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The "best" college, or the "right" college?
There are over 3000 colleges and universities in the United States. It is not uncommon for students and parents to think of certain schools as the "best". Some base their opinion on a particular school's reputation or it's cost. Most know about the Ivy League schools, the "little ivies", the University of Michigan, the University of Notre Dame, Northwestern University, Duke, Rice, Vanderbilt, MIT, Stanford, Cal-Berkeley and on and on.
Some may feel that there is only one school that fits, or is right.

Actually, there are many fine schools where a student can find an excellent education and a rewarding college experience. There are not ten, not fifty, but many institutions that offer similar academic, intellectual and social opportunities as the "best schools".

Some schools that may not be on the student's first list but are worthy of consideration include:

Allegheny College, PA
American University
Bates College, ME
Beloit College, WI
Boston University
University of California-Davis
University of California-Irvine
University of California-Santa Barbara
Carlton College, MN
Case Western Reserve University, OH
Claremont McKenna College CA
Colby College, ME
Colorado College
Connecticut College
Davidson College, NC
Denison University, OH
Dickinson College, PA
Elon University, NC
Emory University, GA
Fairfield University, CT

Furman University, SC
George Washington U., DC
Grinnell College, IA
Hamilton College, NY
Kenyon College, OH
Knox College, IL
Lawrence University, WI
Lewis & Clark College, OR
Loyola College, MD
Macalester College, MN

Miami University, OH
Occidental College, CA
Ohio University
Pacific Lutheran University, WA
Reed College, OR
Rhodes College, TN
Santa Clara University
Skidmore College
St. Johns College, MD & NM
SUNY Binghamton, NY
Syracuse University, NY
Trinity College, CT
Trinity University, TX
Tulane University, LA
University of California-San Diego
University of California-Santa Cruz
Union College
University of Richmond, VA
University of Denver, CO
University of Georgia
University of Miami, FL
University of Puget Sound
University of Rochester, NY
University of the Pacific, CA
University of Washington
Valparaiso University, IN
Washington University, MO
Whittier College, CA
Worcester Poly Tech, MA

Other schools to think about:

Agnes Scott College, GA
Azusa Pacific University, A
Ball State University, IN
Belmont University, TN
Biola, University CA
Bradley University
Bryant University

California Lutheran University
California State University -Chico
California State University -Fresno
Campbell University, NC
Catawba College, NC
College of Charleston, SC
College of Notre Dame, CA
College of Santa Fe, NM
College of Wooster, OH
Colorado State University
Dominican College, CA
Drew University, NJ
Earlham College, IN
East Carolina State, NC
Eastern Washington, WA
Fort Lewis College, CO
Gonzaga University, WA

Hartwick College, NY
Hofstra University, NY
Ithaca College, NY
James Madison University, VA
Marist College, NY
Northern Arizona University
Oglethorpe University, GA
Ohio Wesleyan University, OH
Pitzer College, CA
Plymouth State College, NH
Roanoke College, VA
Rochester Institute of Technology, NY
Roger Williams University, RI
Rollins College, FL
Saint Anselm College, NH
Shepherd College , WV
Stephen F. Austin State University, TX
Stetson University, FL
Stonehill College, MA
Susquehanna University, PA
Tennessee State University
University of Tampa, FL
University of the Redlands, CA

(Note: Student Resources is not affiliated with any college or university.

College Admission Tests
One of the most unwelcome parts of the college admission process for students continues to be the SAT I and the ACT admission tests. These tests have been the subject of debate about their importance and their place in determining a student's admission. Many schools continue to evaluate these tests relative to their admissions policies. Regardless of the part these tests play in a school's decision process, it is in the student's interests to take the tests and to do as well as possible. They can be the "tie-breaker"!

A growing number of colleges have departed from the traditional use of SAT I or ACT scores in the deciding admission. According to the National Center for Fair & Open Testing over 350 colleges and universities do not use the SAT I or ACT tests for admission decisions. The tests are not required at a number of schools. In other instances, the scores are used only for placement, or are required only for out-of-state applicants or for certain programs of study. Some institutions use the scores only if minimum GPA or class rank is not met by the student.

Some schools that the National Center have reviewed include:

Arizona State University
Arkansas State University
Bard College, NY
Bates College, ME
Bowdoin College, ME
California State University System
Dickinson College, PA
Eastern Kentucky University
Florida State University System
Franklin & Marshall College, PA
Hamilton College, NY
Hartwick College, NY
Indiana State University
Lewis & Clark College, OR
Middlebury College, VT
Muhlenberg College, PA
Oregon State University
Sarah Lawrence College, NY
Southern University at New Orleans, LA
Susquehanna University
Texas A&M University campuses
Texas Tech University
Union College, NY
University of Iowa
University of Kansas
University of Minnesota
University of Mississippi
University of Nebraska
University of North Texas
University of Texas - multi-campuses
Wheaton College, MA

College Applications
The Department of Education reports that the number of students applying to college has increased over 20% in the past decade and expects this trend to continue. This should present colleges and universities with an ample number of students for admission. While the case at some schools, others are experiencing a decline in applications and in enrollments. It is not clear if there is any one trend or reason.

Some schools in rural or suburban locations are receiving fewer applications, and less than expected 1st year students enrolling. Yet, others have more than anticipated. Cost doesn't seem to a deciding factor. Admission Officers are faced with trying to project the interests and expectations of 12th grade students. Colleges adjust their recruiting programs to avoid wide swings in enrollments which can result in more or less emphasis on wait-lists, early decision applications, financial aid, housing and other factors.

The reality is that the traditional admission process and decision criteria at any given institution may not be quite different from one year to another.

Tip to the student, do your own thing. Do your research. Do it early. Do it thoroughly. If you believe that you can be successful at a particular college, but feel it is a long-shot, don't discard it. Give it serious consideration. Consider volunteering for a January or deferred enrollment if admitted. Consider a broader number of schools to apply to. When you decide to apply to a school, ask yourself the question "if this is the only college which accepts me, will I be willing to attend?". If the answer is yes, go for it.

Paying for college
Our research indicates the average annual cost at a 4-year public institution to be $19,169 for in-state residents, and $29,991 for out-of-state students. A 4-year private college or university is $39,212. The average annual cost at a group of very expensive, very competitive, very popular schools is $49,648.

These costs reflect a typical double room and meal plan, and estimated personal expenses including books, travel and supplies. Optional fees like student loan fees or medical insurance are not included.

Although the amount of government and school-based grants and scholarships have grown, the cost of a college education has increased at a rate more than double the rate of inflation for the past two decades. Schools have increased their grants, both need and merit based. Many schools, public and private, use this merit aid as an enrollment tool.

Interestingly, in 1992, the federal government revised the financial needs criteria, raised the borrowing limits and capped interest rates for federal sponsored loans. These factors, along with the pressure of increasing education costs, apparently created an environment which encouraged the family to be more willing to assume more debt. A renewed interest in the education loan market by private lenders followed.

Today, borrowing is an accepted fact for affording college. The discussion among the government and college officials seems to center more on how to raise the borrowing levels than on controlling college costs.

How do families meet their education expense obligations today? Basically, they rely on a combination of three resources, grants and scholarships, current income, investments and savings and loans, both for the student and for the parents. This increased reliance on borrowing has to a great degree redefined the strategies of planning ahead.

The formula (Federal Methodology) used to determine the amount that the family could reasonably be expected to pay out of pocket for college places more importance on income of the parents and the income and savings of the student. The net value of the family's residence is no longer a factor. The assets (savings, investments) of the parents carry relatively little weight.

In reality, it is in the parents' best interests to save ahead to reduce the impact of future debt. In today's financial aid environment, since most find it necessary to borrow for college, the process actually encourages the parents to save as much as possible and to start as early as possible.

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