How to Use Net Price Calculators and What To Do If You Can’t Afford It

I’ve shown you how to narrow your school list, what to consider in choosing colleges based on money, and how to prepare for college. My goal is to help you maximize your opportunity and target your efforts strategically.

Now that you have a shorter list of colleges to work with, I’m going to show you how to use the Net Price Calculators (NPC) on the colleges’ website. 

First, you need to gather financial information in advance of using these calculators. The more info you input into the NPC, the more accurate your tuition price quote will be.

Then, you can take this information back to your family to confirm their ability to help you pay for your cost of attendance, and what it might cost you personally in terms of loans after college. 

 To use these (and other) Net Price Calculators, gather the following information in advance:

Adjusted Gross Income (AGI)
Income losses
Untaxed income & benefits
Child support paid
U.S. income tax
Parent 1 wages
Parent 2...

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Finding the TRUE Cost of College

Today, I promised to share my method with you for learning about college costs. You can use this method as a foundational basis for forming your college list. There are several indicators that you should use to compare college costs other than the sticker price:

1) Graduation rate. On the surface, public colleges may appear to be more affordable, but if we dig into these numbers you may find that this is not the case. At some public colleges, the graduation is a little bit lower, if not much lower than private colleges. For example, at Rutgers University (considered to be a top-tier public university!) approximately 49% of students graduate in four years. That’s less than half of students graduating on-time! Even if on the surface the sticker price looks more affordable for a public college, it could actually cost more if you don’t finish on time. You don’t have to be a slacker for this to happen to you: You could change your major, take credits in study...

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How to categorize colleges into match, reach or safety schools

Last week I told you about Naviance. Naviance is the truest way you can use to assess your admissions chances since you will be evaluated for acceptance in direct competition with other students from your high school.

You’ll also use admissions chances as a guideline for choosing your reach, match and safety schools –and you’ll need this info to narrow your school list so you’re not applying to 25, 50, 100 colleges!

First, here’s the methodology and working definitions for “reach,” “target,” and “safety” schools :

A reach school is any school that has a 30% or lower acceptance rate and/or where your GPA/tests are in the lower 25th percentile of accepted students’ range.

A target school is one that accepts students whose average GPA and tests closely match yours. You are a “typical” academic candidate for this college. The college’s acceptance rate should be above 40% to be a target school.

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How to start your business and get admitted to a great school

Uncategorized Sep 04, 2017

Many students who want to work with me are business-minded: They’re driven, tech savvy, and entrepreneurial. These qualities are incredible assets when preparing for college or graduate school. It’s easy to stand out when you’re ambitious and want to do something great in this life (getting accepted to your top-choice school isn’t something you “do” that’s great, it’s something great that happens to you because you’ve already done amazing things!).

Take my student, Greg. Greg is a talented filmmaker who got a lucky internship that led to his ability to produce his own documentary film. By now, millions have watched his film. Not only has Greg’s work gotten international exposure, but Greg has received thousands of dollars in royalties from its distribution. He also has additional film production contracts in progress that will continue to assure his business thrives in the coming years.

Not surprisingly, his impressive...

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How to turn your idea into a successful nonprofit

College and graduate school applicants can build up business experience, leadership experience, and make a difference by starting their own non-profit. 

Take my student, Aiden. Aiden launched a non-profit dedicated to helping teens develop a sense of civic and social responsibility. Her first step to launch was publishing articles and hosting an online forum where students could discuss issues related to social responsibility.

In conjunction with these efforts, she used social media and in-person events to raise awareness about the importance of teen involvement in social causes. She built her platform first by sharing her articles with some friends. Because her friends liked the content, they shared them broadly, and eventually, Aiden built a list of thousands of subscribers.

Aiden parlayed her list that into online webinars and training events. There were fits and starts along the way--challenges of building her team, retaining partnerships, and maintaining momentum....

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What happens to your admissions chances when you conduct research?

I previously shared with you a list 3 activities that admissions officers consider to be absolutely outstanding and have NOTHING to do with what’s available at your school.

This week, I’ll share with you about how one of my students, Lucy, conducted independent academic research, and how it paid off big time.

Lucy conducted research underneath her volunteer internship at a hospital. She co-authored a paper with one of the doctors at the hospital and the paper is now published in an academic journal. Since the research was on public health, the paper that Lucy co-authored really cemented her commitment to public health in the eyes of admissions officers, and she was able to learn about health inequities in her community.

So where’d she get in? Among other places, she was accepted to and will attend Northwestern this fall (10% acceptance rate). Not bad, huh?

As long as you follow it through to the end and publish the research, is a safe bet for impressing...

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Your high school helps or hurts your admissions chances

I don’t have to tell you that the higher you score on your grades, the more favorable your first impression to admissions officers will be. You might think that this information conflicts with what I’ve told you in the past– because I’ve really encouraged you to be a leader and to find activities that will help you grow and stand out. So I’m not telling you not to do that. But I need to be a little crass on this email to help you be realistic and assess your own admissions chances.

Many students overlook or minimize Naviance as a way to assess admissions chances, subbing it out for college-level data or U.S. News. But no other tool will be more helpful to you in assessing admissions chances than Naviance. Why? Because Naviance has GPA and test score data that are SPECIFIC TO YOUR HIGH SCHOOL. I’m sorry to say that you’re going to be competing most closely for college acceptances with your friends and classmates, but it’s the truth.


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Assess your chances through AdmitSee

As a college application coach for Ivy League and elite colleges, students ask me all the time how to assess their chances to get into a particular college. What I tell them is that we can use data, both quantitative and qualitative, to help us figure this out. In conjunction with Naviance, I use AdmitSee data to help students find colleges that fit their goals.

I'll even help you assess your chances through my bootcamp... 

AdmitSee works extremely well for finding students whose background and experiences are similar to yours. For example, let’s say you’re an avid Girl Scout or Eagle Scout. You can type “Eagle Scout” in the search bar and see profiles of students who are Eagle Scouts and where they go to college, what their scores are, and what they wrote about for their essays.

The idea of looking up other Eagle Scout profiles is not to perfectly copy another student’s essay or activities but to get a good idea of what types of schools have been...

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When Opportunity Knocks You Have to Go For It

You can’t always wait for opportunity to knock. If you’re in high school, you have a TON of opportunities at your fingertips. Even if someone isn’t begging you to start a new club or join theirs, opportunity is constantly knocking at your door. It’s called strolling the hallways of your high school – if you look up, you’ll see signs of opportunity knocking pretty much everywhere: “Join the Executive Board!” “Audition for the Musical!” “Write for The School Newspaper.” Sure, no one has asked you personally to join these opportunities, but these are all opportunities knocking at YOUR door. You just have to tune in to listen to them.

All this opportunity knocking, decision-making, passion-pursuing doesn’t end in high school. I’ll tell you a story of mine. Last fall, I had a chance to become a panelist in The School of the New York Times’ Symposium on College Admissions. It was a true honor. The...

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What’s my passion in the first place?

If you remember Mike's story, he had a fantastic focus and passion for writing. But other students, maybe even you (don’t worry if this is you!) feel relatively uncertain about their true interests and passions.

There are lots of good ways to solve this problem, and here’s one way to start. My colleagues, Moses Lee and Matt Gibson, Founders of Distinguish Me, have a wonderful set of questions they give to students in coming up with an idea for the first time. They are:

  • What do you enjoy searching, learning, reading, or talking about?
  • What piques your interest every time it’s mentioned?
  • What do your friends say you are passionate about?
  • What do your parents or other adults say you are passionate about?
  • Who are some people you admire and why?

Answer these questions for yourself and you will be well on your way to finding your initial passion or interest for further exploration.

But what if you can’t commit to one passion or interest? You say to me, “Dr....

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