For years private colleges have been offering discounted tuition to attract top students, and US News reports in this recent article, click here, that those colleges are now increasing the amount of merit or institutional aid they award. Important for students and parents to realize is that these private colleges can often be just as affordable and sometimes even more affordable than in-state public universities. This is especially crucial for CA students to consider given the selectivity of the University of California schools.
Dropping admissions rates, large percentages of out-of-state/international students paying out of state tuition, and impacted programs have made admission to the UCs and many Cal State campuses challenging for in-state residents, including top-notch students. College counselors all over the state tell stories of students with GPAs over 4.0 and strong ACT or SAT scores getting rejected or waitlisted not just at the predictable UCLA or Cal, but at schools like UC Irvine, UC San Diego, and UC Davis. UC Irvine received nearly 98,000 applications for fall 2016 admission, and I personally heard of a student last year who was accepted at Stanford but waitlisted at UC Irvine!
At the UC Counselors Conference last fall, admissions reps from all nine campuses emphasized the importance of encouraging our students to apply broadly. I couldn’t agree more, but I also emphasize to my competitive prospective UC students that they take it one step further by applying broadly outside of the UC system. I encourage them to apply to private universities in which they are a catch, meaning their GPA and test scores are well above the school’s average fifty percent range. No matter how strong their stats are, I emphasize they will never be a catch for the Ivies and most other selective private universities. Those schools are a reach for any student and typically do not offer any merit aid. I want them to target the smaller or less selective colleges that admit more than fifty percent of students. Those are the ones more apt to offer generous merit or institutional awards to their strongest applicants, meaning they often heavily discount that sticker price. These are great schools! They just may not be located near metropolitan cities or in areas with the most desirable weather. College is a time for students to explore something new, live outside their comfort zone, and develop grit. Attending college in an unfamiliar environment is an optimal way to achieve these goals.
Creating a balanced apply list must be a crucial step for any student applying to college, and the list should be balanced twofold: both in admissions chances and financially. With the unpredictability of college admissions, students must be cognizant of these types of strategies to give themselves the best chance not only of being admitted to college but also of being able to afford it.