Asking for more financial aid

Now is the season when acceptance letters begin to arrive for a lot of seniors, and with acceptances come financial aid packages. (Remember: you never know how much a university is going to cost you until you apply and get accepted.)

The bad news is that very few students receive "full ride" scholarship or aid packages that cover everything. The most-quoted number I could find was about 20,000 per year, or 0.3% of applicants, though that number is possibly outdated. The NCAA says about 2% of high school athletes get college scholarships.

The good news is that around 88% of students do get some sort of discount. If you get an aid offer that isn’t a full ride, you probably want more. You may need more, but needing and wanting can be different. How do you ask for more money?

First, be empathetic. This is really hard to do. When you get a disappointing aid offer, it's really easy to think that the schools don't understand your situation or are just being greedy. They do understand, and they're not being greedy. They think about your circumstances and needs, but they also think about the circumstances and needs of all the other students they accept. They have to balance those. Colleges have limited budgets just like everybody else. Even at this stage you should be actively moving beyond the Am I Worthy? mindset and treating this like a relationship. So take a few deep breaths, feel your disappointment and possible feelings of betrayal, and go back to thinking of the Financial Aid Officers as humans (because they are) and work with them as such.

Next, talk to your family and understand how much more you need. This needs to be specific, in dollar terms. You're not just asking the college for "more money." You're asking them for "the $1,500 per year more that I need in order to attend." Or whatever your amount is. If the additional amount you need is more than a few thousand dollars, then it's not likely to happen. Hopefully you've been talking to your family about money before now, so you have an idea of how much you realistically can afford to spend and therefore know how much more you realistically need. If this is the first conversation you have with your family about how much money you need, understand that it may not go smoothly the first. Persist anyway. When you have a good grasp of how much more money you need, you can begin to figure out how to ask. 

Do this yourself. A lot of the advice out there for asking for more money is directed at parents, not students. A lot of parents will want to do the appealing, because they're the ones paying, or because they want to talk about circumstances with the school they don't want to share with you, or because they just really want to help. It's fine if your family wants to get involved, but make sure that you're doing it yourself as much as possible. This is about taking ownership--literally--and being an active part of your relationship with the school. It's also about showing the school that you're a mature and self-driven person who is worth a larger aid package. 

This requires you, of course, to be honest with yourself about how valuable you might be to the school. If your test scores or class rank are much higher than the college's average and they would really like to have you to boost their reputation, then they might be more willing to work with you on funding. If you've had a really good experience building a relationship with the school and feel like they want you as much as you want them, then they may be more willing to work with you on funding. If you feel lucky that you got accepted and nobody there has talked to you in person, you may not be first in line for more money. Again, be empathetic, and see what you can do between now and May to be make yourself more valuable to them.

The primary way that you'll ask for more money is to explain the circumstances, with evidence and documentation, that make your financial need is greater than what they say it is. Schools base your financial need on the information you give in the FAFSA. If there are circumstances that change your need beyond what's in there, or if something has changed since you submitted it, then let them know. Provide documentation. If a college wants to meet your financial need, and you demonstrate that your need is higher, then you can make it easier for them to give you some more funds. 

If your FAFSA is accurate and there aren't other circumstances you can show, then you have to move from asking for more need-based money to more merit-based money. Most, but not all, schools will let you appeal for more merit aid, but it gets a lot more tricky. While the process and evidence may be a little different, then idea is the same; how do you demonstrate that your merit and value to the school are higher than what you've already demonstrated? Perhaps your grades have improved drastically since you sent off your transcript; perhaps you've completed an impressive and self-directed project they'd like to know about; perhaps you've had a breakthrough experience that makes you an even better fit for the school and you can write about that; perhaps other universities' merit offers have been much higher and you can use that as evidence. Just as with need-based aid, for merit-based aid it will go a lot better if you have circumstances that weren't part of your original application and if you have solid evidence.

While it's perfectly reasonable and normal to ask for more money because you need it to make things work, you should not think of this process as a negotiation. You're not just haggling for a lower price. Schools look unfavorably on haggling--remember, even if you pay full price they're spending even more to have you there--and aren't likely to say yes "just because you asked." You also don't want to waste your time or anyone else's by going through an appeal for every aid package you receive. You'll want to appeal to your top-choice school. Even if it's not your top-choice school, you may also want to appeal to the school that offered you the most generous package--they're demonstrating with dollars that they think you'd be good for them, so they may be willing to up their offer even more. But there's probably not a strong reason to make appeals to more than two colleges.

For the one or two schools you decide to appeal, look over their website and materials they send you to see what their appeals process is. Each school does it a bit differently, so you want to make sure you're following the steps they want you to follow.

Even though the financial aid appeal will go through the Financial Aid office, you should also talk to the school’s admissions counselor for your area. Once you get accepted, you should be sending that person a thank-you anyway. After all, they made your case with the admissions committee and defended you over choosing someone else for that place. So let the admissions counselor know that you're really honored and excited to be accepted, and now you're just working with the Financial Aid office to see if it will actually be possible. Since that person is already invested in you, she may be able to help you out or give advice. 

Be honest with schools as well as yourself. If your aid package, even if it's disappointing, isn't a deal-breaker, then don't tell an aid office that it is. They know that if you're appealing an aid offer then you really want to go there, and they know--based on years of experience and statistical models--you're actually likely to go there even if they don't raise your aid package. So don't be dramatic. But if the aid package is indeed a deal-breaker, then say so. Let the school know that you won't be attending, and that the only reason you're not attending is because of cost. It may not affect your case, but it will be good feedback that can help the whole system.

But it may affect your case. Here's a very inspirational, and therefore un-typical, story. One of my younger brothers was applying to college (this is about a decade ago). He got a good aid package from his top-choice school, but a much better one from his second-choice school. Like $10,000 better. He decided that the package from the second-choice college was too good to pass up. So he called his admissions counselor at the top-choice school just as a courtesy to say thank you and let him know that he'd be taking the other school's offer. "The only reason you're not coming here is because of money?" the admissions counselor asked. "That's right," my brother said, "I'd really like to go to your school, but forty thousand dollars in loans is a lot of money." "Don't do that. Give me 24 hours," said the counselor. And sure enough, the next morning the top-choice school matched the second-choice's school package, increasing his aid by $10,000 per year. So my little brother went to his pick of schools. Few colleges are small enough for the admissions counselor to remember you that well and have that much sway, and few students have as strong an application as my little brother. But these things happen, and it's okay for you to look for ways to let it happen to you

However your aid packages look, and however the appeals go, here are the basic ideas to remember:

Appealing an aid package is normal--most schools will tell you exactly how to do it. Follow their instructions. 

The more details and documentation you have, the better.

Don't go through the appeal with more than one or two schools.

Be honest with all the parties involved: the school, your family, and yourself. 

When it comes to money, bureaucracy, and/or disappointment, it's best to remember the famous line from The Godfather. It's strictly business, it's not personal.

Thanks for reading! There are lots of ways to get regular updates from Apply with Sanity: like on Facebook and Twitter, and get the monthly newsletter. Comments and questions are welcome and appreciated.

Apply with Sanity doesn’t have ads or annoying pop-ups. It doesn’t share user data, sell user data, or even track user data. It doesn’t do anything to “monetize” you. If you’d like to return this consideration and appreciation, a like, follow, or share mean the world to me. Thank you!

Photo by Angela Elisabeth

Photo by Angela Elisabeth

The Glossary: gap year

The first time I heard a student tell me he was taking a gap year, I got the completely wrong idea. Having never heard the term before, I thought he was trying to find a way to say that he didn’t finish college applications and was going to have to try again the next year. Kind of like “in between jobs” is sometimes a euphemism for “unemployed,” I thought “gap year” was a euphemism for “didn’t get into college.” But I was wrong. Very wrong.

A gap year is a planned, organized, non-academic year between high school and college when you focus on personal development. Instead of going directly to college, you take a year to do something else that’s good for you.

I make a point of saying “non-academic year” instead of “year off.” Not just any break between high school and college is a gap year. It must be planned, organized, and focused on personal development. Gap year programs usually involve travel, service, or both. Gap years are usually run by a professional organization that facilitates gap years. Go with a gap year group to South America for total immersion Spanish classes and academic tours of cultural centers? That’s a gap year. Spend your savings to travel around South America and see the sights with your friends? That’s not a gap year. As gap years get more popular, there are more and more professional organizations to facilitate them. Even if you don’t leave the country, they mostly take you somewhere away from home.

Why would you want to take a gap year? It’s basically a way to lock in your college plans and also get a year to do something different. If you simply don’t apply to college and make solid college plans, thinking that you’ll get to it after a year or two of trying something different, then there’s a real danger of never making it to college. On the other hand, if you’re unsure of what you want to do in college or want to work on social or language skills more intensely, then it’s a way to work on that now rather than hoping you’ll get to it later. It’s a way to get that extra year and still have a plan and expectations. There are also plenty of personal, social, and academic reasons why you may want to take a gap year.

So how do you get a gap year? It takes work to make it happen. Instead of just one institution to work with—the college—you’ve got two. You need to find and get accepted to a gap year program. There are tons out there. Some are expensive, some are less expensive, and some are essentially free, providing room and board while you provide service to an underfunded community somewhere else. You’ll also need to coordinate with the college you plan to attend. Make sure they’ll give you a deferral—a promise that you’re still accepted the next year. Most universities will work with a gap year, but not all will, especially if there’s financial aid involved. Many encourage gap years, and some universities even offer their own gap year program, so you get the benefits of a gap year plus the benefits of getting to know your chosen college. The best thing to do is contact the admissions representative for schools you’re considering and ask if and how they support gap years.

Be prepared to be defensive. While gap years are getting more common, there will still be plenty of people who, like me 15 years ago, don’t understand. They may assume you didn’t get accepted to college; they may assume you didn’t apply to college; they may assume you’re being spoiled and just delaying maturity. You get to let them know that it’s the opposite: you planned this very carefully to take a mature approach to gaining a larger perspective. But do so politely—don’t get in a fight to prove you’re working on your maturity.

Thanks for reading! There are lots of ways to get regular updates from Apply with Sanity: like on Facebook and Twitter, get the monthly newsletter, or connect on LinkedIn. Comments and questions are welcome and appreciated.

Apply with Sanity doesn’t have ads or annoying pop-ups. It doesn’t share user data, sell user data, or even track user data. It doesn’t do anything to “monetize” you. If you’d like to return this consideration and appreciation, a like, follow, or share mean the world to me. Thank you!

Photo by  Zoe Herring

Photo by Zoe Herring

What are your chances of getting into your top college?

I’ve been fascinated for a few years now by the popular exercise on College Confidential when a person says “Chance Me?” They give their test scores, GPA, classes they’ve taken, and extra-curricular activities, and then ask the other users to estimate their chances of getting into a particular school or list of schools.

For example, a post from a few days ago, titled “Chances for UMD and NYU Stern,” reads:

Asian Junior at pretty competitive high school

UW Gpa: 3.71 W Gpa: 4.48

SAT: 1480 -790 math and 690 R/W (first time taking it so I’m going to take again)

Did not take any subject tests so far but I am planning on taking math 2 and physics

Ap so far: English 11, World history, government and politics, computer science, calculus AB, physics c mechanics, psychology

Ap senior year: micro/macro econ, calculus BC, statistics, English 12, Differential equations

Ec’s:

Math team for 4 years

Co-leader of computer science club and I am also the senior statistician officer of the club

Chess club for 3 years

JV wrestling

Engineering club board member

I am also an assistant teacher at a local Korean school and have put in countless hours in teaching students and leading the classroom

Awards with assistant teacher: 2017 and 2018 got a gold presidents award for leadership in community service; 2018 received the gold excellence in junior leadership award

I also help out the homeless and the pier in Baltimore city every first Sunday do the month by buying them food and necessities

I am in the process of starting my own business right now having to do deal with graphic designing logos for clients

I also have interned and done research dealing with applied mathematics

I also have a good job experience where I manage a few people

I’m tempted to explain that it doesn’t work that way. Nobody can quantify your “chances” of getting accepted to any particular university, least of all strangers on the internet who are mostly high school students like yourself. But I assume almost all the people asking for their chances understand that. Playing the “chance me” game isn’t rational, and it isn’t meant to be an accurate gauge of the probability of an acceptance. Instead, I believe most people do it to get validation, or to calm their fears, or to have an outsider bring them to more realistic expectations for themselves. It’s emotional, not rational. It’s a way to deal with your anxiety over college admissions.

When you’re a little kid on a road trip with your family, you ask “how long until we get there?” not because the answer makes any difference, but because you want to express that you’re tired of being in the car. When you’re older, you ask “what are my chances?” not because the answer makes any difference, but because you want to express that you’re anxious about your future.

If you’re asking for chances for this reason, that’s fine. Just be honest with yourself about what you’re doing. And never start to believe that the answers you get are valid.

However, if you would like to work through some rational ways of figuring your odds, here are a few ideas:

Assume that the school’s overall acceptance rate applies to you. You’re thinking about applying to Princeton and want to know your odds of getting in? Every year about severn percent of the people who apply to Princeton get accepted, so there you go. Seven percent. Not knowing any other information about any other applicant, there’s no way to assume higher or lower odds.

Assume your odds are 50/50. You either get accepted or you don’t. Nobody gets 80% accepted to a college.

Assume you’ll get accepted to all the schools you applied to—but get no financial aid. In this scenario, where would you actually end up going? If you have several schools on your list that you can afford with no financial aid, then think about which is your top choice. It’s very likely you’ll end up there. If you only have one school on your list you could afford without financial aid, then that’s the place you’ll most likely end up. If there’s nothing on your list that you can afford without financial aid, then it’s time to make a back-up plan. Remember that not filling out a FAFSA is pretty much the same as not getting any financial aid, and remember that filling out a FAFSA—unless you’re wealthy—almost guarantees some financial aid someplace…but not necessarily enough for you to afford your top-choice school.

Assume your chances of going to a good-fit school are extremely high if you’ll plan carefully. This is the most realistic, useful, and productive way to think about your odds. If you’ll follow the Five Foundations to Applying with Sanity, you’re going to be fine. Really.

Last week one of my coaching clients asked me about her chances of getting an acceptance at Northwestern, where she’s applied and waiting to hear back. Here’s how I responded:

It's so difficult to try to estimate chances. In the end, you either get accepted or denied; there is no 80% acceptance. And as Hilary Clinton can tell you, even having 95% odds doesn't mean it will always work out that way.

There are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Northwestern gets a lot more applications than they can accept. Around 1 in 10 will get accepted. So the safe assumption is that you won't be accepted. Emotionally speaking, Northwestern is a school where you just don't want to get your hopes up too high. Like I said about Brown a while ago, there's absolutely no reason to assume you won't be accepted, but there's no reason for anyone to assume they will.

2. You are a very strong candidate for Northwestern. You're smart; you worked your butt off in high school and made good grades; your ACT scores are awesome, and better than what half the current Northwestern students got; you pushed yourself and excelled in extra-curriculars that are connected to your passions and talents; you wrote a good response to the "why Northwestern?" prompt; you interviewed--and had a good interview--at a school that considers demonstrated interest. If you don't get accepted, you can feel confident that the reason has to do with the number of applications that they received and their particular needs for this year. It wouldn't reflect poorly on you at all.

3. You're going to do great at a good school for you. It may be Northwestern, it may be at [one of the schools who have already accepted you]. But you're definitely going to college, and you're definitely going to a great college with a great reputation that's a good fit for you. That may not be much consolation if and when you're receiving bad news, but you're going to be great by next September.

How would I translate that into a number? I'm going to just say assume it's 90%, but plan for 9%.

Thanks for reading! What are the chances someone you know would like to read this? Send it today! There are lots of ways to get regular updates from Apply with Sanity: like on Facebook and Twitter, get the monthly newsletter, or connect on LinkedIn. Comments and questions are welcome and appreciated.

Photo by Angela Elisabeth

Photo by Angela Elisabeth

Grace is staying focused

Grace has got an acceptance and an scholarship from one of her top-choice colleges. She’s also waiting to hear back from another top-choice school. She’s got a few more acceptances as well. You might think Grace is relaxing and feeling pretty accomplished, but she knows there’s a few more months to go. Read the full interview below.

Meet the Class gets updated each month from September to May. Each installment features an interview about both the facts and the feelings of where the student is in the process.

Interviews may be edited lightly for clarity and grammar. Names may be changed to protect privacy. 

GRACE ATTENDS A COMPREHENSIVE PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOL IN MASSACHUSETTS

Last month Hofstra was your clear front-runner. You applied early, got accepted, and were granted a scholarship. Is it still number one, or has a month's time changed your perspective on that?

It is still the front runner.  I really loved the school when I visited it and the scholarship certainly puts it at the top!  It has so many wonderful programs and opportunities for internships.  Additionally, it is a medium sized university which is the size that appeals to me.

Did you indicate to Fordham that you're willing to stay on their waiting list? You said you were planning to, but did you send it off or change your mind?

I did fill out their Deferment Form  and wrote a short essay explaining why I was still interested in Fordham. As you may recall, Fordham also was at the top of my list.  I loved both campuses when I visited the school.  It also has great programs and its location in the heart of the city is a plus.   

You're planning on going to an accepted student event at Hofstra. What will you be looking for while you're there? They'll be making their "hard sell" to try to convince you to choose them over your other acceptances. Is there anything they can say or do to make you send in the deposit before April 1st, or do you think you'll keep deliberating until the final days?

I think I will be deliberating until I hear from Fordham.  I know that all schools put their best foot forward during accepted student days.  I already love Hofstra, so the “hard sell” seems unnecessary to me.  I can tell you that my parents would like to see a bigger scholarship.  That would carry a lot of weight with them, and by extension with me too.  Over the holidays, a relative of mine was telling me that he was 42 years old and still paying off student loans.  That really gave me something to think about.

How's school going? Are you still busy with theater? How focused are you staying with classes? Do you plan on taking any AP exams this spring?

Theater is busier than ever.  I have the lead in the Spring musical, so I practice every day. Also, our state has Drama Fest in March for 1 act plays and I have the lead in that too.  I am still keeping up my focus on schoolwork, as Fordham requires my First semester grades.  Also, having good grades is important to me.  I take 3 AP classes and I am going to take the corresponding exams.  Our teachers already have started getting us ready for them.

What other news have you got? Let's run down the list:

  Hofstra (Applied EA, accepted, scholarship granted) 

  Fordham (Applied EA, wait list)

  Adelphi (accepted!) 

  Marymount Manhattan College (accepted!) 

  SUNY Purchase (accepted!) 

  SUNY Stony Brook (accepted!)  

  Boston University (applied regular)  

  Northeastern (applied regular) 

  NYU (applied regular) 

  Rutgers (applied regular) 

Any updates?

The only update is that I was rejected from Northeastern last week.  It was not one of my top schools, so the decision had no effect on me. 

Thanks for reading! If you have college admissions questions for Grace, leave a comment or email me. There are lots of ways to get regular updates from Apply with Sanity: like me on Facebook and Twitter, get the monthly newsletter, or connect on LinkedIn

Photo by Angela Elisabeth

Photo by Angela Elisabeth

A month's worth of college admissions advice and news in one place

I tried to send out the Apply With Sanity monthly newsletter this Friday, but it got “flagged for review” by the abuse prevention software. Huh?

Once a person looked at it and saw that there’s nothing offensive in the newsletter, they approved it to go out yesterday.

So here, a few days late, is the link for the February newsletter, with all of last month’s blog posts and a whole lot of other great admissions stories from all over the web.

If you can figure out what may have tripped the abuse filters, please let me know!

Also, here’s a link to subscribe and get it sent to your inbox automatically each month.

Photo by  David Leggett

Photo by David Leggett

What to do when you get waitlisted

As regular admission decisions begin to go out, it’s time to think about what to do if the answer you get isn’t Yes or No, but Maybe.

First, let me say I’m sorry. Getting waitlisted sucks. In some ways a Maybe is worse than a No, because it keeps the suspense going and also starts to make logistical problems for you. Take a little time to be frustrated or angry or completely freaked out, but no more than a day or two. You’ve got to figure out what to do next.

What to do if you get waitlisted to a school that’s your only option.

This may be because you only applied to one school, or you got denials from the other schools you applied to. If it’s because you got accepted to at least one other school but the financial aid offer is so bad that you can’t afford it, then you should also consider ways to ask that school for more money. Waitlist spots rarely come with good financial aid, because so much of the budget is already gone.

First you’ve got to demonstrate a lot of interest and keep demonstrating it. When a college starts calling people from the wait list, they’re often in a hurry. Even if they’re not in a hurry, they don’t want to waste their time. They’re more likely to call people who they know will enroll over people they’re not sure about. How do they know you’ll enroll? Because you’ve told them: “if you accept me from the wait list, I will attend.” You’ve opened all their emails and replied when appropriate. You’ve spent time looking on their website. You’ve asked them questions, and asked them what you can do to help yourself get off the wait list and into the school.

Next, you’ve got to understand that there’s no senioritis for you! It’s normal for seniors to slack off a little bit once they see the end in sight and know that they’ll be at college next year. You don’t yet know that you’ll be in college next year. If you’re hoping to get a spot from a wait list and you’re in contact with the college that waitlisted you, you need to be able to tell them that you’re doing really well and trying to prove yourself. You’re not done yet, and that’s ok.

You also need a back-up plan. You can start searching for colleges with rolling admissions or late deadlines. You can check out the local community college if there’s one near enough. You can explore gap year options. You should probably do all of these, and make sure you talk to your family about your options. The only bad option is to decide that you’re going to give up on going to college. There’s no reason to do that.

What to do if you get waitlisted to a school but you’ve been accepted to other schools.

If you get waitlisted by one college you applied to, but have affordable acceptances from at least one other, then don’t sign up for the wait list. Just tell them to go away, you have a better offer elsewhere. It can feel really good to know that you’re the one making the decisions, not the other way around. You have power in this situation—use it. Thank them for their time, and then move on and let it go.

What to do if you get waitlisted from your top-choice school and you want to stay on the wait list.

Sometimes it’s not that easy to tell them to go away, and you sign up for the wait list anyway. No problem.

First, do all the same things you’d do if the wait list school is your only option. Sign up the wait list, and contact the admissions rep for your area and let them know that if they call you, you will come. Reply to all their emails and keep checking back on their website. Keep demonstrating your interest, because it really counts in this situation. Keep working at school—no senioritis for you, either.

Choose your “backup” school from the ones you got accepted to, understanding that it’s probably where you’re going next year. You can't refuse to make other plans hoping that you'll hear back from the school that waitlisted you. Depending on the college and the year (even if you look up their statistics from last year, they may be wildly different this year), your chances of hearing good news later are either slim, very slim, or maddeningly slim. Once you take a spot at your backup school, you might quickly find that it’s no longer your backup and change your mind about the wait list.

Take a rational approach to figuring out your limits. You need an analytical way to think about the costs and benefits of hanging on to hope that you hear back from this school. You could make a spreadsheet. You could study up on opportunity cost and the sunk cost fallacy.

You can also think about all the extra hoops you have to jump through as extra fees that the dream school adds on to your bill.

Say you get waitlisted from Dream School, and you accept a place at Decent School and put down a $1,000 non-refundable deposit, and then Dream School calls back and gives you a spot. Think of that $1,000 as a one-time fee. Ask yourself: do I want to go to Dream School even if they charge me an extra $1,000 fee they don't charge most people? If your answer is yes then you know what to do. But as time goes on, the fees add on. If you also make a $500 housing deposit, then the one-time fee to drop Decent School and go to Dream School is now $1,500. And if you've already paid transportation costs, add those to the fees.

The really hard part is that the fees can also be emotional. Would you take a spot at Dream School even if they charged you a one-time fee of $1,500, and made you get emotionally invested in finding a roommate who you will now abandon, and made you buy t-shirts for some other school and pretend for four months that you were going to some other school? What if Dream School will also make you register late for classes and have fewer options than other freshmen the first semester? What if they'll also take away the opportunity to use Facebook groups to seek out your own choice of roommate but instead stick you wherever they have happen to have room left? These are all real possibilities of getting pulled from the wait list, and the sanest way to think about them ahead of time is to think of them as additional fees the Dream School charges. Think about where your threshold is, how much you are actually willing to pay. Talk to your family about it, too. Then you can rationally figure out, if you do get the call, whether you say Thank You or Bug Off.

Thanks for reading! Don’t wait: please share this with someone who would like to read it. There are lots of ways to get regular updates from Apply with Sanity: like on Facebook and Twitter, get the monthly newsletter, or connect on LinkedIn. Comments and questions are welcome and appreciated.

Photo by  Zoe Herring

Photo by Zoe Herring

The Glossary: gapping

The Glossary: gapping

Gapping is an informal financial aid term. It has to do with colleges offering less financial aid than they believe you need. After you fill out your FAFSA form (and possibly your CSS Profile), you will get a dollar amount called your E.F.C., or Expected Family Contribution. This is how much the government formula says your family should be expected to pay for college. The cost of a university, minus the EFC, is your need. If a university offers you less than your need in financial aid, then there is a gap. They’ve gapped you. You’ve been gapped. This is what gapping is all about.

Dear Harvard, this is how you could run an admissions lottery

Dear Harvard, this is how you could run an admissions lottery

Dear Harvard College Admissions,

As you’re quite aware, there have been increasing calls for you to try out an admissions lottery system. Calls like the one here, for example, and here and here and here and here. A lot of people think the most fair way to handle admissions for a program that is worth a whole lot but only has an acceptance rate under 5% is to literally leave it up to chance. No legacy admissions, no diversity goals, no athletic recruitment, no committee votes. This, they say, would guarantee true diversity by taking away all biases and loopholes.

I completely understand your reluctance to go in this direction.

Now it's time to give thanks

Now it's time to give thanks

For most seniors, the active part of school applications is winding down. You’ve sent out most, if not all, of your applications. Now you wait. While you wait to hear from schools and think about how to choose from your acceptances, take some time to write thank you notes. Write one to everyone who has done something for you along the way: teachers who wrote recommendation letters, counselors who sent off transcripts, college admissions personnel who answered questions, people who took time to interview you. Everybody. They gave some of their time to help you, and you should thank them if you haven't already.

Asking a favor

Hello smart and ambitious Apply with Sanity readers,

Will you please take a few minutes to do me a quick favor?

Please find one of your favorite recent posts and share it with someone who would like to read it. Sending it directly to a person is good; sharing widely on social media is good; both is great.

I don’t run annoying ads, throw pop-ups at your screen, or ask for money. But a quick share would mean a lot to Apply with Sanity’s mission to provide useful and free advice to college-bound high school students.

Thank you so much! The next update will be this Thursday.

Photo by  David Leggett

Photo by David Leggett

Stop doing that

Stop doing that

With that story in mind, I want to encourage you to stop doing the things that aren’t making you a better student or happier person, even if those things are generally considered good. You already know you should stop giving in to your “bad” habits; we all know that. But if a “good” habit, like my student’s thorough re-reading of dictionary definitions, isn’t helping you, then please let it go.

What should 9th graders be doing this spring?

What should 9th graders be doing this spring?

You're half way through your first year of high school, and there's so much to deal with. There are often a lot of positive things associated with this time: establishing new friendships and networks, trying out interesting electives, learning practical skills. But there's also plenty of negative things to deal with: disappointment, feeling overwhelmed, feeling disorganized, having difficulty figuring out where you belong. Take time--not just once but at least once a week--to identify what's going well and what isn't.

What should sophomores be doing this spring?

What should sophomores be doing this spring?

Everyone’s experience is different, I get that. But there’s a really good chance that this semester is going to be your Golden Age. For one, you’re almost half way through high school and have got the hang of it. You’re not a clueless and picked-on Freshman any more. You’ve cultivated relationships with fellow students and, hopefully, a teacher or two. And also, the big jump to more rigorous courses and more college pressure usually doesn't begin in full until the 11th grade. 

What should seniors be doing this spring?

What should seniors be doing this spring?

It may seem silly to talk about being a good high school student in the spring semester of your senior year, but the fact remains that you're still in high school and there's still more to be done. And yes, I'm very aware of "senioritis." Your parents and teachers may not want me to say it, but slowing down your last semester is completely normal and fine.