In my last post, I shared two case studies of high school seniors who are wondering what colleges they should apply to in a few months.
Here’s my previous post:
Today, I want to share some of the issues that Lucienne and her parents face.
I don’t think any teen can start exploring their choices until their parents obtain their preliminary Expected Family Contribution or EFC. The EFC is a dollar figure that represents what a family, at a bare minimum, will have to pay for a year of college.
If you’re a parent and you don’t know what your EFC is, use one of these calculators. And don’t wait until your child is a senior.
Knowing your EFC is crucial because some school only help students financially who have a modest Expected Family Contribution. Most colleges, however, will also provide grants or scholarships to wealthy families too.
Now let’s look at some specifics:
Lucienne, who is a terrific student, wants to get off the West Coast and head East for college. Her family’s EFC is around $15,000. That means that she’s going to need about $35,000 in aid for a college that costs $50,000. As a practical matter, most schools wouldn’t be able to give her 100% of what she requires. That’s just the reality of college funding, but there are a few dozen colleges and universities in this country that do have deep enough pockets.
Amherst College & Williams College
Lucienne is particularly interested in Amherst College. And Amherst happens to be one of those highly selective schools with the deep pockets. The liberal arts college doesn’t include any loans in its financial aid packages.
Another school that I thought Lucienne should check out, which also offers generous financial aid packages, is Williams College. I mentioned Williams because it has a well-regarded art history program. At this point, Lucienne doesn’t know what she wants to major in, but her interests include reading, writing and art history.
Amherst and Williams would be excellent matches financially for Lucienne, but there is a catch. These two schools, like other colleges with the best financial aid policies, reject most of their applicants. Amherst and Williams recently accepted just 15% and 20% of its applicants respectively.
Lucienne’s stellar academic record suggests that she’d do fine at these elite schools, but that doesn’t mean she will get a chance. There are too many fantastic kids trying to break into schools like Williams and Amherst.
And frankly, just because a college is extremely selective hardly means that it would be the best choice for Lucienne. What I told Lucienne is that she should also include on her list other wonderful liberal arts colleges where she’d enjoy a better chance at admission. I told her to look not just at what the schools offer academically, but also at what their financial aid practices are.
Liberal Art College Suggestions
Among the colleges that I suggested that Lucienne explore were Oberlin College (34%), Muhlenberg (45% acceptance rate), Franklin & Marshall (48%), Dickinson College (49%), Lawrence University (69%) and Beloit College (73%).
I also told the teenager to check what percentage of financial need each of these schools typically meets. You can find that out by checking a school’s profile on College Board and then clicking on Cost and Financial Aid. Dickinson College, for instance, typically meet 97% of a student’s financial need.
The better the student, the better the chances of receiving an excellent aid package from these schools.
When doing their research, Lucienne and her parents now know that they also need to check what percentage of a school’s financial aid packages is typically grants/scholarships versus loans and work study. The higher the percentage of grants the better. You can find those statistics on each school’s financial aid profile on the College Board.
The schools that I suggested over the weekend are far more generous than the couple of other schools on Lucienne’s original list: Pace University, which meets 76% of a student’s need and New York University which only meets 71%.
I’ll be curious what colleges end on up Lucienne’s final list.