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College Fly-In Opportunities for Counselors

One of the questions we often get asked is if we know about any fly in opportunities available to Counselors. I recently came across a guide titled “College Fly-In Opportunities for Counselors in Rural Communities” that was put together by NACAC’s Rural & Small Town Special Interest Group. Many institutions will generously fund a trip for Counselors to visit their campus so they can get a feel for it and advocate it to their students that may have an interest in what that school has to offer.

Only 30% of LINK for Counselors readers say they are members of NACAC (Spring 2019 Paramount Research Study) so we wanted to share this guide with Counselors who may not have seen it.

Schools included in the guide are: Allegheny College, (Brandeis University, Emerson College, College of the Holy Cross, Simmons College, WP), (Colby, Bates, Bowdoin), US Naval Academy, (University of Cincinnati, Miami University, Xavier University), Clemson University, Vanderbilt University, (Saint Michael’s College, Champlain College, University of Vermont), (Caltech, Occidental, Whittier, Redlands, Pitzer, Pomona, Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, Scripps), Grinnell College, Johns Hopkins University, Juniata College, (Texas Christian University, Southern Methodist University, University of Dallas, Austin College), (Skidmore, Union, Colgate, Hamilton), (Marist College, Vassar College, West Point, Culinary Institute of America), NC State University, (Willamette University, Lewis & Clark College, Whitman College, University of Puget Sound, Reed College), University of Richmond, University of Saint Louis – Madrid Campus, Southern Oregon University, Franklin and Marshall College, (Barry University, Eckerd College, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Flagler College, Florida Institute of Technology, Florida Southern College, Jacksonville University, Lynn University, Nova Southeastern University, Rollins College, Saint Leo University, Stetson University, University of Tampa), (Carleton College, Macalester College, St. Olaf College), University of Chicago, University of New Hampshire, University of Notre Dame, Washington & Lee University, Williams College

Those in parenthesis above offer joint tours of their Colleges for those visits. Here is a link to the guide which provides specifics about each fly-in program and a contact person: Fly-In Programs for Counselors

One of our marketing partners, Landmark College, also offers a similar program for Counselors called “Professional Visit Days”. They have 3 dates for these which are : March 5-6, April 2-3, and April 30-May 1st. The visits include the opportunity to:

  • Meet current Landmark College students
  • See presentations by Landmark faculty and staff on educational technology, coaching, our language intensive curriculum, college planning services, and much more
  • A campus tour
  • Information about their summer programs for high school and college students
  • Details on programs for Visiting College Students

Here is the registration link with more details: https://www.landmark.edu/admissions/professional-visit-days?utm_source=nurturing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=salandmark

For more information you can contact Carroll Paré , Senior Director for Outreach, Partnerships, and Short-Term Programs, cpare@landmark.edu,
802-387-6885

Three Myths About College Visits…Debunked!

Myth #1: Visiting colleges is a waste of time and money. I can learn everything I need to know on the Internet and from books and guides. Looking at the buildings will not help me decide if a college is right for me.

Visiting campuses is an essential part of the college selection process. You will spend several years of your life as a student at the college you ultimately choose. It will be your home and choosing a home “sight unseen” is not wise. There is no substitute for walking a campus and interacting with students and professors.

There are over 4,000 colleges in the United States and they are NOT interchangeable. They differ in terms of size, culture, location, the interests of the student body, the strengths and interests of the professors and how much freedom you have in choosing your courses. You can choose from women’s colleges, historically black colleges, colleges that are a part of a consortium, urban colleges, rural colleges, colleges with a graduate school and those without. Colleges and universities also feel different from one another. Southern colleges feel different from those in New England. A student body of 300 feels different than one of 50,000. Liberal arts colleges feel different from large universities. The point is that colleges in the United States differ wildly from one another and you will likely have preferences. You might think you know what type of college you would like best, but if you do not have experience with the opposite, how can you be 100% sure? The answer is by visiting and experiencing the campus firsthand.

Myth #2: It makes the most sense to visit colleges after I am admitted so that I only visit colleges that truly are possibilities for me.

Visiting a college before you apply can increase your chances of being admitted. Admissions officers prefer to admit students who are likely to attend their college. Admissions officers rightly assume that students who visit a college before applying have a real interest in the school and are more likely to attend if admitted.

Colleges weight admission to students who they trust will choose to attend because they are concerned about their standing in the college rankings in US News and World Report and other publications. The fewer students a college accepts, the more selective it appears in the rankings. But, colleges must admit more students than they have space for in the freshmen class because they know that some of those students will choose to attend college elsewhere. In order to admit the least number of students to fill the freshmen class, colleges look specifically for “demonstrated interest” when choosing between equally qualified applicants. A college visit is a key indicator of demonstrated interest.

Note that if you absolutely cannot visit, there are other ways to demonstrate interest: talk to admissions counselors at college fairs, meet with college representatives when they visit your high school, call and ask questions, open emails from colleges and follow colleges on social media. Colleges are tracking this data. Make sure you hit as many of the demonstrated interest data points as possible.

Myth #3 The tour guide is not a trustworthy source of information because she/he is just “selling” the school.

I’ve been on approximately 200 college tours and my experience is that most tour guides’ enthusiasm is genuine and not a canned sales pitch. It is true that dissatisfied students do not apply to be tour guides, so you should of course expect a positive presentation of the college, but that does not mean that the information will be inaccurate. You can expect that your tour guide will share facts with you about the college that you will not find on the college’s website or other materials. Yes, they will point out buildings and quote some statistics, but they will do this from a student’s perspective. You will learn how the students interact with the campus and how they view those statistics to be relevant to student life. Importantly, the tour is interactive. The questions and responses of the parents and students on the tour will impact the information you receive. I always ask my tour guide this question: What would you change about this school if you could? I am often given an honest answer and sincere criticism of the college.

That said, it is also good practice to talk to students on campus that are NOT your tour guide to gather other perspectives. I recommend eating in the dining hall and trying to strike up a conversation. You can augment your on-campus experience by using social media to meet current students and ask them questions about the college. Many colleges also offer overnight visits to prospective students. An overnight experience puts applicants in touch with many students at the college and gives prospective students a chance to spend a meaningful amount of time on campus with actual students and in the dorms away from formalized tours and presentations.

A Final Thought.

College tours are a key element of your college search. By starting your college search early (sophomore year is ideal), you will have plenty of time to identify the colleges you want to visit and schedule visits at times that are convenient for you. Students who have done their research, including college visits, are typically more confident applicants who are excited about the colleges on their list as well as the next steps after high school.

Michelle McAnaney is the founder of The College Spy, a full service independent educational consulting firm that assists students and families across the US and internationally with the college selection and application process. Prior to founding The College Spy, Michelle was a guidance counselor and educator for more than 15 years, including serving as the Director of Guidance at two high schools, an adjunct college professor and a GED tutor. Michelle holds a master’s degree in school counseling and a bachelor’s degree in human development. She recently completed UC Irvine’s certificate program in educational consulting and is a MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) Certified Practitioner and a NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) Master Practitioner. Michelle visits over 40 colleges each year so that she has first-hand knowledge of the colleges and universities her clients will be considering. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

5 Reasons Why Social Media Must Be Part of the College Planning Process

College-bound high school sophomores and juniors should now be dedicating time to work on optimizing their social media profiles to create compelling content accurately reflecting their activities, service, interests, and accomplishments for the college admissions process. Here are 5 reasons why:  

Reason #1: Admissions Officers Are Looking at Applicant Social Media

Whether it’s Kaplan Test Prep’s annual survey of college admissions officers or some other sourced survey, we know that at least 36% of college admissions officers in the United States viewed applicant social media during the last admissions cycle and 20% view social media “regularly and routinely.” We also know that up to 70% of college admissions officers consider applicant social media to be “fair game” in their decision-making process and are willing to look when invited to do so.

Reason #2: Social Media Should Be Used Proactively to Craft the Essay of Your Life

College admissions officers have neither the time nor the interest to search social media simply to find reasons to reject qualified applicants. When colleges look, logic dictates they look because they want to learn more about the applicant, opening the door of opportunity for the prepared applicant to set themselves apart from other qualified applicants. Having a digital presence that is hard to find and fails to tell colleges the story you would want to tell them is a missed opportunity.

Reason #3: Character and Fit

Many schools are placing an increasing emphasis on personal qualities that will lead students to succeed in college. This renewed focus includes examining “curiosity, love of learning, perseverance, good character, and grit” in addition to the standard “grades, rigor, curriculum, and other qualitative data.”

Social media is one way of delivering this missing and actionable information to admissions, enrollment, and financial aid offices. Not only can social media positively impact acceptance and scholarship decisions by showing an applicant’s readiness, abilities, skills, and character but it can also be used to gauge an applicant’s interest in attending a particular college. A student’s chances for admission will greatly improve once they understand how to utilize social media to demonstrate interest, convey good character, and showcase the skills and personal attributes colleges are looking for to set themselves apart from other qualified applicants.

Reason #4: Many Colleges Use Social Media to Proactively Engage With Students

Almost all colleges now have a prominent social media presence and encourage applicants to interact with them on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube. Interacting with college officials, alumni and current students is a positive for applicants if, and only if, their social media is in proper order. Remember that whenever an applicant sends a message to a college official using a social network’s native messaging system, that applicant is also necessarily transmitting a digital dossier containing all profile information specific to that social network. This includes all past posts, photos, friends and followers. As a result, colleges are routinely receiving full access to applicant digital DNA by way of these social interactions. By having their social media optimized for inspection, applicants can freely and safely interact with colleges using social media and may very well impress the right people as a result.

Reason #5: Enrollment Yield Algorithms

Schools can now get a complete picture of their applicants, including what they’re saying and thinking about them on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter – which could be even more meaningful than traditional data points like GPA and SAT. Colleges have begun to use algorithms that work on an individual-student basis to profile and predict their behavior. They use social media data, as well as the data supplied by the applications, to compute the likelihood a given student will enroll if accepted, the extent of financial aid needed by the student – or needed to seduce a relatively well-off student.

The best generic advice for students is to create a discoverable social media presence designed for colleges that showcases their character, highlights their service, and/or conveys their commitment to an activity. Social media should be viewed as their digital college essay which can be appended to their college applications.

This was from a blog originally published by Social Assurity. Check them out at https://socialassurity.com/

The College Board and PSAT Scores: Oh, No, Not Again!

The proximate cause of our expression of exasperation with the College Board is the incongruous scoring results of its 2019 Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT), which was administered last October. and the “Again” part of the title to this blog is a little complicated, so bear with us while we explain.

Both the SAT and the PSAT are products of, wholly developed by, and administered by the College Board. The tests are very similar, though their usages are largely different. Both can be “high stakes” affairs for students that take them, and this is not the first time recently that we’ve seen strange scoring results on one of those two standardized test products: Our blog titled Is Alice in Wonderland’s Mad Hatter in Charge of SAT Scoring Curves? discussed the crazy scores on August 2019 SAT, and our blog titled Wacky Scores on the June 2018 SAT discussed the peculiar scores in the June 2018 SAT. This blog will discuss the incongruousscoring results of the October 2019 PSAT and why they matter.

Two mandatory requirements for important standardized tests, such as the SAT, PSAT, and ACT, are that they accurately measure students’ performances (but not necessarily their abilities) at the time of testing, and that there is cross-test congruity. By the latter, we mean that a student’s scores on any testing date of the SAT, PSAT, or ACT should be consistent with student scores on any other testing date, and that the same should true with the scores for similar cohorts of students. While we have no reason to question that the October 2019 PSAT accurately measured student test-takers’ performances at the time of testing, it’s crystal clear from the data that the October 2019 PSAT failed the congruity test – and failed it in a major way.

About 3.5 million high school students take the PSAT each fall. Roughly 1.7 million high school juniors sat for the October 2019 PSAT, and the number of them scoring 1400 or better (out of a 1520 maximum possible) dropped 30% from the 2018 PSAT. The drop for sophomores taking the PSAT was even steeper, at 36%. High-performing students scored lower by as much as 30 points compared to previous years – years during which there was cross-test congruity. Juniors scoring 1200 or better dropped by 15%, and sophomores dropped by 21%. The average score for the 1.7 million juniors dropped by 10 points, which is a whopping difference given that the average score change on a well-constructed test with a stable group of student test-takers is only one or two points.

Because it would stretch credibility to the point of breaking to posit that the October 2019 cohort of student test-takers was that much less capable than was the 2018 cohort, the conclusion is virtually inescapable that there were problems with the test. And we will have to draw our own conclusions because, other than reporting the scores, the College Board makes public almost no information about PSAT results, provides no information on whatever, if any, self-assessment it does, and has offered no explanation of why/how the score drops occurred on the 2019 PSAT.

We want to note here that the score drop was particularly steep for the PSAT’s Math section: The drop for that section was nearly twice as steep as was the drop in the scores for the Evidence-based Reading and Writing section, meaning that if the score drops were due to poorer student performance, it was significantly selectively so — and that makes it even more likely that the test, not the test-takers, was the reason for the drops. We want to further note that the College Board’s test score woes on the SAT and PSAT occurred after it stopped using the Educational Testing Service (ETS), an independent, outside firm, to test and validate questions and brought that function “in-house.”

The incongruous PSAT scores matter because it’s a high-stakes test for the student test-takers: More than $100 million in National Merit and other college scholarships is determined by PSAT scores.  Further, there’s another significant effect: The College Board has strongly proposed to high schools that they use PSAT scores to determine whether students are allowed to enroll in Advanced Placement (AP) classes, and enrollment and performance in those classes are considered by colleges when making admissions decisions. And PSAT scores, when they’re consistent measures, unlike the October 2019 PSAT scores, can provide good comparative data to students’ performance on the SAT and ACT and are used by schools and school systems nationwide to track student performance over time.

It’s far too early to appreciate the full ramifications of the October 2019 PSAT’s incongruous results: We don’t know exactly how they’ll affect National Merit and other college scholarships or how schools and school systems will view and use them. And we might never know how they’ll affect AP class enrollments and, thus, college admissions.

What we do know is that the College Board has demonstrated that it’s unwilling to and/or incapable of addressing a serious issue with its high-stakes PSAT and SAT tests.

Jason Robinovitz is the Chief Operating Officer of all of the Score At The Top Learning Centers and Score Academy schools and is the team leader for Score’s staff of more than 100 tutors, educational consultants, directors, and other staff. Jason is also directly involved in providing educational consulting services for college, boarding school, and law school clients, and he’s an active member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, and the Secondary School Admission Test Board. Jason can be reached via email at Jason@scoreatthetop.com.

The Emergence of Big Data and Predictive Analytics in College Admissions Decisions

As previously discussed, the business of college admissions today mandates administrators meet four key performance indicators:

  1. Fill every available freshman seat;
  2. By accepting the fewest number of “eligible” applicants;
  3. While maximizing tuition revenue; and then
  4. Keeping those seats occupied all the way thru to graduation.

To truly understand the scope of college admissions today, you need to widen your perspective by including enrollment management systems, today’s true engines of college admissions and merit aid decisions, within your frame of reference.

Colleges are increasingly turning to advanced enrollment management systems and enrollment consultancies to help them make better informed business decisions about their prospects and applicants. Using big data algorithms, today’s enrollment management systems are designed to monitor and measure a diverse set of predictive data feeds to proactively assess an applicant’s probability to enroll, ability to pay, and likelihood to graduate. Big data analytics, put simply, is the aggregation of crucial data points used to create a predictive model. Student demographic data and online behavior — just like your own data and online behavior on Amazon, Twitter, Facebook or Google — can be and is being mapped.

“Predictive analytics is the use of data, statistical algorithms, and machine learning techniques to identify the likelihood of future outcomes based on historical data.”

Although each vendor’s enrollment management system differs in methodology and design, like all predictive analytical tools, they aggregate data from a variety of sources and then assign outcome probabilities based on historical data models.

Let’s take a closer look at the most common data feeds analyzed by today’s enrollment management systems.

social media and college admissions

The first thing people usually notice about this schematic is how none of these data feeds flow from the college application itself. No transcripts, no GPA, no SAT scores, no recommendations, no personal statement, no essays. Yet, these feeds help colleges project several critical attributes about an applicant during the admissions review process. Most notably an applicant’s intention to enroll, their likelihood to succeed, and their ability to pay.

“Schools can now get a complete picture of their applicants, including what they’re saying and thinking about them on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter – which could be even more meaningful than traditional data points like GPA and SAT.”

— THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION

How widespread is this predictive enrollment management phenomenon?

Beyond the fact that over 75% of colleges are currently using these systems and 90% of private colleges consider enrollment projections when making undergraduate admissions decisions, even standardized test makers are getting into the game.

Over the past few years, under the leadership of chief executive Marten Roorda, ACT is now increasingly selling products and services to colleges for their enrollment management operations. Having put tens of millions of dollars into several major acquisitions and investments, Roorda believes that ACT’s capabilities in data, measurement, and analytics, whether homegrown or newly acquired, can make the organization a major figure in various stages of the student life cycle. One of the companies acquired by ACT, Encoura, even operates to the following mission statement: “We encourage higher education institutions to make more informed decisions that optimize fit and create the highest probability of success.” Not to be outdone, the College Board also packages student demographic data collected during PSAT/SAT exams as a premium data feed into college enrollment management systems.

Big data and predictive analytics work best for both the college and the student when the system is able to connect an applicant to their online activities with a high degree of certainty. Almost all college enrollment management systems use the college website as the central hub to make this critical base level identification. Website analytics routinely measure a visitor’s browsing activities such as page visits and time spent on each page but, unless visitors identify themselves by providing their name and email address, they often remain anonymous beyond their registered IP address.

Check out the admissions pages of any college website and you will almost certainly find a prompt to either register with or request more information from the university. Sometimes these registration links are not readily apparent because colleges do not want the casual website visitor to register. To counter that, many colleges will embed their registration links deep within their admissions pages. Some schools use a pop up registration page that surfaces when you hit a certain time limit or navigate to a certain page. For example, when you click the link to see a virtual tour of the College of Charleston campus you will first need to complete a registration form. The amount of information that colleges try to collect via a website registration interface typically goes much deeper than the student’s name and email address.

“Because colleges cannot retain and graduate students who will not enroll, then learning how to populate the data feeds that colleges are now monitoring and measuring will position your students for the best possible admit and merit aid outcomes.”

Enrollment management systems use this collected information to connect several critically important algorithmic dots. Once a college confirms the identify of a website visitor, then automated tracking pixels are unleashed to search social media for accounts containing matching metadata while also connecting relevant demographic and financial aid data feeds. These verified feeds enable colleges to assign key probabilities and success metrics to the applicant and/or prospect based on historical data.

Notice the prominence of “likelihood to enroll” and student engagement on the model enrollment management dashboard below:

Likelihood to Enroll

It is in the best interest of college bound students to self-identify themselves to enrollment management systems. This self-identification will enable the colleges they are interested in attending to populate their data feeds and track their social media engagements. Remaining a stealth applicant has no inherent benefit whether that student is being positioned for a safety, target, or reach college opportunity.

Beyond increasing the enrollment probability ratio by spending time on the school’s website and following college social media accounts, applicants can also use these same digital tools to demonstrate to the school that they are a good fit and possess the personal qualities needed to matriculate through to graduation.

When just a fledgling online bookseller, Amazon realized that if Person A liked a book and Person B liked the same book, then it was highly probable that Person B would consider buying another book that Person A also read and recommended. Often times, the building blocks of big data predictive analytics are this basic.

Much like Amazon’s realization that people who like the same things share a commonality that can drive predictive behaviors, colleges are looking at non-cognitive data points to predict which students are destined to succeed, based on what they’ve learned about students who have already performed well. This correlation helps to explain the current college trend of deploying student blogs and social media ambassadors as a predictive measure of college fit and interest.

Selected student bloggers and social media ambassadors often reflect a cross section of students coming from a variety of backgrounds and representing diverse academic interests. Despite the differences, all of these students have one thing in common – they are all thriving at their respective college campuses. An applicant’s online engagement with these specific web pages and social media accounts are closely monitored and measured. Just take a closer look at the Pitt Social Media Ambassador Twitter accounts. All of these accounts are owned and managed by the university.

Most colleges maintain a plethora of social media accounts that run across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Instagram. Beyond the main college and admissions social media accounts, each college within a university and even each department within a college will often have their own unique social media presence. Scroll through the full social media account directory for Syracuse University. You’ll be surprised at the results.

Enrollment management systems do more than measure engagement with a school’s website and social media accounts. They also know when an identified applicant follows the college from their personal social media accounts, which will almost always trigger a system-generated email to the applicant (this will be discussed in detail in the third installment of this series). The systems can also track questions asked via social media and comments posted to social media accounts.

Algorithms can even be programmed to assess an applicant’s interests based on their social media activities. With technology serving up the exact data models colleges request, recruitment and admissions professionals can embrace a strategy that is similar to how baseball teams analyze player statistics to put together the perfect team. “It’s about using the data to help shape a freshman class that’s going to graduate,” says Brian G. Williams, vice president for enrollment management and marketing at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island.

Naturally, each college may have its own set of success characteristics. At New York Institute of Technology (NYIT), for instance, students who show a strong interest in design, problem-solving and using their hands are likely a better fit for the highly technical programs than are those who lean toward liberal arts.

“That information can’t easily be gleaned from a GPA or SAT score. What we’re looking for is that aptitude, that interest—which can be deduced by social media profiles, and from activities in high school and outside of the classroom. It’s why someone who identifies as a gamer and who loves science fiction and enters math competitions would likely be a better fit at NYIT than someone who’s an Emily Dickinson buff.”

— MARK HAMPTON, VP FOR ENROLLMENT AND ENTERPRISE ANALYTICS

Like all things digital, the use of data in college recruiting and admissions has only just begun. “We’ve moved from traditional institutional research to business intelligence to data science departments,” says Hampton. “Most universities realize this is how you need to play the game. And if not, you’ll be at a competitive disadvantage.”

If college enrollment management systems are working to assess applicants across a multitude of metrics by processing terabytes of demographic data and online activities separate and apart from the Common Application, then what can applicants be doing to optimize these activities?

“The medium is the message.”

— MARSHALL MCLUHAN

This legendary phrase means that the form of a medium embeds itself in any message it would transmit or convey, creating a symbiotic relationship by which the medium influences how the message is perceived. First conceived in 1964, this statement resonates even stronger today with the advent of social media.

Students need to understand that their social media and website engagement is delivering demonstrated interest to colleges on steroids as their “Digital DNA” is being transmitted in each and every social media like and follow. This means that it is incumbent upon every college applicant to make sure their social media captures the digital narrative they want to convey to college enrollment management systems and admissions decision-makers. This is much more than simply cleansing their social media to erase provocative posts. This entails forethought to produce an online presence designed to present their authentic selves to colleges in compelling, positive, and distinguishing ways.

This was from a blog originally published by Social Assurity. Check them out at https://socialassurity.com/

What Moneyball Teaches Us About College Admissions in the Digital Age

Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game is a book by Michael Lewis, published in 2003, about the Oakland Athletics baseball team and its general manager Billy Beane. Ignoring 100 years of established baseball best practices, the focus of the book is the team’s adoption of a disruptive analytical and evidence-based approach to assembling a competitive baseball team, known as Sabermetrics.

When Bill James first introduced Sabermetrics in the late 1970s, he changed the way baseball evaluated players and built their teams. Sabermetrics was created in an attempt to see the sport of baseball through objective evidence. Sabermetricians questioned baseball’s reliance on using “batting average” as a statistic upon which to make decisions on whether to keep or replace players. Historical data demonstrated that team batting average was a poor predictor of team runs scored. Sabermetric reasoning would say that runs win ballgames, and that a good measure of a player’s worth is his ability to help his team score more runs than the opposing team. This realization ushered in a whole new set of metrics used to assess baseball talent. (See Wikipedia)

“For generations, two numbers have signaled whether a student could hope to get into a top college: his or her standardized test score and his or her grade point average. In the past 15 years, though, these lodestars have come to mean less and less.”

— JEFFREY SELINGO

Nearly every college in the United States has introduced some level of predictive analytics and data analysis into their enrollment and admissions processes. While everyone knows how the game of baseball has changed over the past 20 years, only a few realize how much the business of college has changed as a result of big data and predictive analytics. Like batting averages in baseball, data showed that GPA and SAT scores were poor predictors of identifying students who would enroll and thrive at college. These longstanding building blocks for defining incoming freshman classes gave way to enrollment probability ratios and character assessments to better manage yield and graduation rates.

To understand why, we need to understand the influential powers of the U.S. News and World Report college rankings. College rankings have a pervasive influence on the higher education landscape by significantly affecting the number of applications colleges receive and the enrollment yield their brand power can generate. A college’s placement on the rankings list has the ability to increase perceived prestige thus automatically inducing thousands of more applicants and enrollments. Colleges realized that by actively managing the manipulable metrics of the rankings they could increase their overall status and therefore the drawing power of the college brand.

The U.S. News and World Report college ranking system is heavily weighted (22.5%) to reward colleges that retain and then graduate their students in 6 years or less. According to Robert Morse, chief data strategist at U.S. News, “A university is not successful if it does not graduate its students, which is why the Best Colleges rankings place the greatest value on outcomes, including graduation and retention rates.”

Welcome to the world of “student success” and “student fit.”

Another historically important lever used to increase rankings is student selectivity (10%) which is based on acceptance rates (the lower the better). This metric also influences academic reputation (20%). There are two practical ways a college can lower acceptance rates. The first is to increase the number of applications it receives. The second is to increase enrollment yield by decreasing the number of students accepted while still filling all available incoming seats. Predictive analytics not only help colleges generate more applications by targeting the right prospects, it also helps them make more informed acceptance decisions based on an applicant’s enrollment probability.

As colleges began actively managing to their U.S. News and World Report rankings, they realized that grades and test scores, by themselves, proved to be unreliable predictors of enrollment and student success. Just as baseball teams did a decade earlier, colleges were forced to rethink the assumptions underlying their traditional “team-building” strategies. This realization gave rise to the concepts of demonstrated interest and holistic admission reviews. Underpinning the adoption of holistic admissions is its strong correlation to measuring a student’s non-cognitive variables. Colleges that started to look beyond the traditional numbers experienced significant gains in selecting and predicting successful students regardless of incoming grade point average or SAT/ACT scores. Demonstrated interest also came into vogue as a way to better predict an applicant’s interest in enrolling at a particular college. Applicant interactions such as college visits, college fair contacts, and emails to the admissions office were used to gauge an applicant’s probability of enrollment. Unfortunately, as the Common Application was delivering thousands of applications each year, the manually driven concepts of holistic admissions and measuring demonstrated interest could not effectively scale beyond a limited number of smaller schools.

Before taking a deep dive into the technological enrollment management systems that have solved the scaling problem and have brought the world of big data and predictive analytics to the college admissions process (which will be discussed in the next installment of this series), we should examine a fundamental yet often overlooked enabler of the admissions review process.

If colleges are deploying sophisticated software systems that are programmed to focus on enrollment probabilities and graduation rates then where do GPAs and SAT/ACT scores fit in? While still an important component of assembling incoming freshman classes, these metrics work better to correlate students into groups rather than discerning between individual students.

The reasons are plain to see. First, because of the pervasiveness of high school grade inflation and the unprecedented number of college applicants, there is less discernible variance in GPA from applicant to applicant. Second, standardized test scores have long been known to be game-able while also being poor predictors of college performance. These are only two of the reasons why over 1,000 accredited 4-year colleges no longer require SAT/ACT scores for admission.

Even so, colleges inherently know that GPA and SAT/ACT reflect a student’s fundamental ability to be a good student. Colleges also are secure knowing that a predictably large percentage of their applicant pool will be delivering grades and test scores well within their acceptable range before ever looking at one college application. How do they know that?

Naviance! Naviance is a software tool widely used by high school students to determine their chances of being accepted to colleges and universities based on how their grade point averages and standardized test scores compare to previously accepted students from their high schools. A high school student who uses Naviance can enter the college in question, and the program will immediately spit out an informative scatter plot. The x-axis is the SAT scores of every applicant to that college from that high school from the past three years. The y-axis is the grade-point average. Naviance then computes the average SAT score and GPA of the students who were admitted into the queried college. Naviance also does one other thing: It highlights how a student’s own test scores and grades compare to the average admitted students.

Naviance Scattergram

More than 6 million college applications were submitted by Naviance students in 2017-18 school year. Throughout the 2017-18 school year, Naviance assisted 1.6 million high school seniors determine where to send their college applications.

Colleges love Naviance. The rudimentary screening methodology used by Naviance delivers discrete value. By focusing on only two metrics, GPA and SAT, Naviance perpetuates a college caste system that helps keeps applicants in predetermined lanes. The outcome is that colleges can reasonably rely on Naviance to deliver an applicant pool that fits generally within that college’s historic level of acceptable academic scoring range.

Let’s explore how this works in the aggregate. For sake of argument, let’s assume best practice dictates a student should apply to 7 colleges broken out as 2 reach, 3 target, and 2 safety. With Naviance dictating which colleges are defined as reach, target, and safety for every student based on their GPA and SAT score, colleges can reasonably rely on the fact that 72% of their applicant pool will meet or exceed the school’s published GPA and SAT requirements. The remaining 18% of applicants will likely fall just below that cusp but may possess certain unique skills or diversity elements that the college is looking for. These applicants might also be considered for possessing a strong ability to pay and/or a high enrollment probability score. Even better for colleges, because Naviance only posts data from the applicant’s high school, differences between high school assessed rigor are already baked into the equation.

Naviance therefore helps deliver a reliable “eligible” applicant pool which then enables colleges to use their resources to look at other determinative factors for admission. These factors include the ability to pay (demographics, FAFSA, consumer database, social media), likelihood to enroll (website analytics, social media, college visits), and student fit (demographics, character attributes, and social media). Enrollment management systems are used to pre-screen applicants along these metrics prior to full admissions review. Colleges even use advanced analytics to optimize the use of merit aid to entice an interested “safety” applicant to enroll at their school.

“Colleges have begun to use algorithms that work on an individual-student basis to profile and predict their behavior. They use social media data, as well as the data supplied by the applications, to compute the likelihood a given student will enroll if accepted, the extent of financial aid needed by the student – or needed to seduce a relatively well-off student.”

— CATHY O’NEIL

Colleges have been deploying advanced CRM systems that actively monitor and measure a diverse set of predictive data feeds outside of the college application itself. According to the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO), 76% of colleges now utilize some form of automated enrollment management tool and just about 90% of private, not-for-profit colleges use enrollment management projections to determine undergraduate admission targets.

AACRAO December 2018

AACRAO December 2018

This was from a blog originally published by Social Assurity. In the next installment which will be published tomorrow, they will be identifying and taking a closer look at today’s most popular enrollment management systems and the data feeds that colleges actively monitor and measure to predict enrollment, college success, and ability to pay (a key metric for retention).

Financial Aid & Scholarship Guide you can share with your students

Earning a degree takes a significant financial investment. At most schools, full-time and part-time students enjoy eligibility for federal student financial aid as long as they attend an accredited educational institution. Many schools offer merit-based and need-based scholarships, including accounting scholarships for undergraduates and scholarships for those seeking a master’s degree in accounting. Schools offer flexible payment plans and reduced tuition rates for military students and their families.

Prospective students should also consider the cost of books, special equipment, learning resources, and materials. Students who travel to and from a brick-and-mortar building for classes must also calculate costs for gas, tolls, and parking. Accounting.com has put together this comprehensive guide on financial aid and scholarships. While they have written it specifically for accounting students the information contained in it is applicable to all your students that plan to pursue a college education.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for Accounting Students

By providing more than $120 billion in loans, grants, and work-study funds, federal student aid helps more than 13 million students pay for educational expenses each year.

Students should apply for federal financial aid using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Applicants must seek out admission to a degree- or certificate-seeking program and cannot default on a current loan or owe a refund. Applicants must hold a high school diploma or GED and boast a clean criminal record. Non-active duty, male applicants must register with the Selective Service System.

To complete the FAFSA, applicants need to submit their social security number or alien registration number and all records of money earned, including federal income tax returns and W-2s; they also need to submit bank statements and investment records. Dependent students will need this information from their parents as well.

Using Savings to Pay for Your Accounting Degree

Personal and Family Savings

Sponsored by a state or state agency, a 529 college savings plan serves as a flexible, tax advantage investment account. Designed to help taxpayers pay for college expenses, 529 plans help with education-related expenses such as tuition and books at accredited colleges and universities. Parents, grandparents, or other relatives often open up a 529 account for young children with the goal of contributing to their education. Any U.S. resident 18 years of age or older with a social security number or tax ID can open up a 529 account. Owners of this type of account can typically withdraw the funds at any time for any reason. The government issues the funds tax free. Keep in mind that 529 college savings plans only apply to states with income tax.

Retirement Savings

Parents can use funds from their retirement savings to pay for school. Traditional IRA or Roth IRA distributions for qualified higher education expenses are penalty free for adults aged 59 and younger — so long as the money goes to a child, grandchild, spouse, or parent enrolled at least half time. Adults aged 59½ or older whose Roth IRA meets a 5-year aging requirement can receive a tax-free distribution. However, early withdrawals are subject to tax liability. When calculating financial aid packages, educational institutions may treat the IRA distribution as income, which may reduce the total amount of financial aid. Loans borrowed against the value of a retirement plan may not be subject to the 10% early withdrawal penalty or taxed as ordinary income, but they must be paid back with interest within five years, possibly sooner in the event of changing jobs. Some people choose to use retirement savings to cover college expenses; however, many financial advisors suggest doing so as a last resort given that it could lead to negative financial consequences.

Free Money for Your Accounting Program

Scholarships

Scholarships serve as a great method for financing an education. Students typically receive scholarships on a merit or need basis. Several institutions, such as government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and private foundations may award accounting scholarships. Some schools set aside a certain amount of money for scholarships to help students pay for tuition. Other schools offer scholarships based on donor funding.

High SAT or ACT scores, class rank, GPA, and leadership skills count as some of the reasons students receive merit-based scholarships. Other scholarships cater specifically to underrepresented populations, children of alumni, or students majoring in a specific field — such as scholarships for accounting majors.

When students fill out the FAFSA, they automatically apply for scholarships. Students typically need to re-apply each year. Application deadlines and requirements vary by scholarship. Depending on the scholarships, either the student or the institution will receive the funds.

What Scholarships Are Available for Accounting Majors?

AICPA Scholarship Award for Minority Accounting Students
Who Can Apply: The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants provides financial assistance to outstanding accounting undergraduate or graduate students from minority populations, including Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, Native American, Pacific Islander, or Asian American. Applicants must maintain a minimum 3.0 GPA.
Amount: $3,000 to $5,000


Business Advisors’ Striving for Greatness Accounting & Finance Scholarship
Who Can Apply: PM Business Advisors awards scholarships to accounting majors with strong academic records. Students need a cumulative GPA of 3.0 and must demonstrate active involvement within their community. Applicants must also submit a short essay.
Amount: $2,500


Government Finance Officers Association Scholarships
Who Can Apply: Government Finance Officers Association offers several annual accounting scholarships to students pursuing finance careers in state and local government. Academic record, work experience, and future career plans serve as the criteria for who receives awards. Applicants must submit a letter of recommendation.
Amount: $5,000 to $15,000


EFWA Scholarships
Who Can Apply: The Educational Foundation for Women in Accounting partners with the Institute of Management Accountants to sponsor three scholarships for accounting majors each year. Undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate women pursuing accounting degrees qualify, with preference given to those with financial need.
Amount: $1,000 to $4,000


Grants

Similar to scholarships, students receive grants to help pay for educational expenses. More often than not, students do not need to repay grants except in specific circumstances, such as a student withdrawing from school. The main difference between scholarships and grants lies in the fact students receive grants based on financial need rather than academic standing. Students may receive grant funds on a limited or first-come-first-serve basis. The U.S. Department of Education offers the Federal Pell Grant, the largest federally funded grant, to students who enroll on at least a half-time basis. State governments, private foundations, organizations, and corporations also award grants.

When students submit the FAFSA to apply for federal financial aid, they automatically apply for grants. Private grants each list their own set of deadlines and requirements. For example, some grants cater to specific populations, such as doctoral candidates pursuing research or those who work in specialized industries such as accounting or financial management.

Fellowships and Assistantships

Fellowships and assistantships serve as another way to help finance an education. Students receive these awards based on academic merit and available funding. Graduate assistantships typically go to students with research and teaching interests. Assistantships vary in responsibility and compensation, which sometimes includes tuition remission. Generally, the government will tax money earned from an assistantship.

Known for rigorous and intensive trainings, fellowships are short-term professional development opportunities for graduate students. Fellows receive small stipends to cover basic living expenses. Some fellows receive healthcare coverage and loan repayment assistance. Students receive fellowships based on merit and leadership qualities as part of a financial aid package. Application deadlines and requirements vary depending on the fellowship; however, applications tend to include letters of recommendation, writing samples, and an interview.

Federal Student Aid Programs

Authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, federal student aid goes to education-related expenses. Federal aid programs consist of loans, grants, and work-study funds. In the case of loans, students must pay the funds back to the lenders; they do not, however, need to pay back grants. Work-study programs allow students to earn money by working part-time jobs.

To apply, students must complete the FAFSA. Students can fill out the form online or print out a copy. Applicants need their social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, or alien registration numbers — and all records of income. Dependents must provide their parent’s information as well. Once submitted, the applicable schools and the state will review the information. Ultimately, each school’s financial aid office determines how much federal aid students can receive.

Federal Direct Loan Programs

The William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program is a federal student loan program offered by the U.S. Department of Education. The largest federal loan program for students, the direct loan program consists of four types: direct subsidized stafford loans, direct unsubsidized stafford loans, direct PLUS loans, and direct consolidation loans.

Undergraduate students at colleges, universities, and vocational schools qualify for direct subsidized stafford loans. The amount of money students can borrow varies based on financial need. Students receive a six-month grace period after graduation in which the government pays the interest.

Undergraduate, graduate, and professional students at colleges, universities, or vocational schools may qualify for direct unsubsidized stafford loans. In this case, students do not need to demonstrate financial need to borrow money; however, they must pay interest the whole time. Both subsidized and unsubsidized loans require students to attend at least half time.

Graduate and professional students, or parents of dependent undergraduate students, qualify for Direct PLUS loans. PLUS loans require students to attend school on at least a half-time basis and boast a good credit history. Graduate students benefit from a six-month grace period after graduation before having to repay PLUS loans; however, parent PLUS borrowers must start repayment after loan disbursement.

Direct consolidation loans allow students with outstanding balances to combine multiple federal loans into one single monthly payment plan.

Federal Perkins Loans

Undergraduate, graduate, and professional students who demonstrate exceptional financial need qualify for the Federal Perkins Loan Program. With the Perkins Loan, the school lends money directly to the student to pay for education-related expenses, and the student repays the school or the loan servicer. Schools determine financial need based on the difference between a school’s cost of attendance and a student’s expected family contribution. Students must attend school on a part-time basis to qualify for the Perkins loan. They enjoy a nine-month grace period before they must begin repayment. The repayment grace period for students enrolled on a part-time basis varies depending on each school. Keep in mind that not all schools participate in the Perkins Loan program. Additionally, the availability of funds at a school may affect the amount of money each student can receive. As a result, not all qualified students receive money.

Federal Work-Study Program

Federal work-study programs provide opportunities for undergraduate, graduate, and professional students to earn money by working part-time jobs. Students must demonstrate financial need to qualify. Students may work in areas related to their major course of study. Students can work either on or off campus; however, off-campus jobs must cater to the interest of the public — either in public agencies or private nonprofit organizations. Students may enroll in school on a full-time or part-time basis. Work-study jobs must pay students at least the federal minimum wage. Undergraduate students earn an hourly wage, while graduate and professional students earn either an hourly wage or a monthly salary. A student’s total work-study award depends on several factors, including application deadlines, financial need, and fund availability.

School-Based Financial Aid

Many educational institutions offer school-based financial aid. In this case, the money comes directly from the school’s own funds. Some schools boast initiatives directed at specific student populations— for example, families with yearly incomes below $65,000. Schools may offer financing options, installment payment plans, or need-based loans and grants. Some schools within larger universities may offer grants or scholarships for students in specific majors. School-based scholarships, such as accounting scholarships for undergraduates, often prove competitive. Students may need to fill out additional applications and meet specific deadlines to qualify for school-based financial aid. Individual schools determine the requirements.

State Aid

Students also enjoy state loans, grants, and scholarships; for example, non-profit organizations or regionally based programs often offer state-sponsored aid. Some state-funded grants cater to specific student populations, including low-income students, veterans or military members, students with disabilities, and those pursuing specific fields of study such as accounting. State aid typically goes to those in financial need who attend in-state colleges; however, some states allow residents to attend out-of-state schools.

Students typically apply for state aid using the FAFSA; however, students may need to fill out additional forms or necessary documentation. If students qualify for federal aid, they likely qualify for state financial aid as well. However, students who fail to qualify for federal aid may still qualify for state financial aid. The application procedure and distribution process for state-funded financial aid varies among states. The state may distribute funds on either a first-come-first-served basis or based on an application deadline. To learn more about specific requirements, students must visit their state’s department of education and other education agencies.

Post-9/11 GI Bill®

Managed by the Veterans Benefits Administration, the Post 9/11 GI Bill® helps active duty service members with their education. To qualify, veterans need either a minimum 90 days of active duty service after September, 10, 2001 or to be honorably discharged after serving for 30 days. This education benefit covers tuition, housing, books, supplies, licensing fees, and certification tests. Other approved trainings include independent and distance learning, vocational and technical trainings, on-the-job training, and tutorial assistance. Students can receive this VA-administered education benefit for up to 36 months but cannot change programs after they receive any benefits from the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Students released from duty before 2013 have a 15-year time limit from their last period of active duty; students discharged after 2013 do not have a time limit.

The Yellow Ribbon program covers out-of-state tuition and fees associated with private-degree granting schools. However, schools must voluntarily opt into the program. Students can transfer some or all of their unused benefits to their children and spouse. The Department of Defense determines transfer eligibility. The Marine Gunnery John David Fry Scholarship Program caters to children of Armed Forces members who died in the line of duty on or after September 11, 2001.

* GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at https://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill.

Private Student Loan Options

Private lending institutions and individuals fund private student loans. Those pursuing community college and technical training; undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree-seeking students; and parents of dependent students may use private student loans. Private loans often require a good credit score or an established credit history. Some private lending institutions require a co-signer. Cosigners should know that they take on some risks for signing onto these loans.

Repayment options for private loans vary. Most private loans require monthly payments, with fees attached to late or default payments. Some private student loans require students to pay even while they attend school. Students should check the interest rate, the total cost of the loan, and the total fees prior to signing for the loan. While federal loans often feature fixed interest rates, private loans list adjustable or variable interest rates — which can increase the total amount of repayment. Private lenders may not offer loan forgiveness, deferment, forbearance, or income-driven repayment options during financially difficult times.

Financial Institution Loans

Many financial institutions such as banks and credit unions offer private student loans to help individuals pay for education-related expenses. Banks and credit unions list varying interest rates, repayment options, loyalty discounts, and miscellaneous fees. Private institution loans come with less flexibility than federal options; however, many lenders offer low interest rates, cosigning options, or multiyear approvals. Private loans from financial institutions cater to four-year undergraduate students, graduate students pursuing their master’s degrees, career and community college attendees, or parents of dependent students. To apply for financial institution loans, students should first calculate the amount of money they need to borrow.

Loans From Family and Friends

Some students look to friends and family as a resource for funding an education. However, students should consider how borrowing money affects relationships. Before friends and family borrow and lend money to each other, they must establish a repayment plan. Determining a set schedule for repayment will help the borrower stick to a reasonable timeframe. Lenders and borrowers may want to discuss possible interest rates, consequences for veering off schedule, or even loan forgiveness options.

If you have any students that are considering a Masters in Accounting, accounting.com also have a list of 25 Master’s in Accounting Programs here: https://www.accounting.com/degrees/accounting/masters/best-programs/

Two new scholarship opportunities for your students

Steinger, Greene & Feiner Law Scholarship for Child Advocates

The law firm of Steinger, Greene & Feiner offers a semi-annual $1,000 scholarship for a child advocate or abuse survivor seeking a law degree.

Open to dedicated students who meet either of the following criteria:

  • You have personally worked to protect children’s rights or stop abuse either as a volunteer, as a counselor, in your professional work or by legal means.
  • You are an abuse survivor who wishes to use your own experiences to help others.

Additionally, all applicants must either be currently enrolled in or accepted to an accredited law school, or a current undergraduate student with the intention to go to law school.

Deadlines:
July 31st – Fall Semester

Applicant Essay Topics

Please choose one of the questions provided for your essay. Essays must be between 500 and 1000 words.

  1. How has being a child advocate inspired you to pursue a career in law?
  2. How has your personal childhood experiences affected your outlook on the legal system?
  3. How did you become a child advocate?

Applicant Requirements

  • Applicant must be either a current law student at an accredited law school or at an accredited undergraduate university planning to attend law school for the following academic year.
  • Applicants must have a minimum 2.8 GPA.
  • Applicants must submit an unofficial copy of their transcript.

How to Apply

Complete the application at this link: https://www.injurylawyers.com/child-advocate-scholarship/

TicketHelp Safe Driver Scholarship

In the United States, car accidents kill more teenagers every year than any other cause of death. On average, about 6 teenagers aged 16 to 19 die every day in car accidents. For the most part, these car accidents can be attributed to inexperience: not responding to road hazards quickly enough, taking curves too quickly and being distracted by something outside or inside the vehicle.

Of course, perhaps the most distracting part of driving nowadays is the cell phone. In the 5 seconds it takes to read that text message, drivers can travel over 300 yards at 55 miles per hour, and they are essentially blind while doing so. About 10 percent of all teenage drivers involved in fatal accidents were using their phone — texting, calling or using social media. At any given time, more than 650,000 people are using cell phones while they drive, and young drivers are the most common culprit.

TicketHelp is offering two $1,000 scholarships per year to young people.

Deadlines

Fall Semester: June 5

Spring Semester: December 5

Eligibility

Open to all United States citizens who have had a driver’s license for at least 1 year. In addition, you must:

  • Have been accepted and committed to, or currently enrolled in, an accredited college or university (must present a student ID, if applicable)
  • Have a minimum 2.8 GPA
  • Have no tickets or incidents on your traffic record for the past 3 years

How to Apply

To apply for the TicketHelp Safe Driver Scholarship, please submit your online application, as well as a copy of your transcript and your driving record. Visit your local Department of Driver Services or Department of Motor Vehicles to learn more about how to obtain your driving record.

You must also submit a 500- to 1,000-word essay on ONE of the topics below.

Essay Topics

  1. In what ways do you overcome the urge to use your phone or otherwise become distracted while driving?
  2. How has your life been impacted by distracted driving?
  3. Give us a brief overview of your state’s distracted driving laws, and how you would change them to make the roads safer.

How to Apply

Complete the application at this link: https://www.tickethelp.com/safe-driver-scholarship/

9 Tips for International Students Applying to American Graduate Schools

The United States offers a wealth of opportunities for higher education, so it should be no surprise that it’s a popular destination for students from many other countries. But the world of graduate study is distinctive, and it pays to learn some of the subtleties of the application process. Here are some key pointers:

  1. Doctoral programs often provide financial aid. While Ph.D. students may enjoy a great deal of support in the form of teaching and research assistant positions, Master’s students are generally less likely to be offered these opportunities. It can be helpful to reach out to a specific academic program to find out what types of aid are available, since the decisions are often made at a departmental level.
  2. GRE scores may be required. Some graduate programs require that applicants submit GRE scores, while other programs make it optional. Still others have different rules for American and international students. Read the “fine print” online to learn each program’s policies – or contact them to find out. Students should allow sufficient time to take the GRE more than once, if needed – although there is typically no official minimum score required.
  3. Finding statistics is hard. While it’s not difficult to look up the acceptance rate, average GPA or SAT scores of admitted freshmen for most colleges, finding comparable numbers for students applying to graduate school can be next to impossible. Students are free to reach out directly to the programs they’re interested in, but they may not receive a definitive answer. As a result, it’s wise to apply to a range of programs to maximize the chances of admission.
  4. The statement of purpose (SOP) must be customized. Students need to write a statement of purpose summarizing what they’ve accomplished, their career plans and how their intended program will help them achieve their goals. Since each program is unique, they’ll need to modify this document significantly from one application to the next. Universities often provide guidelines describing what should be included in the SOP.
  5. Master’s programs in the US often last two years. Students should ensure that they have sufficient funds for the duration of their program; some schools require proof of finances. Note that cost of living can vary dramatically between different cities and regions.
  6. There may be multiple deadlines. Students who submit applications by the earlier deadline typically get priority for financial aid (and sometimes admissions). Following this deadline, there may be additional deadlines or rolling admissions until the program is filled.
  7. Students may be able to extend their visas for work. After being accepted into a program, students apply for a non-immigrant visa. Once they’ve completed their degree, they may be eligible to stay an additional year (and sometimes longer) to gain work experience.
  8. Proof of English proficiency may also be required. Universities often look for a minimum score on a test such as the TOEFL or IELTS. Students who obtained their undergraduate degrees in the US are usually exempt from this requirement. Those who studied in English-speaking countries or who were otherwise taught in English may be exempt, or they may have the option to apply for a waiver of the requirement.
  9. Transcript evaluation may be required. Students who earned their undergraduate degrees outside the US will often be asked to hire an academic evaluation service to review their transcript and translate it into American educational terminology. The National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES) has a list of member organizations that can provide this service.

Eric Endlich, Ph.D. is the founder of Top College Consultants, serving students worldwide. He can be reached at Eric@topcollegeconsultants.com.

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