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5 Ways High School Juniors Can Strengthen Their College Admissions Application

Jonathan Hughes explains how students can present their best college admissions application. Factors include letters of recommendation, the college essay, and demonstrated interest. Jonathan is joined by Drew Carter, Senior Associate Director of Admissions at College of the Holy Cross, and Julie Shields-Rutyna, Director of Training and Education at MEFA.

On this episode of The MEFA Podcast, MEFA's Associate Director of College Planning and Content Creation Jonathan Hughes explains how students can present their best college admissions application. Factors include letters of recommendation, the college essay, and demonstrated interest. Jonathan is joined by Drew Carter, Senior Associate Director of Admissions at College of the Holy Cross, and Julie Shields-Rutyna, Director of Training and Education at MEFA. Jonathan also discusses how families can appeal financial aid offers.

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Resources Mentioned in this Episode

5 Ways High School Juniors Can Strengthen Their College Admissions Application webinar

Financial Aid Appeals and Paying for College in 2021

How to Write a College Essay

Tips for College Letters of Recommendation

Why Demonstrated Interest in College Admissions Matters





Transcript

Jonathan Hughes: [00:00:00] Hi, everyone. Welcome to the MEFA podcast. I'm Jonathan here with Julie Shields-Rutyna. And I'm really excited today, Julie, because today we're talking admissions, and not only are we going to be talking admissions, but we're going to be getting tips from Drew Carter, who's the Senior Associate Director of Admissions at the venerable College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. And Julie, Drew is amazing.
Julie Shields-Rutyna: [00:00:36] Right. Oh, he is, yep. I love to hear what he has to say.
Jonathan Hughes: [00:00:40] Oh, he was one of the first people we thought of to get as a guest on this podcast. So it's a pleasure to actually finally have him here. So we're really excited about that. And we're really excited also because what he's going to be talking about, he's going to be giving us five things that high school juniors can do to strengthen [00:01:00] their college application.
So every time we talk about college admissions, there's always huge interest. And here we're giving you an expert who's going to be laying out some tips that can help you with your college applications. So we're so excited about that. What we're going to do right now, instead of talking about a news item, is we're going to go right to it and let you hear my conversation with Drew Carter. Here it is.
Jonathan Hughes: [00:01:30] Drew Carter is the Senior Associate Director of Admissions at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. He's also a frequent collaborator and guest in MEFA’s seminar and webinar program. In fact, he'll be participating in a MEFA webinar on this topic on Wednesday, June 9th at 6:30.
So if you like what you hear and you want to ask him more questions, we'll post a link to RSVP in the show notes so you can attend. And it's always fun hearing you talk. And I promise you, you will not forget what he has to [00:02:00] say. So Drew, welcome to the show.
Drew Carter: [00:02:02] Great to be here, Jonathan. And it's great to be here, to talk about one of my favorite topics, which is, you know, how high school juniors can actively play a role in strengthening their application for college.
Jonathan Hughes: [00:02:16] Yeah. So everybody wants to know how they can strengthen their application. And we usually identify junior year as the year when the college search and the application process really begins in earnest. And so what we have today are five ways that juniors can strengthen their college applications.
So let's get right to it. What’s the first one?
Drew Carter: [00:02:38] Okay. You know, one of the things to keep in mind is that there are so many factors that go into a decision on a student's high school application when they apply to college. And many of those are out of the student's control. The most important thing for students to do is to focus on the parts of the application process that they actually control.
We identify five for today, and the first one I want to start with [00:03:00] is the teacher recommendations. I think sometimes students think that teacher recommendations just pop out of nowhere. They can't imagine what would be in those recommendations, and they don't know where teachers get the words to write those recommendations.
But reality is that most teacher recommendations are written after the student's junior year in high school. And those recommendations are filled with observations, anecdotes, and adjectives that had been witnessed during the second half, the students junior year, the most recent or the most relevant when the teacher is writing that recommendation. It sounds cheesy to say it, but students create their own recommendation by the way in which they conduct themselves in class.
And that could be virtually. If a student is attending school virtually, could it be in a hybrid model or it could be in-person, students literally create their own [00:04:00] recommendations with how they conduct themselves. So I often tell students if you want your teacher recommendation to say that you're hardworking, give the teachers that content, show them a hardworking student on a daily basis.
You want your recommendation to say you're thoughtful and sensitive to the needs of others. Then give them that content. And it is a great exercise for students to think about two or three qualities that they would like reflected in their recommendations and once they identify those, demonstrate those qualities on the daily basis.
And I promise you, you'll make that teacher's job of writing that recommendation so much easier.
Jonathan Hughes: [00:04:36] How many letters of recommendation are students going to have to supply?
Drew Carter: [00:04:47] Yeah, I think what we see most commonly, and it's kind of what I generally recommend, is whatever the college requires plus some colleges are going to require none. Some colleges are going to [00:05:00] require one. I don't know that there are many that still required two, but I think having the required plus one is a great idea. Obviously the most important part is how well that teacher knows you now that class. So it really is the content of that recommendation is the most important.
And I also really recommend the students to ask in the proper way. Don't make it a passing comment at the end of class one day, ask them the right way. Do it in writing whether it's a preferably an email, or if you do it in person, make an appointment to speak with that teacher and explain to them why you've asked them.
And then, here's the key part. Here's the way to seed your recommendation. If that teacher agrees to write your recommendation, write them a thank you note. You have just created the first piece of it for their recommendation. You're already thoughtful.
Jonathan Hughes: [00:05:53] Excellent. Okay, so let's go to number two.
Drew Carter: [00:05:57] The second part is to understand that when a [00:06:00] college admission office looks at a high school students transcript on average, they will look at three and a quarter years. Freshman year, sophomore year, junior year, senior fall in some schools. When we look at three years, some schools will look at three and a half, and I sort of split the difference there and say three and a quarter.
So every course selection, every course level, every grade is under consideration by the admission. But the most important part of that transcript is the road that lies ahead. You absolutely control the effort and energy that you put into the classroom this spring, next fall, because what colleges look at a student's entire transcript.
We know that the student, we get the student, we will inherit the student that will enroll matriculate and show up first year student on our campus will most closely resemble the student that we see at the end of the transcript. So all of the victories and defeats that lie behind you on the transcript, let them go.
What matters to you is the [00:07:00] road that lies ahead. You have absolute control over the lingering, powerful, active space to your transcript. And it very often creates a lien in the application. If you really hit your stride academically, if you've showed that you are starting to identify areas of interest and maybe excelling in those areas, if you've showed colleges that you have rebounded from past missteps in a perceived area of weakness and improved your performance.
If you've showed colleges that as your courses get more difficult, your performance rises to that level. Show colleges the type of student that they want on their campus can create that image at the end.
Jonathan Hughes: [00:07:41] We move on to our third tip, which relates to a topic that causes of a lot of anxiety for students, which is their essay.
Drew Carter: [00:07:53] Students and their families waste a lot of time thinking about what they think we in the admissions world want [00:08:00] them to write their essay about. I will answer that question for you. No one in the admissions world cares one bit what you write your essay about. Great essays every year on silly, silly topics, awful essays on what the guidebooks have identified as a great topic.
We read great essays every year about grandmas and we read terrible essays every year about grandmas. It has never been grandma's fault between the topic of your essay and the quality of your essay. I keep a list every year of my favorite essays I've read. Right. And on one year's list, there's probably about 20 essays.
I keep the name of the student. I keep where they went to high school, kind of helps me remember, and then I keep the topic of their essay. So let's say about 20 on a list for one year, I've been doing this job for 17 years. I can imagine. And if I were to show you that list, would you be interested in students' names?
No. [00:09:00] Not interested in like where they went to high school. Would you be interested in looking at the titles? The subjects of these, these one appears most common. I'm going to tell you about 10% of those subjects are these the best essays I've ever read or what you might imagine? The house fire my family survived, cancer, like really momentous life changing, COVID. That's about 10%. That 90% of the best essays I read, almost two decades, are on much smaller. What it's like to swim in the ocean that one day in July, my family at my house, my favorite pair of shorts. Okay. These are topics that sort of the outside world would say, oh, that's not going to create a great essay.
But the reality is those were topics that the student wanted to write about. You have control over the topic you choose. And trust me when I say this leads to the [00:10:00] next point. So choose the topic of your essay. You just might have fun writing the essay. Now that's the fourth part you control of your application process.
It's the experience that you have in writing that essay. And let me tell you this. I can convince you of the importance of enjoying writing your essay in one sentence. You enjoy writing that essay, we will enjoy reading the essay. And the big challenge, what creates so much anxiety with high school students, is that they've spent their entire high school career writing essays for a really well-known audience, writing essays for their English teacher and their history teacher.
And these are people that they've worked with for months, if not years. These are people who detail their expectations, give students feedback, work on rough drafts with them. And then all of a sudden at the end of their high school career during their senior year, write what is perceived as the most important paper of their academic career, their college essay, [00:11:00] and they write this for a complete stranger.
Someone they've never met, someone of whom did not explain their expectations and someone that they have no ability to anticipate their reaction. And to that last point, I say, students are wrong. You have an absolute ability to predict our reaction in reading your essay. It’s the feeling you have in your experience when writing the essay, look in the mirror, when you're writing your essay, that is our reaction.
Are you pulling your hair out, writing that essay? We’re probably going to pull our hair out reading your essay. Is it boring, mind numbingly boring, to write that essay? It's going to feel like that to read the essay. That's the bad news. The good news is that if you find enjoyment, we will find enjoyment. If you find meaning, we will find meaning.
If you find mojo, if you find something good when writing that essay, that's what we will find. All of [00:12:00] this originates from choosing a topic that you want to write about that is that not the topic the guide book says you should write about, not the topic you're older sibling wrote about a few years ago when he or she was applying to college, and not most important, not the topic your mother thinks you should write about.
All of those are perfectly fine topics. They are not your best topics. The best topic is the topic you want.
Jonathan Hughes: [00:12:22] And so what the point of the essay should be then. And so something that we talked about earlier, and I'm wondering if you could state it for, for everyone.
Drew Carter: [00:12:35] Students so often think that the essay has to tell us everything.
And I think students understand essays so often turn into brag lines. They turn into sort of their resume in prose format. They feel like their opportunity to convince the reader that they should be admitted. And I get why that is the motivation for so many students, but the [00:13:00] reality is they don't have it, the experience of reading an application, because if they did, they would understand we are filled with reasons of why that students should be admitted.
You know, a third of the student's file is filled with brag letters about them that might here to a student. But the teacher recommendations and the guidance counselor recommendation they are filled with adjectives, there are a lot of incredible stories about why you should be admitted.
You don't need to convince us you should be admitted. What you need to do is prove that you can write. And prove that you can write about yourself. Well, let me tell you, having just finished this process for this year, reading applications is not fun. I love my job. But reading applications, I am not sitting at home in a leather chair with next to a roaring fire with a couple of folders on my lap and a pencil with a sleeping dog next to me.
I'm [00:14:00] at a computer with multiple screens and spreadsheets and data entry and CB codes, and GPA's, it is mind-numbingly boring. And let's pretend for the sake of this visual, that it takes 20 minutes to read a student's application. It doesn't, it's quicker than that, but let's pretend, let's say it takes 20 minutes.
The first 18 minutes, it's semi focused data entry and processing. And then the last two minutes is when we get to the essay. And that's the part where we get to minimize the spreadsheet and turn the calculator off or pencil down. We just sit back, just read it. Our favorite part, reading up the vision, your essay.
It's the ice cream at the end of the math homework. That's why we dumped that 18 minutes. And throughout those 18 minutes, we'd been thinking about getting to the ice cream, getting to the essay. And let me be clear because I'm like getting fired up here, talking about this. It is not the most important part of your application to us in the [00:15:00] admissions world.
That will always be your academic program, but the essay might just be one of the most important parts of your file to you. Because it is completely blank at this point. If you're a high school junior, it’s the only part of your application that is completely blank. You have absolute control over it. And your image of that admissions reader for your essay should not be of the curmudgeonly old professor with a red marker looking for your misplaced comma.
That's not the reality. The truth, the real image is that that person who just finished their math homework, they got to turn my calculator off. I got to minimize the spreadsheet. They got to sit back in their chair and they just got to read, Jonathan, you would love reading these things.
It is a free post to kids from all over the world at the same moment in their life. Some of them are hilarious. Some of them are heartbreaking, but they are a little tiny glimpse [00:16:00] because we spend those first 18 minutes hearing about the students. And then for the very first time we get to hear directly from the student.
Jonathan Hughes: [00:16:08] I’m sure it's, reading all those essays. The ones that really stand out are the ones where the students had the most fun and writing those essays too.
Drew Carter: [00:16:15] Absolutely. It's not. I think sometimes students feel like they have to have had something traumatic happen to them. And I'm going to tell you, like, I will tell you about my favorite essay I read this year.
It was a girl who was talking about her dad. And like it was just her talking about her dad and how he's kind of funny and how he's kind of embarrassing or something sometimes. And how she's kind of learned that her dad is kind of embarrassing sometimes, but he's very sweet and he loves her very much.
And you could tell it was an experience like she really found value in and she found fun in and it was authentic and heartfelt, and it wasn't the best written essay I read this year, but it was the best essay.
Jonathan Hughes: [00:16:58] Excellent. All right. [00:17:00] Now, as much as I'm looking to do it, let's move on to the final point that we have. And this has to do with the search process itself.
Drew Carter: [00:17:09] One of the buzz words in the world of college admissions right now is demonstrated interest. Some schools utilize it in their application review. Some schools don't utilize it. But very often families don't even understand what it is. So let me tell you first off, what it is, demonstrated interest is, is opportunities that students have to engage with the search process with a particular college.
So it might be a tour whether in-person or virtual. Open house events, whether in person or virtual. Interviews in person or over zoom, any of those engagement opportunities. Now, some schools are going to collect that information and add that to the student's file and it might help to strengthen your application.
So those are opportunities you want to take advantage of. At the very same time, do not waste your time trying to figure out which schools do track demonstrated [00:18:00] interests and which schools do not. Because in the cases where a school doesn't track demonstrated interest, you still win by engaging in the search process.
You learn more about yourself. You learn more about the variety of colleges and universities out there, the variety of programs available to you, and it gives you more points of comparison to really become a sophisticated consumer and a little bit. So you definitely want to take advantage of these opportunities, but let me make an important point.
This is not a points tallying system. It's not as if each time you demonstrate your interest, you get a point. And if you get enough points you get in. That is, that's literally not the poin.t It’s that you want to make sure that every school to which you've applied, you've shown them that you're interested in some way, other than just apply.
I think personally engagement is the best when that's available, right? The school offers you the opportunity to take [00:19:00] a virtual tour or virtual information session, or even a virtual interview, or in person interviews when those were, or might soon again be available. Those are great opportunities, too.
Bring your application from two dimensions to three dimensions. Not every school offers interviews, but you certainly want to be looking at the schools you're interested in, finding out if they offer interviews. And if you do, how you getting there. Usually interviews are offered through the summer and in the fall of the student's senior year.
That's not something to do now, but it's something to look forward to. And it's just one of many ways that you can easily engage in the search process.
Jonathan Hughes: [00:19:38] Now. Is there was anything that you wanted to say about the current moment that we're in, in terms of the pandemic and the quarantine and how that can affect any of these things?
Drew Carter: [00:19:51] Yeah. I mean, I've talked to a lot of families over the last year who have asked that question, right. How will you be reading transforms? How will [00:20:00] you understand what my son or daughter has been through? And I'll say the first thing they do in the world of college admissions is each time we read an application, we have to understand setting and perspective.
We have to understand where does that student go to school? What courses are available to the student? What's the grading structure? That has always been that non-negotiable first step of reading an application. It has never become more important than now. Now we do need to understand, has that student been remote or hybrid?
What was the grading? From the call for last spring, when the move was made, and we have to understand this for every student who applies from each high school around the world. So understand and believe that this is our highest priority is our job. And it has never been more important now. That's the first thing I would say.
The second thing I'd want to say is it is highly possible and likely that you will [00:21:00] be able to demonstrate your engagement for colleges. It has actually never been easier in so many ways. Colleges have completely transformed their recruitment efforts from almost complete on-campus programming and now admission offices have turned into television production studios.
And their incredible volumes of content and ways for you to engage with admissions officers with current students with tour guides, with, students from individual academic departments. It is our job to help educate students and parents. And, you know, in some ways that they are consumers at every admission's office has transformed.
I've been really impressed with our profession, what universities have done. And the last thing I'll say about that is that because of this, the virtual space or admission recruitment, you are now freed up in so many ways to learn about colleges that are not in your immediate geographic city. If you want to attend an information session at Reed College in [00:22:00] Oregon, you can.
Whereas a year and a half ago, you would've had to fly across country to attended information. Now these information sessions are free, open to the public, and you can learn about colleges all over the country, if not all over the world. So I would really encourage you to revisit college admissions websites because they have really changed a lot over the last 12 months, six months, three months, even over the last month.
And there's incredible programming available to you.
Jonathan Hughes: [00:22:29] If you want more information like this, if you want to ask Drew a question, I am going to list that link to the webinar that you're doing with Julie in June. I would encourage people to sign up for that. Drew Carter, I can't thank you enough for coming on.
It was great as always.
Drew Carter: [00:22:50] Thanks, Jonathan, for giving me the opportunity to talk about a topic that I'm really passionate about, and that I think is timely right now. As we come to the end of March [00:23:00] of students, high school of their junior year in high school.
Jonathan Hughes: [00:23:06] Well, I hope you enjoyed that. And now onto the second part of our show, this is a special show. It's like we have two shows in one today because not only do we have our interview with Drew that you just heard, but we're going to skip the MEFA mailbag this week. Cause we just don't have time for it. And what we're going to do now is play some highlights from our discussion on appealing financial aid offers.
This is always a popular topic at this time of year. This webinar was conducted on April 1st, I believe, and featured financial aid directors from six different Massachusetts colleges. And they were Gail Holt from Amherst college, Ebony Marsala from Northeastern University, Ryan Forsyth from Worcester State University. Iris Godes from Dean College. Bill [00:24:00] Smith from Stonehill College. And Caitlyn Laurie from Quinsigamond Community College. Before we get into hearing the clips, Julie, do you just want to talk briefly about what this webinar was, what it covered, and why these specific panelists from these colleges?
Julie Shields-Rutyna: [00:24:18] Yes. Well, we get lots of questions, as you mentioned, about appealing financial aid and especially this year, with COVID-19 and some of the financial implications, job loss, loss of income. And so we were getting lots of questions and thought it would be good to have a webinar where we could address all of those issues. And really from the experts, the people who are handling those appeals on college campuses, in the financial aid offices.
And it's also a good idea, I think, to have a mix of different types of colleges, you know, from private [00:25:00] colleges like Amherst, Northeastern Dean, Stonehill to public colleges and universities, Salem State, and Quinsigamond Community College, because things can be different from, you know, across sectors, but also from college to college, depending on financial aid, policies, resources, all of that.
So I think that was just a really nice mix where we covered pretty much every type of college that we have here in Massachusetts. And this was just such a terrific group of panelists.
Jonathan Hughes: [00:25:35] Let's go to our first clip. And I think brings us to the biggest message of the night, which is at this point, the answer is to a lot of the questions that families may have about, you know, what's going on with their particular situation and their college bill and their financial aid offer, right?
The answers to those questions are going to depend upon the college that you're attending. So let's hear [00:26:00] Bill Smith from Stonehill talk to that.
Bill Smith: [00:26:03] There’s not a one size fits all. That's the real big message I hope they take away. When you were going through the process of applying to colleges, you had to stay organized and you had to know for this school, I needed to do this.
And for this school, the process might've been a little bit different when it comes to appealing aid or coming up with financing options for your school. That's going to be dependent on your specific financial situation and the processes at that specific institution. And so I think what you will hear over the course of the night, is that the vast majority of schools have their own individual processes when it comes to appeals or aid strategies. So the processes that you will need to go through to either appeal or question your aid at a specific school is really depended on that school. [00:27:00] So appeals are different from college to college in terms of decisions, but in terms of process, there are similarities to making an appeal.
Jonathan Hughes: So let's hear Iris Godes from Dean College talk about that.
Iris Godes: Between schools, there's some things that are very similar and then other things in terms of the process, both that the family needs to complete and the process that is conducted at the college or university can be very different.
Things that I think are similar are you need to communicate it preferably in writing, whether that's by email or paper, financial aid offices still take paper, but either way, if you're not sure what kind of information you should provide, certainly give those financial aid offices a call. Admissions offices can also sometimes help you explain what the process is, but ultimately it's going to go through the financial aid office.
So [00:28:00] some documentation of what is your situation? What are your circumstances? Have you had to change as Gail was alluding to, is your 2020 income significantly different than your 2019 income, which in this year of COVID, I'm not sure about my colleagues, but I know at Dean College, we are seeing many appeals based on loss of income, through loss of jobs that were directly related to COVID.
Also in some cases, some significant medical expenses. We have an appeals committee at Dean College. So after that written communication comes in, we get together as a committee to make a decision. So it's not just one person making the decision. We actually, I'm coming off of that meeting this afternoon.
Actually for this week, we meet every week. We actually had a family that not only had a loss of income, but a loss of life in their family. And unfortunately that's not the first one that we [00:29:00] had. I hope everybody who's with us tonight has been safe and healthy, but I don't want to make that assumption as we've all been through some pretty rough times.
And so the financial aid offices, we are all very aware and very sympathetic to the struggles that families are having. And so please feel free to share that with us as much as you're comfortable sharing. And then in those cases of a change of income, or maybe a change or loss of assets, then whatever documentation you can provide, the more, the better to help us with that information.
Jonathan Hughes: [00:29:35] Great. Now, as you mentioned earlier, Julie, we really wanted to have every type of college represented here. And you asked a great question on the difference of appeals and the appeal process and the decisions at different types of colleges. So at a private college versus a public college. And let's hear Ryan Forsythe talk about that now.
Ryan Forsythe: [00:29:58] Well, the difference is that at a public [00:30:00] institution, there's typically less financial aid and at a private institution, there can be more financial aid. What that means is that when a student appeals there is the potential for your financial aid package to be increased more significantly at a private institution and perhaps less significantly at a lower cost public university or college.
Additionally, the different kinds of financial aid that are offered at different universities differs. So you could have institutional forms of financial aid, for instance, at a higher cost institution, the Babson Presidential scholarship or the Bentley Dean's scholarship. Whereas at your public universities, it might be more common for you to receive the majority of your financial aid from federal or state resources.
So when that appeal is reviewed, you might have the potential to receive a different amount of financial aid, but it could still be less at your public university than at your private.
Julie Shields-Rutyna: I hosted this webinar and noticed [00:31:00] that one of the most common questions many families were asking was this question. They were asking about appealing merit aid. So Ebony Marsala spoke about Northeastern University, but also in general about how to appeal merit aid. So you'll hear from her now.
Ebony Marsala: A lot of our decisions are based on the materials that you provided with your admissions application. And so we looked at your grades throughout your high school career, your activities, the essays, et cetera.
So we have a very holistic approach when evaluating for our merits scholarships. And for the most part, at least at Northeastern, the merit decisions that we make our final at the point that we're releasing them. The only thing that kind of is left on the table is our national merit scholarship, because we need to wait for students to designate us as their first choice and notify us that they are listed as national merit finalists.
But for the most part, we don't really reconsider merit. [00:32:00] Again, if there is a circumstance where there was something just missing from your admissions file, not thinking about midterm grades or anything like that, but just, there was a packet of information that we just did not know and it relates to your academics.
Again, I would reach out to our admissions office, but in most circumstances, what students are requesting is a review because X school has provided this amount in merit. And you did not. Also it is because of midterm grades or things like that. I will say that often it's difficult because, you know, as a 17 or 18 year old, often there are things attached to the offer of merit or potentially the price of merit that they take on to themselves. It's like personal characteristics. And it's really not related to that. You know, if you think of every institution, they are looking at an applicant pool, that's varied, applicant size that's varied. And so they have to make decisions based on the [00:33:00] GPA's and the SATs if they are a test school, or just again, the characteristics of that applicant pool. And so it could just be that based on that pool, they have had to create a bar that there are several talented students that may not receive a merit award, but that in no way diminishes their talent. And they should not feel that because they're offered X amount for merit versus a different amount for merit that that again, speaks to their talent or their abilities as a student.
Again, it's all about trying to take this bucket that you have and provide some sort of ability to assist students with affordability. And so, that's just, again, my spiel, because I just know that again, with this whole concept of dream school and this, you know, I don't want to be a dream crusher, but I do want students to know they are valued and they have a lot of talents, but at the same time, most institutions in my experience are not necessarily going to appeal merit.
But as we've said throughout the evening, it is good for you to kind of [00:34:00] connect with the individual institutions or review their website.
Jonathan Hughes: [00:34:03] Julie, you asked a great question during the webinar that I think you got from a family who was trying to make it work with their financial aid offer at their top choice college and just couldn't do it.
So they had the question. If your top choice college ultimately is unaffordable, and if you really can't make it work, what choice do you have? What options exist? So let's hear from Caitlin Laurie from Quinsigamond Community College. Right?
Caitlin Laurie: [00:34:33] Right? So if you are in a situation where your first choice, it's just not financially possible for you, there are plenty of options, and you should certainly consider attending your community colleges and state institutions because they are extremely affordable and accessible. Quinsigamond where I work, for a full time [00:35:00] in-state student, they pay under $7,000 a year to attend. So it's a fantastic value.
And it's a place where you can go to get your general education courses out of the way, and get your associate's degree and earn a credential and then eventually transfer to either another state school, or the private school that perhaps was your first choice later on. Ee have a lot of transfer agreements as well.
There's MassTransfer, which allows you to get your associates and then transfer all of your credits to a public institution to get your bachelor's degree. And then there are also articulation agreements, that allow you to get your associates and then transfer directly to a private school [00:36:00] to get your bachelor's.
Julie Shields-Rutyna: And let's wrap up with two short clips, the first one from Gail Holt and the second from Iris Godes. The first is really about thinking about a four-year strategy and about having conversations, sometimes difficult conversations between parents and students. And then we'll end on a hopeful note, to hear Iris Godes talk about the other type of conversation that could be had with the financial aid office. And that is one that shouldn't be avoided, that the financial aid office can be a really great resource for families
Gail Holt: As challenging as it may be, this is the time to have the family conversation, because none of us want to have a conversation with a sophomore or a junior or a senior, and we've all had them.
Who comes to our office and says, you know, my parents have decided that they can no longer help me. What can [00:37:00] you do for me? Because that's not what we are planning for. We are planning to continue the offer of financial aid based on how it was analyzed at the beginning. So please be upfront with your child about your abilities early on, and it will help everybody.
Iris Godes: I know that many families are somewhat intimidated or concerned about how to have the conversation. What do I say? How do I explain this to you? And please understand that we try really hard not to be intimidating people.
We are all in this business and I know each of the panelists here quite well. You know, we represent our fields well, and we're in this business because we want college students to be able to get the education they deserve and have an amazing future. And at the end of the day, there is a college [00:38:00] for everyone.
We should be able to make it work one way or another somewhere. And try not to be too concerned or afraid to talk to the offices. And if you're really not sure what to do, or it's not clear what a particular office needs from you, give a call or send an email, ask them what you should do.
And we're all happy to help you through that process. So I think you will find some differences from one school to another. But explaining your circumstances and whatever documentation you could provide is the place to start.
Jonathan Hughes: [00:38:35] All right. Well, I hope you enjoyed that, Julie Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Julie Shields-Rutyna: [00:38:39] No, I guess I'd just say that hopefully these clips were informative, but if you want to listen to the whole webinar, you can listen to the recording, which you can find on the website.
Jonathan Hughes: [00:38:51] Well, thanks for listening to the show, everyone. Remember if you liked the show, please subscribe on Spotify, Apple podcast, or wherever [00:39:00] you're hearing this.
And if you could do us an extra favor and give us a five star rating on Apple podcasts, that would be much appreciated. Julie, thank you for joining me today. A pleasure as always.



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