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So you took the ACT! Now what?

Early applicants to colleges and universities can receive one of three different decisions: accepted, denied, or deferred to the regular pool. Everyone knows it's good to be accepted and disappointing to be denied. But what does a deferral mean? And how should you handle it?

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Welcome to the college admissions feature section of our website. We promise to keep this section’s content updated and fresh – so check back frequently for new articles.

July 2008:

Common Application Has Been Released

Good news! The Common Application has been released and rising seniors can get a head start on the 345 schools currently accepting it!

June 2008:

College Board Releases “Validity Study” on the New SAT Test

The College Board released a study that claims its new SAT test has predictive powers with students’ first-year grades. Many critics, however, remain unconvinced.

March 2008:

Harvard Not Receiving Transfers

Harvard College will be unable to enroll any transfer students for the next two academic years, 2008-2009 and 2009-2010. Following the most thorough examination of its residential housing in Harvard’s history, school officials have concluded that the Harvard Houses cannot successfully accommodate any new transfer students. Instead, the College has embarked on a planning process for substantial capital investment to renovate and revitalize its residential spaces.

Undergraduate education at Harvard College is residential in character. Students learn a great deal from the residential experience and contact with one another, complementing the experience of classrooms and laboratories. Harvard does not admit transfer students to non-residential status.

Columbia, MIT Revamp Financial Aid

Columbia University will join a number of other selective universities in significantly expanding the financial aid it offers to lower- and middle-income students, university officials announced.

Undergraduates from homes with incomes up to $60,000 a year will not have to pay for tuition, room and board, and other fees, beginning fall of 2008. The previous threshold for a full scholarship based on financial need was a combined family income of $50,000 a year.

Columbia also said it would end loans for incoming and current students who are on financial aid, replacing loans that were traditionally part of aid packages with grants from the university. In addition, officials said that Columbia would expand the aid it gave to students from families earning $60,000 to $100,000.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) also announced its financial aid program for 2008-2009. Increases in financial aid will make it possible for a larger fraction of MIT students to have their tuition and fees completely covered.

Under the new plan, which will take effect in the 2008-2009 academic year:

  • Families earning less than $75,000 a year will have all tuition covered. For parents with total annual income below $75,000 and typical assets, MIT will ensure that all tuition charges are covered with an MIT scholarship, federal and state grants, and/or outside scholarship funds. Nearly 30 percent of MIT students fall into this tuition-free category.
  • For families earning less than $75,000 a year, MIT will eliminate the student loan expectation. MIT will no longer expect students from families with total annual income below $75,000 and typical assets to take out loans to cover expenses beyond tuition. Under this provision, for example, students in this income group who participate in MIT’s paid Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) each semester would be able to graduate debt-free.
  • For families earning less than $100,000, MIT will eliminate home equity in determining their need. In determining the ability to pay for college, MIT will no longer consider home equity for families with total annual income below $100,000 and typical assets. On average, this will reduce parental contributions by $1,600. For families who rent, rather than own a home, MIT will provide a comparable reduction in the expected parental contribution.

MIT has long taken an aggressive position on aid because its students demonstrate a much higher level of need than students at peer institutions. More than 22 percent of MIT undergraduates come from families with annual incomes less than $60,000 a year; 17 percent come from families with incomes under $45,000.

Common Application to Try Changes

Beginning July 1, the Common Application will have a few changes to its programming. Currently, applicants could not create alternate versions of their application unless they needed to correct an error on a submitted application before resubmitting to additional schools or if the student needed to update the application between an early round and later round. Based on continual feedback, a few changes will be seen starting the next admissions cycle.

The Common Application Online will now include a small number of questions that can be answered differently for different schools within the application itself, eliminating the need to create an alternate version – and without concern that a college will see anything besides the answer intended for it alone. Those questions are on academic interest, career interest, decision plan (ED, EA, rolling, etc.), entry term, and financial aid intent.

Additionally, the online application will enable colleges to suppress certain answers submitted by students. As an example, a test-optional college may suppress all self-reported standardized test scores. The online application will then prevent the transmission of that data to the school as well as notifying the student that the school cannot see the self-reported scores. The college can suppress answers to discipline questions, self-reported standardized test scores, and Social Security Number.

While alternative versions will still be allowed, the changes are being done to help reduce pressure on students to create such alternates for every school. The changes will be reviewed at the end of the next admissions cycle and a decision reached on how to proceed from there.

February 2008:

Brown, Stanford, Washington University Continue Aid Trend

Brown University is eliminating tuition for students whose parents earn less than $60,000, after decisions by fellow Ivy League universities to bolster financial aid as their endowments grow.

The university, in Providence, R.I., said that it also planned to substitute grants for student loans in the financial aid packages of students whose families earned less than $100,000 a year. The new program cuts reliance on loans for all students regardless of family income.

Brown also announced plans to increase tuition by 3.9 percent for the 2008-9 academic year to $36,928. With room and board, the costs are $47,740 for one year.

Stanford University announced it will no longer charge tuition to students whose families earn less than $100,000 a year. The university will also waive room and board fees from students whose families earn less than $60,000 a year.

To handle the increase of tuition assistance, the university will be increasing its annual endowment payout to 5.5 percent. The new plan goes into effect for the 2008-09 academic year and will eliminate the need for student loans for qualifying students.

Washington University in St. Louis also announced new changes starting this fall. Families that make less than $60,000 annually will have all loans eliminated. In place of need-based loans, students will get grants, which are not repaid.

While qualifying students will graduate debt-free, they will still likely have to contribute some amount towards tuition. The new program will affect close to 10 percent of the student body; entering freshmen and full-time undergraduate students will be eligible.

Princeton to Explore “Bridge Year” Program

Princeton University is exploring the idea of creating a “bridge year” program that allows a limited number of newly admitted undergraduates to spend a full year of public service abroad internationally before starting their freshman year. The program, if begun, would give students a chance to pursue a tuition-free pre-collegiate enrichment year outside their home country with full support from Princeton.

A successful bridge year program would benefit students in several ways. It would enable the student to develop an international perspective. It provides opportunity to support the University’s unwritten creed of “being in the nation’s service and in the service of all nations.”

Such a program would also give students a break from the academic pressure that threatens to overwhelm the lives of successful high school students. Above all else, it would prepare students for a more meaningful Princeton experience.

The proposed idea is designed to create an international opportunity that would be open to any admitted student to Princeton, regardless of financial circumstances but limited to a set number of students – most likely capping at 100. An exploratory committee has been created to examine costs and financial aid levels needed, to determine if the program is indeed feasible. A student who participates would not be charged tuition during the bridge year.

Florida Universities Might See Tuition Hike

After being delivered with $90 million in funding cuts from the state government, the Florida university system is bracing for further cuts from the state budget in the next few years. As a result, the schools may well see an 8 percent increase in tuition that will go into effect as early as the next academic year. The Board of Governors has not implemented the increase yet but is expected to.

Florida currently has the cheapest tuition rates in the nation with a yearly average of $3,361 – nearly 50 percent lower than the national average of $6,185. The increase will be approximately $183 for an academic year, assuming a standard 15 credit load.

January 2008:

Sallie Mae Stops Private Loans to Credit Risk Students

Sallie Mae, the U.S.’s largest student-loan company, warned colleges that it is no longer providing private loans to students with below-prime credit scores or those considered credit risks.

This decision will affect all colleges and possibly have repercussions beyond for-profit schools. Because of their reliance on lower-income students (who tend to have poorer credit ratings), the for-profit college sector does stand to be the hardest hit. Traditional colleges might gain a competitive advantage as fewer students choose a for-profit institution.

The decision by Sallie Mae might be one of the most far-reaching fallouts from a series of downturns in student-lending. The initial catalyst has been from the overall tightening of credit markets from the crisis in mortgage lending and has been led by a reduction in federal subsidies on government-backed loans.

Applications Continue to Soar

Harvard has reported that it had received a record number of applicants — 27,278 — for its next freshman class, a 19 percent increase over last year. Other campuses reporting double-digit increases included the University of Chicago (18 percent), Amherst College (17 percent), Northwestern University (14 percent) and Dartmouth (10 percent).

Officials said the trend was a result of demographics, aggressive recruiting, the ease of online applications and more students applying to ever more colleges as a safety net. The swelling population of 18-year-olds is not supposed to peak until 2009, when the largest group of high school seniors in the nation’s history, 3.2 million, are to graduate. The rise in applications at three universities — Harvard, Princeton and the University of Virginia — came about as they ended early admissions policies, which had allowed students to receive decisions by mid-December, months ahead of others. The universities said early admissions benefited more affluent and sophisticated students and required students to commit without being able to compare financial aid offerings from various colleges.

The application figures suggested that the end of early admissions did not hurt. Princeton received a record 20,118 applicants, up 6 percent. The University of Virginia received 18,776 applications, a 4 percent increase. Like other campuses, Virginia said its final count was likely to increase slightly, because applications were still trickling in.

Harvard Announces Change in Academic Calendar

Earlier this week, Harvard announced the adoption of a coordinated academic calendar which puts the academic schedules of the university’s thirteen Schools into sync.

The new schedule will begin with the 2009-2010 academic year, improving student access to resources throughout Harvard and make it easier for students to take classes in more than one School.

Changes include:

  • Fall terms starting in early September with exams completed in December before winter break.
  • Spring terms beginning in late January, with commencement ceremonies scheduled for the end of May.
  • Coordinated Thanksgiving and spring breaks.
  • A three-week optional session in January.

The optional session will be used with each school’s discretion, encouraging individual interests outside the university or to provide enhanced educational opportunities such as study abroad, lab experiences, internships, and mini-courses. A copy of the 2009-2010 through 2015-2016 coordinated calendars for undergraduate academics can be found on the provost’s website.