College Counselor’s Corner: Let’s Make a Deal

Dear Parents,

Until recently, the media has focused on college applicants and their admissions decisions. With National College Decision Day behind us, we’re seeing more about the colleges themselves, including their financials, business models and attributes.

Let’s make a deal at Juniata!

Colleges That Discount

Some students are taking their financial aid offers shopping, and colleges are deciding how to react, especially when a student seeks a reduction in tuition after the May 1 commitment date. In “Private Colleges See Record Discounting Amid Pressure from Cost-Conscious Families,” published this week in the Wall Street Journal, we learn that “nearly nine in 10 freshmen now get need- and merit-based grants from schools” and that “aid will likely cover more than 56% of tuition.” The Journal spoke with the president of Juniata College, who looks at each case individually. (He stated that the current discount rate is about 60 percent.)

Furthermore, the Washington Post explained that This Trend Could Destabilize Some Private Colleges if it Continues. Elite colleges can draw from gifts and endowment, yet small colleges that want to “entice price-sensitive students to enroll” put themselves at some risk, “jeopardizing their revenue growth. . . But to lure top students away from competitors, colleges began offering more need-blind scholarships. And to ensure the scheme didn’t hurt their bottom lines, schools ratcheted up the sticker price to bring in enough net-tuition revenue to offset the discount. But that strategy in the face of declining enrollment and tuition revenue is giving some college administrators pause.” We’ll continue to see how colleges develop strategies for the future.

“Highly intellectual and quirky” students relaxing at Reed.

West Coast Colleges

More often than not, Hudson students prefer staying in the Northeast. (They must not want to be too far from you parents?) In a recent column, Cristiana Quinn wrote about 10 Western Colleges Worth the Trip this Summer, arguing that “while many families know about Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA and USC, few realize that there are some top-notch smaller liberal arts colleges out West.”

Not true of our knowledgeable Hudson cohort! This year, a senior was accepted to Reed and Occidental, both of which appeared on Quinn’s list. Others included:

  • The Claremont Consortium, actually five colleges. (See my article in

  • Colorado College: Students study one subject at a time in its Block Plan.

  • Rice: This high-end Texas university features residential colleges.

  • Whitman: She calls it “less intense academically and more ‘sportsy’ than Reed.”

(Quinn describes Reed students as “highly intellectual and quirky.”)

Over the last few years, students have also shown interest in Chapman, which features innovative programs in its Dodge College of Film and Media Arts and College of Performing Arts. Check it out if you’re in Southern California.

First-Choice Colleges

Barring those seeking the most elite of colleges, students are indeed getting accepted by their top choices. According to a blog post citing a UCLA study, some 93 percent of freshmen got into at least one of their top three choices. They also mentioned that 38 percent of students attended college within 50 miles from home. Parents: Get those meals ready!

Colleges that Want International Students

International students add so much to the campus and community. But when a college scrutinizes standardized test scores, many students from abroad struggle, no matter how much effort they put in. Beginning in the fall, the ACT “will begin providing supports . . . to U.S. students who are English learners . . . to help ensure that the ACT scores earned by English learners accurately reflect what they’ve learned in school.” Students and counselors need to submit a request to the ACT system. If a test-taker is approved, he or she may receive additional time, a bilingual glossary, instructions in the native language, and a separate room to take the test.

I have had many discussions with students and families from other countries, particularly if their English language skills are still developing.When the students have very ambitious goals for college, we look at the guidelines for the particular college to see SAT, ACT and TOEFL thresholds.

Testing Update Last week, College Board and Khan Academy announced that their free prep accounted for a 115-point jump on scores if the student put in at least 20 hours. Of course, this statistic raises a number of issues. So I went to my test-prep source, Noodle Pros, for an opinion. Here are some points they shared.

  • Many test-prep specialists use Khan Academy materials with their students, in which case the tools were not a replacement but rather a supplement.

  • IF KA is the only source of prep for students in the data set, what would’ve happened with more intervention?

  • What was the start score in their measure of student improvement? A jump from 1485 to 1600 represents one percentile, but an increase from 1100 to 1215 represents 14 percentile points.

By the way, today is the last day for late registration for the June 10 ACT, with the next test on September 9. Following the lead of College Board, the ACT will offer a summer administration in 2018.

Juniors Show Their Skills

The other day, juniors shared a first draft of their Common App Personal Essay, a requirement for Junior Seminar. I will be working closely with them to be sure that the essays will please admissions officers.

But the essay is only one measure of assessing a candidate. This week, juniors learned about ZeeMee, a platform through which they can upload video and share their activities. Partner colleges have a ZeeMee link embedded in their applications. We know how clever Hudson students can be, and I can’t wait to see what they produce.

Coming Up

May 22: SUNY College Fair, Whippany NJ. Register online.

July 15: STEM Exploration Day, College of St. Elizabeth, Convent Station, NJ.

College Counselor’s Corner will be back in June, but you can always email me to ask questions or set up a meeting.

Nina Berler
College Counselor
The Hudson School


2017-05-25T21:10:37+00:00 May 25th, 2017|
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