Introduce Yourself

I am eager to get to know everyone who is taking this class!

One of the neatest parts of this class is that it has attracted people from across the country. Your classmates include parents from such states as California, New York, Michigan, Massachusetts, Texas, Hawaii, New Jersey, North Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania and Washington.

I also want to welcome the college consultants and high school counselors taking the class who are scattered across the country.class introductions

I’d love for you to introduce yourself by using the Leave a Reply box below.

If you scroll down to the bottom of this lesson, you will see in the comment section, many introductions from parents and professionals who have taken this course previously.

I suspect that you will relate to many of their concerns and aspirations, as well as be interested in my responses.

To make it easier for you to read through many of the comments of some previous members of  The College Cost Lab, I have combined them into a large PDF that is 149-pages long!!

To access the Class Introduction resource guide, click on the link below or on the screenshot of the cover page.

The College Cost Lab Introductions

Please Share

If you’d like to introduce yourself, here are some suggested questions to get you started:

1. Share where you are from, as well as something about your college-bound teenagers.

2. What do you hope to get out of this course?

3. If you are a professional, what are your biggest challenges as you help families with their college decisions?

Please introduce yourself in the Comments box below.

Let's Connect

Leave a Reply

  1. Hi Lynn,
    My name is Collette, and I am taking this course for my son Jack who is currently a HS senior. He is a good student with high test scores and is applying to several highly selective schools. He would prefer to leave Texas for college. I am not concerned (too much) about financial aid for the selective schools, but I’m also not at all confident that he will get admitted to those schools. I am really concerned about him applying to safety schools that I can actually afford.

    He has a 3.97 weighted GPA, his school does not report class rank, he has a 1570 SAT and a 35 ACT. He is interested in majoring in Computer Science, Engineering, or Astrophysics (as of yet undecided). He is applying to Columbia, Stanford, Dartmouth, Swarthmore, Rice, and possibly Carnegie Mellon.

    He is also planning to apply to Rochester Institute of Technology and to the 3-2 programs at Carleton and Allegheny. I am a divorced single mom and he has a brother who is 13. Our EFC is $11,018.

    I am concerned because the net price calculators for RIT and Allegheny come up very high. Should he not apply to those schools? Or is it possible that their offers will be higher than the net price calculator suggests? I don’t want him to apply to schools that are unaffordable under some false hope, and I also don’t want to rule out schools where there may be realistic hope.

    Should he apply somewhere else as a safety school? (Beloit, Worcester Poly, and Rensselaer also came up very high on their net price calculators.) Any other ideas/suggestions?

    1. Post

      Hi Collette,

      Congratulations on having such a bright son. It’s smart that you determined your EFC and are running net price calculators. I think it’s smart that you don’t just depend on the most elite schools since the odds of anyone getting into them are remote.

      Worcester and Carnegie Mellon have some of the highest net prices in the country. They are on the Dept of Education’s hall of shame list that reports annually the 5% of schools with the highest net prices.

      I think it is also smart to explore schools that are easier to get into and see what kind of awards your son might get. Since you are checking out Carleton, I’d also consider St. Olaf. My son actually participated in St. Olaf’s study abroad program for mathematics majors and it was incredible and attracted math students from top colleges and universities across the country. It is also a school that takes career services seriously. Many schools give it lip service, but St. Olaf doesn’t. Another reason why I mention it is because it meets 99% of need and yet it accepts many more students than the most elite schools. Another Midwestern school that I’d check out is Grinnell, which has excellent financial aid and about the same acceptance rate as Carleton.

      I would suggest that you look at the list of schools in The Ultimate List of the Nation’s Most Generous Colleges to find others like that. Schools that aren’t impossible to get into, but provide good aid. You’ll find that report in the Bonus Material module.

      Of course, you will have to use the net price calculators because schools don’t always tell the truth when they state what percentage of need they meet. If you own a house, you’ll have to ask about how each school assesses home equity and appeal on that assessment.

      Another idea is to look at state universities that provide excellent merit scholarships for students with high test scores and GPAs. Your son could get very good awards at some state schools, but not at the ones that have the shiniest brand names because they don’t have to work at attracting students to their campuses. Please read the lesson on state universities and merit aid.

      Also check out the scholarship list in the Bonus Material section that shares more than 1,000 full ride and full tuition awards for 570 public and private colleges.

      Also keep in mind that you can appeal financial aid awards!

      And be sure to evaluate the relevant academic departments. Here is an article I wrote about this:

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  2. I forgot to mention that I had questions about the FAFSA. My daughters attend a college prep high school that includes a very diverse economic population. They have brought in different speakers that advise families how to fill out the FAFSA and CSS Profile to minimize their EFC. Some suggestions include, taking out a higher mortgage so you don’t show equity in your home, transferring assets into non reportable assets like life insurance or LLC accounts, taking money out of the kids names. Hiding assets does not feel ethical to me. Do you have information about filling out these reports? Perhaps there is information that is helpful but doesn’t compromise integrity?

    1. Post

      Hi Lisa,

      Most of what you have shared is unethical. And it’s usually ineffective and expensive. These are guys trying to make money via commissions off of unsuspecting parents, Your school should NOT be inviting these sharks to talk. I would suggest that you read the lessons in this class regarding assets, home equity and financial aid. You’ll find them in the module entitled, A Closer Look at Financial Aid.

      Also, here is an excellent article from 2013 that a friend of mine wrote about these folks for Money Magazine:

      This article is just as relevant today!

      I would recommend sharing the article the people responsible for approving these people as speakers. This should STOP!

      Lynn O.

  3. Hello,
    I have two daughters, one is a senior and one is a sophomore. We live in Tucson, AZ. My daughter that is graduating is planning to do a gap program with Up with People. We were advised to line college up for the following year. She doesn’t know what she wants to study but is thinking she wants a liberal arts school with small discussion based classes and she is interested in English and Theatre. She is also saying that she wants an urban environment with warm weather. My husband wants her to be close enough that she could come home for a long weekend.

    We have visited Occidental College and the Claremont Schools in LA and Reed and Lewis and Clark in Portland. We also told her to apply to an instate school and she was just accepted to Arizona State University. We know lots of kids that go to the honors college at ASU (Barrett) and are happy there. I went to ASU and loved it. My daughter is not excited about ASU, but she is the kind of kid that could be happy almost anywhere and would get involved.

    We expect that the total cost of ASU/ Barrett would be around $80K for all four years. If she goes to one of the liberal arts schools, we don’t expect to qualify for need based aid and it could cost us $280K. That’s a huge difference and we are trying to decide if it is worth it or if we should continue expanding our options.

    I just finished reading the books, Where you go is not who you will become and the book about the schools that change lives. Really got me thinking about so many things. Of course, money is a big piece of the decision, but so is having the experience of living in a different environment, thinking about the type of people at the school, etc.

    Looking forward to the class!
    Thank you,

  4. Hi,

    I’m Nancy and I am the primary support in my daughter Ada’s search process. We have done an intensive search that began with her dream of attending acting conservatory in the UK. We traveled to London, Glasgow, and Wales, and looked at six schools. It was a great trip and I was able to pay for it with some money left me by my mom, and part of it was tax-deductible because I had a work-related portion of the trip. So that was all good. That was in fall 2016.

    When we returned, Ada started to back off the idea of acting conservatory. She’s a lifelong homeschooler and began to feel she needed more life experience, to become independent, and to delay the pressures that come with acting school. She also realized that she is as interested in theatre making as she is in acting. So she started looking at small alternative liberal arts schools that would look favorably on her way of learning, which has been led by her interests at any given time.

    That led her to Bennington College, the only one of about a dozen schools she’s visited where she feels at home. Also on her list are Bates, Bryn Mawr, Goucher, and Trinity. We culled this list from Colleges That Change Lives, Lynn’s colleges that give a lot of need-based aid, and places Ada thinks she could study literature, folklore, and do some acting. She wants a small school not far from where we live in the Hudson Valley. Ironically we have not visited any of the schools on the final list because it took an extra year to figure out what we were looking for.

    Ada is a nontraditional student. She does not like testing and does not plan to take the SAT at this time (she is doing math right now to prepare for a high school equivalency test in December). She loves Bennington’s portfolio application option, which she feels plays to her strengths, and I agree with that assessment. She’s putting together a beautiful application.

    What I hope to get out of the class:

    1. First I need to decide whether Ada should increase her chances of getting into Bennington by applying Early Decision (Nov 15, 2017) rather than Early Action (December 1). We had planned on ED; Bennington highly recommends it as the best way for her to gain acceptance and get the best package, and I, being a dope, don’t know if that’s true or are they being strategic? And how do I be strategic back at them?

    2. I need to figure out how Ada, her father (we are divorced), and I are going to pay for college, especially given that our numbers are dramatically worse in 2017 than they were in 2016. I don’t even know how we notify schools of this.

    3. I need to find Ada more financially doable safety schools.

    4. I need to bone up on all the potential sources of aid, what the best tactics are for increasing the package, and all that strategic stuff. I need major, major tutoring in how to be tactical. Not my strong suit.

    Thank you so much, Lynn and everyone! I already feel less alone. I am finding this whole experience so lonely—not only because of the magnitude of the decision and the complexity of the financial piece, but because of the way it brings up old issues about my own college history—plus it makes me desperately want to go back to school myself. Midlife crisis, anyone?


  5. My name is Deborah and I am a mother of two teenage girls (14 and 17). My oldest, is currently a 4.3GPA who is hell bent on going out of state or to UCLA. We live in Northern California. My husband has been in retail (Safeway) for 38 years and nearing retirement very soon. I am a full time exercise physiology who teaches a few fitness classes in the evenings as well. We both have very modest paying jobs. When our oldest was born, she was diagnosed with congenital heart disease and had open heart surgery at 3 days old. She will be living with this disease for the rest of her life but at this point has managed to continue with healthy checkups. She plays tennis and runs track for her high school. She is not a scholarship athlete but enjoys staying active and is blessed to be able to do this with her dx. She has been attending a special camp for kids with heart disease (Camp Taylor) since she was in 4th grade, and the last two years has been asked to be a mentor which is a huge responsibility and requires lots of training. She and I have helped her raise nearly 10k for this camp over the years. She hopes to study sociology – perhaps using it in the medical field to help families deal with life altering diseases.

    We are hoping to get information out of this course that can ease my mind on the upcoming finances. I was able to solely finance my college expense , even as a D1 athlete – but I know that things are much different now. We have saved, but I worked part time for many years as a result of her medical issues – thus she does not have a 529 any longer. With my husband nearing retirement, we also don’t want to tap into our retirement savings. We don’t want to tell our daughter that the local JC is the only option so we are hoping to find out more about scholarships and private universities with larger endowments that could justify her ability to go out of state or in state with enough aide to make a wise decision. We WILL NOT let our daughter rack up a substantial amount of college debt nor will we, as her parents, take out loans or borrow from our retirement in order for her to go to college.

    Top school choices before taking this course would be:

    1. Post

      Hi Deborah,

      Welcome to the class! Your daughter sounds like an amazing young woman!

      It is smart that you don’t want to rack up large debt for yourself or your daughter. She will have more options because she has a high GPA.

      Before you can evaluate what a school might give your daughter, you need to obtain your Expected Family Contribution or EFC. The next module will explain how you can do that. If you don’t have financial need and are looking for merit scholarships then schools like Boston College, Vassar and Trinity College wouldn’t be in the cards. Vassar gives no merit scholarships, Trinity gives two and Boston College gives less than 1% of students these scholarships. Duke only gives a tiny number of need-based scholarships too.

      If you qualify for need-based aid, she could get money that way from those schools. Boston College, however, will take into consideration all your home equity.

      The cost for North Carolina would be prohibitive since the number of merit scholarships is very tiny and being a Californian would make the impossible even more so. As for UCLA, if she gets in (and I would mention her heart issues in the personal statement!), you would pay full price if you don’t qualify for the Cal Grant. Here is the ceiling for the Cal Grant:

      Clemson is the most likely to give your daughter money. Many state schools are actively recruiting smart, affluent nonresidents. The ones that haven’t jumped on this bandwagon are the ones that don’t have because of their brand names such as UNC, Virginia, the UCs and Michigan.

      Please read the lesson on State Universities and Merit Aid in the module entitled, Targeting Schools for the Most Money, Part II, to learn more about getting scholarships from state schools outside of California.

      There is also plenty in this class about private schools, but you would have to determine what your EFC is before you can start targeting them. And using net price calculators are also critical!

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

    2. My name is Tara and we have a single child, our daughter who is a senior this year. She qualifies as a first-generation college student and we live in Bigfork, Montana, a small rural town in which she attends the public high school. She has a 4.0 and a high ACT composite (33) but a only a 1290 on the SAT. She also has tons of extra-curricular activities, volunteerism and leadership roles. She wants to go out of state, preferably the East Coast or Midwest, to an Ivy or other prestigious school or one that has an Honors Program. (The only exception geographically is USC in LA.) However, based on our 2016 taxes, we expect our ECF to be extremely high and we don’t have any savings for college except a small 529 account. We will need a school that provides a high amount of merit-based aid. I am so happy I discovered you, what I’ve learned so far is extremely helpful in making our decisions about where to apply to meet our goals. Any additional advice is greatly appreciated!

      1. Post

        Hi Tara,

        Thanks for joining the class! Congratulations on having such a smart child. I would use her ACT composite rather than the SAT. Some schools also superscore so if she took the ACT more than once, some schools will pick the best subscores to create a new composite. It’s something you should ask schools about if it would boost her great score even more.

        Since you have a high income and little college savings, applying to many of the most elite schools will not be wise financially. Some of these schools do not provide merit aid and others give little to no merit aid. In the class resource guide you can see just which ones don’t give any merit scholarships. You can find the guide in the Bonus Material module.

        You should read the modules entitled, Targeting Schools for the Most Money, Parts 1 and 2, to understand what type of schools give merit scholarships. With her top scores and GPA your daughter can get some top merit awards from private and state schools. Getting them from trophy schools is less likely.

        You can find full rides and full tuition scholarships in the scholarship list in the Bonus Material module.

        Lynn O.

        1. My daughter had her SAT scores automatically sent to 4 colleges. However, her scores were not that great and now she wants to use her ACT scores (which were also sent to the same schools). Will the schools ignore the SAT scores since they are lower or is she SOL?

          1. Post

            Hi Tara,

            I always recommend that scores aren’t sent automatically to schools for this reason. This should not hurt her chances, however, since schools will routinely take the best scores. You could have your daughter contact the admission rep at each school to verify that they do this.

            Lynn O.

  6. 1. Share where you are from, as well as something about your college-bound teenagers.
    I live in Mumbai, India; been here 10 years; we are US citizens and were residents of SF Bay Area, CA earlier. I have twin boys hoping to go to college next fall. They attend Ryan International School and were A+ in ICSE (10th grade national exam) with scores of 95% and 98%, the latter being the highest in their school. They are studying for ISC (12th), which is the toughest board in the country; scored 94% and 95% in 11th. They have opted for Comp. Science since 9th grade and prefer Comp Science and Elec. Engg . My kids are already very strong in Comp. Science and Math; both at or near 100% consistently. They have a subject called Socially Useful Productive Work for last 2 yrs, which I am hoping will count towards social work credits.

    I am an engineer, worked in the chip industry in silicon valley; was hit by recession; had to migrate to India for work and personal reasons and subsequently was out of work. I have been trying to get my startup going, but not successful yet. Out here, we’re ok financially; have some cash and moderate assets, but US college costs are unaffordable. I may have to relocate back to US, but am unsure of job / business success at this time; though I am hopeful, it may take a little time after relocation, to be stable financially. We wouldn’t qualify for in-state discount as we are not in US now. We will need to buy a house too, somewhere lower cost; we do have some funds, but not sufficient for everything.

    One fall-back option is India engg college for 1-2 yrs then transfer. But am unsure if transfer from here works, as it is a recent feature due to govt issues. But India colleges are extremely competitive due to huge demand. Maybe your course should research such out-of-US options too; those are cheaper.

    2. What do you hope to get out of this course?
    How to get the best combo of financial aid and good engineering college. We will need the best of need-based grants and academic scholarships. There are 2 kids together and I wouldn’t be able to afford extra room and board. So, I am looking for answers, given my current financial situation, which I am positive will ease as the years pass. If the business works well (later years), the difficulties will pass. Some suggest community college, then lateral entry in junior year. I looked at De Anza’s (Cupertino, CA) website but it seems to be for arts, not engineering; confused.

    1. Post

      Hi Preetham,

      Welcome to the class. I have another parent from India taking the class currently.

      Because your children are so high achieving they should have more options. If you haven’t used an EFC calculator I would definitely do so to see if you would qualify for need-based aid or not. With money as an issue, this would impact the kind of schools you would look at.

      I would not recommend your sons attending community college. The tuition at De Anza would be $9,000(!!) as a nonresident versus $1,400 for a resident. I also don’t recommend community college for bright students in most cases because it’s best to start at a four-year college unless you can’t handle it academically and money is an issue. It can be difficult getting academic credits transferred which can slow down the pursuit of a bachelor’s degree.

      You didn’t say if your sons have taken the SAT or ACT, but that would be important for engineering schools.

      If theirs scores matched their grades, they could look at state universities that provide large merit scholarships. I would not bother with the University of California schools since they don’t provide them and are crazy expensive for nonresidents. I would definitely take a look at the lesson entitled, State Universities and Merit Aid, for more information about merit scholarships at these schools.

      You could also look at private institutions that provide very good need-based aid if your Expected Family Contribution is lower. Having two in college at once will significantly lower it. If you are in that category, you could look at the class resource guide entitled, The Ultimate List of the Nation’s Most Generous Colleges.

      If you do qualify for need-based aid, I’d highly recommend checking out Harvey Mudd College, which has excellent professor ratings and very good financial aid. This wouldn’t be a good choice if you wouldn’t qualify. I’d also check out the Olin College of Engineering which gives at least 1/2 tuition off to all students.

      Lynn O.

  7. Hello, all!

    My name is Katelin Conde-Rodriguez, a college counselor at a small urban K-12 Christian school in Philadelphia.

    My students come from all corners of the city. I’m actively trying to beef up our financial education for our families. Many of my students parents’ are dealing with their own student debt. Some of them have been victims of predatory lending or have been taken for a ride by for-profit institutions. Some students are the first in their families going to college. Still others are just trying to find the best deal…and the costs of college have simply changed so much since they went. They perhaps haven’t had extra resources to save for college — so they’re wondering what comes next.

    Whatever the reason may be, we’re trying to provide more resources.

    I’m here to learn and to disseminate this important information to our families. Excited to learn along with you!

    1. Post

      Hi Katelin,

      Welcome to the class! I applaud you for helping these families navigate the college process. It is hard for any parents, but it’s even more so for students whose parents have not gone to college. i always cringe when I hear of people going to for-profit colleges, which are often rip-offs that do not result in degrees.

      You will find materials in this class that will help!

      Lynn O.

  8. Hello. I am an independent educational consultant in Los Angeles focusing on music students getting ready for college, which puts together my two passions: college counseling and music–I am also a professional French hornist. Most of my experience has been with first-gen low income students as a college counselor in Los Angeles. I am happy to be taking this course so I will gain knowledge about middle and upper income families as well as expand what I already know for my first gens. Thank you for all I know I will learn, Lynn!

    1. Post

      Welcome Jennifer! I am sure I could learn a lot from you about helping music students get into college!

      Do you find that most of the money for these students, who are aiming for music schools, is merit awards based on auditions?

      And do you find that there are schools that will provide music scholarships for students who aren’t going to major in music? I get that question some time.

      I suspect you will learn a lot about in this class about strategies for families of all incomes.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  9. HI! I am from Massachusetts with twins going into their senior year. Looking at small to medium sized liberal arts colleges. One wants accounting and the other is looking to major in English. Their top picks are College of Holy Cross, Siena College, St. Michael’s and St. Joseph’s of Maine. Have some concern with Siena after taking your advice to look at Moody’s. Am hoping to find which school would be the best fit for them and be affordable since paying for two! 🙂 Any suggestions on how to look further into Siena’s financial stability? Thanks!

    1. Post

      Welcome to the class, Kimberly!

      I don’t think I would worry about Siena. The schools that have encountered problems in recent years have a low enrollment and Siena doesn’t have that problem. It has a study body of roughly 3,200 students.

      You probably already read this, but I’m going to share this article that I wrote about this issue here for anyone curious about colleges going bust:

      The article will provide ideas of how to check for signs that a college could be in trouble.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  10. Thank you for the resources. I look forward to diving in to make informed choices and being a future College Solutions success story!

    My student is a rising senior at a robust high school in a large urban public school district in the Midwest, looking at small- to mid-sized liberal arts colleges just about anywhere that they exist. Undecided major, possibly math or natural sciences or econ. Prefers non-urban “Harry Potter” type campus with strong spirit and community where housing is guaranteed (and used) all 4 years. And no core curriculum. High school has no ranking, rigorous (hate that word!) curriculum – GPA is 5.03 W/4.0 U, 36 ACT, 800 Chem SAT Subject, 5s on all APs (Chem, Calc BC, Span Lang, Span Lit, Psych, Micro), taking AP Physics and Stats next year. Tests well, but understands that’s not be-all end-all. Student-athlete, would probably be club in college. Finances complicated by paying for two households in two different states. EFCs seem to be between $25-35k. Do external scholarships not reduce EFC (just reduce Fin Aid)? Confusing. Pushing student to look beyond name recognition and perceived status. Merit awards could play a huge role in reducing the burden of student debt and allow us to retire someday! Student preference for non-urban setting make logistics of visiting a little challenging, but trying hard to manage.

    1. Post

      Hi Jill,

      Welcome to the class! Wow. Your child appears to have a perfect high school record! He will have lots of options because of that.

      One resource that I would look at is the course list of full-ride and full-tuition scholarships that you’ll find in the Bonus Material module. That will give you ideas of major scholarships. Merit scholarships are routinely automatically awarded, but sometime the top awards require a separate application. Research this issue on a school’s admission/financial aid website and when in doubt ask the school.

      With your EFC (assuming it is correct), you could look for schools that give very good merit scholarships, as well as schools that give excellent need-based aid. These schools often aren’t the same. Assuming, for instance, that your child likes a school that costs $65,000 and meets 100% of financial need, you son would be in line to $40,000 in need-based aid (assuming your EFC was $25,000).

      You can find the list of schools that provide 100% of need by looking at the resource guide, The Ultimate List of the Nation’s Most Generous Colleges in the Bonus Material module. Here is the link:

      Private scholarships can reduce need-based aid at some schools. Ideally schools will reduce the loan portion of the package, but they can reduce the grant portion or both. Another possibility is the reduction of work-study money. It is worth asking schools what their policy is regarding outside scholarships.

      Lynn O.

  11. Hello,
    We have 2 boys in college. Our oldest is a junior at the University of Oregon and our second oldest is a sophmore at SUNY Cortland. Our twin daughters will graduate high school 2018. It was stressful getting our boys out the door and we are having the same difficulties getting our girls motivated to look into schools. We live in upstate NY, a small rural community. Together we all listened to your webinar last week and I think it was helpful for them to hear from someone other than us that it is not necessary to go to a “brand” school to get a good education. We hope through this class to open their eyes more to college costs and the confidence to “shop” smarter for a school. They are athletes but are not interested in playing D3 and would rather forego playing in college in order to experience the D1 athletic atmosphere. I know it sounds pretty superficial but we just need some sort of square to start on. 8 times out of 10 they say they want to go to the same school. Thank you for all the time you have put in to provide us with helpful resources.

    1. Post

      Hi LeeAnn,

      I am so glad you joined the class! One nice thing about living in New York is that the SUNY schools are the most affordable public colleges and universities on the East Coast. The state of New York does a much better job of supporting its higher-system that most state schools in the region.

      One thing you should consider is that with two children in college at once, your EFC will drop significantly. WIth two in college your EFC will shrink by 50% (FAFSA) and by 40% (PROFILE). You will probably have three in college for one year and when that happens your EFC will drop by 66% (FAFSA) and 55% (PROFILE).

      Of course, with some schools this reality won’t matter. That certainly would be the case at University of Oregon or other state schools out of your own state. These state schools don’t give need-based aid to nonresidents. Oregon is a particularly expensive Div. I school because it is in such high demand, primarily by California residents, who want that Div I experience that’s not too far from home.

      You will definitely want to read the lesson entitled, State Universities and Merit Aid.

      I promise you will learn a lot in this class!

      Lynn O.

  12. Hi Lynn,
    My name is Lisa and my daughter is a junior in high school in Glendale, CA. I’m from NY and I went to SUNY back in the 80’s. It’s amazing how different everything is in CA, so I am very happy that I’ve found your classes. I’m sure I’ll find many answers to my questions on your website. Looking forward to learning all about what’s ahead for us.

    1. Post

      Hi Lisa,

      I am glad you joined the class. I think just about any parent who attended college in the 80s will agree that the college process is much different today – and not in a good way. One of my chief goals in this class is to demystify it.

      I hope you find your answers taking this course!

      Lynn O.

  13. Hi, Lynn and fellow students! I am a repeat enrollee in the class from Pennsylvania and found the offer of lifetime access to the course materials too valuable to resist – particularly because I found all the information so helpful when my older daughter was proceeding through the college admission process. She is now an extremely happy student at Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania (accounting/finance double major who plays varsity Women’s Soccer (Div. 3) – Go Mules!!), and was a recipient of a sizeable merit scholarship that makes me incredibly happy each time I have to pay her tuition and see that lovely deduction from the amount due! Because my husband and I had a high EFC, we focused, per Lynn’s advice, on finding schools that would award merit aid. Although she was a very good student in high school who challenged herself, she certainly was not a kid with perfect SAT scores or all A’s, so I can vouch for the fact that there is merit aid out there for families who feel discouraged that maybe their child is not “special enough” to get discounts at good, academically solid colleges and universities. My younger daughter is a rising senior. She is very similar in academic profile to her older sister, but she does not want to play a sport in college and is attracted primarily to larger universities between around 10,000 – 15,000 students. So big, but not Penn State (40,000 undergrads!) big. She is completely undecided on a major, and so although I have some concerns about a larger university/college experience, it may be better for her if she has more majors/academic areas to explore. We will also be focusing to see if she can obtain some merit scholarships to defer cost, as even with my 2 girls in college for her freshman year, all the net price calculators I have run show that she would not get any need-based aid. One school that she really likes is Syracuse University. It is extremely expensive and does not ask any merit-aid based questions in its calculator, so I can only assume that it offers few merit aid based scholarships (although its website does say that several scholarships are offered as part of the admissions process without a separate application for them and that you need not apply for need-based aid to be considered). Lynn – I would appreciate your thoughts on Syracuse’s overall value. Some other state schools she is considering, however, seem to offer decent merit aid for out of state students. In terms of what I hope to gain from the class: Things seems to change all the time so just looking for a general refresher and perhaps some additional nuggets of wisdom as we head into application season. Thanks!!

    1. Post

      Hi Karen,

      Thanks for much for joining the class again! I am delighted that your daughter found a wonderful school and that she captured a large merit scholarship. I visited Muhlenberg with each of my kids and would have been happy if my son and daughter would have applied there. Ironically, my daughter decided not to apply because she didn’t like the soccer coach! She ended up playing soccer at Juniata.

      Syracuse’s average merit award is pretty puny – just $11,540 and just 14% of the students receive it. I do know, however, that Syracuse has larger award. A mom, who took this class previously, told me her daughter initially got a $20,000 a year award from Syracuse but ultimately was named a Coronat Scholar and was awarded full tuition for four years. It’s always smart to ask about scholarships that require an additional application.

      Syracuse is more expensive and gives fewer scholarships because it’s a research university on the East Coast – even though it’s not in a major city. It helps that is also has visibility in Div. 1 football and men’s basketball.

      I don’t have any particular comments about Syracuse’s value. I would be sure to research the school, like any other one, on the department level. Here is a story I wrote about that:

      Definitely check out the lesson on state universities for insights on merit scholarships for nonresidents at state schools. There is a lot of merit money out there for students with enviable test scores and GPAs.

      Lynn O.

  14. Hello Lynn,
    My husband and I are looking forward to learning a lot from your course! We live in rural California and have two daughters (18 and 15) that attend an online college prep high school… primarily because of the lack of academic rigor/quality in the local schools. The oldest will be applying to college this Fall. She is an enthusiastic and articulate young lady, and so excited about “getting off the hill”! She currently is interested in engineering – astro/mechanical – or physics/astronomy. Weighted GPA is around 4.5 and ACT 27 (without studying!). She is going to take the ACT again this fall and “promises” to do her best to study/practice! (I plan on getting on the NPCs and “motivating” her that way!) She has had some interesting extracurricular pursuits (horse polo,theater, art/writing), but opportunities for much more or leadership, etc.. have been scarce where we live! She is really looking to spread her wings in college…she is like your son – and would prefer a smaller environment with more attentive professors and support. This is probably due to her isolation during high school – she doesn’t want to get “lost” in a big school! She is not interested in any of the UC campuses (too big) and is not interested in Greek life, etc.. Based on our preliminary research/income, we are confident that we will not qualify for any need-based financial aid. So – our focus and mission for this course: an imperative to find the best schools for her AND find those that are generous with merit/scholarship aid. We do not currently have any savings. Ugh – thats a long story. We are looking the situation square in the eye and know we are going to have to rely on merit aid/scholarships/loan/paying out of pocket. She currently loves the idea of Cal Poly – SLO (although big, it is pretty much the only school in CA that she likes), but it is very competitive for engineering (22% acceptance rate) and as a state school – its going to be tough to get any money out of them. I am also concerned about how to interpret these grad rates – how to get reassurance or strategize when faced with such low rates at a CSU? Do you know of any way to see grad rates per major? She also has her eyes set on the East Coast (loves the history and architecture). I am in full research mode trying to find the right school that would be lucky enough to have her! I feel like I’m on a good team and look forward to the coming months! If you have any thoughts or direction to send me – yay! Thank you so much – see you in class! – Shannon

    1. Post

      Hi Shannon,

      Welcome to the class!

      When you need a lot of money for college it is very fortuitous that your daughter has a high GPA. It would be very good if your daughter could get her ACT up. Getting a 27 is very good normally but when you are looking for high merit money and you have no savings it’s important.

      Cal Poly SLO is an extremely popular school and the four-year grad like all Cal State universities is poor. A big reason why the grad rates are poor is because students can’t get their classes. Having a lot of engineering students can also pull it down if a school makes more academic credit demands on these students. When looking at engineering opportunities, I’d inquire at the engineering schools what it takes to graduate and how many engineering students graduate in four years. You are not going to find this information broken out on a site like College Completion. You could ask schools if they have internal figures.

      You should assume you would get no money for a state school in California. The money available is almost all through the Cal Grant which imposes an income ceiling. Here is the link:

      Merit money at private universities with engineering schools is going to be more competitive. At least among the name brand universities. I know a mom whose son got a nothing special scholarship at Santa Clara U. (a hot school for engineering) but she was told that his merit award would have been much higher if he had been a non engineering major.

      Unfortunately, small schools and engineering don’t mix. There are only a few like Bucknell and Lafayette, but they offer little to no merit aid and are extremely expensive. Olin School of Engineering is a wonderful choice – and everyone gets half off of their tuition, but it is extremely difficult to get into. There are 3-2 engineering opportunities, but with your money tight, this probably wouldn’t make financial sense

      Looking at state universities outside of California could be your best bet for getting merit aid. State schools give merit aid primarily or exclusively based on GPA, test scores and sometimes class rank. You will also want to look at side scholarships from these schools for such things as engineering or another major.

      The higher her ACT score, the more likely she would be in the running for serious money from private colleges.

      If she wants to major in history, she will have more opportunities for merit money.

      As for the East Coast, state and private schools there are among the most expensive and are the least likely to provide merit aid. One exception would be the SUNY universities in New York state which are the lowest priced state schools in the region.

      Lynn O.

  15. Hi Lynn,

    My name is Liz, and we’re from the SF Peninsula. Our daughter is entering her senior year. She’s in the school’s biotech program, played club soccer through the middle of eleventh grade, Girl Scouts through eighth grade, a smattering of club activities (not leadership), couple school sports, and is currently volunteering with Amigos for two months this summer. She is an A/B student and works hard for her grades. She’s bright, but ADHD gets in the way especially when she needs to juggle many seemingly unrelated activities or what she considers mundane busy work. She manages without meds and does have a 504 Plan.

    Her counselor told her that she can’t help her with college planning unless she knows what she wants to study, so she’s feeling a bit stuck. She likes science, nature, and was very interested in anthropology for a number of years. School-wise, she’s keen on UCSB even though it’s a long shot. Community college as a pathway is a consideration. Smaller schools are also being considered, but not four years at retail. She’s also interested in studying on the east coast.

    My objective is to understand our options: where she would thrive, are affordable, have scholarships (school and otherwise). Through other programs and approaches we’ve been trying to get a handle on this since ninth grade. Now that she’s a senior, we’re pretty much still at square one. Hamster on a wheel comes to mind. We need help!

    Lynn…we’re looking forward to your class. Thanks!!

    Btw, another Q: I’ve been told that these days, most kids don’t find employment in their field of study. So the kids should study whatever they are passionate about without too much consideration about job prospects, then pursue a masters for their career/job. That’s an expensive approach. Your thoughts? Thx!

    1. Post

      Hi LIz,

      It’s true that many students do not end up in jobs in their major. In fact, most students end up graduating – if they graduate at all – with a major different from their original one. For instance, 43% of students who declare themselves as engineering majors end graduating with that major, 37% graduate with a different major and nearly 21% don’t graduate at all. Here’s another example: 36% who start as a business major graduate with a business degree while nearly 48% graduate with a different major and 16% don’t graduate.

      I can’t believe that your daughter’s high school counselor said she can’t help her since she doesn’t know what she wants to major in. That really should be one of the benefits of college – exploring interests. It seems ludicrous to me that 17 and 18-year-old are supposed to know what they want to major in.

      Colleges are one place to check out since colleges do not require students to know in advance what they want to major in. You should check the requirements at universities to see what the flexibility is in terms of changing majors from one department to another or one school to another within a university.

      There is a book that I really like – The Thinking Student’s Guide to College – by Andrew Roberts (a professor at Northwestern) who makes some great suggestions about how to explore different disciplines in college. I’d highly recommend that your daughter read the book.

      What really matters is identifying skills that you obtain in college, such as writing, speaking and practical skills such as being conversant with Excel, PowerPoint, Photoshop etc. and having internship experiences. Here is a piece from a top higher-ed expert who wrote a piece in the Washington Post on this topic:

      You may want to explore schools that have programs for students with learning differences. I had written an article recently on this topic. Here is the link:

      I’ve also written a story before about potential schools with LD programs:

      My nephew had a learning disability and he went to Westminster College in Missouri and had a tremendous experience with supportive professors. Westminster is a great bargain compared to many schools.

      You don’t mention your daughter’s grades, but I’m assuming that if UCSB is a long shot (and it’s not easy for anybody!), you may want to look at schools that are less selective that give money to everybody and have lower price points. There are certainly some schools like that in the interior West such as Carroll College and College of Idaho. Carroll College has a sticker price (tuition and room/board) of $43,000 and the average merit award brings the price down to $28,000. College of Idaho is even less expensive.

      FYI, 100% of freshmen at UCSB are in the top 10% of their class. You can find that statistic by checking out the school’s profile on the College Board website.

      There are colleges and universities in every region of the country that give nearly everyone a tuition discount. The amount will depend on how much a school wants a child. Schools on the East Coast will typically be the most expensive, along with private schools on the West Coast, because of their location.

      Check out the resource guide in the Bonus Material module that discuss steps to find schools and another guide on how to cut the cost of college.

      I’d also check out the lesson entitled, Looking for College Bargains where you can search schools by price.

      Lynn O.

      1. Thank you, Lynn! This course is already paying off!

        I wanted to mention that her counselor is extremely supportive in all other areas, so perhaps my daughter misunderstood something that she was supposed to do to further the conversation. The students have access to Naviance to help them identify possible career interests and colleges.

        Btw, I hadn’t thought of college as the place to explore interests, so I’ll need to reframe my thinking. Thx!

  16. Hi Lynn –

    I am from Shaker Heights, Ohio and I have two college bound teens, ages 16 and 13, both attending public schools. I am hoping this course will help me and my family feel less overwhelmed by the college application process. I am curious to hear what you think about early decision. I know many families go that route in order to have an easier time getting into harder schools. But doesn’t this then mean they then give up aid opportunities and pay full price?

    1. Post

      Hi Gretchen,

      Welcome to the class. An aim of the class is to reduce the stress level of parents (and teens) as they face these big decisions!

      Early decision can sometimes be a smart way to go. At many schools there is a definite advantage to apply early.

      Here’s the reason: Popular schools want to lock in a major chunk of their freshman class early because they are worried about not being in control of their enrollment process. So many students are applying to lots of highly selective schools and many aren’t really serious about the schools they are applying to. These students see the process more like a lottery – the more you apply the better your chances.

      You can find early decision figures for schools by heading to the College Board. When you type in the name of a school in the home page search engine then click on the Applying hyperlink in the left-hand column.

      You will then see a page that has early decision and early action (if applicable) statistics. These figures will allow you to see if there is an advantage for applying early.

      Often there is an advantage, but there are some notable exceptions. Two that come to mind are MIT and NYU that give little to no preference to the early birds.

      If money is an issue, it’s absolutely critical to use a school’s net price calculator before applying this way! There is no guarantee that schools wouldn’t reduce the award, but no school would admit to this. There is really no way to know how prevalent this would be.

      I think it would be more likely at schools that provide merit awards as opposed to need-based aid.

      All that said, a school can’t make you attend it if it doesn’t make financial sense.

      Lynn O.

  17. Hi Lynn,

    I’m from Loudoun County, VA (40 min outside of DC) and we have very motivated, identical twin daughters that are entering their sophmore year of hs. Although we have amazing state schools, we understand it’s extremely difficult for Northern VA students to get into these schools based on the Northern VA competition, so looking outside the state makes sense but we’re not even sure where to begin!

    Our combined family goal is to get our daughters into school(s) that excite and educate them and have them graduate without any debt. They are both liberal arts students. We’ve already saved close to “enough” but need to arm ourselves with the knowledge to make the right decisions and set us all on the right path.

    1. Post

      Hi Tricia,

      Welcome to the class. You do have some excellent state universities, at least in terms of graduation rates. The two public universities with the highest graduation rates in the country are the University of Virginia and College of William and Mary. What’s more, University of Mary Washington and James Madison University are in the top 20!!

      That’s excellent that you have saved almost enough to cover your daughters’ college costs. You are definitely in better shape than the vast majority of families. I trust you will learn a lot in this class that will put you on that right path!

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  18. Hello Lynn,

    My name is Caitlyn and I am a accounting/finance professional working in Cleveland Ohio. Having recently graduated college myself I thought that this would be an additional/new service to offer through my firm to assist our clients in the application, admissions and financial aid processes in conjunction with our tax and financial planning services.

    I’ve attended most of Lynn’s webinars in the past and I’ve found her resources so helpful in that she breaks down very complex topics like financial aid that are simple to understand and then explain to families. These are topics that are scattered all over the internet and in publications and having a resource like this class where I can go back to the course modules and ask questions as we go!

    The biggest challenges I’ve faced in helping families with their college decisions is getting the child involved and helping the parents understand that if the child can’t/won’t help in the planning process they may struggle when they are on their own at school. I’ve also had the issue of parents and students wanting to go to the name brand schools or go to school in Colorado, New York or Vermont because they like to snowboard. It’s difficult to get them on board with the balance of the full college experience and actually going to college to obtain an education.

    I’m very much looking forward to digging into these resources this weekend! 🙂

    1. Post

      Hi Caitlyn,

      Thanks for joining the class!

      I think all financial advisors should become familiar with at least the basics of late-stage college planning. It’s so discouraging that the financial industry has largely blown this off. I believe that the mentality is that college planning is all about 529 accounts and there isn’t much money in them compared to retirement accounts so they don’t pay attention. That is very short sighted.

      I have tried hard to pull together what families absolutely need to know because you are so right that information is scattered all over the Internet! And too much information is just plain wrong!

      It is difficult for parents and teenagers to know what is important when looking at colleges so they tend to gravitate to brand names or schools located in fun areas. It’s a tough challenge.

      Lynn O.

  19. Hello,

    I’m Jeannie in Los Angeles.

    I took Lynn’s class a couple of years ago when my older daughter was applying to colleges. I am a single parent, and after running NPCs on her favorite schools (small liberal arts colleges), we were confident that she would qualify for decent financial aid that would bring down the cost of attendance to a level equivalent to the UCs. I assumed that even with my ex-husband’s non-custodial profile, we would qualify for aid at colleges meeting 100% need. I have not been able to save much in her 529 account, as I’ve been a mid-level public sector employee who was furloughed during the worst of the recession.

    My daughter earned a scholarship to one of her dream schools early decision. To our shock, the school judged our EFC to be $73,000. I actually called the financial aid office to see if there hadn’t been a mistake, that our EFC was actually $37,000. Had it not been for the scholarship (which covers tuition), we would not have been able to swing it – certainly not for all four years. I don’t know how my ex-husband’s compensation is structured, nor how long he’ll be in his position, and it’s not something he’s willing to discuss.

    Now that we know that we are not likely to qualify for need-based aid, we’re having to take a look at schools outside of New England for my younger daughter, a rising HS senior, that offer merit aid. I think the CTCL schools are terrific, and probably a better fit for this daughter, who’s somewhat shyer than her older sister.

    We know she’ll need to work on the test scores to be competitive for decent merit aid. It’s been a challenge keeping her motivated to study for the SATs. Her interests are diverse, but not deep. She’s trying to come up with a compelling hook beyond the biracial/Hispanic/female engineer (or math/physics major) coming from a Title I urban school. To complicate matters, her school has had 4 college counselors in 4 years (long story). The new one starts this fall without knowing anything about the senior class.

    Thanks for the returning parent discount and for offering lifelong access, Lynn. The offer came just as I was about to break down and plunk down tons more money for a private counselor.


    1. Sorry – I should add that Sophia’s in the IB track, and her unweighted GPA is 3.9 (ranked 10th or 11th out of 400) and scored 1460 on her second time taking the SAT. Her stats are decent, but I don’t know if they’re competitive enough for big merit awards.

      1. Post

        Hi Jeannine,

        Thanks for taking the course again.

        I think it is wise of you to be looking at schools outside of New England since you will have a high EFC thanks to your ex husband. Your daughter’s academic stats are excellent including her test scores – 1460 out of 1600!

        Keep in mind that some schools will require a separate application for the top merit awards that typically require more than great test scores and GPAs. A couple off the top of my head are at Tulane and Syracuse. You will want to check with schools about these additional applications and be sure to look on the school’s website. Also check on the institutional merit scholarships list for individual schools at I’m not referring to private scholarships that you can also find on Cappex.

        Speaking of private scholarships, they are often a dead end for many students since the amounts are typically small and the big ones have fierce competition, but I wouldn’t say that in your daughter’s case. The fact that she is Hispanic and that she wants to be an engineer is huge for private scholarships. I have a friend, whose daughter fits that description, who received lots of them. In addition, she got internship/research opportunities because she was Hispanic, a girl and a future engineer. She is an upper classman now at Georgia Tech and thriving. I did an interview with the mom, Veronica Longstreth, about private scholarships for minority students that you’ll want to look at in the College Diversity Opportunities lesson. The other thing you need to know is that many of these scholarships do not require that the applicant be low income.

        If you would like to dive deeper into this topic, my friend Veronica, who is a college consultant in San Diego, does consultations for a low hourly price. I bet it would be worth spending an hour on the phone with her to learn more about what specific private scholarships your daughter should pursue. If you want me to make the connection, just let me know.

        Lynn O.

        1. Hi Lynn,

          Thank you for the encouraging words and tips. I would love to take you up on your kind offer to connect me with Veronica. I would appreciate discussing specific colleges/outreach programs without having to commit to $$$ college consultant packages!

          1. Post

            Hi Jeannie,

            I think it is smart to consult with Veronica. You could learn a lot in just an hour and she’s very reasonably priced.

            Here is Veronica’s email address:

            Good luck!

            Lynn O.

  20. Hello Lynn;

    I look forward to your class, as my wife and I have three sons in HS in Southern California : one entering his senior year, one in his sophomore year, and one as a freshman. Needless to say, we have challenges ahead trying to place them into the proper fit of a college, and determine the affordability for our family. Our senior has a wide interest level- history teacher, speech communications, possibly in construction management or business. Although he has a great GPA 4.1, and a good 1075 SAT, he has not been able to determine his direction just yet. He has a minor intellectual disability that has allowed him some extra time on standard tests. He is interested in Marquette, UC Davis, Point Loma Nazarene or Cal-Poly SLO, and his primary out of state private school choice is derived from in-law family pressures. Some of these are a stretch for him to get in. With such a wide spectrum of interest, he is likely to change majors in college, so I am trying to prevent selection based upon a family (in-law) brand selection. He doe not have an aggressive personality and may have difficulty obtaining attention from faculty at a large research type university level school.

    I believe that my EFC has dropped drastically due to my early retirement from the power utility industry without sufficient consulting opportunites. My income is way down, but my after-tax financial resources are significant. As such, my wife has returned to work in the interest of helping the family as we are both in our mid 50s. In your seminar today, you mentioned that only non-retirement funds can be counted upon to calculate the EFC. I have told my son that he may have to pursue student loans if he wants to attend private schools such as Marquette, so I looking forward to your class to determine the best fit. Hopefully, student loans will be negligible and merit aid will be obtained somehow.

    best regards, Steve

    1. Post

      Hi Stephen,

      Welcome to the class! Determining what your EFC, especially with your retirement, is a smart move.

      I appreciate that outside lobbying from relatives can be a problem. Some people are very loyal to their legacy institutions and believe that family should continue the tradition. That is more understandable if they are willing to pay for these schools!

      Whether you receive aid at a state school in California is dependent upon whether you qualify for the Cal Grant and if you have considerable nonretirement assets that would not be possible. There are income requirements and also a pretty low ceiling on nonretirement assets ($76,500). Here is the link for these requirements:

      Point Loma has very poor need-based aid and the average merit award is nothing special. Marquette also doesn’t have good need-based aid and the average merit award is higher than Point Loma Nazarene, but its price is higher too. No matter where you look you should use net price calculators.

      You also might want to look at test-optional schools. There are many good schools that don’t require test scores. Your son’s GPA would suggest a higher test score and seeking test optional schools would eliminate that issue. You’d just want to make sure that the schools award merit scholarships even if your son doesn’t submit test scores.

      Here is a list, compiled by, of some of the test-optional schools:

      This is an old story, but the one that I wrote for the New York Times in 2009 is still very relevant about why schools go test optional, which has become even more popular with institutions:

      The best loan for your son would be the federal Direct Loan. As a freshman, he could borrow $5,500 the first year, $6,500 the second and $7,500 the third and fourth year. I have a module on college loans that I’d suggest checking out.

      Lynn O.

  21. Hi Lynn,
    I am Radha Abrol from New Delhi, India. My daughter is keen to study International Relations in the US. She is in the process of identifying the schools she should apply to. As a parent I am concerned about the amount we will have to pay for her education. Looking forward to understanding and learning from your course to maximize our savings and ensuring that our daughter gets the best education.

    1. Post

      Hi Radha,

      Thank you for joining the class! Believe it or not, you are not the first person from India who has taken my class. I’ve actually been learning a lot about India because my daughter’s boyfriend is from Chennai. He came to the U.S. to get his PhD at CalTech.

      Regardless of your financial situation, at most schools in the United States, you will be looking for merit scholarships. So in most cases you will be approaching the college process the same as an American student who does not qualify for need-based aid and is looking for merit awards from the colleges themselves.

      That said, there are some private schools that provide need-based aid to top international students. There is going to be stiff competition for that need-based money.

      I have a list of schools (you shouldn’t assume it’s by any means complete!) of schools that includes the number of international students in the freshmen class and the number who received a price break. The list was compiled by a couple of college consultants back in 2015. Here is the Dropbox link for the list:

      You should also check out individuals schools on the College Board about their aid policies for international students! On the College Board’s home page (, use the search box and type in the name of a school. Then click on the school’s International Students hyperlink on the left-hand column. When you click on that you will see how many international undergraduates received assistance and what the total amount was. It also provides what financial form you must fill out. For selective private schools it will routinely be the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE. You may also have to fill out something called the Foreign Student Certification of Finances.

      I would find out who the admission counselor is who handles foreign admissions at each schools that interests your child and have your child contact that person with some some smart questions. Some private schools want students to show what’s called demonstrated interest and contacting the right admission representative is a good head start. Your daughter will also want to talk to international students already at a school to find out what their experiences have been.

      Lynn O.

      1. Thanks a lot Lynn. Appreciate your response above. I am going through the links which are super helpful. I am struggling a bit with the material and webinars as I am unable to make out if the information works for an international student as well or is more specific for American kids. My daughter has finalized her list of colleges and was working at now filling out the Common Application and writing her essays. I would love if you could help me specifically with the list she has finalized though I am checking in the link shared by you above as well. Thanks.

        1. Post
          1. Thanks Lynn. The list is pretty ambitious!
            Princeton University
            Harvard University
            University of Chicago
            Amherst College
            Williams College
            Pomona College
            Tufts University
            Colgate University
            Boston University

          2. Post

            Hi Radha,

            These are all going to be extremely difficult to get into. These schools provide no merit aid, but most provide excellent need-based aid. The exception would be Boston U. which doesn’t have great need-based aid.

            If you need financial aid, the very poor admission odds will be even worse. Your daughter would need to be extremely exceptional to get into these schools that favor rich students.

            Merit aid will be irrelevant for these schools since they don’t provide it with the exception of Boston U and U. of Chicago. You can look at the College Board section that I mentioned to you before to see if these schools provide financial aid to foreign students.

            Lynn O.

          3. Hi Lynn,
            I listened to the webinars today. Super helpful thanks. A couple of questions form the Compass Guide to Admissions. (Please refer Page 2) What are:
            1. ‘College Prep Courses’?
            2. ‘Grades in all courses’ – Are these not the XI and XII grade marks? How are these different from College Prep Courses? Are these specific to the US? What is the International equivalent?
            3. How important is Community Work in the application process?
            Thanks for all your guidance and help!

          4. Post

            Hi Radha,

            Unfortunately, I don’t know the difference between Indian courses and American ones.

            This is a question that I would definitely direct to whoever is the admission representative for international students from the universities that your daughter is interested. This would be a way to let college admission reps know your daughter is interested.

            Some schools do want students to show demonstrated interest in their institutions. You can find this information by typing in the name of a school in COLLEGEdata’s college search engine. Then click on the school’s Admission link. Then scroll down to the Selection of Students header. You’ll find 19 admission factors and how important these factors are. One of these factors is Level of Applicant’s Interest.

            Community work would fall into the category of extracurricular activities – that’s one of the 19 factors. So check that out too.

            I’ll be discussing demonstrated interest in the next webinar on Aug. 3.

            Lynn O.

  22. Hello,
    My name is Sophie. Our family is from Oregon and we don’t have a lot of savings so our college search will be largely based on price.
    My daughter is a rising senior and has good grades and has been very involved in the high school musicals.
    I volunteer with the ASPIRE program to try and help high schoolers apply to college.
    We are here because we want to know if there are any private colleges that offer tuition and board at less than our EFC or whether that is a pipe dream and we should just make our lives easy and apply in state at the public universities 🙂

    1. Post

      Hi Sophie,

      Thanks for joining the class.

      I can’t comment about whether you will find a college that will charge you less than your EFC. It certainly is possible to do that depending on your EFC. For instance, let’s say a family’s EFC is $50,000 and the child received an annual $15,000 merit scholarship at a school costing $55,000. That would drop the price to $35,000 which would be under the EFC.

      If you haven’t figured out your EFC yet, I’d definitely start with that first. I would be sure to look at the lesson entitled, Looking for College Bargains. You may want to look for schools that are lower priced that offer good tuition discounts. In this lesson, you’ll get the link to a cool tool from The Chronicle of Higher Education that sorts colleges by price.

      I’d also suggest looking at your own state schools, as well as other state universities. There are some lower priced state universities particularly in the interior west. When looking at these schools, check out honors colleges.

      Lynn O.

    2. Hi Lynn,
      I caught up on the Webinars this weekend as I am unable to join when you do them live due to the time difference between India and the US. They were excellent and super helpful especially the one on ‘Increasing Admission Chances and Awards’. Thanks so much! We are doing our best to internalize, understand and leverage the information/ resources provided by you. I will get back with questions, if any, later, but for now this is to say a big THANKYOU!
      Radha Abrol

      1. Post

        Hi Radha,

        I am so glad that you found the webinars helpful! I will be holding a fifth one in September when I expect that parents will many additional questions!

        Lynn O.

  23. Hi Lynn,
    My name is Dana Strull; I’m an IEC in Louisville, KY. I want to build more college affordability into my practice. I have found that many students overlook colleges because of financial reasons. Some students won’t look at a college that isn’t a big name school, but some of the smaller name schools have more merit to offer students. Unfortunately with the high cost of college, too many students take out exorbitant loans and finish college with a home payment but no home to live in. I am excited learn more ways to provide financial information to my students and their families and help them find their best fit college.

    1. Post

      Hi Dana,

      I’m glad to have someone from Kentucky in the class!

      I think it is incredibly smart and essential for independent educational consultants to understand the basic strategies to reduce college costs for families. Families that tend to seek out consultants do have other options beyond paying full price for the best known research universities, but they need smart professionals to point out what these options are!

      Lynn O.

  24. We are from Metro Atlanta, about to send our 3rd and final off to college. His path has been very different. As a professional actor, he has been homeschooled the last 6 years with our own curricula and the generous dual-enrollment program in Georgia called Moved on When Ready (essentially, the lottery pays for free college classes for high schoolers.) Although he will have close to 50 credits when he completes high school next Spring, and a 4.0 GPA so far (t the college grades, not my own,) he aspires for several very expensive, selective schools out of state. We need all the help we can get, as we have an unusual financial situation which will likely not qualify us for need-based aid.
    We looked at several very high priced programs but felt we could not justify the price tag. However, it’s almost impossible to figure it out alone. I have watched for your new program for close to a year now. I almost never check this email regularly, but here you are today! Thanks for the discount and I can’t wait to dive in.

    1. Post

      Hi Sharla,

      Welcome to the class! I am so glad you checked your email today. I guess that means that you were meant to take the course!

      That’s impressive that your son is a professional actor and has maintained such a high GPA!

      One thing that you need to keep in mind is that student assets and income are assessed much more harshly than parent income and assets.

      Unlike parent assets, none of the child’s assets are shielded from the FAFSA or PROFILE financial aid formula. Child assets are assessed at 20% for the FAFSA and 25% for the PROFILE.

      Here’s an example:

      $25,000 (child assets) X 25% = $6,250. In this example, the child’s eligibility for need-based aid would decrease by $6,250. Put another way, the child’s EFC would increase by that amount.

      To cut down on your cost, I’d recommend asking schools on your son’s list about their policies in terms of accepting at least some of the college credits that he’s already accumulated. That could cut down on his time in college by one or two semesters.

      In this course you will learn what the aid policies of elite, expensive private schools are. In general, these institutions give need-based aid, but little to no merit aid. It’s important to use any school’s net price calculator before your child gets too excited about any school.

      He should also look into talent scholarships at universities. He may get extra money for his acting. You’ll want to inquire at individual schools about their availability. Also, has an extensive list of merit scholarships offered at individual schools. Click on the site’s Scholarships hyperlink on the home page and then scroll down and look for the heading Merit Scholarships Offered by Colleges.

      Lynn O.

  25. Hi. Marie from Texas. My rising Senior has very specific interests which limit her college options. Hoping to find the best ways to reduce costs in the face of restricted college choices and uncertain chances for need-based scholarships. Thanks!

    1. Post

      Hi Marie,

      Thanks for enrolling in the course! You will find a great deal of information about finding schools here! A good overall primer on how colleges price themselves is my resource guide entitled, The Ultimate College List Builder which you will see in the Bonus Material section. You can determine if you might qualify for need-based aid by checking out the first module – Your Family’s First Step.

      Lynn O.

  26. Hello-

    My daughter is a senior in high school this year and we’re hoping this class helps us reduce the information imbalance between buyers (us) and sellers (colleges). In this way we will have a more efficient market…can you guess what field she wants to study in? Economics! I believe she has a great narrative to tell about her experiences in high school. Lots of extra activities like DECA awards, Youth Entrepreneurs, student leadership, media coverage, etc. She has strong test scores, but not the perfect scores, and we’ve got a couple more opportunities to edge out a few more points. She’s well spoken and well written, so I’m hoping all of this together makes us competitive at the schools we think are the right fit.

    We have saved some but not enough to pay for all of college. We have some investments. We’re basically middle class. I’m a little worried about some of the EFC calculations that I’ve seen so far against the net price calculator figures… Maybe we are in the prescription drug coverage equivalent of donut hole for paying for college!

    We are looking for a win-win… the students wins by being better prepared for the workforce and making a difference in the world… the school and professors win by achieving their education mission and being paid well, but not too well, for their hard work… Anyway looking forward to being as prepared as we can be for one of the most expensive choices we will make!!


  27. Hi Lynn,
    I am from Malvern Pennsylvania. I am an Independent Educational Consultant who also does test prep for the SAT, ACT and High School Entrance Exams. I enjoy my career because it allows me to help families at a big crossroad and allows me to continuously learn. I have learned financial aid basic through the UC Irvine IEC Certificate class and through reading many books (including yours :)), but I realize that there is a lot more to know and you have repeatedly come up as an expert on this topic. Affordability is a huge component of finding the best fit college and I want to learn all I can so I can best to help my students with this. I have more and more students coming to me who do not qualify for any financial aid and do not have money saved for college. They are devastated when they realize that even though their hard work may get them in to their “dream” school, they can not afford to to there. I am looking for strong options for these students. On a personal note, I have four children, two in college (Villanova and Stanford), one in high school and one in middle school. I’d like to stay abreast of the value opportunities as my younger two get to college age. I’m looking forward to learning a lot from your class.
    Sandy Aprahamian

    1. Post

      Welcome to the class Sandy! You must have Vanguard as your neighbor.

      You will find lots of advice for the kind of clients that you are seeing who are aiming for elite schools, but haven’t saved enough money and don’t qualify for financial aid. I think too many high-income parents think if they raise incredibly smart children they will get amazing scholarships from their dream schools. These teenagers will qualify for great scholarships at many, many schools, but not usually from the ones that end up on dream lists. Stanford, for instance, gives zero merit scholarships, but excellent need-based aid.

      Lynn O.

  28. Hello Lynn,

    I’m looking forward to the course.

    An unexpected issue for our family is that income on our prior-prior year tax return will be much higher than any other year. We have a short-running and very nice income flow for consulting work this year (2017), and our child will be in 11th grade this fall. It will probably never happen again but this is really bumping our income up right now–no complaints.

    I assume we need to plan to appeal left and right, once we get awards?

    Should we sock a lot away, right now, in a 529?

    Best regards, Holly

    1. Post

      Hi Holly,

      Thanks for being the first person to introduce yourself in the summer class!

      I am sorry that your income will be higher during the wrong year! What I would do is contact schools after applying but before your child receives any financial aid letters and explain your situation. You could ask that schools average three years of income instead of just one. In fact, you might want to contact schools on your child’s list before even applying to ask about how they deal with prior-prior issues.

      I believe you would have more luck with private colleges if the schools really want your child.

      You should sock away as much money as possible for college. Saving, as you’ll learn in this class, is almost always a great idea. Saving in a 529 makes sense and it’s even better if you live in a state that provides a state tax deduction for your 529 contributions.

      Lynn O.

      1. Thank you, Lynn, how fabulous to get an answer so quickly!
        Kid is looking at small liberal arts colleges, so glad to hear that’s at least the best category.
        Really appreciate the help, and looking forward to learning more. H

  29. Hi Lynn
    Couple of questions for you:
    1. The coalition vs the common app- why are schools using the coalition instead and if a school offers both -which one is better? One university on my son’s list only uses the coalition, many others use the common app, so he will need to fill out both. One school has both types where the student would chose, not sure which one would be to his advantage.
    2. Is it better to declare undecided? My son is loves Math, his hobby is programming so he is interested in both computer science and engineering but he is also open to many other subjects. I feel that Math may set him up, since it’s a major that scares many, but I don’t want him to feel locked in and I would rather he enjoy learning and narrow in later when he really knows.
    Thank you,

    1. Post

      Hi Lucy,

      Forgive me for being cynical but I think many schools joined the Coalition because the Common Application was no longer exclusive because hundreds of schools are now offering it. The Coalition schools said a chief reason they joined was because they wanted to give underrepresented students a better chance of admission, but they could just admit more of them! They don’t need to launch another application! Frankly, I think that’s a pretty weak excuse.

      I don’t think one application is better than the other. I would have your son ask individual schools if they have a preference.

      When contemplating majors, you’ll want to make sure that he could change his major later on if he’d like. You would also want to explore how easy or hard it would be to double major. At some schools it’s very tough or it could take five years. AT five years, it would probably be better to get a master’s degree. Also some schools require applylng directyl to the school within a university such as a School of Engineering. If you don’t start in the school it could be impossible to switch over. It sounds like your son might be better picking a school where transferring to a different discipline would be easy.

      You are right that math is not a popular major so your son could get an admission boost at some schools by declaring it. My son was a math major.

      Lynn O.

  30. Hello. My name is Chris from Long Beach, Ca. I am a parent of 4 kids, one at a CSU school, one at a CC, one a HS Jr. (high achiever) and one a HS Fr. (potential high achiever). I am taking this class to better understand the whole process and feel like we are making educated choices on: helping my kids choose which schools to pursue, how the fafsa calculates EFC, what we can do to increase our chances for both need based and merit aid. I want to learn how to compare schools my kids are interested in in an ‘apples to apples’ type comparison. Looking forward to learning a lot.

    1. Post

      Hi Chris,

      I am glad you decided to join the class! I cover all the topics that you mention in the course.

      You will find a lot about Expected Family Contributions in the next module and in the module entitled, A Closer Look at Financial Aid Formulas, you will learn about what the FAFSA and the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE look at when calculating financial need.

      Check out these two resource guides in the Bonus Material module that will help when formulating a college list – Your Smart Blueprint for Selecting Colleges and A Guide to Building the Perfect College List. I’d also highly recommend that you read The Ultimate College List Builder!

      Lynn O.

  31. Hello Lynn,

    I am just starting to dive into the class with a mixture of anxiety, relief and excitement! I am from Austin, Texas and have a son in 11th grade who is interested in studying Biomedical Engineering.

    I am a widow and while we did save for college, I would like to make the best decisions I can for my son allowing him to get a great education, have plenty of opportunities and options while not completely destroying us financially 🙂

    I look forward to learning how to go about this whole college search business!

  32. Hi Lynn – I am a parent of 3 kids in CA, in the Los Angeles area. One is in his junior year of high school, the others are in 8th grade & 6th grade. My junior is a 4.0+ student taking AP classes & ranked in the top1-2% of his class. He has taken the SAT once, scoring in low 1300s. He is taking a prep course to take it again in March. He certainly has grades to get into lots of colleges but we don’t have a big college fund saved so like many I am trying to navigate all of this. We are a high income family now but that wasn’t always the case so the EFC is frustrating. Trying to figure out maximizing merit aid and how the assets that we do have will affect aid. Looking forward to the class!

    1. Post

      Hi Jennifer,

      Welcome to the class. What you learn will benefit not only your oldest child, but the younger ones too!

      Thanks to your son’s GPA, he will enjoy more options. I understand how frustrating that is to enjoy a higher income right at a time when it does matter in terms of financial aid.

      Keep in mind that your family, based on what you told me, will not qualify for the need-based Cal Grant offered in California so when looking at state schools, you will be almost certainly paying full price. You’ll want to compare the full price of a state school with what you can get at state schools outside California, as well as private colleges.

      I would suggest that you look at the list that includes full ride and full tuition scholarships that you’ll find in the Bonus Material section.

      Lynn O.

  33. Hi Lynn
    Question regarding the PSAT/NMSQT and becoming a finalist. Do you have any tips or trips in terms of maximizing that benefit? I note some schools offer substantial merit aid for such a designation (from 2014) but not sure if there is a current list.
    Any info you may have would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you,

    1. Post

      Hi Lucy,

      Whether or not your son is a finalist, he’ll have many schools interested in giving him scholarships. Keep in mind that the most prestigious schools (those with excellent U.S. News rankings) will give little or no money for National Merit Finalists. They can attract these smart students without using carrots.

      There are less prestigious schools (and I encourage throwing a wider net!) where your child could get a big scholarship or a full ride. My friend Michelle Kretzchmar over at DIY College Rankings has a list of schools in this category. Here is the link:

      Here is a list that was updated in August 2016 of schools giving merit scholarships:

      Here is a link with a list of state schools that offer free tuition or more from finalists:

      Here is a link to a helpful U.S. News interactive map on this subject:

      Lynn O.

      1. Wow!! Thank you .

        I listened to to “Main Sources of College Money” and I have a couple of questions:
        1. The educational compacts- specifically New England Board of Higher ed. A school that I want my kids to check out may have an in-state tuition for a major our state school does not offer. Would a merit aid value change if the child did decide to double up on this additional major (it’s a language that they both love) to gain that reduced rate?
        2. Would declaring that second major to take advantage of the reduced rate hurt their chances of getting in the school (the institution now knowing they will not get full tuition)?

        Also, I learned from guidance that scholarships are subtracted from what schools give that’s why so few students apply. However, your lecture stated that is only the case for need based. Merit based is not decreased. (I just want to confirm I did not misunderstand?)

        FYI, I have not received the webinars in an email but I did receive your last email regarding essay prompts. Please make sure I am on your list.

        Thank you,

        1. Post

          Hi Lucy,

          I would direct specific questions about how a university in the New England compact would handle double majors to that particular institution.

          As for private scholarships – I’m assuming that is what you are referring to – they are not deducted from a student’s merit scholarship. So if a child isn’t receiving any need-based aid there isn’t any need to worry about an institutional merit scholarship being reduced.

          I am sorry you didn’t get the recording! I sent the webinar recording out to everyone the next evening. The software I use tell me if an email isn’t delivered and yours was. I would check your spam folder where it might be hiding. Keep in mind that you can always find the recordings in the Bonus Material lesson. Here is the link to the last webinar recording:

          Please download it before viewing it or Dropbox will freeze the replay.

          Lynn O.

  34. Hi, I’m Karen Beaudry a resident of Seattle, WA for more than 25 years. I was born and raised in Brooklyn NY. I have had a 30 year career in information technology – working for IBM, Internet start-ups, Allscripts Healthcare, Security Pacific Bank. But, I love everything about colleges and universities.

    I have helped the children of friends and family with their college search/admission process over the years and I am finally taking the plunge to become an Independent Educational Consultant. I am enrolled in the College Counseling Certificate program at UCLA (online).

    We have a son (26) and daughter (23) who attended Seattle Prep and then went on to USC and Washington State University. Both are graduated and working in the video game industry and hospitality industry.

    I am excited to increase my knowledge in the financial side of college counseling.

    1. Post

      Hi Karen,

      Welcome to the class!

      What an interesting background you have! I’ve found that many of the parents who end up as college consultants did so after enjoying helping their own children and sometimes their friends.

      My class will be an excellent supplement to the UCLA course since that program spends very little time on the financial side of college. You’ll find that the UCLA course devoted to financial aid is quite rudimentary. I graduated from the course back in 2009.

      Lynn O.

  35. Hello,
    My name is Lucy from Rhode Island, my son is a junior and I have a daughter who is a freshman. I am so stressed about properly planning, I hear horror stories from young grads at work of loans in excess of 200,000!!! I want to set my kids up for success. I learned about Lynn from a lecture at Splash at MIT, the speaker said you were THE expert.

    1. Post

      Hi Lucy,

      Welcome to the class! I am delighted that someone at the MIT Splash program recommended me!

      There are horror stories about college debt, but the folks who borrow such excessive amounts are usually pursuing graduate or professional degrees, as well as attending for-profit schools.

      There is absolutely no reason to borrow that kind of money! And also, when borrowing through federal loans, there are income-based repayment plans that will allow borrowers to repay what they owe based on what they are making rather than what they owe. I discuss loans and repayment options in the course.

      I promise you will learn a lot about how to make college more affordable in this class!

      Lynn O.

  36. Hi Lynn and everyone! My name is Linda Keiles, and I am a fairly new Independent Educational Consultant in Long Beach, California. I’m also the mom of 2 kids and 2 step kids, all of college age or older. It seems like the financial aid process changed with each kid and each college, so when I started as an IEC, I felt like I knew some of the rules, but goalposts kept moving!
    I’m hoping to add to my knowledge of everything Financial Aid, from the basics of applying to the most generous schools, so that I can help my families to make choices about where to apply to college, and how to interpret their financial aid offers once accepted to schools.
    My biggest challenge as a professional is having enough confidence in my own knowledge so that I can truly be as valuable as possible during the decision-making process. My students come from different economic levels and have different needs, and thus different awards. I want them all to know that there is money available from different sources, and for my folks in the upper income range, I want them to understand that they don’t have to pay sticker price for college. Looking forward to lots of great info!

    1. Post

      Hi Linda,

      Welcome to the class! I agree with you that this is a changing field. Of course, the biggest change lately is the move by the FAFSA and the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE to use two-year-old tax returns and the earlier deadline to file for financial aid. That’s a huge win for families.

      You will learn a ton in this class that will help your families grapple with how they can make college more affordable. I promise that you will gain confidence in being able to evaluate schools financially and feel free to give the course resource guides to your clients including the one that shares the schools that say they meet 100% of a family’s financial need.

      Lynn O.

  37. Howdy from San Antonio, Texas. My son is a junior in h.s. attending Christ School for Boys in Asheville, N.C. My sophomore daughter attends St. Mary’s Hall in San Antonio– both Episcopal tradition schools. Our family’s income is oil and gas dependent– my husband is a petroleum engineer, which is like riding a bucking bronco. We need to counsel our children to help them investigate and choose colleges within our cost range. We are older parents, having graduated from college in the mid 80s — much has changed and costs have soared. I am certain this course will be of help.

    1. Post

      Thanks for joining the class, Cynthia. Wow, your son is attending high school far away. That must present some challenges and benefits. I know there were many times when I would have liked my son, when he was a teenager, to be far away! I am sure that “riding a bucking bronco” is an apt description of the oil and gas business. You will certainly learn a lot about affording college in this class!

      Lynn O.

  38. Hi Lynn and everyone,

    I signed up for the class because my daughter is a high school junior and we have been on full blown college search mode for the last couple of years. We have visited 19 schools in the past 3 years. My daughter is a high achieving student who has identified many things that she would like in a school. My wife and I are public school teachers in NH, so our income is modest. We are specifically interested in schools that meet 100% of a student’s need WITHOUT loans. Last summer we toured University of Chicago (two alumni in the family – my siblings) and UChicago stated that they were committed to doing exactly this within the next year. We would love to find additional schools that fall onto this same category. 100% need all four years without loans. My daughter really likes the Jesuit model of teaching but open to other schools, liberal arts foundation or core with her goal to go on to Law School. Also looking at BC, Trinity in Hartford, CT , Northwestern, and Macalester College. Generous schools that meet 100% need is our focus. Looking forward to your insights and materials.

  39. Hi Lynn (and virtual classmates),

    I have really enjoyed your webinars and have already learned a great deal. My husband and I are English professors at a public research university in NY State and we have two daughters. Our eldest is a sophomore (’19) who attends an excellent independent girls’ school and she would like to attend a small liberal arts college. She excels in the Humanities (English, History and Spanish), but does not score very high in STEM fields (B range). She doesn’t want large college lectures and would prefer small seminars with a lot of discussion. She has been adamant about not starting her college search too soon as she doesn’t want to rush the high school experience, so I have had to shut up about college and leave it to the timetable of her school, which suggests January in the Junior year to begin visiting colleges (and she has already taken PSATs, and one forthcoming AP exam in May). Would you recommend visiting colleges when school is in session rather than a summer visit (i.e. this coming August)?

    Our youngest daughter (6th grade) also attends a private school and will more than likely also be attending the same girls’ school. So we have been and will continue to be juggling steep tuition bills. We have a hefty 529 set up for each daughter and I calculated our EFC. The Net Calculator experience was interesting: some schools gave us very little discount, but others were more generous. I didn’t expect such variance among “brand” New England Liberal Arts Colleges.

    I am hoping to get out of this seminar an overall knowledge about the college selection process as well as expertise in navigating the financial aid maze (and merit aid/scholarships). I also like your strategy of looking beyond the conventional LACs and thinking more broadly in terms of region. But the “brand” schools (and I include here research 1 universities) also possess cultural capital and that certainly helps when applying to graduate programs (and competing for doctoral scholarships), if one’s child wants to pursue doctoral work. So I’m weighing the different meanings of the question: Is an elite college ‘worth’ the price?

    Finally, I have also been looking at colleges in the UK (my husband is British and I attended an MA program in the UK). The fees for a British university look to be $30,000 given the pound/dollar currency exchange rate now (except Oxbridge which seems to add another $15,000). What advice do you have for students who may want to pursue their undergraduate degree abroad? My husband is concerned that the sheer culture shock will be too distracting for her first few years!

    Thanks again for your helpful materials and advice!

    1. Post

      Hi Carrie,

      Thanks for joining the class.

      It’s nice that your daughter knows what type of school she wants to attend. Most teenagers don’t even know what a liberal arts college is or how they differ from universities. I am sure that the fact that her parents are professors gives her a leg up.

      I think it’s preferable to visit schools when they are in session. This way she can talk with students and professors.

      Here are some questions that I suggest teenagers ask random students on a campus visit:

      What do you like about this school?
      What don’t you like about this school?
      If you had the ability and the money to make the school better how would you spend it?
      Why did you choose this school?

      My children visited schools in the summer and the fall. I wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to visit even if the school isn’t in session.

      I am glad that you picked up on my firm belief that families should look more broadly for schools. Studies have shown that going to the most elite school is of most important for low-income and first-gen students.

      As for attending a brand-name college in the hopes of gaining an advantage in graduate schools for a future job in academia, this is a very narrow niche indeed. I’d argue that the chances of getting into a prestigious graduate program could be better if you are a big fish in a small pond. You are able to stand out rather than trying to rise to the top at a school where everyone was a standout at their high schools. This is something Malcolm Gladwell wrote about in one of his books. I believe it was Outlier.

      Also, I would not recommend busting your budget on the off chance that your daughter will want to be a professor. As you know, most Phds who are in academia are adjunct professors making outrageously low wages.

      Lynn O.

  40. Hi! My name is Kristin Bogue and I am an Independent College Counselor in San Diego, CA. I am taking this class to become more knowledgeable about financial aid so that I can better serve the families I work with.

    1. Post
  41. Hi! I am currently from Los Angeles, CA. My husband and I are artists so our income is inconsistent. We discovered that with our assets, we unfortunately qualify for very little need-based aid. I have one college-bound teenager who is unclear what he wants to study in college, making it a bit challenging to know where to look. My son LOVES calculus, plays the cello (in his 8th year), is in his 3rd year of varsity baseball and 3rd year of Leadership at his high school.

    I learned so much in the one-hour class last week – thank you! I look forward to some direction and peace of mind. Knowledge is power for me!

    1. Post

      Hi Kristin,

      Thanks for joining the class.

      It sounds like your son might want to be a math major. My son majored in mathematics at Beloit College and had a great experience. Following a passion is often a smart way to go.

      With your son loving music, you could also explore schools that offer opportunities for non music majors. (I’m assuming he doesn’t want to major in music.) Some schools that come to mind are St. Olaf College (MN), Lawrence University (WI), Northwestern University (IL), Butler University (IN), DePauw University (IN) University of Iowa and Carnegie Mellon (PA). Northwestern and Carnegie Mellon are going to provide little to no merit aid. I’d be sure to run the net price calculator at schools that provide little to no merit aid to be sure that you wouldn’t qualify for need at institutions like those.

      St. Olaf is also very strong in math. My son spent a semester at St. Olaf’s math program in Budapest and it kicked his butt. It attracts very bright math students from elite schools across the U.S. In fact, Ben wondered how he got in!

      I’m glad you learned a lot in the hour-long webinar!

      Lynn O.

  42. Hi! We live in Northern Virginia; our daughter is a junior and (currently) is interested in an undergraduate program that will be a nice foundation for physical therapy graduate school. I am a PT myself – this direction is all her, though! There are a few freshman entry, accelerated PT programs (6 years instead of 7) in PA that are appealing but we are continuing to research the strength of those programs and fit of those universities, considering that she may very well change her mind re: career once this journey begins at a “right fit” school. She loved her visits to UNC and UVa and we will visit William & Mary, Pitt, Villanova and some other Boston and PA schools as well. From what I’ve learned so far, not many of those listed are merit aid gems 🙂

    Based on prelim EFC calculators, we don’t anticipate qualifying for aid and are looking to make the strongest decision educationally and financially with her. We plan to maximize any merit aid/private scholarship opportunities and are hoping that you can help guide us! She has very strong test scores, GPA and extracurricular activities.
    Thank you!

    1. Post

      Hi Keena,

      Thanks for joining the class!

      I am glad that you are researching the strength of potential PT programs. Too many people, as I’ve mentioned in my recent webinar, just select schools primarily by brand name which is a superficial way to do it.

      It’s good that you recognized that your child may change her major while in college. About 80 percent of students end up changing their major at least once, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. On average, college students change their major at least three times over the course of their college career.That’s a big reason why I think parents should chill out if their teenagers don’t know what they want to major in.

      The fact that your daughter has strong test scores and GPA will definitely provide more opportunities. Most schools practice preferential packaging which means they give their best awards to students whom they covet the most.

      You’ll find a lot in this course about merit awards. That is where the big money should be for your family. As for private scholarships, usually your best bet is to look for local scholarships since there is less competition. Private scholarships sponsors tend to favor students who are active in their communities.

      Lynn O.

  43. Hi, We are from Long Island NY. Our 16 y/o daughter is a junior starting her college search. There is just too much to know about this process so we are hoping your course will organize and prioritize things for us. In particular we want to help our daughter zero in on the best colleges for her. Like many of her friends, she does not know what major she wants to pursue which makes college selection more difficult.. Also, we do not want her to leave college with a mountain of debt.

    1. Post

      Hi Raymond,

      I’m glad you’re in the class.

      That’s admirable that you don’t want to leave your daughter with lots of debt and I assume you don’t want to take on too much either. FYI, the best college loan to get is the federal Direct Loan for students. Most students can borrow up to $31,000 over five years with the Direct Loan. There is also a safety net in the form of federal repayment programs that allow students to repay their loans based on what they are making rather than what they owe. It’s a solid safety net.

      You are lucky you are located in New York because the prices for state schools are quite reasonable compared to most state schools on the East Coast. As a resident, you can pay $8,000 to $9,000 a year for tuition at SUNY universities. Nonresidents can find the SUNYs to be relatively cheap too.

      As I mentioned elsewhere, I wouldn’t worry about a child not knowing what he/she wants to major in. About 80% of college students end up changing their major.

      Lynn O.

    1. Post

      Hi Eva,

      Glad to have someone from Texas in the class. Thanks for joining! I am happy that you want to keep learning!

      Lynn O.

  44. Hi Lynn. My name is Sharon Sullivan and I am from Red Bank, New Jersey. My son is a Junior in in a Catholic high school and is looking for more medium-sized schools not in cities. He may want to pursue Computer Science or Meteorology. The problem with Meteorology is that only very large schools seem have it (like Rutgers or Penn State). We did find 3 smaller options: University of Delaware, SUNY Oneonta or Millersville U. in PA which will visit. We have also looked at some non-meteorology schools such as Skidmore College, Sacred Heart U. and Quinnipiac U. so far. A few others on that list are TCNJ, Muhlenberg College, Iona College, etc. So that’s where we are at right now….He is a hard worker with a decent GPA 3.75. However, he has a central auditory processing disorder and requires an accommodation of extra time in school. My husband and I can probably afford about $30.000ish a year for school and he is an only child. I am hoping to learn a lot from your course. I want to feel like I know what I am really doing when I fill out FAFSA or CSS Profile and to see if Merit Aid anywhere is an option for us. I watched your webinar from this past weekend and I really learned some valuable things, so I thought I would give this course a shot. Looking forward to the next 2 months of learning…

    1. Post

      Hi Sharon,

      Thanks for joining the class.

      Most medium-sized schools are master’s level universities, which can be a hybrid between a liberal arts college and a research university. I think these are the hardest type of schools to evaluate because you have to determine if they are more undergrad focused like a liberal arts college or more like a research university where undergrads are the third priority after professor research and graduate education.

      It is challenging when a child thinks he wants a narrow niche major like meteorology. One thing I’d suggest is that he do an informational interview with a meteorologist and follow him or her around for a day. This could give your son a better idea of what a meteorologist does.

      Computer science allows more choices – research universities, master’s level universities and liberal arts colleges.

      With your son’s processing disorder, you’ll want to explore the LD services at the schools you are visiting. I’ve written in the past about how to evaluate these services and what to ask. Here is a link to posts that I’ve written on this subject:

      Your son will definitely qualify for merit aid at many, many schools. The course will explain how to identify schools that provide it and how much. I’d be sure to check out the module entitled, Tools to Find Generous Colleges, to learn how to use helpful tools from the College Board and COLLEGEdata. You’ll also learn how to use the Common Data Set.

      And, of course, you’ll want to use the net price calculator for each school.

      Lynn O.

  45. Hi Lynn,

    I’m from Naperville, Illinois, with a daughter in 11th grade. She is interested in STEM and possibly attending a mid-sized school (around 10,000 students). She thinks that liberal arts colleges may be too small, and the typical state school too large, although I know there can be “smaller” colleges within large universities. So in addition to the financial aid aspects, I am very interested in getting help determining which schools to consider in our search given other criteria such as class size, faculty strength, graduation rate, salary, etc.


    1. Post

      Hi James,

      Welcome to the class!

      I would caution against teenagers having the size of a school heavily influence a choice. When teenagers put together a list of potential colleges, a campus size requirement is often way up at the top of their criteria.

      Hardly anyone questions teenagers for focusing on size. In fact, many high school counselors tell kids to look at size when evaluating schools.

      When kids evaluate colleges by size they are missing a much larger factor that should go into their college admission decisions. When teens and parents ask how big a school is, they rarely ask what is its educational mission.

      In my mind, a school’s mission is far more important than its size. There is a link between a school’s mission and size that is important to consider when evaluating schools. Large schools are usually research universities and among small schools are liberal arts colleges. Medium sized schools are often master’s level universities.

      I talk about these three types of schools in the course resource guide entitled, Your Smart Blueprint for Selecting Colleges. Here is the link:

      In this guide you can also get ideas for how to generate a college list.

      Lynn O.

  46. Hello, I’m Ann from Santa Rosa, CA. I’m in the process of launching an Independent Educational Consultant business and see this as an incredible way to add to the services I can offer my students and their families. I also have 3 children (11th, 9th & 2nd grade) so I will also personally benefit! I am incredibly excited to see all you have to offer.

    1. Post

      Hi Ann,

      I’m glad you joined the class. This will give you a great head start with tools you can use with your clients when evaluating schools financially. One thing you should do with clients is have them use the EFC calculator and have them share the federal and institutional figures with. That’s a lot less invasive than asking for their income and assets.

      Of course, the class will help you with your own kids too!

      Lynn O.

  47. Hello, we are Matt & April from Idaho and we homeschool our three children. Our oldest daughter is a junior and loves all things science and does not want to go to a liberal arts school. I guess she has had plenty of that in our classical education model. We are pretty limited in Idaho so are thinking she will need to go out of state as she wants to do research.

    Like many who have signed in, we will not qualify for need-based aid. It is not that we (we are a one income household) make “so much” it is that we have saved, drive 20+ year old cars, have a retirement, own our house and have lived frugally all these years. Now, we feel like we will be penalized for that lifestyle in that while our daughter will more than likely be a NMS with a 224 IS and has many other great test scores and grades to back up her excellent academic mind (ACT=35, SAT = 1540, AP Scholar etc.) we cannot afford 60K+ a year to send her to schools that she probably could get into but we can’t afford.

    So, we do not want to waste time or money on applications for schools that will not meet what we think is our EFC, contrary to their Net Price Calculators. But making that list of schools has been daunting. The one she is really interested in is Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, but is that really a good fit? Are there others that would be a good fit like that, that are closer to home.

    In summary, we joined this class to try to help us develop a list of colleges for her to apply to that will engage her scientific mind, allow her to do research and help to meet the cost via merit scholarships.

    1. Post

      Hi April and Matt,

      Welcome to the class. Congratulations on your daughter’s stellar academic prowess. She will have lots of opportunities and you will not have to pay $60,000 or more at the vast majority of schools. She can easily get merit scholarship offer.

      Beyond her academic statistics, she has something that schools crave – she’s from Idaho. Schools love to get students from less populated remote states so that is a plus.

      You should look at the list of more than 1,200 scholarships from more than 600 schools in the Bonus Material section. That should give you some ideas of what’s out there.

      I would definitely run the net price calculator on RPI. The average merit aid is $16,511. Someone like your daughter, who is at the top end of her class, should be able to get more than that at an expensive school.

      At whatever school she is interested in, she should make contact with the appropriate admission counselor at the school, so the person will be in her camp and advocate for her. More schools than ever are interested in so-called demonstrated interest – students showing that they are actually interested in the school.

      I should mention that students who attend liberal arts colleges are more likely to conduct undergraduate research. It can be quite difficult to do that at research universities. And this is something she should ask current students and also professors about when she is researching RPI and other institutions.

      One school that I would suggest you check out for undergrad research – and it’s in your region – is Montana State in Bozeman. The Carnegie Foundation has singled out Montana State as an intense research university that is devoted to undergraduate research.

      Also check out my resource guide in the Bonus Material module – Your Smart Blueprint for Selecting Colleges – for ideas on how to create a college list.

      Lynn O.

      Lynn O.

  48. Hi,

    I missed the first class day due to work commitments. My wife Mary and I have two daughters, Elizabeth, 8th grade, and Genevieve, 6th grade. We have saved some $ for their college costs but not nearly enough. Also, we know that we probably will not be eligible for too much financial aid, if at all, based on the manner in which financial aid decisions are based. Elizabeth has been an A+ student since 5th grade and she has talked about attending college since then as well. She loves math and science and wants to be either a math teacher or an engineer. We are hoping she chooses engineering. I am taking this course to obtain a good working knowledge of what it takes to assist our daughters to chose a major that interests them, select the right schools to apply to, help them with the SAT & ACT, and maybe get some financial aid. We live in Pembroke, Massachusetts.

    1. Post

      Hi Mark,

      Welcome to the class. I think it’s smart to start early in exploring your options. And you still have considerable time to save for college which many people who take my course do not.

      I wouldn’t dwell much on what major your middle schooler is interested in at this point. In fact, I wouldn’t worry if she doesn’t know by the time she starts college. High schools actually expose students to a relatively small number of disciplines which doesn’t prepare them for all the opportunities they have.

      I wrote about a study several years ago that suggested that students who started college without declaring a major actually graduate in four years at a higher rate than those who start college with a major. Students who are undeclared are more likely to explore their options before picking a major.

      Here is the link to my post:

      My son started out as a physics major and then decided in the second half of his freshmen year that he’d rather major in math. He added a studio art minor and he also discovered at college that he liked philosophy. While he originally was interested in engineering, he ended up deciding he wanted to be a high school math teacher. If your daughter selects that route, I’d urge her to check out the STEM teacher residency programs to become a teacher and get a master’s degree at the same time. Here is a post I wrote back in 2015 about Ben’s teacher residency program. You’ll find them in many major cities and it’s an excellent way to get a free master’s degree and just about a guaranteed job.

      I’d suggest that you take a look at the course resource guide in the Bonus Material section for some SAT/ACT strategies.

      Lynn O.

  49. Hello, we are Steve and Betty Poe. Our son, James, is a junior at Everest Public High School, a college prep charter school in Redwood City, CA (on the peninsula, about 30 miles south of San Francisco). James loves to code. We’re looking for tips to help us navigate the college selection process. We haven’t saved much for college so we need help in finding cost effective alternatives. We’re looking forward to learning from your research.

  50. Hi, we are Matt and Paula Reese. Our oldest daughter Alex is a junior at Downingtown East HS and we live in Chester Springs, PA. We will not be qualifying for need base assistance and are looking for ways to mitigate the cost of college. Her test scores get her very close to NMS recognition so she is bright and capable. Looking for help for her in assessing majors as well as cost effective schools.

    1. Post

      HI Paula and Matt,

      Thanks for joining the class. Six years ago I spoke at your high school!

      There are state schools outside Pennsylvania that will give you daughter full rides or full tuition scholarships. One that comes to mind is Arizona State U. that has a well respected small school within a huge state university via the Barrett Honors College. Much closer to home is the University of Pittsburgh that has an honors college and an aggressive scholarship program for top students. Many state universities created honors colleges within their campuses year ago to lure smart students who normally would be interested in private colleges and universities. When looking for merit scholarships, state universities are often quite transparent when it comes to what the requirement are for these awards. State schools usually focus on the numbers – GPA and test scores.

      Lynn O.

      Of course, many, many private schools would give your daughter merit scholarships. In this course you will find out how to evaluate private schools and state schools when looking for merit scholarships.

      Lynn O.

  51. Hi, I am from Ipswich Massachusetts, on the shore north of Boston. My husband and I own and operate a small construction company. We have one daughter who is a freshman in public high school. My husband is retirement age, but not retired from working. We are hoping to continue working in the business at least until our daughter finishes high school. This is not a sad story, my husband loves his work, but he is 71 and the job is demanding physically.

    Unfortunately, with the rough economic times of the past five years, we don’t have enough saved to fully pay for college. We would not be eligible for any financial aid, so, as for many there is a large gap on what we can afford and the cost.

    My daughter is very bright. She is one of the top students in her class, she gets good grades and schoolwork is easy for her. She also dances and plays volleyball. She attended private school through fifth grade. We looked at sending her to private high school, but I didn’t see how we could afford the $45K/year for high school and then pay for college after that.

    I am most interested in finding the right fit college for her and secondly figuring out the best way to afford it. I am looking forward to the course.

    1. Post

      Hi Amy,

      Welcome to the class. I am sure there are many parents taking this class that face the same challenges that you do. There certainly has been in previous classes.

      When you don’t qualify for financial need and your college fund isn’t adequate, it’s important to cast a wider net. It’s fortuitous that your daughter is bright because she will have more options. The best thing she can do for the family is to continue to do well in school.

      You’ll want to be aware of the type of schools that wouldn’t give your daughter any merit scholarships or very little. You’ll learn about those schools in the class. And I have a resource guide in the course that lists the no-merit aid schools. Just check in the Bonus Material module for it.

      You can look for schools where your daughter’s academic stats would stand out. In other words, she’s be near the top of the applicant pool. You might have seen the example in my recent webinar where I discussed a Pennsylvania mom, whose daughter wasn’t going to qualify for any need-based aid. The daughter had originally been looking at elite schools like the Ivies that don’t give merit aid (and also reject nearly everyone), but they switched gears and started looking for schools that would give merit scholarships. She ended up getting full ride or full tuition scholarships from places like Tulane, Syracuse and the University of Pittsburgh, where she would have been enrolled in the school’s honors college.

      Usually schools automatically give out merit scholarships but at some schools you need to apply separately. Or schools could have automatic merit scholarships, but they reserve their best scholarships for students who apply for them. You’ll need to ask admission reps at individual schools about this. Also ask about institutional side scholarships that require a separate application for such things as academic majors, activities and talents.

      The state schools on the East Coast are the most expensive in the country (NY state is an exception). The cheapest state schools are in the interior west.

      Lynn O.

  52. Hi Lynn, I am from Albany, California (just outside of San Francisco). My son is a 16 year old junior. He is a bright kid who gets good grades and does well on standardized tests. He has ambitions of going to an expensive school, and is particularly interested in Georgetown, but is also interested in UC Berkeley.

    I do not believe that we would qualify for financial aid and am therefore concerned about him wanting to go to an expensive school that does not provide merit scholarships, as we don’t have that kind of money (plus we have a 13 year old daughter who will be in college after him). I hope to become a savvy college shopper, financially and otherwise.

    I am also interested in what kind of arrangements I can make with my son, to induce him to go to a school that will provide merit scholarships, or that is less expensive, such as a UC school. For example, perhaps I can tell him that if he goes to UC Berkeley, we will put some of the money that we would have paid toward a more expensive school into a graduate school fund (he wants to go to law school or business school), whereas if he goes to an expensive school without merit money, we will not be able to afford contributing to graduate school and he might also need to incur student loan debt. This is just an example, but I’m looking for ideas along this line.

    Thank you.

    1. Post

      Hi Mark,

      Georgetown is one of the 23 schools that I know that do not give merit aid. There are other elite universities that give very little. You’ll find Georgetown on the list of no-merit aid schools in my resource guide, Schools That Don’t Provide Merit Scholarships.

      I would suggest that you could tell your son the truth – you are worried about how you will pay for an expensive school without merit aid when you have his sister to pay for later. And, I assume, you need to be concerned about your retirement accounts. You shouldn’t sacrifice your retirement prospects for a brand name school. Children aren’t entitled to attend $65,000 to $70,000 schools just because they are smart students.

      I bet your son knows very little about Georgetown beyond being a well-known university in a desirable location. Many studies have shown you don’t need to go to one of these elite schools to do extremely well in life. If fact, these kinds of schools typically only give a leg up to first generation students and minorities.

      Here are some things that I’d recommend reading:

      Lynn O.

        1. Post
  53. Hello,
    I am Matt and I am a school counselor at a very affluent high school in Westchester County, NY. I have 20 years experience as a school counselor and/or a college admissions counselor. I feel well versed in the the world of college admissions, but I think I can always learn more about the financial side of things. This is my weak spot. Most of the families I work with do not need financial aid, but I want to know more for my own edification. Moreover, I have an 8 year old and a 11 year old, so I will be thinking of them too, (not too far down the road). I heard you (Lynn) on a podcast and I was impressed with your financial literacy in this area. So….here I am.

    1. Post

      Hi Matt,

      I’m so glad you enrolled in the class! Once you go through this class, I can promise that you will know vastly more about the financial side of college than most school counselors!

      Many affluent parents have taken this class and I can tell you that many of them are worried about the high cost of the schools that their children typically covet. Schools that attract a high percentage of wealthy applicants are more likely to give little or no merit money. On the other hand, the vast majority of schools, as I mentioned on the webinar, award most students with merit money.

      What you’ll learn can also eventually help your own children!

      Lynn O.

  54. Hello all,

    My 17-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, are juniors at a great college prep school in Jacksonville, FL.

    My daughter is a very strong student (3.97 GPA, all Honors or AP this year) and is looking at schools with solid or superior STEM curriculums. She’s considering a major in chemistry or biochemistry, but is open to other sciences as well. I think she also would be interested in doing some coursework in the arts—she takes an honors art class now that has proven to be a great pressure valve in terms of offsetting her challenging class schedule. We will be visiting Washington & Lee, UVA and William and Mary over President’s Day weekend. We’re looking at liberal arts colleges and small regional research schools because I think she would flourish in a smaller school environment. Other colleges on her radar are the University of Washington at St. Louis, Bucknell, Georgia Tech, Case Western Reserve, Colgate, Davidson, Grinnell, Hamilton, Lafayette, Wesleyan, Union College, and maybe Wake Forest.

    My son is a great kid and a wonderful athlete, and is also very charming. However his grades and test scores are very middle of the road–cumulative GPA 3.3, with a 2.97 this semester 🙁 He isn’t sure what he wants to study in college, although I certainly hope he will continue his interest in the Chinese language, which he has been taking since 7th grade. At present, he’s most interested in big state schools with great football teams that are located in “cool” towns. (Hmm, which boy isn’t??) Personally, I fear he might get lost in a school that doesn’t have a strong support network for freshmen. We’ve already visited UGA and Clemson, and he liked both (he seems to be drawn to schools that have special Freshman programs to help kids find their footing and academic interest). Over President’s Day weekend, my husband is taking him up to Alabama to tour Auburn and the University of Alabama. We also plan to tour all the usual Florida schools, too.

    My husband’s preference, of course, is to send the twins to state schools in Florida, or to any other school that doesn’t charge a fortune 🙂 We’ve saved dilgently for their education, and but can only budget a max of $50K per child per year. We won’t qualify for any financial aid, so we’ll need to try to offset any school with a total cost greater than $50K a year with merit scholarships.

    My hope is that this course will help me see beyond the usual crop of schools to find institutions that match my children’s unique talents and needs.

    1. Post

      Hi JeanMarie,

      Thanks for joining the class.

      You are indeed fortunate that you can spend up to $50,000 a year for each child! It’s rare that parents can approach anything like that budget! You will have lots of options.

      You are lucky that you are in Florida because the state schools are cheap. I understand, however, why your kids would like to go somewhere else and you have the resources to make that happen.

      One Florida state school that I’d suggest that your daughter check out is the honors college at Florida Atlantic. This could be a wonderful choice for families looking for the benefits of a private college for an inexpensive price. It’s totally separate from the main campus, in fact, it’s quite a few miles away. Here is an old blog post of mine that included a description of this honors college that sounded quite intriguing:

      The schools you mention for your daughter are a good lineup. When doing your research, I’d make sure to investigate the chemistry department of these schools. Here is a post that I wrote about investigating schools on the department level:

      Keep in mind, however, that some of the schools on your daughter’s list give either no merit aid or very little such as Colgate, Wesleyan, Union and Washington U in St. Louis. Grinnell is unusual because it is an elite liberal arts college, but it gives a high percentage of its student body price cuts (including merit scholarships) because it’s located in Iowa. This is also a wonderful school for students who have a lot of financial need. Grinnell is the richest liberal arts college in the country because it received Intel stock from one of its alums who founded Intel. Warren Buffet used to be on its board.

      Here is an old post worth reading and please check out the link to an essay that a Grinnell alum/Nobel Prize winner wrote on sciences and liberal arts colleges:

      I think looking for schools that can provide support to freshmen is an excellent idea for your son. And that’s great that he sees the value in it.

      Here is a cautionary tale for young men who want to go to big state universities with winning football programs: It’s worth reading!

      Lynn O.

  55. I’m an independent college consultant in the Washington, DC, area and find that cost and financial aid considerations have become a bigger driver in college choice decisions for most families. Often finding a financial fit between students and colleges is just as critical, if not more important than academic and social factors–or at least if a college is not a good financial fit, it doesn’t matter how perfect a fit the school is otherwise. Yet, so much of the process is largely a black box for many of us and varies widely by college, and the financial aid landscape continues to change year by year. I am taking this course so that I can be more informed and a better resource to the families and students I work with. Looking forward to it.

    1. Post

      Hi Mary Jane,

      Thanks for joining the class. I agree with you about the financial fit being critical!!

      As I always tell educational consultants, it is important to understand how families today can find more affordable options for college when money is an issue.

      The good news is that the process doesn’t have to be a black box. Colleges and universities are businesses and they are focused on acting in their own best interest. My aim in this class is to pull back the curtain to what they are doing so that families can be more empowered.

      Lynn O.

  56. Hi Lynn,

    I live in San Diego and have twin girls who are currently juniors in high school. Money will be the driving factor as to where they go. We probably make just enough money to not qualify for financial aid. The CA UC schools and State schools are the max in our price range but I know there must be other options out there for them and hope to figure this out through your class. Given their grades, I know they will qualify for merit aid at some schools. Neither one of them know what they want to study but they both know what they don’t want (ie, engineering, computer science, doctor — basically the better paying jobs.) They are both open minded in terms of size and location of the school. Looking forward to the class to get a better understanding of their options.
    Thank you!

    1. Post

      Welcome to the class Alllison.

      As you may or may not know, merit scholarships represent a very tiny percentage of the money that the University of California schools award. In fact, I was once told by a former UC president that no state money goes into merit scholarships at UC universities. These awards are funded by alumns primarily. California students who don’t qualify for the Cal Grant will almost always pay full price.

      Here is the link to the income ceiling for Cal Grant qualification for residents (non residents don’t qualify:

      If you don’t qualify for a Cal Grant, you should assume that you will pay full price at a UC and you’ll want to compare that price with what you would pay elsewhere – at a state school outside California or a private school anywhere.

      That is good that your children are open minded. It will be easier to find a good fit when teenagers don’t have preconceived notions about where they want to attend school .

      One thing that you should know about twins is that your Expected Family Contribution will drop by 50% (FAFSA) and 40% (PROFILE) when you have two children in college at once. You’ll learn more about this in the next module.

      Lynn O.

  57. Hi Lynn- I am an independent college counselor and am going into my 4th season. More and more the parents of the students I help need financial aid advising. I thought knew everything about it until I took on twins as a client last Fall. It has been a real challenge to anticipate where they might qualify for a good aid situation; either together or apart. Listening to your webinar the other night, I realized there is alot more to learn and I think this course will help me service my clients much better. I also have a 22 year old son who went to UCLA and an 18 year old daughter who just started at UChicago. We got a very good deal from UChicago this year and I’m afraid it’s all going to dry up as we just sold our house and bought a much cheaper one! SOS

    Kerry Rock
    RockSteady College Counseling

    1. Post

      HI Kerry,

      Welcome to the class!

      I think it is very smart of you to take the class because college consultants need to understand the basics of financial aid and merit scholarships. I believe it’s not advisable to recommend colleges in a financial vacuum if money is an issue.

      As for twins, a family’s Expected Family Contribution will drop by 50% with the FAFSA formula and drop by 40% for the formula used by the CSS/Financial Aid Formula. You will learn all about EFCs and how to use an EFC calciulator in the next module.

      As for the home equity, the FAFSA schools ignore home equity for the primary residence but schools using the PROFILE do usually count it. I don’t know what the policy of the University of Chicago is, but I’d recommend that you find out. If the school uses 100% of home equity then it couldn’t matter if the equity was still in your house versus in the bank. Please read the lesson – Home Equity and Financial Aid – in the module entitled, A Closer Look at Financial Aid Formulas. To learn more about this subject!

      Lynn O.

  58. Hi Lynn. My son is a Freshman in college this year (an out-of-state public school) and my daughter is in her junior hear of high school, just starting her college search. I’ve spent the last couple of years trying to learn all I can about selecting colleges, financial aid and awards, etc. But, sitting through your webinar earlier this week, I learned new information. I figured if you had new tidbits to share during that 1 hour, imagine what I might pick up through a course like this!

    While my son had some very clear ideas of where he wanted to attend, my daughter is a bit stymied, and as such, has not taken much action yet. Going in to February, I am hoping to better help her create a list of schools where she would be happy and excel … and that may have some money to spend getting her there.

    I look forward to trying to piece together the best roadmap for her situation through your course. I’m very excited for what lies ahead!

    1. Post

      HI Victoria,

      Welcome to the class. I am so glad you picked up some new things during the webinar! You will learn much more in this class. I promise!

      To help generate ideas, I’d suggest checking out two of the course resource guides -Your Smart Blueprint for Selecting Colleges and A Guide to Building a Perfect College List. The latter contains a variety of mostly websites that can be valuable in helping to generate ideas. The blueprint resource guide shares steps you can take to formulate a list.

      And the course has lots of information about how to cut your college costs as you research schools which is a huge consideration for most families!

      Lynn O.

  59. I am a high school counselor in a public school district located outside of Philadelphia. It is a busy time of year in our world so I am late starting the class. November 1st deadlines have passed so the first round is complete. I hope to gain more insight into financial aid opportunities when advising my students and their parents.

    1. Hi Stacy,

      Welcome to the class. I appreciate you participating in the class when I know it’s such a hectic time for you. The good news is that I will be sending everyone in the class all the materials when the course is over. You can print out all the lessons and the resource guides and keep the recorded webinars.

      Because you are a high school counselor, I would be happy for your to share any of the resource guides with your families!

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  60. Hi Lynn,

    My son is a freshman this year and I hope to learn and make some sense of this overwhelming college admissions process. He is a very hard worker, not a strong test taker, and has a mild learning processing challenge. He has recently fallen in love with NYU…! Yikes! We live in Redwood City in the SF bay area and he currently attends a private school as it caters to his academic needs. He will test again at age 16 for accommodations for the college admissions tests.
    I look forward to learning how to navigate through all the information.
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Yvonne,

      Welcome to the class Yvonne.

      One thing that I’d suggest you look into are test-optional schools. You can find the entire list on’s website. Here is a link to schools that are ranked in the top tiers of their respective categories:

      Many nonselective schools don’t use or deemphasize the SAT/ACT and many of the selective schools that are test optional are liberal arts colleges because they look at applicants holistically. About half of the top 100 liberal arts colleges are test optional now. Very selective research universities are less likely to be test optional.

      Here is an old story that I wrote for The New York Times on test-optional practices that is still relevant today:

      NYU, which is one of the stingiest schools in the country (very poor financial aid and very little merit aid) is test flexible, which means your son could turn in something other than the SAT or ACT. He could submit three AP test scores, three SAT subject tests or earn an IB diploma. Here is NYU’s policy:

      Here are some posts that I’ve written in the past about learning disability issues:

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  61. Hi, My wife and I have a 16 year daughter who is a junior. She has no idea what she want to do or major in. The only thing she says is important to her is a small school, the smaller the better and not affiliated with a church. I hope to learn to minimize the expense of college as the requirements of my wife/daughter are going to limit the choices so I have to find money wherever I can. Fortunately my daughter excels in school so we have that going for us.

    1. Hi Keith,

      I am glad you joined the class. I wouldn’t worry about your daughter not knowing what she wants to do since she is only 16. Many students who think they know what they want to do end up changing their majors which makes it even less important.

      It looks like your daughter would like to go to a liberal arts college. There are many out there and the vast majority of them offer merit scholarships and all give need-based aid. You will learn a lot in the course about how to evaluate the generosity of any college or university.

      If you haven’t read the book, Colleges That Change Lives, I’d pick up a copy. It’s pretty old by now, but it gives you a good idea about what liberal arts colleges are about. You can also check out the website at

      Your daughter will have more opportunities to receive financial aid and/or merit scholarships as a high achiever.

      A couple of course resource guides that I’d check out are The Ultimate College List Builder and The Smart Blueprint for Selecting Colleges.

      Lynn O.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

      1. Thank you Lynn for the resources. Also thanks for extending the class. I would not have been able to complete the course.

  62. Hi, My wife and I take care of her 17 year old niece who is getting ready for college. She has had a tough time, her father passed away and her mother is incarcerated, she has been with us for about 3 years. We have no other kids and being instant parents to a teenager has been challenging at times. We joined this class because we honestly have no idea how our financial situation will affect her ability to get financial aid. She will be 18 when she starts college and her parents are not around and we don’t know if we are going to be considered her ‘parents’ for purposes of FAFSA, or if she will be treated like a foster child. We hoped this class would help us. We have definitely gotten a late start on college prep and planning, so extra resources like yours will only help us out!

    1. Hi Regina,

      That is wonderful of you to be taking care of your niece. I can’t even imagine what your niece has had to go through in her short life!

      You will not use your income for the FAFSA. If you are the legal guardians through a court order, your niece is considered an independent student for financial aid purposes. The court must have created a legal guardianship. Assigning legal custody is not enough. A guardianship by an attorney would not be sufficient for your niece to be considered an independent student. If she is classified as an independent student, she would file her own FAFSA.

      If you don’t meet that guardianship standard, your niece would need to include her mother on the FAFSA.

      Lynn O.

  63. Hi,
    My wife Stephanie and I live in San Diego. We have a 15 year old son in Sophomore year who is interested in Biological sciences. Our 12 year old daughter is in 7th grade and not sure about her career interests right now. We have lived on one salary for the last 15 years and had no opportunity to save for college (although we are planning to use some stock from my current employer, about 35K right now). As of January of this year, we both have full time and well paid jobs and just bought our first house. We hope to get out of this course some good advice on the best financing strategies for college. Also, having both been educated in France, we must learn all the basics of the US college system.

    1. Hi Fabrice,

      Welcome to the class. Congratulations on buying a house in San Diego. That’s not an easy feat with the real estate prices here! Also congratulations on both having good paying jobs. I would suggest saving as much as possible for college. The more you save, the more options you will have. I promise you will learn a lot in this course!

      I wish college degrees were as economical here as they are in Europe!

      Lynn O.

      1. Hi Lynn,
        I asked this question at today’s webinar, but got cutoff from the last half hour, so I don’t know if you answered me.

        What is your general opinion about college consultants/coaches? How do you pick a good one? Any good internet resource that would help us recruit one? My wife and I have been educated in France so we feel that hiring a college consultant would be very helpful to navigate through the complexities of the US system.


  64. My wife and I live in Houston with my senior daughter, Grace, who wants to be D.C. for college but we are investigating other schools with great international relations / business programs.

    I hope to leverage Lynn’s experience to make this process easier. Grace is our oldest child so all this is a little overwhelming – OK a lot overwhelming.

    1. HI Walt,

      Welcome to the class. I totally get it that college is overwhelming. What I try to do is make it less stressful. I’d recommend reading a couple of the resource guides in the Bonus Material module – The Ultimate College List Builder and The Smart Blueprint for Selecting Colleges. That will give you a head start!

      Lynn O.

  65. Hello.
    Lynn I met you in person at an NCAG conf in CA. I am kinda a groupie. I love what you do to help families and I am a financial planner with a business focus on college planning and funding. I work with 30-70 families a year that need help.
    Excited to explore all that College Cost Lab has to offer and geek/groupie out a bit more.
    Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experiences with all of us.

    1. Hi Jessica,

      I definitely remember you! You are from North Carolina, right? I am glad you joined the course and I hope it helps you build upon your considerable knowledge about late-state college planning!

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  66. Hello, my name is Heather. My family and I live in Massachusetts. We have a Junior, freshman and 7th grader. I am at a loss with both the college search as well as the financial aspect of college and have very high hopes for this class. I have already learned so much from your book, Lynn!

  67. My name is Sophia Eyassu and I have twin sons who are now juniors. I’m a widow as of 3 years and it’s all moving so fast so I was seeking the best way to start the college planning process which was so so overwhelming until I started reading your blog since last spring and took your free webinar on Labor Day to end up enrolling for the College Lab. I already feel so empowered with how much information I am obtaining and understanding the major components in this process. I am looking forward to learning more. And I just love the way you share information, and am very impressed by your expertise as well as your engagement and sincere enthusiasm to help parents and students venturing into such a critical milestone.

    1. Hi Sophia,

      I am so sorry to hear about your loss!

      I am glad that the information from my blog and my webinar has been helpful to you. I truly hope that this class will help provide direction and make you a savvy college consumer.

      Thanks for your kind words. I can tell you that I am absolutely passionate about helping families by pulling back the curtains on how the higher-ed industry actually works! Colleges are businesses and parents need to know how to deal with this reality.

      Lynn O.

  68. We are from Sacramento, CA. My teenagers are a junior and a freshman. They are hard working, smart, athletic kids who have done what we asked of them by applying themselves in school. Touring schools as we travel here or there, I see a tangible look of excitement about the future. I hope to help them pick the right fit college that won’t break the bank for us or saddle them with debt. Choosing a college is daunting, as well figuring out how to pay for it, and I’m hoping this class will help me feel more confident with both.

    1. Hi Laura,
      Welcome to the class! Congratulations for your success with your children.

      I am glad that you are excited about the future. You are smart to be exploring how you can become an educated college consumer. You should learn a lot in this class!

      Lynn O.

  69. We live in Massachusetts. We have one daughter who is a junior in high school in a terrific school system. We are interested in getting a good fit for her with her college choice, and being a two-career couple with only one child, we know we can expect no need-based aid. So how she can maximize her opportunities with a good grade point average and test scores is of interest to all of us. We are just beginning college visits this fall.

  70. Hi Lynn. I
    1. My family lives in Huntsville AL. We moved here after a 20-year military career (full retirement). Our eldest (daughter) is a sophomore in the local community college–she is a below average student. My son is a senior, National Merit semifinalist and Rennsselaer award winner, and is active in sports and band. My youngest (daughter) is a 10th grader with good grades–but doesn’t have the sheer academic talent of her brother–and also very active in sports and band. At great sacrifice we have saved $100K (529 funds) for each child (total $300K) to use for college, but honestly we hope they can get merit scholarships to help them go wherever they want.

    2. We hope to get more insight into any financial strategies we can use for each of our kids. We have lots of college visits under our belts (over 20 visits). My eldest needs a 4-year school to finish her degree. My son (engineering) and youngest daughter (STEM) want to attend the best school possible that will give them a favorable (1/2 tuition or better) scholarship.

    3. I’m not a professional but, with our current salaries and retirement, we are well into the top 5% of wage earners. The challenge is finding the right school that will not penalize my kids for our income and the 529 savings but will recognize and reward them for their years of hard work that earned good grades and standardized test scores.

    1. Hi David,

      Thanks for joining the class. Congratulations for having good-paying jobs and a pension! That will be a big help when paying for college.

      I would read the article on my blog about National Merit winners. There are plenty of schools that will provide National Merit students with large scholarships, but many are not name brand schools. Here is the link:

      I’d also check out the list of full-ride and full-tuition scholarships in the Bonus Material section.

      For your daughter, I’d recommend looking for schools that can support her academically. Students with poorer GPA are more at risk of not graduating with a bachelor’s degree.

      I’d suggest that you use the College Board’s EFC calculator just to be sure that you won’t qualify for financial aid. A huge factor for financial aid is your income. Your assets are less of a factor.

      If you don’t qualify for financial aid, you will want to look for merit scholarships. There is plenty of lessons in this course that will help you to pinpoint schools that have merit scholarships. The vast majority of them do.

      Lynn O.

  71. Hello. My name is Brian Wiles, we have 3 teenagers (senior, junior and a freshman) and live in Forest Dale, Vermont. Our hopes for this course are to obtain a clearer understanding of how schools look at applications and backgrounds of students, a better idea of how to search and review potential financial aid sources and what we can do now to prepare for our junior and freshman coming up through as they ready for college as well.

    1. It’s great to have someone from Vermont in the class! When I was in grade school my dream was to live on a maple syrup farm in Vermont and write historical novels for girls. I became a writer, but have never even visited Vermont (yet!).

      A great resource to get an overall sense of what schools care about when looking at applications is the annual admission report from the National Association for College Admission Counselors. Here is the link to the latest report that was released this month:

      Check out Chapter 3, Factors in Admission Decisions, in the report.

      State schools primarily look at GPAs and test scores for admission decisions. Private colleges that look at students holistically will go beyond those measures, but grades in college prep classes, as well as overall GPAs, are going to be the biggest factors. Of course, what are attractive GPAs and test scores will depend on the selectivity of the school.

      Also please read the lesson, How to Use a Common Data Set in the module entitled, Tools to Find Generous Schools. You will see how you can check out the admission factors that an individual school cares about. You can also access this information by going to and clicking on the Admission link for any school.

      Lynn O.

  72. Hello everyone! My name is Alison and I live in the Cypress, Texas area (outside of Houston). I am an educational consultant. My biggest challenge is helping middle and upper middle class families with financial aid and scholarships. Most of my families will have an EFC in the $25,000-$35,000 range and have good students, and most want to attend our large state universities. As a result, most will not qualify for need-based aid at these schools. Many of them are unprepared to pay their EFC and want other options to help fund their child’s education. I constantly recommend smaller schools or schools where their child will be competitive for merit aid, but typically they don’t want to consider these other schools and want to attend the most popular state schools where they will not qualify for need-based or merit aid.

    1. Hi Alison,

      Thanks for joining the class. The reality that you face is a common one and I think it requires reeducating families about their choices.

      I realize that it’s a tough challenge when parents often start the process with preconceived notions about their choices. And they are often biased against any schools without a brand name.

      I hope what you learn in this class will help you with those conversations!

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  73. Hi Lynn! My name is Frank and I am a financial advisor. I heard about you by listening to a webinar you did for our company a few years ago. We are in Cleveland, Ohio. We have two daughters: sophomore and 8th grader. I have a two-fold reason for taking the class; 1) To prepare for our daughters’ college educations, specifically finding schools that provide merit-based money to higher income families, 2) To be able to help my clients begin thinking about your topics as their kids approach college. (and suggest they take your class!). My wife, Jill, and I will be taking this together. Thanks!

    1. HI Frank,

      Welcome to the class. Those are two great reasons to take the class! I think it’s a no brainer for financial advisors to learn the basics of late-stage college planning for their clients. I believe this knowledge can give advisors a competitive edge.

      I hope you decide that the course is worth recommending!

      Lynn O.

  74. High School counselor in top NJ high school

    College counseling, as well as the emotional, social and academic components involved, are part of my daily routine.

    Professional growth and being a more effective resource for my students is just one result I hope to gain from this course.

  75. Hi,

    My name is Dinah and I live in New Jersey. I’ve always appreciated your articles and insights. I work as an independent consultant and would like to learn more about merit aid at colleges, especially for the B student. I find many families earn too much to qualify for any significant need based aid, yet the EFC is too high for it not to be a overwhelming financial sacrifice. Furthermore the B student often doesn’t have the GPA and test scores to qualify for any significant merit aid.
    PS , I love Juniata!

    1. Hi Dinah,

      I am glad you have benefited from my work!

      B students can definitely qualify for merit money. Fifty-eight percent of freshmen at state schools and 89% of students at private schools receive discounts in the form of scholarships or grants. With that many students receiving money it’s not just A students who get these awards. To get this money, B students should look at colleges that are happy to accept B students And frankly that’s most schools since they must face this reality – it’s a buyer’s market for them.

      According to the latest admission report by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the average national acceptance rate at four-year private and public colleges and universities is 66%. The yearly survey conducted by UCLA of freshmen at four-year institutions is roughly 75%.

      If you look beyond the most prominent research universities and most elite liberal arts colleges, most private schools give money to the vast majority of their students. State schools will also cut the price for nonresidents and B students will have plenty of chances to do that with state schools that aren’t on everybody’s dream lists. B students can also cut the price at some state schools as a nonresident by becoming citizens of that state. That won’t work in all states, but it will in others.

      Lynn O.

  76. I’m Cathy and have an 8th grader but I also work at a community college where I support low-income, first-generation college students to transfer to a 4-year university. So, I’m looking forward to learning more strategies to help my students as well as a glimpse of what is ahead so I can prepare for my daughter to attend college.

    1. Hi Catherine,

      Thanks for joining the class.

      I think a critical challenge for transfer students is making sure they know what they need to transfer and keeping their eye on that as soon as they begin community college. That means that students must seek advice from counselors at community colleges before they register for their first courses.

      As you know, it’s a challenge for students, who don’t have parents with college degrees, to navigate the system. Too many students, who end up transferring, lose credits which obviously lengthens the time needed to graduate.

      Here is an old post (still relevant) that includes some advice for transfer students:

      Unless there are reciprocal agreements between a two-year and a four-year institution – and what is needed to transfer is well documented – it’s wise for potential transfer students to ask for a transcript review from the four-year school that they hope to attend.

      One thing that I think low-income, first-gen kids tend to do is go community college part time rather than using the Pell Grant and any state aid to attend school full time. I often think that is a mistake.

      Transferring isn’t just an issue for community college students. People might be surprised to know that about a third of students who start at four-year colleges end up transferring!

      Lynn O

  77. Hello Lynn,

    I am very excited to be taking this class. We are from Delaware, I have two children in High School a junior and a freshman so this is it for us.
    My junior has taken practice SAT and ACT and did very well. Our job as parents is to figure out how to pay for his college of choice.

  78. Hi! My name is Milica from CT. My daughter is a senior and getting ready to apply for colleges this fall. She is interested in international relatations. She is a fantastic student and I am hoping she will be able to obtain a merrit scholarship. I went to college in Europe and paid nothing for it. I even got a stipend for being a college student! The prices of colleges in the USA scare me and I have a very hard time accepting this whole college business.I hope this lab will help us build a good college list and save us money for the graduate school.
    Thank you for your help. I am looking forward to learn some new strategies in the college process.

    1. HI Milica,

      Thanks for joining the class. If you haven’t already checked it out, I’d take a look at this resource guide – Your Smart Blueprint for Selecting Colleges. It’s in the Bonus Material section and for your convenience here is the link:

      In that guide, I suggest an eight-step way to build a college list, but I ignore the financial side of the equation in the guide. Most of the rest of the class is focused on providing advice for making college affordable. The steps I suggest in the resource guide are just suggestions. There is no one right way to proceed, but I think it could be helpful.

      For list building, I’d also take a look at A Guide to Building a Perfect College List. This PDF includes a lot of resources, mostly online, that can help generate ideas.

      Here is the link:

      Some people might not like this advice, but I like to tell people to not worry about graduate school at this stage. Whether your daughter will want to go to graduate school or even need to go is not something that a 17 or 18-year-old can know.

      Here are a couple of articles worth reading about the merits of going to grad school:

      Lynn O.

  79. Hi my name is Sherry (Shahrzad, but Sherry is easier), I have a daughter who is a junior in high school. We live in California. My daughter is a straight A student and is interested in a biomedical/health track for her college education. I have done some homework to determine what to expect for college expenses, and it seems that we don’t make enough to comfortably send her to a good private liberal arts college but at the same time have enough income that will prevent us from qualifying for aid. So, I am taking this course to learn how to be strategic about choosing colleges and paying for them.

    1. Hi Shahrzad,

      What a pretty name! Thanks for joining the class.

      As you’ll read from the comments of parents in this section, there are many people who face the same issues you do in this course. Being a straight A student, however, is very helpful since the admission factor that is most important for colleges is No. 1 a child’s grades in college-prep course and No. 2 their overall grade point average.

      You can learn all the factors that matter to colleges, as well as those that are ignored or don’t hold much weight by reading the annual admission survey of the National Association for College Admission Counseling that came out last month. It’s worth checking out. I am going to mention the survey in the first webinar of the course tomorrow (Sept. 20).

      Here is the link:

      Lynn O.

  80. Hi Lynn,
    I live in Charlotte, NC and we have twin girls that are Seniors this year. They have narrowed down a few colleges and they are private colleges. We have also visited public universities as well as community colleges. We have a budget for the girls and we have mentioned going to community college for the first two years to help cut the cost of a 4 year college. Then transfer into the collage that you are interested in.
    We will not be able to qualify for federal financial aid…we hope merit scholarships will help out greatly if they don’t go to community college first.
    The girls are interested in creative writing and the other interactive game development/design.
    I want all the secrets to help pay for college to cut costs.

    1. Hi Dana,

      Thanks for joining the class.

      I would make sure that you wouldn’t qualify for financial aid. Have you used an Expected Family Contribution calculator on the College Board to get an idea of what your EFC for each daughter would be? Also have you used a net price calculator for each school your twins are interested in? I just want to make sure that your assumptions about financial aid are correct. That is particularly true when there are two or more children in college at the same time. When two children are in college simultaneously, the EFC drops by 50% with the FAFSA and 40% for the PROFILE.

      As for community college, academic credits don’t always transfer so you need to be careful about this. You wouldn’t want your daughters to attend community college for two years only to lose a semester or a year of credits upon transferring.

      You’d want to see what the transfer track record is between a community college and potential four-year schools. Before transferring, your child should ask for a transcript review by the four-year school. Also keep in mind that the most prestigious four-year schools take very few transfer students. You can see how many a school accepts by heading to the College Board and typing in the name of any school. Then click the school’s For Transfer Students link.

      On the site, you can see how many applied for transfer, the breakdown of transfer applicants by four-year and two-year schools, the number of accepted and the number enrolled.

      At Amherst, for instance, 472 students applied and 36 (7%) were admitted. Here is what Amherst’s info looks like:

      You should know that many schools (not the most elite) have become more interested in transfer students. There are scholarships/grants available for transfer students, but typically it won’t be as much as you could expect for freshmen. U.S. News’ college rankings don’t care about transfer students only freshmen which is one reason why there is more focus on awarding 1st year students.

      Lynn O.

  81. Hi, I am Han, I lived in the NJ area, I have two children, oldest is in her 12th grade (graduate in 2017), younger one is in his 10th grade. I am interested in helping my daughter to select a school which will fit her strength and our financial need. I am an IT engineer and my wife is a RN, years ago, she quit her job, stay at home to take care of the children. She began working in the end of 2014. So our tax report had big jump in year of 2015, I just learned that 2015 the tax year in the FAFSA application for my daughter to use. We try to reduce the AGI on the tax form in 2016 and are not sure if that help. I hope by attending this class will get the information we need.

    Thanks so much.

    1. Hi Han-chung,

      Thanks for joining the class. I can see why you would be frustrated with the timing of your wife’s return to work when you contemplate financial aid, but certainly having two incomes can better position you to pay for college!

      Depending on how much your wife makes, you may be surprised at how little her income impacts potential aid. You can get a good idea of the impact by running a school’s net price calculator with your wife’s income and then running it again without it. You could do the same thing by using the College Board’s EFC calculator.

      Lynn O.

  82. Hi, I’m Alison and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I have 3 children and my oldest, a girl, is a senior this year. I’m interested in this class for a couple of reasons – the first is because of my graduating senior! However, my bigger interest is for a non-profit that I am working with which is a college access organization working with low-income, first-generation kids. Our first cohort of kids are juniors this year. Of these 14 kids, 3-4 of them have extremely strong academic records (3.8+ GPAs) and we anticipate will have solid test scores. The rest of them will have GPAs that are above 3.0 and test scores that are likely to be very average. We’d prefer to have these kids attend smaller colleges with good supports in place for first gen students. However, it is extremely important that they don’t graduate with huge amounts of debt. Anyhow – looking forward to getting more savvy about financial aid and also hoping to learn what you know, Lynn, about money that’s out there for these students.

  83. Hello everyone,
    My name is Tammy and I am from Washington State. I have a son who is a senior in high school and a daughter a junior in high school. My son is interested in the film/media industry. My daughter is undecided.
    I have been extremely overwhelmed in how I am going to pay for college and how to help my children find the best college for their needs.
    They have attended a private school since kindergarten, so our “college fund” has gone for private schooling these last 12 years.
    I have been a stay at home or part time employee while children are in school. My husband worked for the school system, so I largely would rely on him to “help the children through their future college searches, etc.”
    Unfortunately, my husband passed away unexpectantly. So that is why I do feel overwhelmed with decisions that have to be made.
    I have been told because of our family situation, that there will be need based financial aid for us. But it is quite stressful looking at the college tuition costs!
    I can’t remember how I came across Lynn and the College Solutions site. I watched a webinar a couple weeks ago and decided to sign up for the College Cost Lab class.
    I am looking forward for any information that will ease the load for myself and children.

    1. HI Tamara,

      I am so sorry to hear about your husband. I understand how you would feel overwhelmed.

      If your husband died in 2015, you will not want to include his income on the FAFSA or the PROFILE. You will want to contact schools about this assuming the death occurred in 2015 because this is your base year. Financial aid largely hinges on income in each base year. If life insurance is an issue, let me know and I can suggest someone you could talk to about this.

      Unfortunately, your son’s intended major tends to be offered at very expensive schools on the West Coast such as Chapman, Loyola Marymount, UCLA for nonresident and USC. I’d check to see how expensive Simon Fraser U. in British Columbia is. You can find articles on the Internet about whether you even need a film degree. Here is a post about this that I wrote years ago:

      I assume you will receive need-based aid since your husband was the wage earner. You will want to read the lessons and resource guides that cover this issue. Be sure to check out the resource guide about the most generous colleges with financial aid in the Bonus Material module. Here is the link:

      A school that I particularly like in your state is Washington Washington. A dear friend’s daughter just graduated from the school’s honors college and had a tremendous experience. All her classes were 20 students or less. You’d get a private school experience for an-instate public school price.

      Lynn O.

  84. I live in San Diego with my husband and three sons who are in 12th, 9th and 5th grade so I’m sure I will learn much that I can apply to all three of their situations.

    I am most interested in learning how to narrow down those universities that will fit my oldest son’s goal of obtaining a business degree with an accounting major and we are also interested in finding universities that are the best value for the money using merit aid that have programs that go straight into a masters degree.

    We are looking at in state and out of state schools that are in the WUE and a couple of schools in Texas but we need to narrow our choices down down very quickly. Also, I would prefer that my son not attend a school where his potential major is impacted.

    One of my other questions is how important is the graduation rate at each college? There a school in UT that we like but the graduation rate is lower than some of the other schools on our list. I know a student’s success depends on individual effort but how much weight should I put on the average graduation rate and how can we find out if certain majors have a larger success rate than others?

    Finally, Lynn I have attended some of your webinars in the past and found them to be very helpful so I want to thank you for helping to point me in the right direction so far and I look forward to learning more with you and this group over the next few weeks.

    1. Hi Karen,

      That is smart of you to be concerned about graduation rates.

      Keep in mind that the published average grad rates of private and public institutions are underwhelming. The grad rate for public schools is about 33% and private schools is about 53%. But those grad rates are somewhat misleading because the federal government only tracks full-time freshmen to determine who graduates in four years. If a student transfers that student is counted as never graduating from their original school. So the grad rate for those who remain at their school will be higher than the published one.

      Grad rates can vary by department or schools within universities such as nursing, engineering and business. You need to ask the school – and preferably students, in this case, business students, about the prospects for timely graduation. Students in honor colleges can also have an easier time of it.

      I am a bit leery about picking a school based on the assumption that a child will go to graduate school. That’s a long way off and frankly many students end up changing their major anyway.

      Since you are interested in WUE schools, I would suggest potentially looking at other state universities that offer great merit aid. There are many state universities in that category. Some of these state schools also make is easy to become a resident of the state beginning in sophomore year, such as University of Missouri and University of Utah.

      For people in this class interested in the South, one school that comes to mind is University of Arkansas that has very well respected business school (supported by WalMart money) and a stunning number of internships with Fortune 500 companies. Corporations who want to do business with WalMart must have a presence in Arkansas which leads to hundreds of these companies in the state. U. of Minnesota is reasonably priced (it doesn’t have the cache of U. of Michigan so it has to try harder) and it’s located in a metro area with lots of Fortune 500 companies.

      I’d read my guide, Your Smart Blueprint for Selecting Colleges in the Bonus Material section for a way to look for schools and narrow down your list.

      Lynn O.

  85. Hi Lynn and everyone. I’m taking your course to learn more about merit aid for my son who is a senior at an IB private school in NYC. We pretty much socked bonuses into 529s over the years so have almost enough for 4 years undergrad but suspect we’re going to need help when he goes to graduate school, which I highly suspect he will. Our son has done very well in school and tests well and is interested in applying to highly selective schools to study politics/history (eg, UChicago, Tufts, Cornell) but I’m looking for some of those gems that aren’t the brand name schools for which he could also get merit aid. I’m also taking your course to learn about need-based aid for a couple of nephews whose parents need help sorting this all out…one in the midwest who is also a senior and wants to study mechanical engineering and play Division 3 soccer, and another who is only 11 and a long way from college but whose mom (my sister) worries about how she’ll be able to swing it. Would like to allay her fears!

    Been reading your excellent blog for awhile so look forward to what’s ahead. Thanks so much!

    1. HI Susan,

      Thanks for taking the class. That’s quite an accomplishment to have saved for nearly four years of college! You are in great shape.

      As you seem to know already, the most prestigious research universities do not give merit aid or give very little. The majority of the students at these schools – or close to it – pay full price. For instance, at Tufts University 64% of students pay full price! At Cornell 50% of students pay the sticker price. Those are stunning figures when you consider that on average, 89% of freshmen who attend private colleges and universities do not pay full price. University of Chicago, which has been working for nearly a decade to inch up even further on US News’ college rankings and generate more applicants to boost their rejection rate, does give out merit aid but the school has played it close to the vest in terms of what these awards are. U of Chicago’s efforts, by the way, has worked with the ranking giant.

      On the other hand, the most prestigious schools typically give very good to excellent need-based aid to students who are not high income.

      To generate more college ideas (and find those gems) read the resource guide, Your Smart Blueprint for Selecting Colleges. It’s in the Bonus Material module and I’ve also provided the link here:

      Lynn O.

  86. Hello, Howard here from the Bay Area, CA. We have four kids – older daughter just started sophomore year in HS and older boy is a 8th grader. The younger two are 6 and 3rd graders. All my kids go to public schools. I have read Lynn’s book earlier this year and tried to read from various sources on the college cost topic. Based on EFC calculators I ran at many public and private schools, we don’t qualify for any need-based aid. My older daughter obviously hasn’t taken any SAT or ACT, but based on her academic track record, sports, and other extracurricular activities, she has a great chance of finishing top tier in her class of 2020 if she continues to work hard.

    Our goal is for her to go to a top University of California campus with excellent reputation for her interest of Biological Sciences (e.g., UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, etc.). We may also look at some private schools. All my kids have good amount of 529 funds but attending private colleges without large merit scholarship is not possible for us unless we use our home equity line or our other assets. Higher income in the Bay Area is basically offset by the high real estate cost and childcare cost alone. All the financial aid programs basically look at your income but not cash flows so its somehow misleading. While taking out loans is always an option, we hope to minimize that. I really hope to learn more about strategies to obtain merit scholarships especially from top private schools (non-ivy obviously since they don’t offer merit aid anymore) so the cost of attending a private school is similar to attending a public school.

    Use my two alma mater as example (USC, UC Berkeley), I know USC has been able offer generous merit aid to top in-state students so the cost of attending USC is basically the same or just slightly more than attending a public school like UC Berkeley. This is how USC attracts top in-state talents. However, for higher income families, USC gives a lot less merit aid because the school knows that these families are willing to do whatever it takes to support their kids (e.g., take out home equity line, use other assets, etc.). The other key thing is different kids have different personalities and while my older daughter can thrive in a large 50k student school, my older boy may be better suited for a smaller liberal art colleges (e.g., Pomona, Harvey Mudd, etc.). But again, without large merit aid from these private colleges, I don’t think we can afford those astronomical cost. I read a couple of comments from other families in CA and it seems we all have similar challenges.

    1. Hi Howard,

      There are a lot of people in your boat. If you don’t qualify for a Cal Grant it’s extremely likely that you will pay full price at a UC or CSU. So you have to compare paying full price for a state school in CA versus what you can get at other state universities outside California or at private colleges.

      As I’ve mentioned elsewhere in this Q&A section, there are ways to get the cost of college down by looking for schools that give merit aid. Most state schools outside California and private schools do offer merit aid.

      I think too many people don’t understand the difference between colleges and research universities so you are ahead in appreciating them.

      Here are a couple of posts I have written about research universities:

      Lynn O.

  87. Hello. I’m Penny from Texas (San Antonio as of July and Houston before that). We have a son (20) and a daughter (15). Each of our children have small UTMAs that their grandparents setup at birth. I read Lynn’s book a couple of years ago. I’m here because I’ve learned that nothing is for certain when it comes to college.

    May 2015, our son graduated from high school, and in June 2015, he entered the United States Air Force Academy. An injury during basic training revealed a serious issue in his knee. The Academy sent him home as a medical turn back for surgery and rehab. Fast forward to June 2016, he returned to USAFA for basic training again and suffered a concussion, missed too many days due to concussion protocol, “failed” basic, and was sent home in August. So we had a 20 year-old young man on our hands who had not taken any college courses and very limited funds. About two weeks ago, he discovered his test scores qualified him for essentially a full ride at Louisiana Tech. LaTech has the Sustainable Supply Chain major he wants, and they use the quarter system. We were able to get him admitted and settled by the time the Fall quarter began last Thursday. Over the weekend he tried out for the football team and learned today that he made it.

    Our daughter is in the tenth grade and has watched all of this unfold.

    I don’t know what normal or routines are anymore…I thrive on both, but have learned I can survive without either.

    Finally, on a professional level, I am a financial coach. I am looking forward to learning from Lynn and the rest of our participants.

    1. Wow! What a crazy story Penny! I trust that the experience that your daughter has isn’t nearly as hair raising! And it shouldn’t be. I am glad your son landed on his feet and got a great deal at Louisiana Tech and with the major he wants! I wish him the best of luck.

      You will learn a lot in this course that will help you and help you with your financial practice!

      Lynn O.

  88. Hello. We live in Lake Forest, IL. Our daughter, Erin, goes to an all-girls high school that is part of the Sacred Heart system (Catholic). I’m hoping to learn as much as I can about how colleges choose who among their many applicants receives merit aid and how our decisions (whether to apply ED, EA or regular, etc.) affects their decision on aid. Also, I’m a financial advisor and if I can learn something that will help my Clients – or if I just decide to encourage them to join this course – that would be valuable.

    1. Welcome to the class Dave!

      In terms of early action and early decision, I would check out those statistics for any school on the College Board website. Just type in the name of any school and then click the Applying link. You’ll find figures on the overall admission rate, as well as the acceptance rate for early decision and/or early action candidates. ED candidates usually have greater acceptance chances and sometimes the chances for success are significantly better. Elite schools, in particular, use ED as a way to lock in a major portion of their class so they can better control the admission process. These schools are stressed out because so many students view the admission process as some kind of lottery. if they apply to enough hard-to-crack schools, students believe that they should get lucky.

      Early action applicants can also enjoy greater luck even though the latter is not locked in to attending a school like ED candidates are.

      I talk about ED and EA in my webinar on increasing admission chances. I’ll be holding that webinar in October, but if you go to the Bonus Material section, you can view my most recent webinar on this topic that I held for the class over the summer.

      Finally, you will definitely learn a lot in the course that can help your clients.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  89. I’m Laurie from Mentor, Ohio. We moved here from Los Angeles in December 2012. I have two sons, Michael, a junior and James, a sophomore in high school. My husband is an attorney and I stay at home at this time (I was a paralegal (pre kids) and a preschool teacher (post kids) in Los Angeles). We have been saving for college since both boys were born, but I know that college costs are sky high, so it may not be enough. Fortunately, both boys are very good students with 4.0 or higher GPAs thus far in their high school careers. And both are very active in cross country and track, as well as other school and community activities.

    The process of applying to college has changed so dramatically since I applied to attend the entire UC system in one application way back when and was easily accepted into UCLA as my first choice – with less than a 4.0 and so so SAT scores! I know I have to let all of that go and look forward to the way things are now, and am grateful that a life long friend of mine who recently went through the process with her two daughters pointed me in your direction, Lynn. I’m looking forward to learning a lot!

    1. Hi Laurie,

      I am so glad that your friend recommended the class!

      You are right that times have changed in terms of college admissions. I only applied to one college and assumed I’d get in. That doesn’t happen today. But keep in mind that about 75% of high school seniors heading to four-year colleges and universities get into their first-choice school every year. This statistic comes from an exhaustive survey that UCLA conducts each year of schools across the country. The most elite schools reject nearly everyone, but luckily the vast majority of schools don’t do that.

      Your boys will have lots of options, as you’ll learn in this class.


      Lynn O.

  90. I should add that we are house rich, cash poor. We bought a modest home in Seattle 21 years ago so have a lot in equity (esp. in this housing market) while we also have a modest income (I’m an administrator at an independent school and my wife hasn’t worked in 20 years due to health issues).

    1. HI Britt,

      As you look for schools, you should determine how any PROFILE schools on your potential list assess home equity. Some schools will tell you how they assess home equity and others won’t be forthcoming. Some schools give a break to people who are house rich, cash poor. Please read the lesson entitled Home Equity and Financial Aid.

      When using net price calculators, run the numbers with home equity and then without home equity. Keep in mind that it’s the PROFILE schools that care about home equity and the vast majority of schools (FAFSA-only institutions) do not. If you are looking at state schools outside your state, your home equity will be irrelevant because these schools would only give your son merit aid. Need-based aid is practically nonexistent among state schools for nonresidents.

      Lynn O.

      Lynn O.

  91. I’m from Seattle and have an 11th grade son and 7th grade daughter. I’m looking forward to learning how to build a list of prospective schools for my son. He’s not sure what he’d like to do but is interested in architecture and engineering. His GPA is about 3.75. Also, he’d like to attend a school with an ultimate (Frisbee) team as that’s a wonderful part of his life as well. I’m also keen to know whether visiting campuses is important for all the schools on one’s list, as well as the questions to ask to help discern differences between schools. Thanks, Britt

    1. Hi Britt,

      Welcome to the class.

      That’s an interesting question you pose about whether you should visit campuses before applying. Some schools want applicants to show demonstrated interest and one way to do that is by visiting the school. You can also achieve this by contacting the admission representative for your area. You can go to a school’s admission website and see what admission rep covers the state of Washington. You’ll also find his or her email address. I would recommend that your child email the rep with some intelligent questions that demonstrates that he has done some research already on the school.

      Here are a couple of posts about this issue that are three years old, but schools have only put more effort into tracking students since then:

      It is possible to determine if a school cares whether an applicant shows interest in the school before applying. You can look at a school’s Common Data Set and specifically Section C7. In this section, the school ranks 19 admission factors including “Level of applicant’s interest.” You can learn more about Common Data Sets in the lesson entitled, How to Use a Common Data Set in the module entitled, Tools to Find Generous Colleges.

      You can easily check to see if a school has ultimate frisbee by heading to the College Board and typing in the name of any school. Then click on the “Campus Life” hyperlink and then click the “Sports” hyperlink.

      To get some ideas on how to create a college list based on your son’s interests, check out the resource guide entitled, The Smart Blueprint for Selecting Colleges. Here is the link and you’ll also find this guide in the Bonus Module:

      Lynn O.

  92. Rose here from Irvine, CA. My husband and I are both physicians, but he is primarily a research scientist at UC Irvine, and I practice full time. Our daughter is a 17yo senior at our local public high school and our son is an 11yo in 6th grade. Despite what one might assume about our professions, we have pretty average incomes by Irvine standards, and live fairly modestly. However, it is clear we won’t be getting financial aid after running our numbers through the NPCs of our daughter’s schools of interest.

    Our daughter has a 3.92 (unweighted) GPA, got 2140 on the “old” SAT, and 31 on the ACT. After a terrible 10th grade math experience, she regained confidence in some very strong performances in math throughout the last year, and feels confident now that math is her comfort zone. She has set her sights on Engineering, particularly Bioengineering or Biomedical Engineering (She was originally interested in Sports Medicine/Orthopedics, a few years back, before she realized she’s overly squeamish when it comes to blood and injury, and can’t stand needles–so that nixed any idea of pursuing med school–LOL what a relief). She would love to stay in California, but as per Lynn’s advice, she plans to “cast a wider net” and include schools in other parts of the country. I’m interested in figuring out her odds of getting good merit scholarships at any of the schools with good bioengineering programs. This is where we need help. Along w/ the big campuses at UCBerkeley, UCLA, UCSD, USC, she has visited Harvey Mudd College and Santa Clara University and loved both programs, but she worries that the campuses are too small for her comfort. Among other schools that have Bioengineering, she is planning to apply to Johns Hopkins, Duke. She is applying to U of Washington in Seattle, primarily because my husband’s sister lives there, and they have an engineering program.

    I would love to know how best to rank schools on the FAFSA, considering all of the above factors. Also, how difficult is it (and what are the pros/cons) of adding more schools to the FAFSA than the 10 to which we are limited? What is that all about?

    Finally, does the school’s ranking on her FAFSA affect merit scholarships?

    Thank you, Lynn!

    1. HI Rose,

      Welcome to the class!

      There is no need to worry about FAFSA rankings any longer. During the last admission cycle, the federal government stopped sharing the FAFSA school order with institutions. So there is no need to worry about the order anymore although some states want students to list a state school first. The FAFSA only has the capacity to handle 10 schools on the application at one time. Once schools are processed, however, you can go in and take schools off the list and add others. I’d recommend calling the FAFSA hotline if you have troubles with this. Here is the link with the contact info:

      I would make sure that your daughter devote time to investigating the bioengineering programs at the various schools including how hard is it to get into the program and how many students wash out versus actually graduate with the degree? Also what do the graduates do when they get their degree? What do students and young alums think of the program. How friendly is it for undergrads?

      I would recommend that you read the post that I wrote about how to evaluate academic departments. Here is the link:

      I’d also make sure that your daughter thoroughly investigate bioengineering/ biomedical engineering. I’ve had engineers in academia tell me that it’s better if students stick with mechanical, chemical and electrical engineering. The job prospects are better for those three and majoring in those programs doesn’t prevent you from getting into the biomedical field.

      Here is a link to a discussion about majoring in this field:

      Here are two others:

      Good luck!

      Lynn O.

  93. Hello all. I am from Mason City, Iowa. I have one daughter, A., a senior in high school. She is taking her ACT today. (fingers crossed) and is an “average excellent” type of student. What I have wanted most for A is to give her choices for college. Her father and I both attended our local schools as commuters and were able to work our way through college. We have set aside some money aside for school. I thought we were doing all the right things, but have been shocked at how expensive college has become. I am hoping to get gain some more knowledge to try to help A. have some options.

    1. Hi Katherine,

      Welcome to the class!

      Yes, college is expensive, but keep in mind that most families do not pay full price for college. The Midwest is the location for many schools where the sticker prices are lower and there are discounts. That’s also true in the interior West and the South. In addition, the higher a college or university’s U.S. News’ ranking, the more an institution can charge.

      I’d suggest looking at private schools, as well as your own state schools and others outside of Iowa that offer merit scholarships. Parents should never expect to get need-based aid at public universities outside their state. Some states, such as Missouri and Utah, make it easy for a nonresident to become a resident after freshman year and take advantage of much lower prices.

      You’ll get ideas from poking around in this classroom!

      Lynn O.

  94. Hello everyone. I am from San Diego California and I have a son who is a senior in high school. I am frustrated and saddened by the fact that my son has “done everything right” as far as getting excellent grades and test scores, and of course being an athlete, a musician and an Eagle Scout (that template we were all told to follow in order to get our kids into a “good school”) yet we feel great stress and concern over this process. Admission to selective schools seems a crap shoot, and they give very little merit based aid, so seem to be out of reach for him. The outrageous cost of many schools makes getting merit based awards a priority for us, but we don’t know how to find a college that offers both a strong program in his area of study and that is also generous with merit based awards. I am hoping this course will help us to find these colleges. I have read your book, Lynn, and attended a session you gave at our school. I have always been impressed by the wealth of resources you find and share and your goal of helping to prevent our kids from going into horrendous debt while getting an education.

    1. Hi Laura,

      Welcome to the class!

      Please don’t get discouraged!

      Students who do everything right enjoy more opportunities than other teenagers who didn’t apply themselves as much. What I think it an unfortunate mindset is that students, who are aiming for academic excellence, believe that they should be entitled to get into perhaps three or four dozen elite schools for their sacrifices. I really want families to try letting go of that belief. It makes the high school years so much more stressful because relatively few students can go to these schools. And those that do typically have an admission hook such as being a legacy, child of a celebrity, a recruited athlete, a professor’s child and very rich students whose parents could give the school a lot of money otherwise known as development cases.

      Students with excellent grade point averages and SAT/ACT scores are more likely to do well in their lives regardless of where they attend school. They don’t have to go to Ivy League schools or schools at the very top of the rankings. And some of these schools aren’t necessary the best for undergrads anyway.

      Here is a link for further reading for those who believe an elite education is essential:

      Keep in mind that eighty-nine percent of freshmen at private schools and 58% of freshmen at state schools do not pay full price. There is no reason why you should have to do that. You’ll learn how to evaluate schools when looking for merit aid in this class.

      Lynn O.

  95. KerryAnn and I have three daughters. Molly and Emma are identical twin 11th graders at Hammond High School in Columbia, Maryland. Our youngest daughter, Caroline is in 7th grade. We’re really blessed to have exceptionally gifted daughters. Molly and Emma have a perfect 4.0 GPA and their weighted GPAs are approximately 4.7. This past spring we took a tour of 12 highly competitive colleges in the northeast and overall (including three ivies) and the girls did not like the intensity/overt competitiveness on the campuses.

    While we are strongly encouraging our daughters to apply to the University of Maryland at College Park Honor College (where KerryAnn is a faculty member who studies Higher Education and they would have free tuition), we also want to give Molly and Emma the opportunity to apply to other schools. We have tried some online financial aid calculators and we are not expecting a lot/any need based aid.

    We’re hoping the course will give us more information about merit aid and the best ways to approach the merit aid process and your thoughts about home equity and its impact on financial aid. In addition to contributing to Maryland’s prepaid tuition program, we also will have our house paid off in five years.

    1. Hi Daniel,

      Congratulations on such exceptional daughters. You are in so much better position than most families. The fact that your daughters could attend the honors college at University of Maryland for free is a tremendous benefit. As you probably know, honors colleges can make the experience at a state school more like that of a private college. There can be, however, tremendous differences among what honors colleges offer.

      Here are two posts on honors colleges:

      I can see, however, why your daughters might want to go away for college. With the great opportunity that your daughters enjoy, it would be hard to justify going to another state university outside of Maryland. Looking at private schools, and particularly liberal arts colleges, can make sense because liberal arts colleges could provide a much different educational experience. I’d suggest using the guide in the class – Your Smart Blueprint for Selecting Colleges – in the Bonus Material module to help build a college list. There is also another resource guide – A Guide to Building a Perfect College List – that I’d check out .

      I imagine it would be hard walking away from a free education!

      Lynn O.

  96. Chris Gifford from Austin, Texas. Divorced mom with two daughters, a freshman and a junior. I would like to find out if I will realistically be able to get any non-loan financial aid, and also how to best find merit aid and colleges that may not be on my radar. I’ve already done some research, read Lynn’s book, and we’ve visited 5 Texas colleges. I’m looking to fill in the gaps in my knowledge.

    1. Hi Christine,

      There are few dozen no-loan schools in the country. These are going to be among the most elite research universities and liberal arts colleges. The schools that offer no loans will be among the schools listed in the class resource guide entitled, The Ultimate List of the Nation’s Most Generous Colleges. Among the no-loan schools will be the ones that say they meet 100% of a student’s financial need. There is routinely an income cut-off to qualify for a no-loan package.

      Here is the link to the guide:

      If you have considerable financial need and you get into one of these schools – that’s the hard part – it can be like winning the education lottery. On the other hand, schools that meet 100% of need usually give little or no merit aid.

      To get a good idea of whether you should be aiming for schools that provide excellent need-based aid or schools that provide big merit scholarships, you really need to use the College Board’s Expected Family Contribution. You’ll learn more about EFC’s and the calculator in the next module.

      I wouldn’t be worried about a reasonable amount of loans. The best loan is the federal Direct Loan for students. Almost every school in America will put this loan in their financial aid packages. Most students, who graduate in four years, can borrow up to $27,000. (Roughly 70% of undergrads borrow to help pay for college.)

      The federal student loan program offers a safety net for students who graduate (or drop out) that allows qualified borrowers to repay their loans based on what they are making rather than what they owe.

      You can find out more about borrowing and repaying in the module entitled, Borrowing for College.

      Lynn O.

  97. Hi I am a mother of three girls, a 17 yrs old HS Senior, 15 yrw old Softmore and 13 yrs old 7th grader.
    We live in El Paso, Texas. Our oldest daughter is graduating from High School this scholar year and wants to go out of town for college.
    My husband and I were raised in Mexico. We have been living in El Paso more than 10 years already.
    Need help understanding how to apply to college ane consider every opportunity my daughter has. She has Diabetes Type 1.
    I hope to get a clear idea on what should be done, by when and how .
    I hop this class helps me to undestand and get everything on time.

    Thank you!!

    Julieta Marquz

    1. Welcome to the class. You will have much more time to digest the material for your younger children, but for now you should make sure that you use net price calculators before applying to any colleges. You can learn what net price calculators are in the module entitled, Your Families’ First Step.

      I would definitely be sure to apply to public universities in Texas. And absolutely file the FAFSA and seek any state aid that is available.

      The FAFSA will be available to file beginning Oct. 1. Without filling out the FAFSA, you can’t qualify for any federal or state grants (free money) or need-based aid from the schools themselves. I have a lesson in the module entitled, Financial Aid Basics, which explains how to get help with the FAFSA.

      Depending on your child’s academic record (test scores and GPA) she could qualify for merit scholarships at public universities outside of Texas. It’s rare that students receive need-based aid from state universities outside their own state. So if you’re aiming for public universities for nonresidents, you’ll want to look at what kind of merit scholarships they offer. The higher your child’s academic record, the greater the opportunities.

      You don’t share whether your child is a U.S. citizen or U.S. permanent resident, but I’ll assume that she is one of them. If she isn’t, she would not qualify for federal or state grants or federal loans. You can see what the federal loan options are in the module entitled, Borrowing for College. The best loan is the federal Direct Loan.

      You could also look at private school options. Like state universities, the better the grades/test scores, typically the better the packages. Higher grades and test scores can let a child have a better chance at private schools with excellent financial aid. I have a resource guide in the course that contains schools that meet 100% of financial need. Here is the link:

      I would highly recommend that you also look at the lesson entitled, College Diversity Opportunities, which is in the Targeting Schools for the Most Money, Part II. At some private schools, in particular, a Hispanic student can have an admission advantage. You can see what percentage of students are a minority by looking at a school’s profile on the College Board’s website and then clicking the Campus Life link.

      Lynn O.

  98. Hi Lynn,
    My name is Laura and I live in Somers, NY in Westchester County. I am freaking out a little bit right now, feeling very overwhelmed and unsure where to start other than at the beginning of your course. I signed up for this class on Memorial day but I am finally just getting around to starting the material. I am worried that I will have questions for you after the class is over and then I will no longer have access to you. Anyway, my daughter will be a Sr. this coming school year. She is a good student with about a 3.7 GPA. She is part of the Art National Honors Society, does volunteer work with our town’s historical society, and has been a member of a Teen Leaders organization for 3 years. She would like to be an Archivist when she “grows up.” This seems to require no formal training OR you could get an advanced degree. It seems that any undergraduate major would work but she is interested in studying history. She is interested in staying within 3-5 hrs from home. At this point we have some schools narrowed down mostly based on location. She is considering American University and looking at GW in DC (though I do not know that she will get in). She is also looking at schools in the Boston area; Simmons College, Emmanuel College, Roger Williams, Providence College, Stonehill, and she may look at BC (again, not sure she would get in). I feel we are going about this opposite of what you recommend but these are the schools that seem to speak to her at this point. Do you have any recommendations how to make the most out of these options?
    – Thank you, Laura

    1. Hi Laura,

      I am sorry that you are stressing out. It is a daunting process, but my class can help bring direction to your search.

      Wanting to be a history major, you child will have a large selection of schools to chose from. I would not recommend that location be the main driver of a college selection process. The schools in metropolitan areas on the East Coast can charge more because of their location. These schools, however, will generally price themselves differently based on their U.S. News i.e. popularity ranking. For instance, Boston College and George Washington, which are very popular, have significantly higher price tags than Emmanuel or Roger Williams.

      The first thing you should do is use your EFC calculator to get an idea of what your Expected Family Contribution is. This will indicate whether you should be looking for schools that are better with need-based aid or merit aid. You will learn how to use the EFC calculator in the next module.

      You also should start using each school’s net price calculator which will give you an indication of what you would be expected to pay at each school. If money is an issue, you shouldn’t allow your child to apply to any school without having a good understanding of how much a school would charge you after subtracting any merit aid and/or need-based aid. Please read the lesson on net price calculators.

      To cut to the chase, I’d urge you to read The Ultimate College List Builder, which is one of the class resource guides that explain how merit aid and financial aid work along with a list of 700+ schools with such statistics as the percentage of students who receive any type of discount from the institution. Here is the link: You can also find this resource in the Bonus Material module.

      As for generating a list of schools, I’d highly urge you to read my newest resource guide, Your Smart Blueprint for Selecting Colleges. It’s also in the Bonus Material section and here is the link: I’m a big advocate of throwing a wider net for schools and the guide suggests how to do this, as well as evaluate schools academically. The academic quality of a school will vary by academic departments. One school could have a great history department and another a mediocre one. Evaluating history or any other departments will take some effort, but it’s totally worth it.

      As for having questions, I’ll be fielding questions through Aug. 14 for people in the class. I will also be sending you all the materials when the course is over.

      I will be relaunching the course in September and if you’d like to rejoin to be able to ask me questions during the fall, you can rejoin with a 50% discount. That would bring the price down to less than what it would cost to have a one-hour consultation with me – and I don’t offer them. I’ve actually had lots of people do that.

      Good luck!

      Lynn O.

      1. Hi Lynn,
        This next question may be answered in your material but I haven’t been able to go through everything yet. My question is how much is the FAFSA affected by how much is in your savings? Is there an amount that has minimal effect (ie under 10k)? Also, my name is on my mother’s checking account (in case something happens to her), should we take my name off it? If so, can my name removal be temporary and if it can be temporary, when can we put my name back on? Someone advised us to get things out of our name for the day we fill out the application.
        Likewise, my uncle has been saving some money for my kids in an investment account. The account has his name on it and my name. What should we do about that? Should I have my name removed?

        thank you,

        1. Hi Laura,

          I would strongly recommend that you read the lesson entitled, Investments and Financial Aid. That explains how nontaxable money is impacted by the aid formulas. How much you can shield from the formula will depend upon your age by Dec. 31. A married couple with the oldest parent 50, would be able to shield $19,700. The PROFILE asset protection is proprietary but I believe the amount that would be shielded is even higher.

          For every $10,000 in a nontaxable account, financial aid would only be reduced by no more than $564. Retirement money isn’t assessed at all for financial aid purposes.

          I don’t think you would have to declare your mother’s savings account because you are doing this to protect her money. I can’t think of why your uncle would have your name on the account. Are you the beneficiary? I would think a child would be the beneficiary. You don’t tell me how much is in this account or what kind it is.

          If you took your name off of the account, your uncle could wait until after you filed for financial aid for the second time (second semester sophomore year) and then use the money to pay for college. This way this money would never show up for financial aid considerations.

          Lynn O.

          1. Hi,
            If it helps answer the question, I have no idea why he chose the investment he did or why my name is on it. It is a Vanguard account (I don’t know what that is- I just have a statement) and it has about 60K in it for my 2 children. Based on this, do you think the best thing to do is to do what you stated above; take account out of my name and use it to pay off loans after we file the second time? What happens if he gives me money to pay for college freshman year? Would that be something I have to declare as income?

  99. I am from Midland, Michigan and the mother of a son who is entering college freshmen next month as well as boy -girl twins who are seniors in high school. I discovered the College Solution book and blog pretty far into my son’s college search but am so glad that I did. We successfully refined our son’s college list to schools where he would have the most success in receiving academic merit money and he had significant scholarship offers from virtually every college / university that he applied to. With 2 more children entering college next year, I am looking forward to taking this course.

    1. Hi Christine,

      Welcome to the class! I am so glad that my blog and book helped you with your son’s college process and that he earned significant merit scholarships! I’d love to know what schools gave him merit money and where he ended up at!

      I expect that you will learn even more for your twins by attending this class!

      Lynn O.

  100. HI Lynn,

    Sorry for the delayed response. I am a single mother of a rising senior at an IB school in Denver, CO. My other daughter is an incoming freshman at the same high school. The senior is doing really well. Since their dad is Spanish, they qualify as hispanic. Both have been doing really well so their grades are good. It’s been a bit sad that the senior can’t go to our state’s Flagship University, (as I did and her grandfather did back when it was cheap!) I graduated without student debt, I’d like them to have that advantage as well. We are looking at small liberal arts schools on the East Coast where she might add geographic diversity, and also some schools on in OR, WA and IL. Our finances are such that it looks like we could get most of our need met at most of the schools on her list, but they are quite selective. A lot of her peers are interested in the Ivies, but she thinks they are over blown. Her grandfather thinks she shouldn’t cross them off her list.
    She likes chemistry, and archeology/anthropology as possible majors.

    Thank you for teaching me about Net Price calculators and also the EFC, they have been really helpful already!


    1. Hi Pam,

      I’m sorry that I overlooked your intro originally!

      I am glad that you used the EFC calculator and net price calculators to get a better idea of what colleges would expect you to pay at a minimum (EFC calculator) and what specific schools might actually charge you (net price calculators). There is a need for diversity at liberal arts colleges and schools are often looking for smart minority students.

      One thing I would urge your child to do is to look into diversity fly-programs for the fall so she could visit schools. I would make sure she contact the admission rep for Colorado or the diversity rep at individual schools to introduce herself and ask about this opportunity as well as finding out when a rep will be visiting Denver this fall. Autumn is when schools make their huge pitch for students by hitting the road. The more she shows interest, the better off she will be particularly if she needs a lot of financial help. She could also be helped with geographic diversity. Keep in mind that the liberal arts colleges in the Pacific Northwest, with the exception of Reed, aren’t as generous. The other most generous need-based aid LACs on the West Coast are the Claremonts – Claremont Mckenna, Pomona, Harvey Mudd, Pitzer and Scripps. Also I’d highly recommend checking out Grinnell in Iowa.

      Lynn O.

  101. Hi Lynn,

    I live in Northern CA and our son will be a senior this fall. I took the class because I wanted to take advantage of your experience in this field – there is so much to learn and I find it all a bit stressful. I seek good value in anythiing I purchase so hopefully college can be similar. Our son had a difficult second semester of his junior year so his weighted gpa ended at 3.1. His test scores are average, our income is too high for financial aid and not sure if merit is even an option. As such, hoping to learn if there are any other financial breaks, or what we should do to get the best value. Primarily interested in CA or OR schools. Looking forward to learning friom you. Thanks!

  102. I am a mother of 3 in Delaware. My oldest daughter will start college in August. My 2d daughter is a senior in high school and my son is a rising 8th grader. I am looking for help in navigating the college process for our family, including for each child who has different strengths, weaknesses, hopes and dreams.

    1. Hi Carri,

      I am glad that you are in the class! I am curious what school your oldest child will be attending in August.

      You will certainly learn a lot that will help you with your two other children!

      Lynn O.

  103. Hi Lynn,
    I am a college professor, so I know about teaching at a college. However, I know very little about sending a child to college. Neither my husband nor I went to undergraduate college in the U.S. Our son will be a junior in high school and we want to learn what it takes to send a child to college without going broke!

    1. Hi Sushma,

      Thanks for joining the class! You will learn a lot in this course. Since you are a professor, I was curious about where you teach so I looked you up on Google. I saw that you are at the University of the Incarnate Word, which is operated by the same nuns who operate my high school in St. Louis – Incarnate Word Academy. Small world!

      Lynn O.

  104. Hi Lynn,
    my family lives in La Jolla. My incoming high school senior has visited some of the big name schools in California, the Northeast, and North Carolina, but I am hoping to widen the search to find the best fit for her academically, and us financially. She is a high-achieving student with many AP classes and some college credits under her belt, and is considering Neuroscience as a major. She also would like to study abroad at least part of the time. Our income/assets will most likely rule out financial aid, so seeking generous merit aid is my focus. She is in the anticipated range to be a National Merit Semifinalist, so I am exploring all options, and greatly appreciate your sage advice.

    1. Hi Meredith,

      Welcome to the class.

      Congratulation on your accomplished daughter. As you’ll learn in this class, conducting a larger search for schools will be the best way to reduce the cost of college. Smart affluent students have many options that come wrapped with generous merit aid, but the prices are higher and the merit opportunities shrink when you look conduct the search at prominent schools on the East and West Coast, where the demand is high and schools enjoy a large surplus of smart high-income students. The competition and prices are also higher for the most popular public flagships such as the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. However, if you looked at other schools in North Carolina beyond UNC and Duke, including regional state universities and liberal arts colleges the chances of reducing your price will likely be quite significant.

      You’ll learn a lot more about this reality and how to take advantage of it in the class.

      Lynn O.

  105. I live in the Novato, CA, which is north of San Francisco. I have a daughter who is about to start college at Wheaton College in Massachusetts. Helping her with her college search was one of the most interesting things I done in years. Now I am helping a schoolmate of hers who is a 1st generation student who has very different criteria in her search. I am interested in going into the field of college counseling but have been told it is a saturated job market. Nonetheless, I am not deterred because I enjoy this kind of work so much.

    1. Hi Katharine,

      I’m glad you are in the class. The experience you describe is one that has propelled many people in the college consulting field. I don’t know if the field is saturated, but i believe the best way to succeed in this challenging and stimulating field is to understand the financial side of college. Too many educational consultants recommend colleges in a vacuum. They don’t know if the schools they believe would be great academic fits for their clients’ children will be financially doable. You can really differentiate yourself if you add this too your tool box and you can do so by taking advantage of this class!

      Lynn O.

  106. I am an IEC from Oakville, Ontario Canada. As I work primarily with Canadian students, I am most interested in finding out about sources of money that are not federally based. I hope to learn about schools that are generous with merit and/or institutional aid.

    1. Hi Susan,

      Welcome to the class. It’s great to have someone from Canada in the course!

      There are some schools that provide need-based aid to international students, but the competition for this money is fierce and the pot is relatively small. Canadian students should be looking for schools that provide merit scholarships to students regardless of need. Nearly all schools, both private and public, provide merit aid to foreign students.

      Lynn O.

  107. Hi all,

    My name is Janis Allen, and I’m an Independent Educational Consultant in Newport Beach, California. Although I have been an IEC for five years, I confess that my financial aid knowledge is weak. Typically, my students’ families don’t qualify for aid, however, this year I am doing some pro bono work, and I need to be a little more well-versed on financial aid. I also have a student who is not a citizen but has a green card, so I’m hoping to learn if that student needs to do anything differently regarding financial aid.

    1. Hi Janis,

      I am sorry I overlooked your introduction!

      Once you’ve immersed yourself in this class, you will know more about how to afford college than most educational consultants!

      That’s great that you are doing pro bono work! Students with green cards are eligible to take out federal loans and federal grants like the Pell Grant. Colleges can provide these students with merit scholarships, as well as need-based aid just like any American student.

      Here is a link to a government site that provides information about financial aid and noncitizens:

      Lynn O.

  108. I am the head college advisor at a charter school in Colorado. I am hoping to learn MORE that I can share with parents at my school.

  109. From Michigan, the first webinar I attended prompted me to sign up for the lab that night. But my background is I have an older son graduating from Univ of Michigan in December. I filled out the FAFSA before his freshman year. I don’t think I did the PROFILE, but he did get the $5500 loan (which we didn’t take). So I figured that’s all we would ever get (based on income) and didn’t fill out the FAFSA again! I see now that that was probably a mistake. Son #2 will be a senior in the fall. Thank you for suggesting “google net price calculator + college name” – so easy and useful!.

    1. Hi CB,

      Thanks for joining the course!

      The University of Michigan is one of a handful of state schools that do use the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE, in addition to the FAFSA. The vast majority of PROFILE schools are private colleges and universities. There is no reason to believe that your son would have gotten any money from Michigan if you had filed the PROFILE or continued to file the FAFSA.

      State universities rarely give need-based aid to nonresidents. What families should focus on when looking at state schools beyond their borders is merit scholarships. Less than 20% of students received merit aid at Michigan (these are among the students with no financial need). Because Michigan is a popular brand name school, it doesn’t have to try too hard to attract students who will pay full price.

      I am glad you are trying out the net price calculators!

      Lynn O.

  110. My name is Katherine Folkman and I live in Redondo Beach, California. I am the Director of the Collegewise office in Redondo Beach. I have been an independent counselor for three years. Prior to that I was a College Counselor at a large public high school for five years. Before that I worked in education as a teacher and crisis counselor. I love working with kids and helping them discover colleges! Most of the students I work with attend public high schools and are mostly middle class and upper middle class families. I do some pro bono work for low income and first generation students as well.

    I hope to learn some information to better help my families understand the cost of attendance and ways families may be apply to find aid. Cost seems to be the last piece that families look at and I would like to encourage them to look at this info much earlier. I need some good resources and want to feel more confident when discussing college cost with my families and helping them make smart decisions.

    Most of my students are great, but we all have challenges! My biggest challenge is getting my families to take a serious look at colleges they may never have heard of before and getting them to seriously consider adding them to their college list. We all know that there are some AMAZING colleges out there for our kids. Parents and students may tell me that name brand isn’t important to them, but once we get down to really researching colleges, I have a hard time getting them excited about colleges that are unknown to them or their peers. These places are usually the ones that offer kids nice merit packages. They want merit aid but they also want prestige. The two don’y always go hand in hand.

    1. Hi Katherine,

      You make some important points in your introduction! Parents are not focusing on the financial piece early enough! Most families, I’d contend, rely on luck rather than focusing on developing a plan to find schools that would be more affordable. Of course, how are families supposed to pull this off?

      A big mistake that many families make, as you rightfully point out, is to ignore schools that they have not heard of. That eliminates the vast majority of schools. And you are right that these institutions tend to be the schools that provide the best merit awards.

      Lynn O.

  111. Hi Lynn and Class,

    My son is going into his senior year of high school at a big, public school here in San Francisco where we live. He is a mostly A student with some B’s here and there. His current unweighted GPA is 3.69. He is a varsity rower beginning his 3rd year at Pacific Rowing Club in the fall. He is very committed to the sport and would like to row in college at the D3 or club level school, but also knows that the primary focus is on academics. We’ve been reading Colleges that Change Lives, and he loves the sound of many of these schools, especially since he does not have a specific area of academic interest and doesn’t know what he would like to major in.

    His father and I, as well as his grandfather and other members of the family, attended Wesleyan University in CT. Ben will be interviewing, touring, and meeting with coaches there in early July, but I am not really sure he is a strong enough candidate to get in, especially because he doesn’t appear to be a great test taker and we don’t have the financial resources to invest a lot in test prep.

    I am divorced and Ben and his younger brother (entering high school this fall), live with me full time. Money is tight as I am a learning specialist in private practice and their dad is a musician and does marketing for a non-profit. Neither of us has much if any savings but there is a 529 that was recently established by Grandpa (Woo hoo! Thanks Grandpa!) to help with college costs.

    The only asset I actually have is part ownership in a Tenancy in Common where we live in SF. I am assuming that I will provide information to FAFSA or Profile on just the portion of the building I own, correct? Although I have substantial equity in the home, I don’t have access to it because of the TIC status. I am curious to know how or if this status will affect the amount of aid we receive? My income for my family of three is way below the $83,300 ceiling for the Cal Grant application so hopefully we might receive some need-based aid, for California state schools, correct?

    Anyway, I am looking forward to helping my son create a great list of schools, with a focus on small class size, passionate teaching and mentoring, an engaged and welcoming student body, and study abroad options. University of Puget Sound seems like it might be a great option for him, but would also like some possible schools a little closer to home as well…

    I am excited and nervous to delve into this college process, and look forward to all I will learn in the course.

    Thank you,


    1. Hi Lara,

      Welcome to the class!

      You touch upon a lot of topics and I’ll take them one at a time.

      The equity in your percentage of the tenancy in common property would need to be disclosed on the financial aid forms. Parent assets are assessed at up to 5.64% for the FAFSA and 5% for the PROFILE.

      If you haven’t used the Expected Family Contribution calculator on the College Board’s website yet, you really should do so.

      Depending upon what your EFC is (the property you own could significantly boost it), Wesleyan U. would be an excellent option if your EFC is low. Without the property, I assume it would be low because you said your son would qualify for the Cal Grant, which is based on need. Your son could have a greater chance of admission as a legacy due to the family ties to the liberal arts college. He could also gain an edge as a recruited athlete if he is a coveted rower.

      University of Puget Sound is typically not good with need-based aid and it’s a very expensive school since it’s on the West Coast. The school only meets 76% of need.

      Here is the income ceiling for the Cal Grant, which cover the tuition and fees for a Cal State or UC school. It makes sense to include some state schools on the list.

      Keep in mind that there is a Cal Grant asset ceiling too. Parents aren’t supposed to have assets that exceed $70,000. Whether you share the tenancy in common would be something you’d have to deal with.

      Please read the lesson on grandparents and financial aid. Grandparents can safely help with college costs after the parent(s) have filed for aid in the second semester of their child’s sophomore year in college. This is a new development that I explain in the lesson!

      When looking for affordable schools, here is a resource that I just stumbled across called American College Generosity. The father who created this website ran the net price calculator for about 130 schools and used middle and low household incomes for the examples. You can see what the net price would be for those schools. He did not calculate merit aid. I bet you could find some ideas on this website.

      Lynn O.

  112. Hello! I am an independent educational consultant, guiding students and families through the college planning and admission process for over 13 years. I work with students throughout the greater Los Angeles area, meeting with them in their homes, as well as working via Skype with students in other parts of the country. College affordability is an issue for more and more of the families with whom I work, and I am taking this class to make sure that I am armed with the latest financial aid and scholarship information and resources, and to learn efficient and effective strategies for advising my clients. I have known and respected Lynn for many years, and have always learned a lot from her workshops and webinars. I can’t think of anyone more knowledgeable to guide us through the world of college affordability!
    Thanks in advance!

    1. HI Marilyn,

      Thanks for joining the class!

      You are echoing what so many other professionals have been saying – college costs are a concern for a growing number of parents. You are smart for wanting to learn more about how families can finance a college education! And thanks for the kind words!

      Lynn O.

  113. Hi Lynn,
    We’re excited to be here and looking forward to learning our way around the complicated world of financial aid!

    We live in San Diego, where it seems that the income it takes to maintain a middle-class, suburban lifestyle is seen as high income compared to national averages. That’s worrisome! We also have quite a bit of equity in our house, which may hurt us when it comes to financial aid. Hoping to learn how to handle that through your classes.

    We have two boys: a 16 year old finishing up his sophomore year and a 12 year old at the end of 6th grade. I’ve always joked that my husband, a CPA, planned them 4 years apart so we wouldn’t have to pay for two in college at once.

    The eldest has around a 3.7 GPA and will be working on his Eagle Scout project this summer. I’ve heard that the Eagle rank is seen favorably on college applications. He’s also completing a STEM program at his high school that will earn him admission into SDSU’s Engineering program, so that’s one school we need to learn more about. Even if he doesn’t go there, I’m hoping the program will make him look good to the Engineering programs at other schools.

    One particular question: I did a study abroad year in college and would love it if my boys could experience that as well. Are there any special considerations for financial aid & exchange programs?

    Looking forward to learning a lot from your classes this summer, so we’ll be well prepared.
    Thank you,

    1. HI Jennifer,

      Welcome to the class. I can feel your pain about living in San Diego, where the cost of living is so high. My husband and I had to deal with this ourselves.

      As you’ll learn in the class, 229 schools use the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE and most of those schools ask about home equity. Some use the entire amount of home equity in their aid calculations and some use part of the equity and a minority of the schools don’t use it at all. Schools that only use the FAFSA don’t consider the equity in a family’s primary home.

      Here is the link to the PROFILE schools, which are almost entirely private:

      If you are looking at state schools in California or public universities elsewhere, your home equity won’t matter. If you don’t qualify for the Cal Grant, you will almost certainly be paying full price for a Cal State or UC and if you look at public schools in other states, your children would be looking for merit scholarships. Here is the link for the income limits to qualify for the Cal Grant:

      An Eagle Scout rank should look impressive to schools that look at applicants holistically. Those are primarily private institutions. It’s nice that he is guaranteed admission to SDSU’s engineering program.

      I would be sure to look at engineering schools very closely. Here is link that makes recommendations about exploring academic departments:

      A school I think is worth looking at with great scholarships is Montana State, which has a great honors college, it is undergrad friendly (highly unusual for a research university) and lower price with great scholarships.

      Schools will have their own policies for studying abroad. For instance, I paid the same amount for my children when they were overseas. Some schools will cost more. It’s a question to ask schools. Keep in mind that students who are in engineering can’t always study overseas.

      Lynn O.

  114. Hi Lynn,

    I am a financial planner/advisor and while I would like the information to help my clients, I am mostly taking this class for personal reasons. Being a planner, my husband and I have saved well for my daughter’s college. I’m pretty sure we won’t qualify for need-based aid – maybe we saved too well?? Do you ever get questions along those lines?? My daughter is currently about to enter the 8th grade (we start to plan early in my family!). She has great grades, is gifted in Math, and has been playing competitive soccer since she was 4. Soccer is her main extra curricular activity and she plays at a very high level – but we are not counting on a soccer scholarship. She is also good at art. She’d like to go to an Ivy League school mostly because I went to one. She is also interested in doing college abroad in math/science/engineering – potentially in Germany – as a way to cut costs for her undergrad degree so that she can save her 529 plan for grad school. She is definitely planning on grad school.

    I’m definitely interested in learning more about how to not pay full sticker price at the Ivies, your insights into college price inflation, and small private colleges/universities that may still give merit or sports scholarships, and how foreign degree programs compare to US ones.

    Thank you in advance!

    1. Hi Katherine,

      Welcome to the class.

      You should feel good about saving for college. And yes I get tons of questions on this issue and parents are usually worrying unnecessarily!

      Parents will be in much better shape to pay for college if they save. The financial aid penalty for saving is quite small while the payoff for saving is quite large. For every $10,000 that you save, your eligibility for need-based aid only declines by no more than $564 and usually it’s not that much. You will learn all about how investments are assessed in the Investments and Financial Aid lesson in the module entitled, A Closer Look at Financial Aid.

      I would urge your daughter to expand her lists of schools. Aiming for these small groups of school can cause mental health issues, eating disorders, physical problems like migraines and her chances of success will be slim after all her sacrifices to attain perfection. There are so many tremendous schools that she can explore!

      You will also learn how the Ivies and other elite schools price themselves in the class. Just look at the modules entitled Targeting Schools for the Most Money, Parts I and II. The Ivies provide zero merit scholarships because they get plenty of applications from students with rich parents who will now pay up to $280,000 for a single bachelor’s degree from a trophy school.

      I would urge you to read the lessons on athletic scholarships. The soccer scholarships are usually quite small and she would need to be among the best soccer player in her state to be in the running. Merit scholarships are almost always bigger than athletic awards.

      Germany is a country where your daughter could get free tuition to go to school. I just wrote a piece (not quite finished yet) on getting a degree overseas and I’m patching in the relevant parts.

      1. A student doesn’t have to be proficient in a foreign language to attend a European school. There are more than 1,500 European bachelor’s degree programs taught in English outside the United Kingdom in Europe.

      2. Anyone serious about exploring their European options can now take advantage of a helpful new resource – The website includes many free articles about attending school in Europe. For a monthly fee, the website also offers a database of all bachelor degree programs conducted in English that are located in non-English speaking countries.

      Meanwhile the British Council is a go-to resource for students who want to attend college in Great Britain, the most popular foreign option. From this site, you can find schools, courses and scholarships for international students.

      3. The price can be much cheaper attending school in Europe. Many schools do offer tuition waivers and scholarships for international students. According to, the average tuition cost is $7,291 per year and more than 40 European public universities provide American students with free tuition. Many schools do offer tuition waivers and scholarships for international students.

      BTS estimates that the average housing costs are in the range of $335 to $500 a month.

      4. It won’t take as long to earn a bachelor’s degree in Europe. With some exceptions, an undergraduate degree will only take three years rather than the traditional four in the United States. Students can complete their degrees faster because European schools don’t bother with electives and general education credits. Students jump right into their majors instead.

      Being committed to a certain major before starting college will be a deal breaker for teenagers who are undecided about what they want to study. And it can also be risky for students who think they know because many students in this country end of switching their majors at some point during their college careers.

      5. Parents can use their 529 college accounts to pay for many European schools. You can use 529 plans at overseas schools as long as the institution accepts U.S. financial aid or loans.

      On this federal student aid website, you can obtain an Excel spreadsheet of all the foreign colleges and universities that accept federal student aid. Here is the link:

      6. At schools that accept federal aid, undergraduates and graduate students can apply for a federal Direct Loan. Grad students and parents can also apply for a federal Direct PLUS Loan. Students who pursue their degrees overseas, however, won’t qualify for any federal grants including the Pell Grant that’s intended for low and middle-income students.

      7. Earning a graduate degree can be much cheaper. Many master’s degree programs are just a year long rather than two or three year. And doctorates can be completed in just three or four years in Europe compared to the typical seven years for a PhD in the U.S.

      8. Educational styles differ. European schools tend to be focused on independent study. In this kind of environment, students could spend very little time in a classroom. Instead students will do a lot of independent reading. There often will not be many opportunities to earn a good grade and instead grades can depend one just one or two tests.

      European schools aren’t focused on the clubs and sports that are commonplace in the United States and they don’t have the Greek system. A school rather than be located in a compact campus can be spread out in buildings scattered across a city. While people in the U.S. tend to strongly identify with their alma mater, this isn’t a common phenomenon in European countries.

      9. Homesickness is possible. Some students won’t be able to hack the distance. The majority of American college students live within 100 miles of their home. If a student attends a school overseas the trips home will be limited.

      Some students won’t be able to handle the cultural and culinary differences. Not to mention learning a new language. Pursuing a degree overseas will require a level of maturity that many American undergraduates don’t possess.

      Lynn O.

  115. Hi Lynn,

    My name is Linda Dennis, and I am an educational consultant and the founder of iCollege Consulting. I live in Studio City and serve students and their families across the country.

    I am very excited to be taking your course. For most families, the cost of college is so important in the building of the college list, and the issue around which there is the most confusion and anxiety. I strive to become better in being able to lead families down this road, and I know that your information will help me to realize that objective.

    Thank you in advance!

    1. Hi Linda,

      Welcome to the class. That’s interesting that you’ve got clients across the country while you are in LA.

      As many people here have noted, college costs have become incredibly important. And this is why I created my class!

      Lynn O.

  116. Hi Lynn!

    I started my career as a middle and high school teacher in Minnesota. In the past few years I’ve taught in the MAT program at George Fox University and enjoyed mentoring new teachers (It appears that you’re not a huge fan of MAT programs!). This past year I became an independent counselor in Bend, Oregon, and I’ve volunteered in the Future Center at Summit High School for the past 4 years.

    Affordability is a huge concern of the parents with whom I work, but the students are star struck by the Ivy League/East Coast schools. I can’t wag my finger too viciously as my oldest just finished his first year at Middlebury and loved it. So, yes, we did drink the KoolAid with him…and honestly, it did taste pretty good.

    We also have a rising senior who does not have the grades or resume of his older brother, but works hard and has dreams of going to a solid four year school. I feel much more empowered in reading just a few of your blogs to steer him, and all of my clients, to smarter financial choices.

    I look forward to opening up the fire hose and drinking deeply!

    1. Hi Anne,

      Hey sorry for my strong opinions about education master’s degree programs. I don’t want to suggest that they are all lacking, but I think they generally need to be rethought.

      I am glad to hear that your oldest had a good first year at Middlebury! I happen to love liberal arts colleges for a lot of reasons including the exclusive focus on undergraduates, the small classes and the mentoring.

      While Middlebury is an elite school, I wager that the vast majority of people in Oregon have never heard of it. And that’s part of the problem because the number of schools that parents and teenagers have heard of is actually limited and they are leery of any others. This makes the job so much harder for professionals like you!

      I am glad that you are already feeling more empowered!

      Lynn O

  117. Hello Everyone. My name is Matt and I am an independent educational consultant. I also work in enrollment for a major Private National University in the US. I am taking this class more as professional development, as I have been pleased with Lynn’s other product I have purchased and her place in the industry as an advocate for the fight for affordable college tuition.

  118. Hello Lynn from Washington, DC! My son will be a junior in the fall, and plans to complete the International Baccalaureate diploma program at our local public high school. We lived in Europe for 7 years (France and Switzerland), and as you can imagine the cost of college in the US is a real shock compared to what our friends in Europe tell us they are paying for higher education there (we are American). We also have a son who will be in 8th grade in the fall, so it looks like we will have two in college at the same time for 1 year. I think it is highly unlikely we will qualify for need-based aid, so I am focusing on merit aid (my son’s GPA is 3.8 at a very large school–we are proud of him!). Unlike many (most) in this area, we are not focused on the Ivy League. Rather, we want our son to find a great fit and focus on what is right for him–not on what others are doing. It’s hard! I am taking this course to learn how to help him build a college list, and to learn how to best guide him regarding cost. I don’t want to guide him into applying to a school where he has no chance of aid and will end up having to say no to $60,000 a year. It’s just setting him up for disappointment. We are also considering schools in Canada (I am intrigued by their “co-op” model). Schools in Europe could be a possibility, but with foreign student fees and the exchange rate I’m not sure that will be any bargain. Many thanks! Kind regards, Carol Ps am also trying to better understand when an SAT subject test is required–if you could help answer that for me that would be much appreciated…..

    1. Hi Carol,

      Welcome to the class!

      That’s a long time to be in Europe and I imagine it is quite a transition to move back here! Because you have been in Europe so long and there is a growing number of Americans who wonder if getting a degree over there would be cheaper, I wanted to mention a new relevant website that I am impressed with.

      I’d urge anyone who is interested in European options, to head over the the website of Beyond the States
      The site focuses on the schools taught in English in Europe. There are over 1,500 bachelor’s programs taught in English in Europe.

      Here is the link:

      I think your goals are quite practical and I applaud them! One way to look for schools is to check out my latest resource guide: A Smart Blueprint for Selecting Colleges. You can find it with all the other resource guides in the Bonus Material module.

      Here is a post that I wrote last year about how harmful it can be for families to only focus on the most elite schools and why it’s unnecessary:

      As for the SAT subject tests, it’s only the elite schools that require these tests. Mercifully, the biggest system requiring SAT subject tests – the University of California – dropped the mandatory requirement in recent years. A few schools within the UC campuses (primarily engineering) still recommend them. Here is a link to get a list of schools that still requires the subject tests or recommend them:

      Lynn O.

  119. Hello! My name is Julie Block and I have been an educator for 22 years. I just finished my 17th year as a school counselor at Eden Prairie High School in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Next year, I will be working with our total school community as a college and career counselor. My entire career, I have been trying to change the language of my high achieving community to have students not talk about getting into college but finding their right fit. Many students seem to try to be perfect academically and with their extra curricular activities and that can get in the way of their health and wellness. It is my passion to help students make a smart list of schools and not just focus on the name brand schools that the media spends so much time talking about (with low admit rates and who are making their own right class filled with talented young people). I’m excited to to take your class to enhance my tool box to help students get excited about this process and to be informed of all angles of the college admissions process.

    1. Hi Julie,

      Welcome to the class! I feel your frustration! And I appreciate you fighting against the perception that there is a golden ticket and you can only win it at a few impregnable institutions of higher education!

      Madeline Levine has written a great book about this issue, The Price of Privilege, that I wish more parents would read!

      Here is the link to the book for those who might be interested:

      I think you will learn a lot that really will enhance your tool box!

      Lynn O.

  120. Aloha, my name is Lorraine and I live in Hawaii. My oldest daughter just finished her freshman year of college and we have a younger sister who will be a junior next year. We are all about fit. It is when the oldest began the process that I realized the discrepancies in resources between her private school and the local public high school in an extremely low income and under served community where I taught for 20 years. That’s when I got interested in bridging the gap to help our local public school kids with college awareness, the search and application process and became certified as a College Admissions Counselor through the UCLA’s Extension program. I’m in the process of finding my niche in the local community and hope to earn some money doing it someday!

    For kids from low income families who are often first generation college goers, the cost of college is one of the biggest deterrents to them even applying to go to college. I’m hoping that what I learn in this class will help me guide them and that more kids from this community than ever will be seeking a post secondary education.

  121. Hi Lynn,

    My son and I live in Santa Monica, California. He will be starting 11th grade in the Fall. I am the primary custodial parent and will need to obtain a waiver on the profile form since his father who pays nothing and is impossible to deal with makes a lot of money. though my son still sees his father. My son is a Classics fanatic and participates in competitive certamen(Latin quiz on history, daily life, grammar etc). and interested in politics (is an officer in youth and government) and debate (started a team at his school for the fall) plus coin collecting (He buys and sells coins and goes to coin expos).

    His grades are average for his school and am sure he will have a high SAT. Looking for a small to mid-size liberal arts type school anywhere that will give us aid. He is concerned about reputation but I am not. Having trouble deciding on a list and concerned about getting a waiver. He liked Reed as we visited last summer. He also liked Pomona which he doesn’t”t have the grades for.

    My questions are about the waiver if my son still sees his father and knowing his current school will write me a third party letter given all the issues we have had.

    Also how to get a list of schools with classics and politics. I feel he could get scholarship due to his latin honors and many awards that would hopefully give him aid or merit money. What schools would be on the list for us with that focus?



    1. Hi Mara,

      Welcome to the class! Your son sounds like a fascinating child. I could see why being in love with the Classics would attract him to Reed. Reed is an extremely competitive school, but I think this liberal arts college, which I’ve read does a better job of attracting students throughout the country than any other college or university (and this wasn’t surprising to me), strives to find students who are great fits for the institution. With his interests, your son appears to demonstrate that he is a fit for this college, which is a powerhouse for producing graduates who ultimately get their PhDs. That said, you don’t say what his GPA is and he hasn’t taken the SAT yet.

      When you face a big financial challenge to pay for the school, it is of huge importance that your son understand the importance of doing as well as humanely possible in school. Reading between the lines, it seems like he is throwing most of his energy into the activities that excite him and school doesn’t. It’s hard to blame him and I admire his passion, but money, in this case, matters if his father refuses to pay.

      Most schools practice preferential packaging, which means they give the best packages to the students who will make them look better. So the better the student’s academic profile, the more likely to get better need-based aid or merit aid.

      Reed, however, only gives need-based aid so higher income students, who don’t qualify for financial aid, will pay full price. That said, there are PROFILE schools who will ignore a parent’s income in a case of divorce if there is a compelling reason and if they are excited about the student.

      I had a dear friend pull this off when her son, who originally wanted to attend Reed and didn’t get an acceptance, got accepted into Macalester College, another elite liberal arts college in Minnesota. The schools accepted the mom’s argument that the father was estranged from the family and he got an excellent financial aid package. Macalester, like Reed, meets 100% of need.

      Of course, the dad’s refusal to pay will not be an issue if your son focuses exclusively on schools that only use the FAFSA. You can learn more about this by reading the lesson entitled, Divorce/Separation and Financial Aid. It’s in the module entitled, A Closer Look at Financial Aid Formulas.

      I would suggest using the resource guide that you’ll find in the course – The Smart Blueprint for Selecting Colleges – as a resource when looking for schools that offer classics majors. You’ll find that in the Bonus Material module.

      Also here is a link to info on Classics majors on the College Board’s website that has a link to schools that say they offer a classics major:

      This probably wouldn’t have been on your radar, but one school that offers the Great Books curriculum, tiny Shimer College in Chicago, is getting absorbed North Central College, in Naperville, Ill. The school announced recently that it planned to acquire Shimer College, which has a prestigious great-books curriculum but has fewer than 150 students in space leased from the Illinois Institute of Technology, in Chicago. If the deal goes through, according to a news release, “North Central would create a ‘Shimer Great Books School’ within North Central’s academic structure.”

      Here are links about this:

      Lynn O.

  122. Aloha, my name is Lorraine and I live in Hawaii. My oldest daughter just finished her freshman year of college and we have a younger sister who will be a junior next year. I enjoyed the older girl’s process way more than she did! It is when she began the process that I realized the discrepancies in resources between her private school and the local public high school in an extremely low income and under served community where I taught for 20 years. That’s when I got interested in bridging the gap to help our local public school kids with college awareness, the search and application process and became certified as a College Admissions Counselor through the UCLA program. I’m in the process of finding my niche in the local community and hope to earn some money doing it someday!

    For kids from low income families who are often first generation college goers, the cost of college is one of the biggest deterrents to them even applying to go to college. I’m hoping that what I learn in this class will help me help them and more kids from this community than ever will be seeking a post secondary education.

    1. Hi Lorraine,

      It’s great to have someone from Hawaii in the class. That is fantastic of you to be focused on helping low-income students.

      One new resource that would be ideal for low-income students is Pell Abacus, which allows low-income students who are qualified for free and reduced lunch to use net price calculators of colleges and universities without having available the household tax returns or financial information. A really good net price calculator requires a great deal of financial information from parents, but Pell Abacus can short circuit this.

      You will learn more about College Abacus, which has created Pell Abacus, in the Net Price Calculators lesson in the module entitled, Your Families’ First Step. Pell Abacus is in beta.

      You will learn a lot more that can help your families, but I wanted to pass this tool along because I just discovered it!

      And I expect you will absorb information that will help your own daughter too!

      Lynn O.

      1. Dear Lynn,
        Thank you very much for the resource. Much appreciated. I see people every day that need help and the more resources I have to share the better.

  123. Hi Lynn:
    My daughter will be a Junior in the Fall. She attends SOTA (School of the Arts) in San Francisco. I believe you spoke at her school two years ago at a PTA meeting but I was not able to attend. I heard great things about your presentation. My daughter plays the oboe, but does not want to pursue music as a career but currently wants to keep it in her life – perhaps as a minor? Right now she is looking at staying somewhat close to home.

    I am hoping to understand how to find out the real cost of a school – right now we are scared away from schools due to the “sticker price”.

    1. Hi Dena,

      Welcome to the class! I did speak at SOTA and I appreciated the great turnout! It was the year that the Cardinals (my hometown team!) and the Giants played in the MLB divisional championship and your team won! ):

      You will learn a lot about pricing of schools in this class. The prices of schools in California, like so many on the East Coast are higher because that is where students want to attend college. There are maybe nine private schools in California with very good to excellent need-based aid:

      Pomona College
      Claremont McKenna College
      Harvey Mudd College
      Pitzer College
      Scripps College
      SOKA University of America
      Occidental College
      Stanford University

      USC says it meets a high percentage of need, but I have been skeptical of that. It could be possible for some students.

      In general the merit scholarships will be better and/or the prices lower for schools that aren’t as popular in the state. Examples would be California Lutheran University, Concordia University and University of La Verne.

      Of course, there are also the University of California campuses and the California State U. Whether you will qualify for aid depends heavily on your income and your nonretirement assets can exceed $70,000. Here is the chart that shows who is eligible for a Cal Grant, which covers the tuition and fees for state California schools for residents and a portion of the tuition at private schools here.

      One thing that I would caution about the Cal States and some of the UCs is that the four-year graduation rates are mediocre to poor. For instance, at San Francisco State, the four year grad rate is less than 13%.

      I would recommend that you also look at schools outside of California.

      Lynn O.

  124. Hi Lynn,

    As you know, I am from Denver, Colorado. I have been a school counselor for the last six years at the largest, traditional high school in Denver Public Schools. My caseload is about 350 students (which is on the low side for DPS, and definitely low in comparison to public schools by you in California). I am so grateful for that. That said, I have about 100 seniors every year to support through the college process (which is 1/3 of my job in addition to academic and social-emotional counseling).

    My time is stretched thin – especially now as a new mom since Valentine’s Day – so I need resources on the ready at all times! I have a passion for helping students consider their post-secondary options. I feel well versed in building a college list based on personal and academic fit but I really need help considering how to help students find financial fits. My school is very diverse socioeconomically. On the one hand, I have students who have never considered college as their next step and think its not a option for them due to the money piece and on the other hand, I have some of the most wealthy families in Denver. Too often both think that in-state colleges are their only financial option. I know this isn’t true but I don’t do a good job helping them find other financial options (yet!). I am especially interested in information about securing merit scholarships and in learning more about honors colleges and how to determine the strength of college departments. I would also love any tips you have on helping families realize that they don’t have to go to Harvard to have the best college experience (which sounds hypocritical coming from me because I did my graduate work in counseling there).

    Thank you for offering this class in line with summer break. I simply wouldn’t have time to sift through materials during the school year and so I am glad to be able to focus on your course now and become better prepared for the senior appointments I will have in August.

    Bring on the resources!

    1. Hi Lauran,

      Congratulations on being a new mom!!

      It’s nice to have someone in my class that works in the same school district as my son. The wife of the best man in my wedding graduated from East High School!

      I am glad you are in the class and wish more high school counselors would join because they are in the front lines of the college decision-making process.

      Your case load is crazy, but one thing you and other counselors can do is hold school-wide or parent-wide presentations to spread the word about what families need to know about paying for college, as well as their college options.

      Unfortunately, at many, if not most, high schools, the college presentations are held just for parents of seniors and focus on filing the FAFSA and perhaps the PROFILE, which is really one of the last steps of the process. There is so much more that parents need to know and they need to know it long before the fall of their children’s senior year in high school!

      What’s more these presentations are typically conducted by an admission rep at a local college or university. These reps have a vested interest in not sharing what’s really going on in the college admission process including who gets money and whether or not their institution is stingy. It’s a terrible conflict of interest.

      Beyond the knowledge you’ll receive in this class, please feel free to provide any of the resource guides that you have in this class to your families.

      As for the Ivy League fixation, it is very unfortunate and only through education can wealthy families (and it’s really a preoccupation of this group) understand there are other options. Here are links to stories that may help:

      Lynn O.

  125. I am from Longview, Texas, and have 2 girls, the elder who just completed her freshman year at Scripps College after a gap year, and the younger who will begin attending Drew University this fall. We’ve already finished the college application process twice, but I think my biggest challenge during this course will be to keep my emotions in check with my elder daughter – she is hoping to transfer to an out of state public school – a decision that I really don’t approve of. The more I read of Lynn’s blog, the more determined I am to convince her to stay where she is, but I’ve recently decided that our family needs some peace and that she can make this decision on her own. As a bargaining chip, she had to agree to do the 6 things that all successful college graduates do (find a mentor, have a personal relationship with a professor, etc.), so hopefully it will be a good move. I am taking this course because I am interested in becoming a college counselor and would like more info.

    1. Hi Sandi,

      Welcome to the class! This is a great course to take if you are going to become a college counselor!

      As I’ve said elsewhere in this comment section, I don’t think college consultants/counselors should be making college suggestions without having some knowledge about whether a school will work financially. And one way is to ask a family to determine their EFC(s). This is not threatening in comparison to asking parents how much they make and how much they have in the bank.

      I am so sorry that your daughter didn’t like Scripps College! I’ve always thought this would be an ideal women’s college because it’s surrounded by other liberal arts colleges on the same campus. The experience she has at a large university will be quite different, but I am glad to hear that she has promised to do the six things that successful undergraduates do!

      For those who don’t know what we’re talking about, here is a blog post that I wrote that discusses the six factors:

      Lynn O.

  126. Hi Lynn, I’ve been a public school counselor in rural upstate NY for the past 20 years. I’m also the father of three children, ages 19, 15, and 12. My oldest is currently in the process of transferring from a local 2-yr college to an out-of-state public university. Professionally, I’m finding that debt-awareness, ROI, and cost of attendance in general is surfacing with increasing frequency as a key issue my students are factoring in to their college planning. I’m very interested in extending my expertise in helping my students fine tune their college lists given their specific family financial picture–strong merit based colleges for those who won’t demonstrate need, strong need-based aid schools for both strong and moderately strong students, etc. I’m very much looking forward to walking through this lab with you!

    1. Hi Steve,

      Thanks for joining the class. You are so right that the cost of college is becoming a significant issue for a growing number of families. The costs continue to rise above inflation rates while the incomes of many families remains flat.

      It is so smart of you to want to learn more about the type of advice you should be giving students who either are looking for merit aid or need-based aid. Most parents no longer have the luxury to allow their teenagers to apply to colleges blindly and just hope for the best! People need a plan!

      One consolation – students in New York state are lucky that the SUNYs are more affordable for in-state residents than many of the state systems on the East Coast!

      Lynn O.

  127. Hi Lynn and all others ready to learn!

    I am from Northern California. I have a daughter who is a rising Senior, and soon we will be immersed in the college application process. I hope to learn how to be the smartest college shopper ever, and with my daughter, find the right place for her and her aspirations, and keep those costs realistic and manageable! Thank you, Lynn! Good luck to us all!

  128. Hi Lynn, I live in Southern California and will have a senior, junior and freshman in high school in the fall. My biggest concern is for my junior who is very bright and has his goals set on the most selective colleges. However, he is not interested in staying in California (unless accepted to Stanford). Because we have many rental properties, the net price calculators show that we would pay full price at these private schools. I feel like there is no reason to bother with the fafsa. I know many great students get rejected from these elite schools so I am interested in creating a back-up list of great schools that offer merit aid. I am not excited to fork out 50-60k a year!

    1. Hi Tanya,

      You have identified a challenge for your family that is excellent to know heading into the hunt for schools. If you have a high Expected Family Contribution and will not qualify for need-based aid, you would pay full price at the most elite schools, which can provide excellent need-based aid but charge high-income families full price.

      The good news for you is that the vast majority of schools provide merit scholarships to high-income students. And that’s true for state universities and private institutions. If your son has the academic profile that would make him competitive for a Stanford admission (and of course almost all applicants are rejected) then he could have great luck finding schools that would give him merit scholarships.

      I am patching in parts of a couple of emails from a mom in Pennsylvania who was in the same position you appear to be in – no chance at need-based aid with a very bright child. I hope you find it illuminating….

      I am checking in with you after first reaching out to you over a year ago when I read your book and took your course. At the time, we had been looking at Ivy League schools for our daughter, Grace, who is the class salutatorian (with a 5.0 GPA), has excellent test scores and possibly hooked extracurriculars. Like many of your fans, we learned that our EFC would be well above what we could afford and the nearly $100,000 we have saved for each of our two children won’t go far at a private school.

      With that in mind, Grace applied to 10 colleges (no Ivies and all of which provide merit aid) and received significant merit aid at five of them.

      Her final list was down to:

      — McGill (initial offer of $3,000 one-time, wrote essays that resulted in $5,000 annually [Canadian]) (The significantly lower Canadian tuition made this a financial safety for our family)
      — Pittsburgh (initial offer of $10,000 annually [we are in-state], interviewed for and received Chancellor’s Scholarship (complete full ride)
      — Syracuse (initial offer of $20,000 annually, competed for and was named Coronat Scholar (full tuition for four years)
      — Tulane (initial offer of $32,000 annually, was named a Dean’s Honors Scholar following a project submission (full tuition for four years)
      — William & Mary (competed for and was named a 1693 Scholar, which covers full tuition, room and board at the in-state level [we pay the difference between IS and OOS, which is affordable to us given our 529 savings])

      In total, Grace’s awards add up to about $700,000 in merit aid. All of these schools are excellent for her academic interests and she would have thrived at any of them. She has chosen William & Mary because it is the best fit for her: the student body is quite intellectual as is she, and she loves the size of a large college/small university with an undergraduate focus that offers graduate student programs. Also, the 1693 Scholar Cohort group is the kind of opportunity that she was seeking.

      Had Grace followed the masses and sought out an Ivy League education (as an “excellent sheep”), she would have limited opportunities after graduation. Given her interest in law school, Peace Corps, Foreign Service, working on political campaigns, etc., our path will result in her having no limitations on career path or post-graduate choices. We could not be more pleased with the outcome, and I wanted to let you know that you were part of this success. Grace’s hard work throughout high school was the reason she received these opportunities, but using your resources was part of the way that we identified them.

      You might want to share a few caveats, since there were some bumps along the way — despite Grace’s ultimate success:
      — Patience was key. Many of Grace’s peers had committed to schools through the early decision process, and she did not receive four of the five large merit awards until March and April. She was frustrated by her inability to share a decision with other students who had known for a long time which colleges they would be attending, but of course that ended up being the right move for her in the end.
      — Tippy-top students who seek merit aid may be challenged by their peers about their choices — esp. when those peers are all seeking to attend Ivies. So, students need to develop a bit of a thick skin and recognize that they are doing what is right for them (and for their families).
      — When evaluating schools, students should be open-minded about individual programs, even if the overall school might not appear to be a tight fit. In Grace’s case, for example, she is interested in public policy, and Syracuse’s Maxwell School was a draw for her — even though it is much less selective than some of her other choices.

      Finally, in response to your question, you are correct that I was referring to the fact that Grace’s (and our) financial burden if she attended an Ivy would have been great due to the high price tags and no merit aid. We agree with you that the sacrifice that attending an Ivy would have entailed would not have been worth it and we are so grateful that we found another option.

  129. Hi, my name is Marita. I am the parent of a student entering 10th grade in the fall. I live in California. I’m taking the course because we made quite a few mistakes when my older child applied to college. We would like to be better informed this time around.

  130. Hi Lynn, my name is Julie Roberson, my daughter’s name is Emma. My mom is also doing the class with me, Kathy Trent. My daughter will be a senior this year. We live in Aptos, California which is in Santa Cruz County, the central coast. My daughter Emma wants to major in math and be a high school math teacher. She has a 4.1 GPA and still awaiting her SAT and ACT test scores. I am hoping out of the course to be navigated with the whole process, especially the financial, I am currently very stressed out about it.

    Thanks so much,


    1. Welcome to the class Julie!

      Your daughter has something in common with my son Ben! He graduated with a mathematics degree (and studio art minor) from Beloit College in 2014. He decided while he was in college that he wanted to be a high school math teacher.

      I have a dim view of education degrees in general (they are heavy in pedagogy and light on how to actually be successful teacher including how to maintain control in the classroom) so I went looking for alternatives. I discovered teacher residency programs, which allow for more hands-on experience under supervision. My son completed the Denver Teacher Residency program in 2015, which is sponsored by the Denver Public Schools and the University of Denver. It was a very challenging experience, but it gave him a better chance as a new teacher. He just finished his first year as a professional teacher at a Denver alternative high school.

      I happen to think these teacher residency programs represent a better way to get into teaching than Teach for America.

      Here are two posts I wrote about these programs:

      Teacher residency programs are located in many major cities and it’s a way to be trained as a teacher primarily in subjects where the demand exceeds the supply such as math and science. I heard that the typical master’s degree costs about $34,000, but teacher residency programs can be essentially free. Ben got a cut in the price at the University of Denver, was paid a $20,000 stipend that covered his living expenses and the school district gives him money to pay off a quarter of his student loan each year over four years that is conditioned on him staying in the district.

      These residency programs are for individuals with bachelor’s degrees that do NOT already have an education degree. They are interested in students who majored in the subject that they are going to teach such as chemistry, biology and math. I should note that it is possible to get into some teacher residency programs without having a bachelor’s degree in a STEM major.

      Lynn O.

  131. Hi! I’m Gisell and I’m here professionally. I have years of experience with college admissions, but took a break from that work and it’s been a couple years. I know how fast things can change in this industry so I’m taking this course as a refresher and I also believe I will gain a new set of skills I didn’t have in my work prior. Thank you Lynn for offering this course.

    1. Hi Gisell,

      Welcome to the class. Were your years of experience in college admissions at a college? I know the experience can be quite different for those who work at colleges.

      I am confident you will learn a lot in the course!

      Lynn O.

  132. Hello again Lynn,

    This is my second time taking the course, the first being in 2014.

    I am a Certified Financial Planner, and mainly work with clients on college funding. Courtesy the Obama administration, a lot has changed for the better in the information available to families since 2014. Though the process has been simplified, families are still faced with making sense of a huge amount of complex information. This is a good opportunity for me to check in and make sure I remain on top of the best tools available for estimating college costs and the financial aid colleges might offer.


    1. Hi David,

      I am so glad you are taking the class again. I hope things are well up in the Bay Area for you. I would agree that things have changed for the better including the new FAFSA changes which will reduce the rush-rush nature of filing for financial aid. Families will now be using two-year old taxes when filing the FAFSA and PROFILE which will reduce the chances of errors. And the new starting filing date of Oct. 1 will allow families to apply for aid earlier and hopefully get acceptances and aid packages earlier. I do mention the FAFSA changes in the class and I will also discuss them in one of the webinars.

      Lynn O.

  133. Hi!, I am a Karen, a parent of two college bound children. My professional background is CPA and governmental accountant. We live in Yakima, Washington.

    I am struggling with the new FAFSA, my 2015 year will be a joint federal tax return. But circumstances changed in 2016 I am a divorced single parent. With less resources to contribute for college.

    My first child, a son Mason is interested in electrical engineering or green energy manufacturing. He will be done with High School in June 2017. He is an average student. He has done significant charity work and received an Eagle scout award from the Boy Scouts of America.

    My second child, a daughter Elizabeth, is interested in radiology or ophthalmology. She will be ready for College in December 2017. She is a 3.98 student. High school is effortless for her.

    I would like to reduce the “school loans”, and maximize the grant and scholarship possibilities.
    I think they would both benefit from a smaller college atmosphere.

    1. This is a situation that unfortunately many divorced couples have face.

      I would only include one parent’s income on the FAFSA and then obtain a tax transcript and circle the custodial parent’s income. The college most likely will have additional questions so you’ll have to explain your circumstance.

      Colleges are not required to honor this scenario, but should.

      There are fewer “colleges” in the West, but there are a couple of promising ones up in your neck of the world. I’d suggest checking out College of Idaho, which is 300+ miles from you and Carroll College in Helena, MT, which is about 500 miles. Both of these schools are lower priced because they are off the coasts and they provide healthy merit awards.

      College of Idaho is one of the 380 schools in Princeton Review’s The Best 380 Colleges, 2016 edition. As usual, the student feedback on this colleges professors is excellent. When you look at this publication check out the professor accessibility and professor interesting ratings.

      Here is an article that I wrote about these ratings:

      You’ll learn a lot about how to find schools and pay for them in this class!

      Lynn O.

  134. Hi

    We are a family of 3 (me, husband, daughter) living in Beverly, MA. My daughter is in 11th grade. I feel like we have a good amount of college savings — enough so if she went to UMass we could pretty much just pay for it if need be. I am a school librarian and my husband has a relatively low-paying job at a local hospital, having gone through a later in life career change after making more, which is when we saved money.

    My daughter is bright and interested in social science fields (maybe psych, global studies, etc.) but not set on any particular major. She does well in school but is not an outstanding student. She has some sports (tennis team captain next year, swim team member) and activities but not a huge number. No super-special artistic or athletic talent. She has done Destination Imagination since 1st or 2nd grade and loves it (if you don’t know it, it’s sort of the epitome of STEAM); her team is trying to do an independent study for next year.

    I would like her to be able to consider some private colleges and out of state public schools. As we have a small family with a decent amount of savings, and she is a strong but not outstanding student and a girl applying from Mass, I am concerned she will not qualify for much in the way of either need-based aid or merit aid. I would like her to have choices beyond the public colleges, but if all the schools she gets into end up costing twice as much as UMass it would be hard to see those as a good way to go. Having her get out of school debt-free or as close to that as possible is a huge priority for us. Another piece of the puzzle is we have some relatives who may be willing to help but I’d like to take that help in a way that doesn’t penalize us (or them) too much.

    Some schools she has toured and liked so far are Clark, UVM, Northeastern (probably her top 3 choices as of right now — NE a reach) as well as Conn College, UMass Amherst. Considering looking at Providence College, Skidmore, Temple, Hofstra, maybe Brown (a reach but I am an alum). Looking to stay in New England or at least Northeast.

    1. Hi Alexandra,

      Thanks for joining the course.

      I can appreciate your interest in wanting to look at other alternatives for your daughter beyond the u of Massachusetts. You are lucky that if your daughter does attend one of the UMass campuses you will be able to cover the cost.

      I don’t know what your daughter’s GPA or test scores are, but there are MANY state universities that will provide merit scholarships to nonresidents without a top academic profile. In contrast, the requirements for merit scholarships for extremely popular schools such as Michigan, Virginia, Wisconsin and the U of California will be fierce or nonexistent.

      I would urge you to read the lessons entitled Merit Aid and State Universities in the Targeting Schools for the Most Money, Part II module. What people need to know is that public universities outside their states award money almost exclusively as merit scholarships. Students who require need-based aid can’t expect to receive any at public institutions beyond their borders. This doesn’t sound like it would apply to you, but it is something that people in the class need to know.

      The bad news for you is that state universities in the Northeast as a group are the most expensive in the United States. I think these schools can get away with this because the Northeast is also the home for the majority of the nation’s most expensive private schools. The notable exception are the SUNY schools in NY state.

      University of Vermont, which was one school that you mentioned, is on the list of the most expensive state schools in the country. For a nonresident, the sticker price ($50,310) would be double UMass Amherst. It would not make sense to pay that price for Vermont!

      As for other schools, Northeastern has become one of the most popular schools in the country so the chances of admittance, much less getting any discount, will be tough. As for an Ivy League school, your daughter would need extremely high GPA and test scores to have a chance (slim as it is for nearly everyone). To be an Ivy League candidate you must be in the top 10% of her high school class.

      You will have a better chance of winning awards if you looked beyond the extremely competitive brand name schools in the Northeast, where there are fewer schools that offer merit money and where the admission odds are tougher. Another suggestion is to look at regional colleges which are off the radar nationally (and most schools fall aren’t on the national radar) that offer merit money.

      I’d consider looking at schools where most of the students receive a discount. Look at The College List Builder (one of the resource guides) to find schools in specific states.

      You could consider looking at schools that don’t have the name recognition that have lower price points and higher discounts. I can’t speak to the merit of any of these schools, which would require research, but I’m talking about schools such as Becker College, Merrimack College, Simmons College and Suffolk U. in your state of Massachusetts.

  135. Greetings from Northern CA. My husband and I are 53/62 and have at home four children — 2 sets of 2…Yep that is NOT a typo. I have boy/girl soon to be high school sophomores and boy/girl soon to be middle schoolers. And when you do the math that means there will be four in college at one time — when my husband and I should planning our retirement. What WERE we thinking???

    We have money saved that at this point might pay for their meals and books during college and that’s about it. So I am here to learn about options I may not have thought of or discovered.

    I will start by saying, that while I work for the University of California, I have no intention of sending them to one and while I have an affiliation (grad school) from a fancy smancy Spanish styled private institution located just south of San Francisco on the peninsula that many desire to send their kids to — I do not drink the Kool-Aid pushed by higher ed branding and US news and review reports.

    My kids are smart and intrinsically motivated, but not brilliant or talented. They are average with good attitudes. Both of my sons have LD issues that with some accommodations are working out just fine. The first set could be classified as latino/latina by paperwork standards and the second set is Asian. I know at work we track Latino students but not Asain, however I suspect in the Midwest where there are not many Asian students they might be deemed desirable to help with diversity. I will be very interested to get your thoughts on this subject.

    My high school sophomores are in the not so merit worthy 3.25 category. Both do much better when it comes to testing so I am optimistic their SAT/ACT scores will be a little better than average, but not sure anything merit worthy.

    My son has Asperger’s and most likely need to continue to navigate accommodations throughout college. He eat sleeps and drinks science. However it is not is best scoring class, as language and history are super easy and natural for him. He desires to attend Penn State – Altoona for their Railroad Operations program. I’ve looked for railroading options and the only other program in the US is here in Sacramento at City College and we have not ruled out the 2 year AA and transfer option to Penn State. If not railroading, he is interested in meteorology or museum science. We like the 2 year JC option because it would save us some money — however it make us feel like we are playing Sophies choice with our kids—you get to go away to college and you do not….

    His twin sister, has had a bumpy first start in high school (2.8) but has brought it back up the end of the year to a 3.8 (thanks to her coach who has explained how college sports works) which for this year will average out to the less the merit range. She does very well in math and science as both are easy subjects for her. My daughters passion is Crew. She eats, sleeps and drinks rowing. She rows 6 days a week 3 hours a day–hence the challenge of learning the demands of crew and high school home work. She wants to row on a division 1 women’s crew team. She wants to row where there is not a lot of humidity. She thinks she might like to study Kinesiology, Physical Therapy or Radiology. She would like to find a college that also has a Navy officer training program as she is interested in joining the navy post college (she does not want to join the Navy post high school as she wants to row Crew as that will be the only chance she will get to row). She is completely open to going to any school as long as she can row competitively. My daughter found her sport on her own and I have learned since it is a very good sport for college. I had never thought of any of my kids getting athletic interest from a college, but I have learned that my daughters stats have the ability to help her if she can pull her grades up and keep them up. I have pulled the list of colleges offering women’s rowing programs and there is a lot to chose from. The question of course will come down to what we can afford.— as we have not ruled out the college in our backyard which has division 1 women’s rowing team…. Sac State – I went there for my undergrad and hated it the whole time, but it is our safety net school.

    I like the idea of LAC’s and not the massive campuses like we have here in CA. However, I am realistic and do not want to go into debt, nor have my kids go into debt to pay for college. One of our older daughters refused to listen to us when she went away from college and now at 33 has so much debt she cannot buy a house or new car because she took out bad student loans. Our kids at home know her pain and they also do not want to take on large debit for college.

    I am hoping that through this class I can learn some wisdom that will also help me plan for the last two. Both of them are also rowers, and both are above average academically but not merit worthy so I will need all the help I can get to figure out how to send four kids to college when my husband and I should be retiring.

    1. Hi Dawn,

      Wow more sets of twins! That’s incredible.

      Congratulations for not wanting to get sucked into prestige brand worship. It can be hard to do!

      Pardon me for this generalization, but bright Asian students are more likely to aim for research universities such as the UC campuses, the Ivies and other recognizable university brands.

      You are right that Asian students are highly desirable at many schools.
      Last year, for instance, I talked with the admission director at Grinnell College, a highly respected liberal arts college (and the richest) in Iowa. He said the college could use more domestic Asian students at their school. While Asians ignore Grinnell, it is a powerhouse for students going on to graduate school in the STEMs.

      One way to check on the racial/ethnic make-up of a school is to call up a college’s profile on the College Board’s website. Click on the school’s Campus Life hyperlink and you’ll see the pie chart with race and ethnicity.

      Women’s rowing can be a hook to get into a college. This is one of the rare sports where the number of students who row in high school is close to the number of slots open at Div. I schools. That, however, is a bit misleading since many teenagers don’t row at their high schools and instead compete in clubs.

      While your daughter could very well get on a Div. I rowing team, the scholarships are typically going to be meager. Rowing is a so-called equivalency sport which typically means scholarships that are be divided among many athletes. Usually athletic scholarships are going to be worth less than merit scholarships that most schools award.

      I would urge you to read the two lessons on athletic scholarships.

      I totally hear you about your older daughter’s predicament. It’s tragic that students believe going in large debt to attend college is okay. They don’t realize what theyv’e done until they aren’t able to buy things like a new car or a house.

  136. Hello Lynn,
    I have 3 teenagers ages 13, 15, and 17. We live in Anchorage, Alaska. My oldest will be a senior this fall and attending the Alaska Pacific University Early Honors Program for high school seniors. He will attend APU and earn college credit while also finishing his high school requirements. He is looking ahead to a degree in the computer/tech field. He is interested in networking, hardware development, or computer security. He may opt to stay in Alaska (at UAA) for his bachelor’s degree because it is such a good deal cost-wise. He is pretty sure he will complete a master’s degree out of state. Career-wise, would it be better for him to get his bachelor’s degree from a more reputable tech-known school (like Cal-Poly or a UC school)? Or, does the bachelor’s degree matter as much if you are determined to get a master’s degree?

    My second child will be a junior this fall and is determined to go out-of-state for her bachelor’s degree. She attends West High School and has a goal to graduate with an IB diploma, along with completion of 13 years in the district’s K-12 Russian partial-immersion program. She is interested in music education, and more specifically becoming a choir director. I have not yet researched what job prospects there are for choir teachers, but that is a big concern. She is becoming a great digital artist (and loves drawing as a hobby), so I’m wondering if she might be able to double-major with computer graphics (or something along those lines that is a more marketable skill). She should qualify for some sort of merit-based scholarship due to her grades and SAT/ACT scores. Paying $45K+ in out-of-state tuition annually is crazy to me, especially if the career goal is not a lucrative one.

    My youngest child will be in 8th grade this fall and she is interested in computer animation. She loves to draw and spends 1-3 hours per day drawing (and has for the past couple years). She is young, so I know she may find other interests before heading off to college. But, since careers in art/animation are very competitive, I at least want to know how best to prepare her if she does stick with this career interest. What are the best art schools and the best paths to getting into animation?

    (Our family income prevents us from qualifying for need-based scholarships, fyi. Also, my kids are not gifted athletes, so sports-scholarships are not likely either. They are all good students, though.) Thank you!!

    1. Hi Karen,

      Thanks for joining the class from Alaska. My husband’s first job after graduating from UC Berkeley was at the TV station in Fairbanks and he has some wild stories to tell from that time!

      I would not recommend attending state universities in California for an undergraduate degree. The schools are outrageously priced for nonresidents. The state schools here are eager to get nonresidents to come and pay outrageous prices because the state’s support has dwindled.

      The cost of attendance for a nonresident attending a UC is about $58,000. That’s crazy. When the UCs decided to make a push to attract rich students outside California, those in power decided to price the schools just a little bit higher than the U. of Michigan, which was the highest priced schools for nonresidents at the time. As you’ll hear me say many times in this course, where you go to school isn’t as important as making the most at whatever school you attend.

      If your son is interested in graduate school attending a state university in Alaska or a state university elsewhere where he could get a good tuition discount could be your best bet.

      I think double majoring for your daughter makes a lot of sense when a student’s keen interest is in a major that typically leads to low-paying jobs.

      I had Stuart Nachbar, who writes a great blog over at, wrote a guest post on my blog that is relevant:

      As for your youngest, I would let your middle schooler continue to do what she loves doing. It is a gift that she is passionate about art. So many students don’t have a passion. I’d argue that trying to direct her passion at this age could backfire.

      You should know that art schools are extremely expensive. The money is usually distributed based on the strength of an applicant’s portfolio so she could get money that way depending on her talent. Stand-alone art schools and music conservatories are among the worst offenders.

      Lynn O.

  137. Greetings!
    My name is Kirk Golba and I am an independent college counselor in Grand Junction Colorado. I have been a school counselor for twenty years and decided it was time to be able to focus on one aspect, the college going process, and am loving it! So great to be able to spend all my time on just one area (no more lunch duties, test proctoring, staff meetings, etc).

    For the last two years I have been working with many IB (International baccalaureate) students. Surprised to find that even in an educational program such as that there still is not much time spent on the college navigation process, otherwise they wouldn’t be coming to me. Most of my parents are concerned with not so much finding the right college but maybe missing out on something they have not considered…either a school, scholarship, opportunity that they just are unaware of.

    Debt is on their mind but I find they are willing to sacrifice a lot just to get their son/daughter in a “good” school. So for me, it really is about helping them realize that there are many great opportunities out there and although not one perfect school, there will be a number of great good-fit colleges for their student that meets most of the criteria they are looking for, including reasonable cost. Looking forward to adding the info and knowledge you have to share with my clients! – Kirk

    1. HI Kirk,

      It must be wonderful to be able to concentrate on just college after so many years of professional multi-tasking!

      You mention a huge problem. Parents are willing to financially sacrifice (which can mean raiding their retirement accounts or borrowing heavily) for a brand name school. Where you go to school isn’t as important as making the most at whatever school you end up at.

      It is better to not think that there is a perfect school out there. I think your philosophy regarding schools is right on, but I know it is difficult to get families to buy into it.

      Lynn O.

  138. Hi Lynn,

    I’m (another!) parent of twin daughters who will be seniors this fall. My husband and I are in that income zone where our income is too high for financial aid but where we can’t afford to pay full tuition and don’t want to saddle ourselves and our four children with heavy debt straight out of college. The girls are excellent students at a highly competitive CT public school, and we’re starting our search for merit money and schools that are good fits.

    I’ll stop there for now, but have many questions too specific to address here– and look forward to the webinars and discussions. Reading fellow classmates’ stories and your comments below is already valuable! (Thanks all!)


    1. HI Mary,

      Wow. Another set of twins.

      I won’t repeat what I said about the impact of twins on an Expected Family Contribution. You can read this in one or more of my recent parent responses.

      There are many parents in this class that face the same challenge that you do. You don’t qualify for financial aid, but you can’t/don’t want to pay full price for schools that now charge crazy prices. You will learn a great deal that will help you as you search for solutions. Just reading the Q&A in this lesson will probably be eye opening!

      You can definitely ask me questions during the webinars and also at the bottom of any of the lessons.

      Lynn O.

  139. I have one daughter who just completed her freshman year at DeSales University in Pennsylvania. I have a daughter who will be a High School Senior next year.

    My youngest wants to major in psychology. So there have to be many schools that offer this major. So I’m looking to find the right school at the right tuition cost. She just took the SAT for the first time this Saturday. She is a National Honors Society member and has a high GPA.

    1. Hi Adam,

      Welcome to the class.

      There are many, many schools that offer psychology. In fact, psychology is the second most popular major in the country. Here’s an article that shows the 10 most popular degrees:

      Knowing what your daughter’s SAT score is will be very helpful when looking at schools. If your daughter is disappointed by her SAT score (let’s hope not!) one strategy would be too look at test-optional schools. You can find the complete list of test-optional schools at I like to use this list when looking at test-optional schools:

      To figure out how to conduct your search for affordable schools, I’d be sure to read my latest resource guide, Your Smart Blueprint for Selecting Colleges, as well as my guide that I originally wrote for college consultants and counselors – A Step-by-Step College Guide to Help Families Cut Their College Costs. You can find both of them in the Bonus Material module.

      Lynn O.

  140. Hi-
    I am a college consultant primarily working with low-income, first-generation students so very interested in learning more about which schools offer the most aid and how to find $ for college.

    1. Hi Barbra,

      Thanks for joining the class. That’s great that you are working with some of the students who absolutely need the most help!

      The most elite schools are among those who provide the best financial aid. My resource guide shares those names along with other schools that typically meet at least 93% or 94% of need. You can find The Ultimate List of the Nation’s Most Generous Colleges in the Bonus Material module. Here is the link:

      A shocking number of lower income students don’t complete the FAFSA or give up and never submit it which is a huge problem. Also the money in federal SEOG grant program for low-income students often dries up quick on campuses so it’s important to submit the FAFSA as soon as possible. With the new FAFSA changes, I would recommend that your families file the FAFSA on Oct. 1 or ASAP after that date.

      Perkins Loan money is also limited so that’s another reason to file promptly.

      You should also read the lesson entitled, College Diversity Opportunities, which is in the module called Targeting Schools for More Money, Part II. I apologize for the poor video quality, but it contains good advice!!

      Lynn O.


  141. My name is Mike and we have a rising Senior, class of 2017, and going knee deep now into college research, visits, and prep for what’s ahead. This is our one and only child so this is all totally new for us. We live in Cleveland, OH and our son seems to want to stay in Ohio for college with some sort of Engineering discipline / degree.

    From the class, I want to make sure we are thinking about college search / selection in terms beyond what just “feels right” to our son. I know three are many aspects such as cost, safety, amenities, extra curricular activity, housing… but again, with a first/only child, I have zero experience in this and don’t want to miss any big/obvious/critical things along the way.

    Then of course there is the cost/funding part of the puzzle. How to get the highest quality education for the least amount of cost. We have saved for this, but it’s still a massive amount of money so we want to be sure we are taking steps to achieve value and savings whenever possible.

    I am also interested in any sort of Roadmap. What to do in what sequence at what points in time, etc. Lots to do and think about so I’m concerned we will miss something without your coaching.

    Looking forward to insight and help over the next two months!


  142. My name is Michele and I am from Northern NJ. I have twin boys that will be rising seniors and they are not looking at the same colleges. My hope at this point is perhaps geographically they will be in the same area and not graduate from college on the same day after 4 years (and 4 years only!) and that I am not in debt up to my eyeballs to be able to pay for my 3rd son who will be entering college this September.

    1. Hi Michele,

      Thanks for joining the class.

      I hope your boys graduate within four years, but on the same day! That’s really thinking ahead!

      The good news is that your Expected Family Contribution will drop by 50% with the federal methodology (FAFSA) and 40% with the institutional methodology (CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE) when calculating financial need. This will be important if you qualify for need-based aid. The first step that I suggest you take is to use an EFC calculator. You will learn what an EFC is and why you need to use the calculator in the next module.

      I hope this class will show you how to avoid debt up to your eyeballs!

      Lynn O.

  143. I am the father of a 17-year old HS junior. We are a family of four (her brother is 14) and live in the LA area in California.

    I don’t remember how, but I stumbled upon Lynn’s book “The College Solution” sometime late last year and found the book to be truly eye-opening. I had never even heard of expected family contribution (EFC) or net price calculators (NPC) before.

    Since then, as I already told Lynn by e-mail, I have done a lot of my own research, basically following the advice Lynn gives in her book. This way, my daughter and I have come up with a list of about 10 schools, all liberal arts colleges (LACs) located on the East Coast or the Midwest (with the exception of Colorado College).

    My daughter has no plans to apply to any schools in California. For one thing, my daughter wants to experience living in a different part of the country, and for another, UCLA and other UC’s are just way too big and impersonal for her taste. Not to mention that even with in-state tuition, a UC would cost just about the same as a private LAC – if she gets – enough – financial aid in some form.

    From my own research using the NPCs of the colleges in on our list, I already know that, most likely, we would receive very little or no need-based aid. Like many families, our incomes are just a little too high to qualify for significant need-based aid, but we are absolutely in no position to write a $66,000 check every year. If it weren’t for help from my parents, we wouldn’t even be able to afford half of that.

    Luckily, my daughter is a very good student (4.0 unweighted GPA, 33 ACT) and should qualify for some decent merit aid at – some, but not all – schools on her list. The more prestigious schools, as I had already learned from Lynn’s book, have no need to award merit aid and generally don’t. As a result, we took several such schools off the list. No point to apply there if you can’t possibly pay for it.

    At this point, for our family, it’s mostly a question of which school on her list (or perhaps not on her list yet) will offer the most merit aid and how to maximize the chances of receiving merit aid (possibly in combination with minor amounts of need-based aid).

    This is basically the reason why I signed up for this class. My hope is that I will learn some more details that have escaped me so far, to get a few more pointers that may open up new avenues. If nothing else, the class will give me confidence that I’ve done my homework well enough and that I haven’t missed anything important.


    1. Hi Robert,

      Thanks for joining the class. I am very impressed with how much you have managed to do on your own and I am glad my book (which sadly is now four years old) helped!

      My children also didn’t apply to any state or private schools in California. I think the Midwest is a great match for California teenagers and more should give it a serious look. My son went to Beloit College in Wisconsin and he had a great experience.

      One thing that I would suggest that you look at is extra institutional scholarships that your daughter might win. Usually when a student applies he/she is automatically in the running for merit scholarships. But what a lot of families don’t understand is that there are often institutional scholarships that require a separate application. These scholarships at state and private schools can be for specific majors, talents, volunteering, writing etc. used to be the source that I’d direct people to when looking for these extra institutional scholarships, but that got absorbed by Cappex which was a shame. There is a new website that I’d suggest checking out called Merit Scholarship List by Wendy Nelson, a woman who actually took my course awhile ago. Here is the link:

      I found the site to be slow and Wendy Nelson has told me she is going to fix it. There is a very modest fee to access the site for a year. I’d suggest taking a look at it.

      If you are interested in expanding your search, you might want to consider looking at master’s level universities in the Midwest. I’m thinking of schools like Butler, Drake, Bradley, Creighton, Xavier and Truman State. The latter is a public liberal arts college in Missouri. My nephew and daughter-in-law went there for college and I was impressed with their experience. The tuition price for nonresidents is less than $14,000! With a scholarship, the price would be amazing.

      Master’s level school and lesser known liberal arts colleges have to give more discounts to attract students. I’d read The Ultimate College List Builder to dive deeper on this subject.

      Lynn O.

  144. Lynn,

    I am a college consultant who has learned over my years of practice that it is equally important to find a good financial fit as well as an academic and social one. Students should not graduate with thousands of dollars of debt. There are wonderful colleges and universities where one can receive an excellent education and are economically feasible. My concern is how can I convince families to consider these options and not be wedded to name. I am hoping this program will provide me with some additional persuasive arguments so I don’t hear disappointment from families when they get back unworkable financial packages from schools their children should not have considered in the first place. I have enjoyed your columns and blogs and look forward to increasing my “toolbox” of skills. Thank you

    1. Hi Barb,

      I am so glad you joined the class!

      It’s so sad that parents believe that the most elite schools are always the best for their children. This belief, by the way, is primarily a preoccupation with high-income families. Striving for these schools can lead to incredibly stressed out teenagers, mental health problems and physical problems including migraines and sleep disorders.

      You may have read about the studies regarding students who got into Ivy League schools and those who didn’t, but shared the same high academic profiles. The research shows these grads do equally well. In other words, for these students an Ivy League education wasn’t necessary. The only students who do benefit from an elite education, the research concluded, are first-gen students and minorities.

      Here are links about the research that are worth reading:

      I’d also recommend reading the much-discussed article in the New Republic by a former professors at Yale entitled, Don’t Send Your Kids to the Ivy League:

      Attending elite schools will be a tremendous experience for some students, but there are many other wonderful choices that won’t cost as much! This is a hard sell for some parents, but it’s absolutely worth making the case!

      Lynn O.

  145. Hi Lynn,

    I am a long time follower, having purchased your book when first published. I am now a retired PA Public School Counselor. I continue to stay active in the field as a college consultant. As a parent, I have personally experienced the process twice. Each child’s path was different, yet equally exciting. I am always looking to refresh my thinking, hear differing perspectives, learn something new, and stay current with trends and issues in the college selection process. Families grapple with the sticker shock (cost vs. value) of preferred colleges, as well as other factors that drive their search. I am hopeful that I will finish the course with some new tools and suggestions for my students and parents.


    1. Hi Pamela,

      Thanks for enrolling in the course! There are many people, who have taken the course, who have transitioned from being a school counselor into becoming a college consultant. I am sure your background gives you an added perspective on the college admission process.

      In this course, I believe you will discover new tools and advice for your families.

      Lynn O.

  146. Hi, Lynn!

    I am Robert Iden, college advisor at Bishop Lynch High School in Dallas, Texas – we have corresponded a number of times over the last three years. I took your “Cutting College Costs” course a couple of years ago, and I also read your book which I still keep in my office library as a great reference for working with parents and students. When I pass along some important piece of your advice to our parents, I always refer to you as the premier college financial aid expert in the country. I am glad to be updating my knowledge and skills by taking your College Cost Lab course, and by simply perusing your course materials, I have already identified some new resources that will prove useful in advising our students and families in their college planning and application process.

    Thanks for providing such expert assistance to so many people who are attempting to navigate the college selection process!


    1. Hi Robert,

      It’s so nice that you decided to join the class again!

      I greatly appreciate you spreading the word about what I do. Whether or not they take the class, parents can learn a tremendous amount just by reading my blog posts.

      I am glad you are finding new resources in the course! I keep trying to add new things as I learn more myself! College is a dynamic niche, which makes it exciting (and I realize frustrating to people who don’t have the time to keep up with it!)

      Thanks for your kind words Robert!

      Lynn O.

  147. Hi Lynn,

    I’m Michele Coleman from Orange County Ca. In addition to being an independent consultant I am also a parent of a rising senior and am excited to learn more and obtain the latest information without reinventing the wheel. Attacking the college search from a financial angle is a different spin than most consultants offer and one that I hope to add to my practice. As college costs increase, most of my clients are quite concerned with money and investment, I’d like to be able to present options that will help them with the search and the financial decisions.


    1. Hi Michele,

      Welcome to the class. You are so right about most educational consultants not being familiar or at least comfortable about the financial aspects of college. And with today’s prices, it’s critical that consultants and high school counselors understand how to evaluate schools financially. Picking colleges can not longer be done in a vacuum because price matters for most parents and that includes most high-income families.

      Lynn O.

  148. Hi Lynn-

    Our son has just finished his junior year and our daughter is an incoming high school freshman. My son has good grades (3.9/3.8) with a lot of AP classes and a 30 ACT. We live in Columbus, Ohio, but my son would like to go to school on the west coast. Our deal with him is that we will cover the costs for an in-state tuition for 4 years, but he is responsible for anything above that. Our EFC is relatively high so we would need to find some merit aid if he wants to go to a private school or out of state. He is interested in marketing or poli-sci.

    He is mostly interested in larger schools in urban areas due to the diversity of students and opportunities they allow. He is also applying to Ohio State, but it’s difficult to get in if you live in Ohio so we’re not sure about that even with his grades. He would be happy there.

    The main problem we have is that he is showing no interest in searching for colleges. He’s worked very hard in order to have choices, but now it seems he’s stressed out about the actual process of choosing.

    I’m looking forward to learning more about schools that might match his interests but be willing to give merit aid for him.

    1. Hi Steve,

      Welcome to the class.

      Many students want to study in California and unfortunately schools out here know that. Consequently, the prices are going to be higher than in many other places.

      The most popular University of California campuses can charge a stiff premium because of the brand name that UC Berkeley and UCLA command and there are enough rich nonresidents willing to pay any price for bragging rights. I wouldn’t personally recommend paying $60,000 (cost of attendance) to go to these public schools.

      I don’t think any school is worth $60,000, but for people willing to sink that much into one year of college, I’d recommend going to a private institution and not a state research university.

      The well-known private universities in California are also pricey and their merit awards are often underwhelming because schools located in cities in California are in demand. I’m talking about schools like Santa Clara, Loyola Marymount and University of San Diego that have modest scholarships. USC has some bigger scholarships, but the competition for them will be fierce.

      The Claremont liberal arts colleges give little to no merit scholarships, but the need-based aid is very good at these schools. These are elite schools though and hard to get into. If someone gets into a school like Pomona or Claremont Mckenna and need a lot of financial aid, they’ve hit the educational lottery. Occidental College also gives very good need-based aid. Stanford has great financial aid and no merit scholarships.

      California schools not located in cities can bring better merit awards because these institutions have to try harder because teenagers like your son would rather live and study in cities. University of Redlands, for instance, offers higher merit scholarships.

      For nonresidents, who will or will not qualify for need-based financial aid, it’s hard to find bargains in California. I would definitely recommend using any net price calculators before your son gets too excited about any schools out here.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  149. HI,
    We are a family of four – two kids aged 16 – daughter (junior) and 13 – son(incoming freshman).

    We are looking at colleges for my daughter. We won’t qualify for financial aid (combined salary too high). My daughter is interested in computer science/engineering . Based on her personality and needs we think she would thrive better at a small school. She absolutely would get lost in the big UC type campuses – so we’ve been looking at private colleges for engineering such as Santa Clara, University of the Pacific, etc, which unfortunately are good quality but expensive!

    She is very hard working but is a B student – 3.62 weighted (some issues with working memory and ADD). But she has consistently taken challenging courses like AP Physics, AP Calculus and APEC and computer programming where she is pulling As and Bs. She does not do well with timed tests, and after a lot of fighting we managed to get extended time on SAT/ACT.

    I’m very worried about college costs as I’m not sure she’ll qualify for merit aid, specially for CS/engineering. I wanted to take your course to see if I’m wrong about that and be more informed overall so that I can gauge what true college costs we’re looking at to help make decisions. I’d love to get some scholarship, but don’t know where to look.

    I’m hoping the class will make me much more knowledgeable about this and provide advise on how a family with a student like my daughter should navigate the system

    1. Oh also she is about 6 ft tall and plays basketball at her school (on and off season), though she is not interested in a sports scholarship nor qualified enough to be scouted.

    2. Hi Mily,

      Thanks for joining the class.

      It’s my opinion that being prepared for an engineering/computer science major requires taking advanced math and physics and she has done that which is good. Too many people pick engineering because it represents the best-paying job without appreciating how hard the major is.

      I think it is smart to find schools where the classes are going to be smaller and chances of success will be greater. If you attend a research university, classes taught in large lecture halls can translate into very few opportunities to succeed. There can be just a mid-term and a final so the stakes are incredibly.

      A dear friend of mine’s son is a computer science major at Skidmore College in upstate NY where the classes are small and the grading opportunities are plentiful. He is now studying for a semester at a research university in New Zealand and was stressed about having just two grading opportunities – midterm and a final. The kind of experience you would get studying computer science can be dramatically different and is extremely important to explore.

      Computer science is offered at all three major types of instituitons – research universities, master’s level universities and some liberal arts colleges.

      I’d examine British schools very carefully. In Great Britain you have to know what your major is heading into the school and I believe that there is no opportunity to switch majors without starting over. You also have little to no opportunity to explore any subjects other than your major.

      I’d check out this new website about studying outside the United States that I’ve been impressed with: Beyond the States. Here is the link:

      I’d also check out my resource guide on building a college list:

      And this one on resources to evaluate schools:

      Lynn O.

  150. Hello,

    We now live in DC, which means no in-state tuition. There is DCTAG, although I’m not sure how much to rely on it. Aside from that, we’ll pretty much be looking for merit aid.

    Our daughter is a junior and started school in DC at a public arts school. She was admitted to choose either vocal or visual arts, and chose the first. She would have wound up with two diplomas had she finished there (regular high school and arts diploma) as the school day ran 8-5. However, very long story short, we wound up transferring her for the last two years into a straight IB program in a private international school. In this school there are not the typical high school grades, but just the predicted scores for the IB Diploma.

    She is a reasonable student, but not a top scorer. Her first two years she had a 3.14 (not helping things, two grades were incorrectly entered and we still haven’t been able to get those corrected) from 21 courses. The first mock IB exams are next week, so we’ll have a better idea of predicted scores by the end of the month.

    Her main interest is in studying art. She is doing higher level visual arts at school now. She has a particular interest in being a graphic artist. She does keep looking at some of the big name arts schools, however I am fairly opposed. My biggest reason is that I am concerned the education isn’t particularly well-rounded and that should she decide to pursue a different career path she would not have deep enough skills outside of the arts to easily do that. I am much more in favor of a liberal arts education where she can major in the arts, but still get a very strong grounding outside of that.

    She is also interested in looking at schools offering design in the UK. The programs her counselor has recommended do seem more balanced than the US programs in terms of academic background vs the arts, so we’ll look at that.

    She isn’t sporty. She volunteered for a year at the National History Museum and participated in a musical this year, plus took a service trip with her school. Mostly, she has been to school in some very different environments and places over the last 5 years.

    Anyway, I am hoping to get a broader ideas of possiblities and also to get her through without breaking the bank.


    PS I used your book when my son was applying 4 years ago. I think I’ve bought about 4 copies since for various reasons. It was a HUGE help! We lived in Seattle at the time and he applied to small schools farther away. He got in every school that he applied to and got merit aid at each one. I got a fair amount of judgement from people around me who hadn’t heard of the schools (Allegheny, Goucher, New College, Knox) but it all totally paid off. I really want to thank you for that.

    1. Hi Lisabe,

      Thanks for joining the class!

      I can sympathize with your hesitation with art schools. One issue is whether she will actually want to stick with art in college. If she doesn’t that will obviously require her switching to another school, which will boost the chances that she will not graduate in four years.

      Art schools can also be brutal places for students since students can inevitably be compared to each other and feedback by faculty can be harsh to fragile egos.

      Some of these schools have alarmingly low freshmen retention rates. (Of course, I could say the same thing about some other types of schools!) An example is San Francisco Art Institute. Only 65% of students return for their sophomore year. This school, by the way, has one of the highest net prices in the country.

      Here are just a few examples of worrisome freshmen retention rates: Minneapolis College of Art and Design ((64%), Maine College of Art Design & Film (65%) and School of the Museum of Fine Arts-Boston (72%).

      You can find retention rates for any school by visiting I also discuss this helpful website in my resource guide entitled, A Guide to Building a Perfect College List. It’s in the Bonus Material section and I’ve also included the link here:

      I bet that one reason for the lower retention rate at some art schools is because of their expense. When you look at the schools with the highest net prices (what families typically pay after scholarships/grants are deducted) that the federal government complies, art schools are heavily represented. Of the top 10 most expensive schools by net price, six are art schools. The most expensive institutions in the country by net price are the following:

      (1) Ringling College of Art and Design
      (2) School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Art Center
      (3) Boston Conservatory
      (4) Art Center College of Design
      (5) California Institute of the Arts

      You can see the list of the most expensive public and private schools by net price and sticker price at the U.S. Department of Education’s College Affordability and Transparency Center. Here is the link:

      Lynn O.

  151. Hi Lynn,

    I am an independent college advisor working in the East Bay twenty minutes outside of San Francisco. I use the parent questionnaire provided by Guided Path and I’ve noticed that more and more of my parents are interested in financial aid, which for this area tends to be merit aid as only a few families qualify for need-based. About half of the students I work with have LD, and I’ve been surprised to see parents, who know their student has a 2.4, saying they want merit aid. I’m hoping this course will help me offer some options to those families.


    1. Hi Melissa,

      Welcome to the class.

      This course will definitely get you up to speed with the financial side of college.

      I don’t know what your experience is, but there has been research that suggests that students who have a GPA of less than a 3.0 face tough odds of doing well at a four-year college or university.

      That said, there are plenty of schools that provide everyone or nearly everyone with a tuition discount. If a child with a 2.4 GPA got into one of these schools, it’s likely he/she would get a discount.

      A good place to look for the percentage of students who receive a discount (either need-based or scholarship) is to check out The Ultimate College List Builder in the Bonus Material module. In this resource guide, I have a list of 722 private and state schools, organized by state, that shows the percentage of students who receive discounts and what the average amount is.

      Here is the link:

      Lynn O.

  152. Hi Lynn, I am the mother of 6 daughters and I live on the Big Island of Hawai’i. Things have changed dramatically since my first daughter went to college as we now prepare for our last to go. We currently have 3 college graduates, 1 student just finished her freshman year in a state sponsored direct entry program for nursing, 1 student is 2nd semester sophomore still trying to figure out her college plan and my last is an ambitious 16 year old who will be graduating a year early from high school in May 2017. She is the main reason for my interest in this class but I think it will also help with my undecided girl, as well.

    My husband and I are high earners so we know that merit aid will likely be our option outside of loans even with 3 in college at the same time for 2 years. My youngest girl has a 3.8 GPA and will have taken 4 AP classes, 2 college classes, and 8 honors classes by the time she graduates. She is also a very good dancer: ballet, jazz, contemporary and modern. Her instructors have spoken to us to explain that she has the talent to dance professionally.

    She does not want to be a professional dancer even though she loves to dance. She wants to go to med school. We think she can use her talent, though, to earn scholarship in dance as well as academic merit scholarships. She is open to a double major or minoring in a science in order to round out her academics to prepare her for MCAT.

    Our challenge is selecting from western regional colleges/universities that have big enough dance programs to offer merit scholarships along with rigorous academics, coordinating auditions from the middle of the Pacific Ocean and utilizing WUE if it makes sense to do so.

    1. Hi Jamie,

      Wow. Six daughters! Congratulations on having three college graduates and others in the pipeline. Very impressive!

      Even though you believe you would not qualify for need-based aid with three students in college simultaneously, it couldn’t hurt using an Expected Family Contribution calculator.

      With three in college, your federal EFC would drop by 66% and drop by 55% if aiming for private schools that use the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE.

      When I learned that your daughter is interested in dance, I immediately thought of University of Utah. It has one of the nation’s very best dance programs. I recommended this school to the daughter of a dear friend of mine and she did get a dance scholarship from Utah. She just finished her freshmen year and thought the dance program was fantastic and the teachers were extremely helpful.

      I suspect that your daughter would have to major in dance to earn a dance scholarship at this school. I know it requires going to an audition to gain entry into the dance program and earn a dance scholarship. Students from across the country audition.

      As for medical schools, as long as you can pass the MCAT and do well in STEM courses, you should be able to major in whatever you want. I once talked to a mom, who was on the parent committee with me at Beloit College, about this subject. She was at the time on the medical school admission committee at Johns Hopkins and she said they loved students who didn’t choose traditional premed majors. Those applicants, she said, stood out.

      I wouldn’t just focus on schools where your daughter might get a dance scholarship. In Western state universities and private schools off the West Coast, the sticker prices are lower and there are plentiful merit scholarships. Even without a dance scholarship, you could end up spending a very doable amount for a bachelor’s degree.

      The good news is that state universities are often transparent about who gets merit scholarships. They are usually based on a student’s GPA and ACT/SAT scores.

      If you’re focusing on universities and colleges in the Western United States, it will be easier to look at dance programs than if it was an open-ended search. You can use the federal College Navigator to look for dance programs (or other majors) at schools in specific states. Here is the link to the College Navigator:

      Then you will want to evaluate any academic department that interests you. Here is a relevant blog post on this subject:

      Lynn O.

  153. Greetings all:
    I am an independent counselor in Washington State and I regularly hear, from colleagues, great things about your blog and you, Lynn. Many of my clients are ineligible for much of the need-based aid/scholarships but not really financially advantaged. Through your course I am hoping to learn more ways of assisting all my clients, particularly those in the financial middle ground.

    1. Hi Andrea,

      I am so glad that your colleagues have said good things about me and my blog! You mentioned that many of your clients won’t qualify for need-based aid so this is the right place for you. In this course you’ll find lots of information for just the sort of families whom you work with.

      Since you work in the Pacific Northwest, I’d be curious if you have any favorite hidden gems – state or private schools in the region that you could share.

      Thanks for joining the class!

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

      1. Hi Lynn:

        You asked about hidden gems in the PNW and my first thought goes to the two University of Washington satellite campuses: UW-Bothell and UW-Tacoma. Both are less selective—academically, than UW-Seattle. They have smaller (although more limited classes) than UW-Seattle and they are really focused on undergraduate learning. Students graduate with the same UW degree as UW-Seattle students as their degrees do not note which campus they attended. On the downside: they are commuter campuses with limited on-campus housing.

        Also, if students are willing to consider looking across the border there are some extraordinary universities in British Columbia, Canada. Foreign fees are often less than US out-of-state fees and, with the low Canadian dollar, these can be a really affordable option. FAFSA loans cross the border but FAFSA grants do not—so they may not be as affordable for a low-income student. Some specific schools: Quest University for independent study (seriously, take a look at this school), Capilano University for motion picture arts and Emily Carr University
        of Art & Design with a brand-new state-of-the-art campus coming soon.

        There are so many great schools in the PNW—these are just five that people may not have yet considered.

  154. Hello Lynn!

    I am really excited to learn from you in this course. My husband and I along with our two kids live in beautiful Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Our son is just wrapping up his high school freshman year (the school year is not over for us here until June 10!) and our daughter is finishing 7th grade.

    I ran the numbers on an EFC calculator. Yikes, that was a big number! We have saved a fair amount in 529 accounts but not enough to help me sleep much better at night. 🙂

    Our son is a good student (3.7 GPA) and with some bribing took two honors classes this year (math and language arts). He is a musician and plays the piano & clarinet in the jazz, concert, and pep bands at school. He is also an athlete and lettered in Nordic skiing & mountain biking this past year. And yes, his mother is crazy for orchestrating all of this!

    The state of Wyoming has only one university but has a great award offering through the Hathaway Scholarship program. I am not certain my son will wish to attend U of Wyoming however. I have heard that the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) program can help out of state students attend other states’ schools. I need to learn more about that program because at this point it is a mystery to me.

    Thanks for sharing your expertise!

    1. Hi Nola,

      What a fascinating name you have! It’s great to have someone from Wyoming in the course. Boy does your son sound busy. I can’t imagine how the scheduling works.

      I can explain how the Western Undergraduate Exchange works. Some public colleges and universities in the Western states participate in this program that allows some eligible nonresidents from the participating Western states to pay tuition that represents no more than 150% of what residents pay. This can represent a significant savings.

      Here are the member states:
      Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands also participates.

      There are 150 participating two-year and four-year institutions in the program. Below is the link to discover what public colleges and universities in the Western states participate.

      On the WUE site you can see what majors each school offers that are eligible for the WUE rate:

      Keep in mind that not all majors are available at the WUE rate. Participating institutions have the option of excluding certain majors from the WUE rate. Typically they are programs that are in high-demand by in-state residents, such as nursing.

      Not every nonresident that lives in a participating state can capture the WUE rate. In fact, these awards can be very competitive.

      The number of WUE awards varies each year. Many institutions do cap the number of WUE awards. That’s why it’s important to apply for the WUE discount EARLY—as soon as you apply for admission. And make sure that you apply for admission early too! There are a few institutions that don’t limit the number of WUE awards, but they are in the minority.

      You should NOT assume, however, that the WUE rate is the only award that your child might qualify for. In fact, there can be better scholarships offered at these schools. And non-WUE scholarships are available at these schools for applicants who don’t live in a Western state.

      Something else to look at is how easy or difficult is it to become a resident of the state while a student there. I know it’s pretty easy to become a resident when attending the University of Utah and I expect it is at other Western schools as well.T Becoming a resident can dramatically drop the price. In California and Colorado it’s nearly impossible to pull this off.

      You should also read the lesson, State Universities and Merit Aid in the module entitled, Targeting Schools for the Most Money, Part II.

      Lynn O.

      1. Hi Lynn,

        Thanks so much for all of this information! The WUE program makes a lot more sense to me now. I will follow up on all of your suggestions.

        Many thanks!

  155. Hi there. Anxious to get started in this class. I am mom to one high school senior starting college in the fall and another 16-yr. old who will be a junior and 13-yr. old who will be in 8th grade. Feeling like we were behind the eight ball in getting our current senior through the admission/scholarship process. Hoping to have a little more of a head start with the 16-yr. old who will be junior in fall. We live near Portland, Oregon.

    1. Hi Ann,

      Welcome to the class. The good news is that you have the summer to dig in and learn as much as you can for your oldest teenager.

      You will discover in this class that the biggest source of money is usually from the schools themselves. This is especially true for higher income families. Many parents think private scholarships are the biggest source of college money but they represent the smallest source.

      Since you will have two children in college over multiple years, you should know that your Expected Family Contribution will drop considerably. That is something to take into consideration when looking at schools. You’ll learn more about EFCs and the impact that they can have on awards in the module entitled, Your Families’ First Step.

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  156. Our daughter Rebecca Sarin is finishing her junior year at Newton South High School, MA. She’s very interested in math / statistics, dance, and theater (no athletics:), and does well in all her school subjects. We’re somewhat older parents, I’m 63 and my wife is 59. We want to help Rebecca organize her college search, plan essays, etc., and make the best use of our money given that I’ll be looking to retire (at 68 or later!) not long after Rebecca graduates college (in 4 years of course). We’ve done a smattering of college visits so far and I’ve done some financial aid research but it’s been pretty ad hoc (and the EFC estimates have been discouraging). So I’m hoping this course can help us get more focused and organized and reduce stress as well as the financial burden.

    1. Hi Sunil,

      Welcome to the class. Being older parents, it’s smart to be extra cautious about college costs since your years to continue to save for your own retirement is shorter.

      There are any number of ways for your daughter can proceed in terms of the types of schools she can pursue. Being a girl interested in math is a plus!

      I’d recommend reading Your Smart Blueprint for Selecting Colleges. It can help tailor your search. It’s in the Bonus Material module and I’m providing the link here too:

      You mention being discouraged by your EFC. If it is high, you’ll want to look for schools that give merit aid and most institutions do. As I mention in my class, elite schools are far less likely to provide merit aid. And that is most definitely true in the Northeast.

      Since you mentioned essays, I wanted to share with you my favorite essay resource – The woman who runs this website – nearly all the information and advice is free – is a journalist who offers excellent essay writing advice.

      She offers lots of general advice about essays, as well as specific advice for people completing the University of California essays, the University of Texas essays and the essay prompts for the Common Application and the brand new application from the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success, which dozens of mostly elite schools are now using.

      Lynn O.

  157. I am an overwhelmed Florida parent with a son who just finished his junior year. There is so much more that goes into the decision of selecting a college than just picking a school. The EFC was a big shock.

    I am hoping this course helps to fine tune my son’s top picks based on the reality of merit aid and the overall financial picture. He is a great student with 3.8 GPA, 29+ ACT, participates in varsity baseball & FIRST robotics. He wants to major in computer science so finding a quality program is important to him.

    1. Hi Heather,

      I am glad you are taking course. You can get a lot of work done this summer!

      One attractive possibility that popped into my head because you are in Florida is the Wilkes Honors College that has its own separate campus many miles from Florida Atlantic University.

      Here is a story I wrote about this place awhile ago:

      it does offer computer science through its mathematical sciences concentration.

      I would start reading my resource guide – A Smart Blueprint for Selecting Colleges – for guidance on how to generate ideas and then read the course lessons on evaluating the generosity of schools to include the financial perspective. The link for the blueprint is in the Bonus Material module and I’m also sharing it here:

      Lynn O.

  158. I’m a recently divorced mother whose daughter will head to college in the fall of 2017. Though she has great grades and lots of amazing talents, I worry about finding the right match and getting enough scholarship for her. She simply has to get a huge amount of aid or we won’t be able to send her.

    I’m hoping to get ideas and information to help me stay focused and calm through this process.

    1. Hi Diane,

      Thanks for joining the class! One thing you will want to do is read the lesson on divorce and financial aid. At schools that just use the FASFA, your ex-husband’s assets/income won’t be considered if you are the custodial parent. And the definition of custodial is an odd one in the higher-ed world. The custodial parent is the one where the child has lived the majority of a one-year period ending on the day the FASFA is filed. It doesn’t matter which parent claimed the child on taxes or who paid child support.

      Of course, this is only one piece of the puzzle. In addition to looking at public institutions in your own state, you should look at the financial aid generosity of schools. I would look at the lessons in Tools To Find Generous Colleges and also the resource guide entitled, The Ultimate List of the Nation’s Most Generous Colleges. Having great grades and amazing talents will help!

      Lynn O’Shaughnessy

  159. Hi Lynn

    I’m getting depressed looking over your research. 🙁
    I did the EFC and found we qualify to also pay for someone else to attend college.
    Basically, we have to pay 100%.

    Our son’s gpa is around 3.2 and forecasted SAT should be around 1275.

    He’d like to attend within Texas, but we’ll consider other schools if we don’t have to pay $40k for it.
    What do you recommend?, as I continue to read & watch your notes.

    He likes EnViSci, an Eagle Scout, in Church Youth, acts & directs movies (stop motion as well), and was lead in the Crucible school play.
    Would like to get him a science degree (Env Engr, Chem Eng, BioChem), but with other activities like above.

    Thanks for your help!,

    1. Hi Kevin,

      Don’t get depressed.

      Obtaining your EFC is just the first step. It’s smart that you now have generated your EFC(s) because you have now determined that you should be looking for colleges and universities that provide merit scholarships.

      Without going through this exercise and knowing its significance you could head off in the wrong direct