College at a 43% Discount (?)

Right? (Not Andy.)

(Not Andy.)

While researching my new book, I was surprised at the average discount given by private colleges:


Pretty steep, right?

Here’s another fun fact:  colleges award more merit-based money than need-based!  (Up until the mid-1990’s, the opposite was true.)

(Actually, this is a “not-so-fun” fact for low income families, most of the merit money is going to upper-middle class and wealthier families.)

Here’s what’s going on.

Non-Ivy and similar colleges struggle to fill classroom seats with butts.  Out of the 2,800-odd four-year colleges, less than 100 admit 50% or less!

Even in June, lots of schools are STILL scrambling to enroll kids (this morning, I heard from a client, Mary Ellen, who told me that one of her son’s top choice schools just offered him an additional $2,000 – on top of  a generous $20,000 per year award given last March.  Her son is an above average – not great – student.)

In affluent pockets of the country like Long Island, the Boston, Washington and Philly suburbs, kids tend to apply to the same 30 schools, competitive colleges.

Part of the reason is that their guidance counselors recommend the same list over and over.

This might be out of laziness, but I don’t think this is the whole story.

Many guidance counselors realize that their students, and their students’ parents, are fixated on “brand” name schools.

In other words, highly ranked schools.

Nothing against these colleges, but you need to understand that college rank is a lot of B.S.

Do you know the factor that correlates the most with a high rank in US News and World Report?

Endowment per student!

Yep, money!

Another heavily-weighted factor:  reputation among peer colleges.

This explains why, each spring, the pages of the trade publication The Chronicle of Higher Education get stuffed with ads touting the latest accomplishments of certain “up and coming colleges:”  New medical school, new law schools, great new professors hired, etc. etc. etc.

Spring is when US News surveys college presidents about their opinions of peer schools.  The ads in the Chronicle are for them.

Guess what is absent in the factors making up college rank?

Quality of instruction.

One last point about the importance of rank:  Tulane, Emory George Washington and other colleges have recently admitted that they falsified GPA and SAT information to US News, in order to boost their profiles.


Are you applying to the right set of schools?  I’ll leave that question for another day.

Let’s talk lettuce.

How do you get a 43% discount off “sticker price?”  Here’s what NOT to do:

* Apply to the same set of colleges as everyone else

* Compile your list based on rank alone

* Blow off learning about how scholarships and grants really work

I’m conducting two college financial aid “secrets” workshops later this month, titled How to Pay “Wholesale” for College, which is (also the title of my first book).

For more information about the workshops, click here:


I’ll talk a smidge about admissions-related stuff, too.

Hope to see you later this month!

– Andy

P.S. The title of my second book, mentioned earlier:  Getting Your Sh*t Together for College.  A “can’t miss” huge commercial success, right?  🙂

P.P.S.  Attendance at my last few workshops was a little nutty, we had to bring in seats because they were standing room only in Dix Hills and Avon, Connecticut.   I don’t necessarily anticipate that because it’s June, but there are plenty of nervous parents freaked out by the college bills they’re facing.  So we could fill up again – you never know.

Register yourself – and a friend! – now, while seats are available!

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