – RPI has ED I, ED II, and Regular Decision. They accept a number of different application forms, including the Common App. Students should have an A/A- average, a challenging curriculum with three years of science including Biology, Chemistry and Lab-Physics, as well as four years of math with pre-calculus (calculus recommended). Students need to submit SAT or ACT scores. RPI prefers that a STEM teacher write the academic recommendation letter. A creative portfolio is required for architecture, music and electronic arts majors and is recommended for game and simulation arts and science (GSAS) and electronic, media, arts & communications (EMAC) majors.
RPI gives credit for a 4 or 5 in AP courses and can students can receive up to 32 credits for AP courses.
Extracurricular activities – RPI has over 200 clubs and activities. The skiing/snowboarding club is the largest club with skiing/snowboarding 30 minutes from campus. It is easy to start a new club.
There is Greek life at RPI and students can “rush” at any time.
There are two NCAA Division I Ice Hockey teams, 21 NCAA Division III sports teams, as well as intramural and club sports. A multipurpose stadium seats 5000.
The student union building is fully run by students.
Student Union
Housing, Food and Transportation – Students are required to live on campus the first two years. There are freshmen-only buildings and there is themed housing (e.g., leadership housing). There are singles, doubles and triples. There is Greek housing both on and off campus.
There are four main dining halls. Students can have all-you can-eat buffet dining or use their Flex Dollars to buy food in cafes, in the Student Union, in the marketplaces or off-site.
Freshmen cannot have cars on campus. There is a free shuttle on campus, as well as a free local bus.
Financial Aid – No separate application is needed for merit aid. US Citizens, US Permanent Residents and Canadian citizens who submit the FAFSA and CSS Profile are considered for need-based aid.

Why hire a college consultant

For many families, college is the largest expenditure they will make, with the exception of a home purchase.
They hire a college consultant to:
1.      Help their student select colleges that fit academically and socially, where they will be happy and successful, and that they can afford.
2.      Maximize financial aid through college selection strategies.
3.      Help their student identify and effectively highlight their strengths in college applications, essays, and interviews to increase their chance of acceptance.
4.      Reduce stress by breaking down the process into manageable meetings and assignments.
5.      Help their student meet their application deadlines.
6.      Enable them to enjoy time as a family, instead of arguing about completing applications.
If a family decides to hire a college admissions consultant, they should look for one who:
1.      Is a good match for the student’s personality.
2.      Is well-trained and experienced.
3.      Visits colleges regularly.
4.      Keeps abreast of changing trends in college admissions.
5.      Is connected to a network of professional college consultants.
6.      Maintains high ethical and professional standards.
If you are considering hiring a college admissions consultant, I would be very happy to talk with you about my services and qualifications.

Some of my favorite college references

Here are a few of my favorite college planning reference books and websites organized by category.  What other references do you like and use?
Figuring out what makes a college right for you: College Match
College Majors: Book of Majors
College Guides:
·         The Princeton Review, The Best 3xx Colleges
·         Fiske Guide to Colleges
·         America’s Best Colleges for B Students
·         Colleges That Change Lives
·         Creative Colleges: A Guide for Student Actors, Artists, Dancers, Musicians and Writers
·         The K&W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Differences
·         Rugg’s Recommendations on the Colleges
College Search Sites:
Chance for acceptance: Naviance scattergrams from your high school
Financial Aid:
·         Financial Aid information-
·         FAFSA Web site –
·         CSS Financial Aid PROFILE –
·         Federal Student Aid –
·         Some legitimate college scholarship search sites:

Net Price Calculator – on each college’s website


College Visits:
·         “A Pocket Guide To Choosing a College: Questions to Ask on Your College Visits” by the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) –
·         On-line visit –
Common Application:
College Essay: Conquering the College Admissions Essay on 10 Steps
Going to College Advice Guide:  The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College

Expected Pay when you Graduate:
For students with Learning Differences:
·         “K&W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Disabilities or Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder” by Marybeth Kravets and Imy Wax.
·          Information on SAT and ACT accommodations – and

·         “Questions for the Office of Disability Support” by Rana Slosberg on

FAFSA Changes for the High School Class of 2017

FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is a form families need to fill out to get financial aid for college, including grants, loans and money for work-study.   Additionally, some colleges, states and scholarship programs also use the FAFSA. Historically, families with high school seniors filed the FAFSA starting on January 1 of their senior year using the federal tax data due on April 15 of the senior year (known as Prior Year). 
Starting with high school graduating class of June 2017, the timetable and tax year associated with the FAFSA will be changing.  The high school class of 2017 will be eligible to file the FAFSA starting on October 1st, 2016, three months earlier than in previous years.  They will use 2015 Federal income tax returns (known as Prior-Prior Year (PPY)). 
I am hoping this change will be positive for families, because: 
  1. Filling out the FAFSA should be a little easier. Families:
    1. Should be able to use the software (i.e., the IRS data-retrieval tool) to fill out much of the FAFSA, reducing the time to fill out the form. 
    2. Families won’t need to estimate their income or correct it later as was often the case in previous years. 
  2. They will potentially find out about their financial aid earlier in their senior year, giving them more time to consider their options.
There is still some uncertainty for the high school class of 2017.  For example:
  1. The deadlines for institutional aid may change at some colleges. 
  2. Students may initially receive estimated financial aid packages, because college costs for the coming year may not be finalized and/or because state grant data may not be available.  If this is the case, the families will subsequently receive confirmed financial aid packages. 
On the whole, I am expecting these FAFSA changes to be positive.

University of South Carolina

On 3/26/14, Kate Balboni, the Regional Admissions Representative from the University of South Carolina for Northern New Jersey, spoke to a group of high school guidance counselors and independent college admissions consultants in Bridgewater, New Jersey.  Here are some highlights from her presentation.
The University of South Carolina is in the state capital, Columbia with a population of around 800,000.  There are about 23,000 undergraduates.  A large percent of the University’s students are from outside of South Carolina.  New Jersey is the number five state sending students to the University.  The University is 12 hours by car from NJ. There are direct flights from Newark to Columbia, or connecting flights through Charlotte.  The mid-50% SAT scores (Critical reading and Math) for Freshmen are 1120-1280.
There were 591 applicants from Northern NJ this year with 277 admitted (47%) and 87 enrolling.  Of the 87 students, 11 are in the Honors Program and 28 are in the Capstone Scholars program.  Fifty-five percent received merit aid.
There are 95 majors.  The school is known for its international business, its hotel, restaurant and tourism management, and its risk management and insurance majors.  The university has the largest sport and entertainment major in the country.  Other popular majors are nursing, psychology, biology, biomedical engineering, marine science, mechanical engineering, exercise science, and the 6-year pharmacy program. 
The Honors College has its own academic building and dorms.  Honors students get first pick at research opportunities, do a senior thesis, and are eligible for 6-year law and 6-year Pharmacy program.  They can take their Gen Ed requirements at the Honors College.   The mid-50% SAT scores (Critical Reading and Math) for the Honors program are 1390-1470.
The Capstone Scholars program is a two-year enhancement program where students engage in one activity in Leadership, Community Service, Academics, and Social. These include special classes, their own residence hall, and opportunities to compete for travel grants for the May semester or summer study abroad.  The mid-50% SAT scores (Critical Reading and Math) for the Capstone Scholars program is 1290-1360.
Cost of Attendance for out-of-state students is $38.4K per year.  There are out-of-state scholarships, some of which are substantial.  The top out-of-state scholarship is the McNair Scholars, worth $32,000 a year.  It is awarded to 20 out-of-state students.    The Horseshoe Scholars Award is worth $28,000 a year and is awarded to another 20 out-of-state students.  Last year McNair and Horseshoe Scholars had an average SAT score of 1507 (out of 1600).  There are other out-of-state merit scholarships valued between $8,000 and $23,000 a year. 

The school has over 400 clubs.  There are 17 Division I teams.  There are free tickets for students to watch the Division I sports. Football is the big spectator sport in the Fall and Baseball is the big spectator sport in the Spring.  

Twenty percent of student go Greek.  Greek students attending the Football games get dressed up (i.e., guys wear jackets and ties and gals wear heels and pearls).  

If you are a student looking for a large State University the South, with Greek life, and strong Division I sports, the University of South Carolina might be for you.  If you are a very strong student academically, the Honors or Capstone Scholars program along with the merit aid for out-of-state students might seal the deal for you!

The Big Decision

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?