Six Keys to Finding a Good College Fit

This webinar, presented by Dr. Amanda Sterk, Director of Accelerated Programs at Florida Southwestern State College and Dr. Timothy Poynton, Associate Professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston, two experienced educators with a passion for helping students realize their full potential, provide you with a roadmap for the college admissions process. With all of the information available, it can be difficult to begin your college search and narrow down what’s most important. This webinar introduces a systematic approach for the college search and information-gathering process, as well as explain the six keys to finding a good college fit. 

Download the webinar slides to follow along.


Please note that this transcript was auto-generated. We apologize for any minor errors in spelling or grammar.

Julie Shields-Rutyna: All right. Well, welcome, everyone. Good evening. My name is Julie Shields Rutina, and I'm the Director of College Planning, Education, and Training at MIFA, and I welcome you to tonight's webinar, Six Keys to Finding a Good College Fit, and we have two wonderful presenters tonight, and I will let them tell you more about themselves, but I will just introduce them quickly.

We have Dr. Amanda Sterk, who is the Director of Of college and career advising for method learning. And we have Dr. Timothy Poynton, who is a professor at UMass Boston. That's all of the UMass Boston talk, pre webinar. And I'll just say a few things about the webinar. There's a lot of wonderful content here.

Um, it probably will take about an hour. But we also want to make sure that if you have questions, you get to pose those. So if you have a question as they're presenting, just type it into the Q and a at the bottom of your screen, and we'll find a good time to, um, to make sure those questions get answered, whether it be within the webinar or at the end.

Let's see if you need closed captioning, you can press that button on your screen, and then you can see the words that we're speaking, and you can even choose the language that you see those. It's the CC button for closed captioning. If you have to leave early, don't worry about it. We will actually record this.

It's being recorded and we'll send you the recording and the slides tomorrow. Um, but I hope you can stay, uh, but at least you don't have to take too many notes because you'll be able to revisit some of this content. And then if you want to share it with other people, you know, who would find it. really helpful, please do so.

So other than that, I am going to pass it right along to Amanda

Amanda Sterk: and Tim.

All right. Well, thank you so much, Julie. We are always so happy to be here with MIFA and thank you for the opportunity. Um, as Julie said, my name is Dr. Amanda Scott. And I am the director of a college and career advising program at method, um, method learning. I've actually been on the K 12 as a school counselor.

I've also been in the higher ed and ran a very large dual enrollment program, which is when I was, uh, both the school counselor and kind of running that dual enrollment program. I really had such a passion to helping my students navigate the high school to college process. And one of the things that I found.

Is it was really hard for students to find really good information. And as a counselor, having, you know, almost 400 students and I was just one person, um, I really needed a better system to really kind of connect with my students, give them that critical information they needed on the whole college process.

So I just started writing and blogging for my own. Um, and it turned into a student workbook out out of for Florida high school students. And um, as we started kind of growing, I had reached out to Dr. Pointon and Dr. LaPan and said, you know, I have this curriculum, this is what's been going on. They have the research and they have a together and he'll tell his story, but you know, decades of experience.

And I said, you know, how can we really create a student workbook and a curriculum to really help families. navigate the high school to college process. So we're going to be sharing some of this information today, but we are really excited to be here.

Timothy Poynton: Yeah. Thank you, Amanda. Thank you, Julie, as well for the introduction.

And yeah, so as Amanda said, she reached out to us, um, A few years ago now to try and see what we could do about this, and the timing was somewhat fortuitous because rich and I had been doing research in the area of college counseling and how school counselors can support the transition from from high school to college for for students and families for For several years.

Um, and one of the most recent things we had just finished up at that point was I developed a measure of college knowledge called the cake that measures how much knowledge students have and what we learned from that read from that research to give you the short version is that a lot of students. And ostensibly their families were making decisions about which colleges to attend with relatively little college knowledge, the score on the on the test was about a 50.

So in most high schools, that would be a failing grade, I believe. So, um, there was a lot of room for improvement in, uh, in students college knowledge. So when Amanda reached out and said, Hey, what do you think about maybe trying to work on a book for and a book for students and a curriculum for for counselors who work in schools, that was exactly what I was looking for.

Because, um. That's a great way to build students college knowledge while they're still in school while they're going through the process. So we're going to give you a preview of some of that work here tonight. Yeah, if you want to go to the next one, I mean, and

Amanda Sterk: so as you're going to see, so college and maze in general again.

You know, Tim and Rich looking at sort of that entire process, right? And, and we know it's a continuum. You really start early with students. And so what we had done for the student workbook, the college amazed book is we broke it up in two main sections. Cause there's essential knowledge. that you need at very specific points of the process or sort of that 9th and 10th grade experience and then that really going through the college application and financial aid process that 11th and 12th grade experience.

So the two sections that we have, um, the first section, um, is we really work on building the student sort of individual factors that colleges look for in being successful students. So we look at your U factor. We look at the academic factor, um, sort of, you know, your classes, your academic planning, kind of what's available to you.

We also focus on your career factor, really knowing what's, um, what your interests and your passions and your values and your abilities, and how does that kind of combine who you are with the world of work? And then we put the money factor in sooner than rather, I think some schools kind of provide that information because we want students and families to know that college is.

Is affordable and how can you access some of that money even before thinking about where you're going to go to college? And then the last section of the book is called the lead strategy Which is basically what we're going to walk you through this evening And really what we will show you is how you can build a college list.

How do you actively? the information that you need to be looking for, how do you actually apply to college? And then the two things that I think sometimes get kind of lost in, in the, in the noise is how do you decide on a college that's right for the student and their success. And then lastly, building a success plan, really making sure that the student has a plan to move forward, to make sure that they understand, you know, what it's going to take on their part to be successful.

And it's more than just academics, right? It's all. Also, keeping your scholarships and understanding your, um, you know, availability of programs and how you're going to access all the things on a college campus. So that is what we're going to be talking about. Um, like I said, the lead strategy this evening, this is just a quick overview.

Um, you can kind of see as Tim says, we really believe in very important, critical, college knowledge throughout the process. And so we were very diligent to make sure all the kind of those critical pieces are somewhere within the book. And we actually have it mapped out here. We call them our mind maps.

And if you would like a copy, feel free to email me at a stark at college on maize. com. Happy to send you a poster, um, or just a PDF so you can see all the kind of little things that you need to know. So this is again that first half of the book, and then I'm going to just show you the last half of the book, which is that lead strategy, building your list, exploring, applying, deciding, and succeeding.

You can see there's a lot of vocabulary and a lot of critical information, um, in that lead strategy. Um, do you want to add a little bit more, Tim, to the

Timothy Poynton: leads? No, just that, um, that, so the, the book is structured purposefully and that the first, first half of the book is, is essentially building, building college knowledge about yourself, about possible careers that, that you might explore, um, and, and understanding how to make the most of your academics.

Um, you know, it's it's it's experience while you're in high school and having that base of college knowledge leads you like prepares you to effectively engage in the college decision making process. So you can't really have one without the other. Although tonight's focus is on the second part, which is the lead strategy and what we call the six keys of college fit.

Amanda Sterk: Absolutely. So let's Get going. All right,

Timothy Poynton: go ahead, Tim. So, um, so what is FIT? What is college FIT? So this is, uh, some of you may have seen a picture like this before. This is from the realm of what's called Gestalt psychology. This is called the figure ground phenomena, the figure ground principle. Um, some people look at this and they see two faces that are looking at each other.

Um, and then if I tell you that actually in between those two faces, it's actually an ornate vase, right? Some people usually. people see one or the other first and then if you say look closer they'll see the other part of it and um that's just basically a mental shortcut that we use in many parts of our lives this is one using using our eyes as our our um as our perception source here but um we don't see the whole picture without being told to look for some additional information.

So, um, relating this to the, to the, uh, to the college choice process and college fit in particular, that's a big reason why we developed the six keys of college fit is because it gives you as, as students and families a way to evaluate how well each college fits you or your student. As an individual and go on to the next one, and these are the six keys of college fit.

We'll go over these somewhat quickly here and we'll talk about them a little bit more as we go through the rest of the presentation. But basically, Amanda mentioned the lead strategy a little bit earlier. Basically, we use some or or all as the case may be of these six keys of college fit at each step of the college choice process.

process. So I think most people would agree that today with the internet and all the information available, it's um, you know, 20 years ago, there was perhaps a challenge with getting information about colleges. Now there's actually an overwhelming amount of information out there about colleges. So by paying attention to the six keys of college fit and using the lead strategy to make sense of your college going process, it actually helps make the information a good bit less overwhelming so that you're using the information you need to make decisions.

At the right time at each step of the process. So that the six keys are just going from from the top counter or from the top clockwise are we've got academic match. So how well does a college match your student or you if you are the student? That's things like how well do your academic qualifications.

fit like your, your A. C. T. N. S. A. T. scores, your, your GPA. Um, and the curriculum that you've taken in high school compared to what the college is looking for in their students in terms of the average GPA that accepted students have. Um, and we're also looking here in academic match at the academic environment.

So for example, we use the student to faculty ratio to try and get a sense of how big or how small the classes are and how many faculty are available. For each student that speaks to the academic environment. And those are the things that we look for in the academic match key in the career match key.

We're looking at how well is this college situated to help me in my career development essentially. So, um, is there mentoring available? What's their career counseling program look like that they offer? What kinds of jobs? Placement services. Do they offer? Do they have a robust internship program there?

Um, things like that. So, for example, um, you know, Northeastern, I'm assuming most of us here from from Massachusetts. Northeastern is well known for their co op program, which is the one year internship program, right? Like that's a unique feature of them. And if that's important to you or your student as part of their career development, then maybe that makes Northeastern a better match on the career match side.

For you. Um, we got the financial match, which is a critically important one, of course. So, um, here in the financial match key that we're looking for and helping students and families evaluate the information that's available in terms of the cost. Looking at the difference between and we'll look at this a little bit later.

What we call the sticker price. And the net price or the actual price. So there's a sticker price, which is the often exorbitant tuition that colleges are charging. And then there's the net price that is the price that most students in college, most students and families actually pay after merit awards and other scholarships are are given out.

So we'll give you some insight in some ways to it. Work through that information. Um, we've got the personal match key, which are things we often consider, um, naturally in the college choice process. It's things like how far away from home. Is it, um, what kind of college is it as a public or private? Is it, um, you know, what's the diversity of the students that are there?

Are there going to be people that look like me, for example, and, um, are familiar with my culture, things like that are part of the personal match key. Um, living range. Is it a, is it a school that has a Dorms for students or requires first year students to live on campus, or is it a different kind of living arrangement?

Um, things like that are things that we're looking at in the personal match key. Um, then we've got student outcomes, which are essentially the, um, success metrics for the colleges. So we're going to give you some specific things to look at there. The big ones are the graduation rate. So how successful is the college in getting students to graduate within four years or six years is another commonly reported metric that we see used.

Um, And then the retention rate and the retention rate is if you're not familiar with that term, the retention rate describes how many freshmen choose to come back to the college as sophomores. And I look at that as the retention rate is actually the freshman satisfaction score is the way I like to phrase it, because it tells you how many freshmen who started at the college were successful and satisfied enough with their experience and supported well enough by the college to come back as sophomores, right?

So that's a really important metric that describes how good of a job a college does at supporting their students. When they transition from high school to college. And then we've got student support, which are the support services that are offered on the college campus counseling center and what's the policy for counseling, is it unlimited counseling or do you get a certain number of sessions per semester or per year.

Do they have writing tutoring. Subject area tutoring, etc. What's the advising system like? All those things and some of the recreation options and things like that, all of those things fall into what we call the student support key. Um, so bringing this back to that figure ground picture that you saw a little bit earlier, by paying attention to each of the six keys of CollegeFit, It helps you make sure that you see the full picture about each college that you're that you're considering.

Um, and if you don't, you run the risk of maybe over emphasizing some parts and, um, either being unaware of or, or deemphasizing some other parts that could be critically important to helping you make a good decision, uh, with your, with your student.

Amanda Sterk: And I think I'll add to that too, as, as a parent, we both have high school students and actually Tim's going through the process right now, you know, Sometimes with myself, I might see the vase and my daughter sees the faces.

So, you know, using the six keys of CollegeFit really provides an opportunity to have that communication between yourselves as a family to say, you know, maybe as a parent. The financial match and personal match or even the student outcomes might be more important to me, where maybe the, the students really focus on the academic match or career match, but sometimes we're in misalignment.

I know that's really shocking as parents and students to be not aligned and thinking the same thing, but it does give you a deeper conversation when you do look at all the factors. And so when you are going through the leads process, you're able to clearly articulate kind of what your main values or focus might be.

And it might change over time, right? So if you're a student that has a 504 and IEP, that student support services might be more important. So it does sort of ebb and flow. But like, uh, Dr. Poynton said, looking at the whole picture and all of these keys is really critical.

Timothy Poynton: So going through the lead strategy, the first step in the lead strategy is building an initial list of colleges to explore. So the primary objective of this list phase and developing that initial list of colleges to explore is to find, um, good college options that generally, generally fit you or your student without getting overwhelmed.

And missing good options that might exist. So, um, for numbers, we generally like people to have somewhere between 10 or 15 college. That's going to vary depending on your individual circumstances might be a little bit more might be a little bit less, but it's a good number to try and target. Um, it's also driven by geography.

I know Most people here are from Massachusetts, where we actually have a lot of colleges in a relatively small geographic area. But, uh, in California, there's 233 four year colleges. It's a big state. Texas, also a big state, has 129. We have 91 here in Massachusetts. Um, Wyoming has three four year colleges for their students to choose from.

So, um, unless you're willing to go out of state and you live in Wyoming, you're not going to be able to have 315 colleges to explore. So, um, but what we're looking at here, this We're going to pay attention to in this initial phase, three of the six keys of CollegeFit. We're going to look at personal match, uh, we're going to use these keys to basically filter all of the, geez, 2, 800 some odd colleges that are out there in the United States.

We're going to use these, um, First three keys of the six keys to really filter that list down to those colleges that kind of meet these somewhat obtuse criteria. So we're going to look at is it within the geographical range that we're looking for in the personal match? Is it how big is the campus? Um, In terms of student size if we have preferences for that in terms of the number of students enrolled.

Are we looking for a college that has a special mission like an HBCU or a religious affiliated college or something like that. So we're going to use that information to try and narrow our list a little bit. We're also going to use the career match to make sure that they've got majors that we're interested in exploring.

One of my big things I teach the career counseling class here at UMass Boston and have for some time and. It's hard for, um, for 17 and 18 year olds to really make good choices about what their major is. So I encourage people, students and families to, to think about buckets of careers, um, and career pathways that they have.

So instead of, if you want to go into civil engineering, for example, just make sure you're applying to colleges that have engineering programs. Because maybe you end up being different, interested in a different strand of engineering, for example, so just make sure that the colleges that are on your list that meet those personal match criteria also have, um, Programs available that you can explore and and possibly pursue as a major that you graduate with.

And then we've got the academic match key that we're looking at here. We're just looking at aspects of the academic environment. To make sure that we're finding places that will be a good fit for us in those terms. I'm going to use this information. Um, a tool we recommend if you want to go to the next slide, I believe it is, um, we recommend using the college navigator.

It's, um, free in the sense that our tax dollars collectively pay for this is provided by the federal government. So it's an unbiased source of information in that regard. Um, all colleges are required to report information to the federal government. And this is the federal government's way, essentially giving that information back.

Um, if you use other tools that your school may provide, uh, or other tools like the College Board or MIFA Pathways that we have here in Massachusetts, um, they'll get the same information, um, that's used here. But, uh, we know the College Navigator is freely available to everybody. So, you use those first three keys to basically, um, It's hard to see on here but to to go through the criteria to search for colleges and you select those criteria that are important to you and use them to generate a list of colleges that you then begin filtering through to ensure that those colleges meet your meet your needs.

So, um, just if we can just go go back. For one second. Sorry. So what's not on here that's important to remember, um, is price. It's not that the financial match is not important, but at this stage, at this early stage of, of looking at a list of colleges to explore, if you start putting, um, this, what we call the, the sticker price or the tuition price, which is the only publicly available information that I know of that you can filter by, um, You might miss really good options that are also affordable because, for example, as we'll see in a few slides, there are some colleges, in fact, I might even say many private colleges that, um, where nobody pays the full tuition.

And in fact, um, the average amount that students pay, you'll be able to find this information, is actually, um, sometimes about half of the listed sticker price or the listed tuition price. So because there's no way to filter, The colleges that are available by net price and you can only filter by the sticker price or the tuition as it's called here on the college navigator.

We recommend not doing that because it can be misleading and you may miss in particular good private college options that are affordable that you wouldn't know of if you only focused on public colleges. Thanks. Now we can go to the next one. Yeah. So, so once we got our initial list of colleges, somewhere around 10 to 15, there's, there's some wiggle room in that though.

Um, then you're going to go through and begin exploring that list a little bit more deeply with all six keys of college fit. If you just want to hit the, the, yeah, there you go. So, um, So all six keys are considered in the Explore phase. So you're going to look at each of the six keys of CollegeFit. The primary objective of this phase is to get to about eight to twelve colleges, um, that you explore more deeply.

You're going to visit these colleges, ideally, in person or virtually. Um, a new thing, colleges have gotten a lot better about making virtual information and virtual tours available, so we don't necessarily need to physically travel, but we do recommend that folks get your feet on a campus that you're considering.

Considering attending if you're planning on attending in person. So, um, we're gonna look at the academic match here. So we're gonna look at the A. C. T. And S. A. T. Scores of students who are typically admitted compared to the P. S. A. T. Scores or A. C. T. Scores that you have available to you to see, um, begin getting a sense of what your chances of admission are there.

You're gonna look at things similarly for G. P. A. What's the range of G. P. A. Is that are typically admitted there? Um, how selective is the college? Another way of Kind of getting beginning to ballpark your chance of admission there. Um, we're going to look at the academic environment again with student to faculty ratio and program size and availability.

So, um, there are some colleges that have lots of programs that graduate two or three students a year. So, um, if you're looking at a program, so for example, uh, Amanda mentioned earlier, my daughter is going through this process and yes, we are going through this process. She's interested in game design and interactive media and game design, more of the Programming side of that.

And there are some programs that graduate, you know, 10 or 11 students a year, and there's others that graduate 30 or 40. And just what that translates into in terms of an experience for a student is that there's going to be, for example, more elective classes in larger programs than than there are in smaller programs.

So we're going to look at the career match again. We're going to look at Um, job placement things, alumni network, uh, are internships available in the field of study that you're interested in exploring. Um, we're going to look at the personal match again, some other aspects of personal match that we didn't consider as well in the first part.

Um, we're going to look at the diversity of the students who are enrolled. Um, The institution type, are they going to have the recreation options that are available? This, just to share a little personal story, my daughter, um, rides horses, so there are colleges that have equestrian clubs. Not all colleges have them, but that's, that's something that we're considering, uh, as we're, we're going through our list and the places that we chose to apply to, um, Almost all of them have an equestrian program in some way, shape or form.

So that was important to us and relatively unique. So, um, we've got the financial match here. So here we begin to look at cost and we dig it a little bit into the sticker price and the net price. Um, and basically the The difference that a lot of private colleges between the sticker price and net price comes down to how much gift aid they give you, um, or as they call it on the college admission side of things, the discount that they offer to students and families.

Um, and we can also look at here at this point, what's the average amount of loan debt that students have when they graduate from a program that varies from college to college. So we're also going to look at Aspects of student support. Um, not every student needs every student support that's offered by college.

So you're going to want to look at those ones that you think might be more important to you. If your student has an IEP while they're, uh, in high school, they may benefit from connecting with the disability services office that is available on every college campus. So, um, but if you, if your student doesn't have an IEP, uh, or a 504 plan, um, then maybe that Disability services is not as important to you.

So, so just consider the those student supports that are important. And then we're going to look at the student outcomes, um, as a way to learn more about the colleges. So I would never say to attend a college. I would never say don't attend a college that has a graduation rate below 50%, for example, because, um, while that's not a fantastic metric, um, The goal with looking at this information is to have you ask questions of the college, um, that you can get answers to, to ensure that your student is successful, um, and not one of the negative statistics that, that goes through the college.

So for example, here at UMass Boston, actually, we don't have a fantastic, um, graduation rate, uh, because we have a lot of students that transfer out to other colleges, and we have a lot of students who transfer in from other colleges as well, but our graduation rate, the way it shows up on the statistics is not that good, but it also doesn't tell the whole story.

So there's, um, Important information to consider, but you look at all six keys of CollegeFit, not just one. Like, that's the, that's the moral of that story, so. Yeah,

Amanda Sterk: we do have a quick question, Tim, and so the question is, um, does the, is from Jordan, does the College Navigator have information about the number of students in a program?

How would you find that data?

Timothy Poynton: Yep, so where you'll find it is on, um, if you go to collegenavigator. gov and you search for A particular college. Um,

it shows up. I'm forgetting the name of it at the time at the at the moment, but I'm trying to find a pull it up here quickly. It's listed under there under programs majors, and it tells you how many students graduated last year. Mhm. For the last reporting year with that degree, and it shows all the programs that they have available and how many students graduate from each.

So that's how you can tell what the program size. And this is a great question.

Amanda Sterk: And I know that you even said with going back to your daughter as an example in game design, the information is lagging about a year. So if it's a new program or they're finally just You know, um, you know, bringing on other programs, you know, that you do want to talk to admissions sometimes if you're like, Hey, I think they have this program, but it's not really coming up here.

And that's why in the Explorer phase, I think it's so critical that you're looking at all different aspects of Where to get this information from, right? It's on those college visits. It's when those admission representatives come to your high school. It's when you're looking at the website and you're doing those virtual tours and things like that.

A lot of this, some of it you can. Go in the college navigator and find the information and others. You're going to have to ask. You're going to have to go on campus and ask some of these questions to make sure you fill in all of the six keys for that, Jordan. That was a really great question. Thank you.

Timothy Poynton: But so to that point, it just it reminded me actually so from Massachusetts, you may remember Becker College closed not that long ago. And the programming game design, which was actually a top ranked program they had at Becker moved to Clark University. Nearby in Worcester, but in the college navigator game design doesn't show up as being a program that exists at Clark.

And in fact, UConn also has a program in game design that doesn't show up in the college navigator as, as existing, even though it's been there for a while. So it's not, um, to Amanda's point, um, it's a good tool, but I wouldn't, it's not gospel, so to speak.

So, um, in terms of estimating chances of admission, which we're doing here in this Explorer phase, so it's, it's helpful to think about, um, what are the factors that are malleable and what are the factors that are, that are not as malleable. So, um, what we're looking at here is some information from the common data set, what's called the common data set.

Um, and the common data set is not a single place where you find information, the way that you find out, um, Let me back up for a second. The Common Dataset is a voluntary program that some colleges participate in, um, where they choose to share a bunch of information publicly. So, um, it tends to be public colleges provide this information and a lot of, um, moderately and more selective colleges tend to provide this information, but, uh, the less selective colleges may not participate and make the information publicly available.

But if the college does participate, Um, you can find their common data set information just by using a Google search and typing in, um, this is from UMass Amherst. So typing in UMass Amherst common data set and you will find their common data set with all the data that they publicly share. One of the things they share is the criteria that they use when making admissions decisions in section C7, as you can see right here of that, of that.

Rather long report. Um, and as you can see here, my screen's a little small, so I'm going to make it bigger. Um, so you can see here, they've got the academic and the non academic factors broken out. Um, so you can see that they've got the, the academic factors are all, um, important or very important except for test scores, which are considered if you choose to submit them because UMass Amherst is still test optional.

And then we've, so all of those academic factors, aside from the essay, are not terribly malleable. Like we can't, as, as a junior or a high school senior, um, It's going to be hard to change your GPA in any meaningful way. Um, it's going to be hard to move up your class rank very far. Um, you know, in a couple of semesters, essentially.

So then some of the non academic factors are a good bit more malleable and, and amenable to change. And the one I want to highlight here is the one on the bottom, which is level of applicant interest. So UMass Amherst doesn't consider level about applicant interest or what's more commonly known as demonstrated interest.

Um, but it's a highly malleable factor. And, uh, some colleges use. It as a decision as a factor when they make admissions decisions and what demonstrated interest is is a student and or a family demonstrating interest in the college. The most common way to do that is by visiting the campus. So, um, some people look at this.

It's a non academic factor. Like, why should colleges use whether or not I visited campus when they make admissions decisions and they're looking at it as as from their perspective, they want to admit students who they think are likely to actually attend. So, um, Yeah. From their perspective, if students don't, don't bother to, to make the trip to come visit, then they're going to perceive them to be less interested in coming.

Now that said, there are other ways to demonstrate interest. You can connect with admissions. You can follow them on social media. There are other things that you can do that they actually track and pay attention to. So, um, but that is the most malleable, um, non academic factor that colleges consider as demonstrated interest.

And, um, if a college participates in the common data set, you can go look this up for yourself, or you can just ask an admissions counselor if they consider demonstrated interest. They'll answer it. They're not going to typically volunteer that information, but I don't know of any admission counselor that when directly asked wouldn't share if they consider demonstrated interest when making admissions decisions.

So, um, you have anything to add to that, Amanda?

Amanda Sterk: No, we do have a good question, and I can answer this. It says, um, our high school recommends using Naviance. Um, how do you feel this as a tool versus the college navigator? So I'll go ahead and answer it if, Tim, you want to add to it. Um, they're still tools.

They're really drawing from the same information. And so what you really have to do is it's just one thing. piece of the puzzle. So, um, nothing is going to replace doing that college visit, getting on campus, doing your research. And so there are some limitations. And I think the most important thing is, again, this data is freely available.

You can go to every school's common data set, you can go to College Navigator or Big Future or Naviance. It's understanding what this data actually means for you as a student and how that statistic of, you know, Tim mentioned the 50 percent Um, what was it? The 50 percent graduation rate, right? And it's like, what does that mean for me as a student?

Like, does that not mean I can't go here? Does it mean that's pretty good? What's the selectivity rate? Like there's a lot more information that goes into it. So Yes, Naviance is a good tool. It's a great tool, but really understanding what that information means is really the important part and why the six keys is so critical.

Do you want to add anything?

Timothy Poynton: Yeah, there's, there's, um, if a school participates in Naviance and uses it to its full, full potential, it does provide some distinct advantages in terms of estimating chances of admission in particular, um, through the scattergrams. So you can see depending on how much data the school has from prior students who have applied to the school, you can see, um, what the GPA was and test scores, if they're available for students and what their admission decision was, where they, uh, admitted, wait listed or, um, rejected.

And that's information you can't get anywhere else. And, and it's powerful because it's linked to your school. So, um, and the curriculum and all students at your school participate in so that's information you don't get anywhere else in terms of making a list and exploring the list like all the other information you can get other places, just as Amanda said, but the piece of data that you can't get anywhere else that Naviance does provide.

If the school put the information in there is really great insight into estimating your chances of admission given prior student success from that very school. So, so it is a powerful tool in that regard.

Amanda Sterk: Yes, that is a very good point. All right. I know you like this slide. This one's a good one for parents.

Timothy Poynton: So this is the one that really illustrates the, uh, I won't name the college. It is Massachusetts College. But, um, this is data that you can get from the college navigator. As you can see, this is one of the sections, the financial aid section. If you expand that, this is what it shows you. And if you click one more time, it should pull up some circles for us.

Um, So we can see here the institutional grants and scholarships. That's the merit aid. And you can see here at this particular college, 97 percent of the students get on average of 40, 000 scholarship tuition is 60, 000. So that's a 67 percent discount. Off of the listed sticker price. So this is why it's dangerous to to filter colleges by tuition because you might miss this college and it could be a really good fit for you.

And the fact is, um, almost nobody pays the full price here. And what I can say is the 3 percent of students at this college that aren't paying the, um, the 3 percent of colleges that are paying the full sticker price are probably international students. Um, that tends to be the case. So, um, So this is, again, a really good example of why we don't filter the colleges.

By tuition, because we would miss colleges just like this, and this is not terribly uncommon at moderately to less selective private schools. So you may have heard a couple of years ago LaSalle University relatively small, um, just outside of Boston. made headlines the other day on the news, which is where I first heard of it on the local news, um, where they made headlines for reducing their tuition by 33 percent.

Uh, I think if you click one more time, it'll draw a circle on that. Um, so they reduced their costs by 33 percent because they recognized that even though they were one of these places that gave every student a sizable discount, that some students still wouldn't consider LaSalle because they thought it was too expensive.

So I applaud LaSalle for For erring on the side of transparency and making their sticker price more closely approximate the net prices students actually pay. Um, so if we go to the next slide, this is the actual information from the college navigator. If you click from the year that they, the year just before they did this, as you can see, the average discount here, um, 000, 22 and a half thousand dollar, um, scholarship, which is a 38 percent discount.

Now they, they reduced their tuition by 33%. So you might be asking what happened to the other 5 percent and me being the optimist, I believe that they're, they're moving that 5 percent that's not accounted for here into more need based aid so that, um, they're, they're giving more, um, financially disadvantaged students and families more aid, um, more of the institutional aid.

But being more transparent for everybody in the process by making their sticker price approximate the actual price.

Amanda Sterk: And Catherine had a really good question. She's like, which school gives us merit to 97 percent of students? And you might not need to say the name, but you'd be surprised, Catherine, how many actually do give aid.

We hate to say it's a discount, but we do see a lot of schools that sort of just naturally, there's an automatic sort of discount because you're being admitted the reducing that cost for you. And it's a lot of times the smaller private liberal arts colleges, other schools might be more dedicated to need based aid and so then you'll see maybe about 50%.

So that's a little bit different. So you really should pay attention to how they give that merit aid and that college navigator can really help you look at all those statistics and where their money is coming from. Do you want to add anything to

Timothy Poynton: that, Tim? Yeah, no, just so this, so you can look at this information before you choose to apply, like you're looking, you're exploring your initial list of colleges.

So at this point, you can get a sense of how affordable it might be without waiting, without needing to submit an application and get back an award letter from them, right? Um, So, so this is really helpful information to have. It doesn't tell you that you're going to get a 22, 000 scholarship at this college.

It just says on average, that's the average discount. Um, again, with my own daughter, I looked at this information and she got above average in some places and below average in other places. Um, so the

Amanda Sterk: college navigator does. do it by income as well. So the net price by income, the net price by income. And you can also use a net price calculator as well, which is another tool that you can actually enter in your own information and compare that to the college and what type of aid to sort of expect.

Right. Um, So one of the questions, I think it's Luis asked, Do you need to apply for scholarships to get that money off of this tuition?

Timothy Poynton: Nope. So typically, um, you're automatically considered with your application for the merit aid that they that they award. Um, so There are sometimes some scholarships that need to apply for above and beyond, but they're typically pretty clearly spelled out in the, in the application process.

But these are, there's no separate applications for this. You apply to the college, you're considered automatically for these kinds of institutional grants and scholarships. Yeah.

Amanda Sterk: And as a college advisor, one of the things that I feel like is so important is that families realize you're not just applying for admissions on that application, but you're also applying for scholarships at the same time.

So really making sure that your character and your leadership and those extracurriculars that really kind of make you shine, um, are included, um, on that application so you can be viewed in both ways. Julie, do we have a question? Of course, you know, I

Julie Shields-Rutyna: can't, I sit here quietly. That's exactly right. And it's wonderful that about all this merit aid.

Um, I just, I guess I thought I would say that probably it's a good idea to apply for financial aid anyway, um, in general for need based aid to, to see, I just felt like I had to say

Amanda Sterk: that. Always complete the FAFSA, always complete the CSS profile, no matter if you think you're going to get money or not.

Like I know we have like a local community foundation down here that Even if you're not, it's not a need based scholarship, they won't even look at your application if you don't complete the FAFSA. So it's just one of those things that everybody should do and you never know, right? So yes, everybody should complete the FAFSA.

Everybody. Absolutely. Everybody. Um,

Timothy Poynton: yeah. As the case may be with health. The problems that we've had this year with it, but yeah,

Amanda Sterk: that's for Julie to explain on another webinar about how we're getting through the FAFSA this year.

Timothy Poynton: So this is, um, we've got about a little less than 20 minutes left. So, um, so this is the net price that Amanda just mentioned earlier.

This is also, it's in the net price part of the college navigator where it breaks down the net price by income. Um, so you can see here at this college, the difference between lower income students and higher income students. There's a substantial difference. So that gets obscured if you only look at the average net price.

Um, and sometimes the institutional grants and scholarships are, are distributed in a need based way as well as a merit based way. So this gives you some insight into that. But this net price includes both federal grants. And state based scholarships, for example, includes all aid. It's just the net price that students actually paid when they attended the college from these, um, different income levels.

It provides you with, with a helpful reference point if you can place yourself within one of these, uh, one of these net price bands.

Amanda Sterk: Yeah, and that was a question that, um, sort of Brooke had asked about, you know, aid versus grants and scholarships. And so that's where, you know, having your FAFSA, having your CSS profile, having all of your, your resume and test scores and GPAs and all that, um, that all goes into that application.

So you want to make sure to. do it all, right? Awesome. All right. So now we have a really great tool. Um, Tim is sort of the master of all things Excel. And while we love college navigator, we love, um, you know, college board and the information. The thing is, it's not really chunked and sometimes user friendly.

And again, you know, as Tim has mentioned multiple times already, sometimes we're looking at the wrong statistics and not in the right sort of. sequence. And so because of how our six keys are, we wanted to find a way that we could build out the information based on the keys. So if I have a college list, um, how can I sort of compare academic match across all of my schools?

How can I compare Financial match and student outcomes. And so we have created something called the college data organizer. This is a free download. If you just go to college and maize. com slash downloads, you it's an Excel or a Google sheet, whichever is easier for you, and you can basically enter any of those.

2, 800, 4, 000 schools for it's like 4, 200 with the two year colleges, um, you can enter them in and it will auto populate all of this data and it also can color code it and the color coding green is sort of positive to a student. Maybe it's a little easier to get into. Maybe the ACT SAT score requirements are a little lower.

Maybe the net price is a little lower. Um, and so it really just depends on what the statistic is, but it's sort of student positive, uh, white is in the middle and yellow is just sort of pay attention. It's on the lower third of of the statistics. So it might be harder to get into maybe a little bit more expensive, less aid.

That type of thing doesn't mean that you should rule out a school. It just means that you should maybe pay attention to those statistics. And so if you type it in, um, all this beautiful data will come up. And as you go through the process and go through the leads, you're going to able to start understanding what it means and how that really applies to you and your six keys of college fit.

And so it's just a really great tool, um, to utilize. I know when I'm, you know, talking to families all the time, um, I use quite a bit the net price and you are, um, you know, had asked earlier about students receiving aid. If you look at the very bottom, um, on under financial match, we give you that statistic.

So, uh, SUNY and Albany is 70 percent are getting aid. We got 56%, 83%. So again, it's just a really easy way to. see all some of those statistics that we've been giving you this evening. Um, and there is, I will say when you get the download, there's multiple tabs on the bottom and one you could input that CDS information, that common data set that we had shared earlier about academic and non academic factors.

And then there's some really cool charts where you can actually type in your ACT, SAT scores and it all shows you where you're at in comparison to their score. So. Really great download completely free, um, highly suggest you looking at it. So as you go through the apply stage, so applying is actually doing more of those transactional things, right?

You're really going in you've narrowed down your list, you know anywhere from You know 5 to 8 to 8 to 10 kind of you want it to make it a manageable number And you're going to at this time is before you kind of hit submit Go back through your six keys of college fit And really think about each college and really score each college on each of the keys.

You know, again, we want that intentionality. We want you to really think through it using all these tools and all the information you learned in the Explore. So going through and saying, Okay, what does UMass Boston have? What does Amherst have? What, when I went to visit UConn, you know, how do all of these sort of match what I'm looking for?

And I need both to be satisfied and successful. We think it's actually a really great tool to use. Parents and students. Parents kind of, you know, assess the student or assess the six keys as well as as the student. So that's a process of sort of that assessment is always very critical throughout that that whole process.

So one of the things that we do sort of implore families to think about is and we hear this these terms all the time. Reach match safety. What's my reach school? What's my target, you know, what's my safety school? And the problem with those terms is it sort of disempowers the student to like take control of the process and think about the college in terms of your needs and what you're looking for in terms of those six keys of college fit.

So we really want to bring in. The chance of admissions, right? So based on my academics and where I'm at and what they're looking for, where do I match up with that, but then also how to, how did we, how do I rank the school based on my fit? So we do something in the book called, um, a three by three where we bring that information together.

And what we're kind of looking for is somewhere where it's a, it's a moderate to a high overall fit, and you also have a moderate to high. Or even if you low chance of admissions, if you put everything on the low chance of admissions, um, and it's all 4 percent students getting in, if you don't have at least some moderate and some high chances of admissions, you, you could be leaving yourself, um, open to not being able to get anywhere.

So you really want to create a nice list that does meet, um, and fit who you are. But also you have a good chance of admissions. So you can see there in our sort of, um, diamonds, I guess, that infographic where we bring those six keys along with what the school is looking for to make that final decision on where to apply.

Tim, do you want to add anything

Timothy Poynton: to that? No, I think that's good, just in the interest of time. Yeah, I

Amanda Sterk: know, I know. Sorry, it gets a little bit long. So as you go through the decide phase, so the decide phase in, in our, in the lead strategy is once you have your decisions coming in, those acceptances, those, you know, maybe denied, maybe the deferred or wait listed, but really those acceptances.

And now with that information, um, now a few months have probably happened, right? You submitted in November and now it's Maybe February and you're getting all these award letters. You know what that final cost is going to be for you, um, to go back through the six keys analysis process. And you might need to revisit the college again.

You might need to talk to admissions. You want to pull in your. college support network where you're actually talking with, you know, your, your school counselor and your teachers and your parents, and, um, maybe your cousin who went off to college a few years ago, you want to bring in the people that know you.

And again, go back through the six keys and analyze them after knowing, um, Did I get in and is that cost going to be, you know, worth it for me? And at this point, you know, we haven't talked a lot about the student and that, that feeling. So just a few months ago in October, I went up to Boston and visited Tim and, and saw his neck of the woods and visited a bunch of colleges with my daughter.

We, I'm from Florida and we, it's hot, you know, and we went and it was. fall and the leaves are falling and it was beautiful and we're drinking hot cocoa and my daughter's all warm and toasty and her big winter coat. And she was falling in love with every single campus. And I'm like, Whoa, we can't fall in love until we know that we're admitted.

And we have to make a decision. So we really say that Sort of feeling and the desirability of the campus and the lure of the campus. Really the best place to put that information is once you've been admitted and you're making that final decision, again, looking at your overall fit with that, really that sort of desire to attend, and then as you kind of.

filter all that out. Um, typically a college kind of rises to the top. And you know, at that point, you've looked at all the six keys, you've analyzed everything, you've gotten all the information you've made. And now is the point where you can make a truly informed college decision and be a statistic on the positive side, right?

That I'm going to complete, I'm going to be successful. Um, And then again, I know we're running out of time and I want to make sure I do see a bunch of questions coming in. So keep them coming. We will let everyone go. And then we can answer a few questions here at the end. And then lastly, and I mentioned it before in the leads the S in leads succeed is really going through and coming up with an actual plan, like write it out a plan both for how am I going to pay for college?

How am I going to keep my scholarships? What do I need to do to keep my scholarships? Um, also the academic, like, you know, making sure that you're taking the right course sequence, the right prerequisites that you're doing everything you need to do to make sure that you're graduating on time. I know both Tim and I, we do not have a five year plan for our children to go to college.

We really want a four year plan. And so we want to make sure that they know how degrees work and, and that they're on that right sequence. And then the social integration, right? All the things that sort of make college special and those learning environments, um, working through that and making sure that, um, the clubs and the activities and the internships and, um, how do they access that?

So just being really intentional about your success plan, I think is really critical in this phase as well.

Timothy Poynton: Yeah, so I would say we had a question in the chat. I think I've been typing answers to some of them as we've been talking so, but there was a question in the chat about financial integration. Um, like, how do you keep the scholarships after you get them the first year so usually in the award letter will spell that out and Julie might be able to chime in on this as well but they'll spell out what are the criteria that you need to, to maintain that scholarship, sometimes there are no criteria as long as you're a student in good standing other times.

I've seen some things like where there's a small community service expectation, um, there might be a specific GPA requirement, but they're usually pretty transparent about them. But it's a really important question to be asking before you, before you accept that decision, um, to know, like, what are your chances of maintaining that scholarship?

Is it something I'm only likely to keep for one year, or is it really going to be something I'm likely to keep for four years?

Amanda Sterk: And I think it's super critical. Also, you know, a lot of times we go into it thinking the only time that we can get scholarships is that sort of senior year going into freshman year.

There are a lot of opportunities, even once you're a sophomore, junior, senior, that you can tap into additional programs or internships or work study or things like that. That there, there is money out there. So definitely getting, um, friendly with your financial aid office at the college. So you are aware of any opportunities that you can apply for or do.

Um, I think as always a really great opportunity as well. And then as Julie will attest to complete the FAFSA every year. And so you can keep your aid and, and keep doing that. So, um. Really great question. So let's just kind of get here. Um, oh, there's myself and my, my daughter, uh, that is Eden. And, um, so this is just the College Unmazed materials that we have.

We have the student workbook. We have the parent guide that goes with it. I also, uh, we wrote the dual enrollment book and we just have lots of resources. Again, it's, it really comes from a place of. We've been there, done that. How can we help families sort of navigate that process? So, um, definitely check it out, get that download collegeunmaids.

com slash downloads. Um, here is all of our contact information. If you have any questions, um, you can join us on Facebook and Instagram. Not a whole lot there, but we do post stuff every once in a while. Uh, but we're happy to have you, uh, for sure. We do have a little blog and stuff that we. We, we like to send out information.

So, um, do we have some additional questions or did you get most of them, Tim?

Timothy Poynton: I think so. So I just want to make sure, so can people see, I put the link in a few places to the, to collegeofamazing. com slash downloads. Um, so that's, um, that's, yeah, that's, that's there. We've got a couple of good questions. I guess the last one, uh, like a timeline for creating an initial list of eight to 12 colleges.

When should that list be created? I guess, um, I would never, I would. Say it's never too late on the one hand. On the other hand, kind of, if you're following a traditional kind of timeline, probably spring of junior year is when you begin looking at that. And then you begin visiting some colleges over, over junior year.

Some people started earlier. Some people started later, but a typical process for a lot of people would be junior year. Um, and then when you, when you get into September, um, October, you want to start getting into the, um, Finishing up the explore, and then obviously for a lot of people, if you're applying early anywhere, um, you're going to want to have the process up to apply done by, by, uh, November or so.

Um, we had a question about applying early decision. Is it not recommended? And that's, that's a hard one to answer here because early decision is different in a lot of different places. But, um, a lot of times the benefit of early decision and Amanda, I think you have more experience with this than I, but the benefit of early decision is oftentimes it increases your chance of admission.

So, so by committing the one school, um, That's the best way to demonstrate interest in a college is to apply early decision because you're saying if I get in here, I won't go anywhere else, right? Like that is the strongest expression of demonstrated interest that exists. Um, but, um, that the only reason you can bow out of a, um, early decision, uh, offer.

Is if you can't afford to pay that and that's a little bit fuzzy like who's to say that what you can and can't afford, but that's that's the answer. So, um, I know it's not a great answer. Um, I can't speak to the merited part because that's going to probably vary from college to college. But, um, I know with my own daughter, who wanted to go to Northeastern the most selective college on her list.

We decided not to apply early decision, even though at the time it was her top choice, but for that very reason because. I would like to retire one day.

Amanda Sterk: Yeah, well, and I know when we visited Boston University, you know, as in our whirlwind of Boston and everything, Massachusetts there, you know, like Boston University, for example, said 56 percent of their class is taken an early decision. So it's sort of a token that it depends, you know, are you able to afford it and that's why doing this preliminary work on looking at the average net price.

based on your income and your assets and things like that can really be beneficial. So you can be a little bit more confident going into that process. Um, with that information prior than prior to the, like doing an ed that maybe you can't afford otherwise, or maybe you can't afford it and you just don't know it.

So, um, that's why this leads process I think is so critical, um, to help you answer that question. Um, Recommend that our son not apply EDD. Really focus on schools that are good bets. Okay, so I want to make sure, Abigail, that I get your question. So do you rec I think you're asking a question like, do we recommend that our son not apply EDD?

Really focus on schools that are good bets with high chance of admissions. Depends on the student, what they're looking for. Does it meet, um, sort of their attributes and those six keys of college fit? I mean, there are a lot of great Two year, four year schools that are not highly selective that, you know, your student can get into and it meets all of their needs.

And that's a really good informed decision. And I mean, both Tim and I are, we're huge proponents of community colleges and so forth. So it doesn't always have to be the most highly selective school that has an ed program. Um, we do always suggest just because of statistics, yeah. Applying early on the priority earlier versus, you know, kind of that November deadline versus a January or March deadline, just because there's more seats available.

But if you've gone through this process. And at the end, your list is really solid and it's everything's a good bet, then that's a really good list. Right. So you don't have to just apply to schools that are like, maybe I don't know. So I do think that that's something that we sometimes Especially in college admissions, like at this, you know, I see it in cycles, like all these kids are applying to certain schools and it's like, I asked him why that school, well, it's just, it's a name brand school, or, you know, everyone's applying to that, you know, but it's like, well, is that really your, the school that's right for you?

So, good question. Thanks, Abigail. So,

Timothy Poynton: so, so coming back to close out, basically the six keys should give you. Your student and you, the, the, the tools to be able to answer that question, why is this college a good fit for you? Yeah.

Amanda Sterk: If you can answer that, then you've, you've come a long ways. Right. And it'll make the process a lot easier for you

Timothy Poynton: all.

That said, I'm working with my daughter on this and it's harder than me just saying it like

she's having trouble articulating it, but yes. It is.

Amanda Sterk: It is. But at least you're, you're talking about it, right? You're thinking about it and going through the process. We're trying. Yep.

Timothy Poynton: Thank you for your time and attention. So this will be recorded, um, and the recording will be shared with you. So I don't know if the transcript for the chat will be available, but there's our website and there's our email addresses.

So this will be in the recording if you want to skip to the very end. And email us a question. You can feel free to do that. If you want links or any information that we weren't able to get to you today, feel free, please. Thank you for your time.

Julie Shields-Rutyna: Well, and thank you both. Um, we have lots of feedback that this is super helpful, wonderful information, and thank you to everyone for the great questions as well.

And good luck on the, on the process.

Amanda Sterk: Yes.

Timothy Poynton: Take care. Thank you. Thank you. Have a good evening.

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