3 Law School Admissions Trends to Expect This Cycle

University student looking up during exam

Competition remains fierce at top-ranked schools, but other programs will likely have more spots and financial aid available to students.

Falling application volume should have applicants rethinking their strategies.

​The relationship between supply and demand is one of the most basic principles of market economics. As the supply of a certain good decreases and demand stays the same, the good becomes more valuable.

This concept of supply and demand can be applied to the law school admissions process. From a law school admissions committee’s perspective, the good it is selling is admission to its incoming class, the supply is the number of applicants and the demand is the number of seats in the incoming class.

The vast majority of schools have a target class size that stays the same from year to year, thus keeping their demand fixed. The supply of law school applicants, however, has been decreasing steadily for several years, with last year having the fewest applicants in many years. This means that schools in general value law school applicants more highly than they have in past years. This week, I’ll discuss three major effects of this recent trend and how to adjust your application strategy accordingly.

1. Gaining admission to many law schools is more attainable. Since law schools are clamoring for qualified applicants, schools across the board have lowered their admissions standards. The LSAT and GPA ranges for accepted students at most schools have dropped, with LSAT scores in particular dropping several points in many cases.

Despite this general trend, competition for admission at the top schools remains fierce. The drop in overall applicants tends to affect lower-ranked schools much more than it does higher-ranked schools, because admission to higher-ranked schools remains coveted by all applicants.

This trend enables applicants to expand their list of reach schools, and to some degree, recalibrate which schools they should consider target and safety schools. In other words, now is a great time to apply.

2. Submitting applications early has become less important. One of the most commonly repeated pieces of advice regarding law school admissions is that the earlier an application is submitted, the more likely one is to gain admission.

Because of the rolling nature of law school admissions, this advice is generally correct, but the importance of applying early is often exaggerated. You should not rush to submit applications simply in order to gain the advantage of applying earlier in the cycle.

The diminishing importance of applying early in the cycle is especially true this year as the number of applicants continues to decrease. This is especially important for applicants who have not yet taken the LSAT or are planning to retake the LSAT.

If you are planning on taking the October LSAT but do not feel adequately prepared, you should likely postpone until December as the disadvantage of postponing the submission of your applications is now significantly outweighed by even a few more points on your LSAT score.

Because of the decreasing number of applicants, schools find themselves with more and more spots to fill later in the admissions cycle, enabling applicants to apply successfully very late in the cycle. In fact, my admissions counselors worked with a client who began working on his applications in late spring this year, past the deadline for many schools.

His dream school was Fordham University, and although the deadline for submitting applications had passed, he contacted the admissions office requesting to submit an application. The admissions office agreed to consider his application and he was admitted with an LSAT and GPA that in previous years would have made Fordham a reach school.

3. Merit-based scholarship money is more readily available. In addition to relaxing admissions standards, law schools attract candidates by offering merit-based scholarship money. As a result of the decrease in applicants, schools have begun to more aggressively offer merit-based scholarship money to admitted applicants.

One significant advantage this creates for applicants is the ability to negotiate for higher merit-based scholarship awards after acceptance.

For example, I worked with a student last year who was admitted to both the University of Southern California and the University of California—Los Angeles and was offered merit-based scholarships from both schools. By tactfully informing each school of the other’s offer, she increased her offer at USC by $30,000, a significant portion of the total cost of attending. We expect that such increases will be easier to negotiate this year.

How are you seeing these trends come to life? Email me or tweet me.

Shawn P. O’Connor, Esq. is the founder and CEO of Stratus Prep, a New York City-based test preparation and admissions counseling firm. For nearly a decade, he has counseled thousands of law school applicants, many of whom have been admitted to the nation’s top law schools including Yale, Harvard, and Stanford. O’Connor is an honors graduate of Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School and is an attorney admitted to the bar in New York and Massachusetts. E-mail him with questions.


Choose a Summer Option to Boost Law School Applications

pic5Working in a firm during college can show schools that you will enter law school with some knowledge of the day-to-day life of a lawyer.

The importance of pursuing internships and volunteer opportunities is often overlooked.

Welcome to the latest installment of law Admissions Q&A, a monthly feature of Law Admissions Lowdown that provides admissions advice to readers who send in questions and admissions profiles.

If you have a question about applying to law school, please email me for a chance to be featured next month.

Dear Shawn:  I am currently a junior in college and I am planning on applying to law school next fall. Right now I’m trying to put together my plans for next summer, and I am looking into two very different options. The first option is to spend the summer interning at a law firm in their paralegal department, and the second option is to work on a volunteer basis at an immigrant rights nonprofit.​ Would one option be better than the other in terms of applying for law school next fall? -Summer Indecision​

Dear Summer Indecision: First, you’re doing the right thing by thinking about how to best position yourself to put together a compelling admissions package. Summer jobs, internships and volunteering are important parts of one’s application that is often overlooked.

In your case, though, both these summer opportunities will strengthen your application. You’re choosing between two excellent options. You should therefore feel free to consider which option works best for you in other ways.

From a purely strategic perspective, the answer to your question depends on other aspects of your profile. If you already have significant volunteering experience or  ​significant experience in the immigrant rights field – either through other work experience, courses or additional volunteering – then you will strengthen your application most by gaining experience in a legal office. This will indicate to schools that you will enter law school with some knowledge of the day-to-day life of a lawyer and with skills that will make you effective.

If, on the other hand, you don’t have much structured experience in immigrant rights but are considering pursuing that area of law in law school and as a lawyer, you would be best served by pursuing the volunteer opportunity. This volunteer opportunity will enable you to present yourself as someone who has a demonstrated interest in immigration rights law, and will likely provide you with experiences that you could discuss in a personal statement or interview.

Dear Shawn: I received my October LSAT score and it was a bit of a disappointment. I am planning on retaking the test. Unfortunately, though, since I am currently in my senior year of college, I don’t think I will be able to devote enough time in November to further prepare for the test. Some of the schools I am planning on applying to have deadlines before the February scores will be released. Will I be able to submit my applications to those schools with my February score or will they only consider my October score? -Test Problems

Dear Test Problems: The situation you describe is not uncommon, and law schools are generally willing to consider a February LSAT score. You should make sure to do two things, though, before you proceed.

First, get in touch with the schools’ admissions offices, either via email or phone, and ask them if they are willing to consider a February LSAT score. Being able to submit an October LSAT score means you will have “completed” application by their deadline. This means you will not need your February score.

The only question is whether they will be willing to postpone fully evaluating your candidacy until your LSAT score is in. Make sure to get clarity on that point.

Second, make sure you know exactly how they would like to be notified that they should expect you to submit a February LSAT score. Some schools will ask you to submit a note or addendum with your application, others will ask you to contact the admissions office directly so that they are made aware of the situation.

Even if the school is comfortable with a note submitted with the application, I strongly encourage you to email the admissions committee directly so that you have a written record of your request and can receive confirmation that they have received the request and will honor it.

How are you dealing with summer or LSAT issues? Email me or tweet me.​

Shawn P. O’Connor, Esq. is the founder and CEO of Stratus Prep, a New York City-based test preparation and admissions counseling firm. For nearly a decade, he has counseled thousands of law school applicants, many of whom have been admitted to the nation’s top law schools including Yale, Harvard, and Stanford. O’Connor is an honors graduate of Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School and is an attorney admitted to the bar in New York and Massachusetts. E-mail him with questions.


NCAA ACT Scores: What You Need to Qualify


| Posted by Rebecca Safier


If you’re a student athlete who wants to play in NCAA Division I or Division II sports in college, then this article is for you! We’ll review NCAA’s eligibility criteria for your GPA and ACT score, which NCAA compares using a sliding scale. Most importantly, we’ll give you the tips and strategies you need to achieve the NCAA ACT scores you need to pass the clearinghouse.

First, let’s quickly review how your grade point average, or GPA, is determined.

Review Of How Your GPA Is Calculated

NCAA considers the grade point average of your core courses. These include 4 years of English, 3 years of math at Algebra I level or higher, 2 years of natural or physical science (one lab if offered at any high school attended), 1 year of additional English, math or natural/physical science, 2 years of social science, and 4 years of foreign language, philosophy or comparative religion. Check out your own high school to see which of its courses qualify as NCAA core courses.

This means your core course GPA might be a little different than the one reported on your transcript, which is an average of all the courses you have taken at high school. GPAs are calculated on a 4.0 scale. The chart below shows how letter and percentage grades translate to this 4.0 scale.

Letter Grade Grade Point Percentage
A 4 94-100%
A- 3.7 90-93%
B+ 3.3 87-89%
B 3 83-86%
B- 2.7 80-82%
C+ 2.3 77-79%
C 2 73-76%
C- 1.7 70-72%
D+ 1.3 67-69%
D 1 60-66%
F 0 0-59%

Since NCAA compares your GPA and ACT score, let’s review how the ACT is scored. With this understanding, you’ll be able to determine exactly what ACT scores you need and how to achieve them.

Review Of How the ACT Is Scored

For a detailed explanation of how the ACT is scored, check out our article here. The gist is that the ACT has four sections: math, science, English, and reading. Each of these sections is scored on a scale from 1 to 36, and these four section scores are averaged together to get your composite score, also out of 36. However, your composite score doesn’t really matter for NCAA.

Instead, NCAA adds your section scores together into a “sum score.” So your sum score must be at least 4 and at most 144 (36 x 4).

Before you get a scaled score from 1 to 36, each section receives a “raw score.” Your raw score is simply the number of questions you answer correctly in each section. The chart below shows how raw scores are converted into scaled scores.

Why is this important? Because once you know your target score, you can figure out what raw score you need. In other words, you can determine how many correct answers you need and how many questions you can essentially ignore. Note that the ACT does not deduct any points for wrong answers, so you should still fill in answers to those questions you’ve skipped. You might get lucky and add a point or more to your raw score!


How NCAA Considers Your ACT Scores

As we said above, NCAA adds your section scores from math, science, English, and reading into a sum score. For example, if you got a scaled score of 20 in all four sections, then your sum score would be 80 (20 + 20 + 20 + 20 = 80).

If you take the ACT more than once, NCAA will take your best section scores from any dates. NCAA will mix and match your highest section scores so you get your highest possible sum score.

Now let’s move on to the really important part – how NCAA compares your GPA with your ACT score.

NCAA Eligibility – The Sliding Scale

NCAA uses a sliding scale that compares your GPA and ACT scores. If you have a higher GPA, you can meet the eligibility requirements with lower ACT scores. Conversely, if you have a lower GPA, you have to make up the difference with higher ACT scores.

With a 2.8 GPA, for example, you need an NCAA ACT requirements score of 57. If you scored around the same in each section, this might be around 15 (out of 36) in each section. You could score a little higher in some and lower in others.

These charts show the sliding scale to qualify for Division I and Division II teams. While you can qualify with a 2.0 GPA currently, you will need at least a 2.3 GPA starting August 1, 2016. After that date, students with a GPA between 2.0 and 2.3 may qualify for “Academic Redshirt” – they will get athletic aid and practice but cannot compete.

Division I Division II
Core Course GPA ACT Sum Core Course GPA ACT Sum
3.550 & above 37 3.300 & above 37
3.525 38 3.275 38
3.5 39 3.25 39
3.475 40 3.225 40
3.45 41 3.2 41
3.425 41 3.175 41
3.4 42 3.15 42
3.375 42 3.125 42
3.35 43 3.1 43
3.325 44 3.075 44
3.3 44 3.05 44
3.275 45 3.025 45
3.25 46 3 46
3.225 46 2.975 46
3.2 47 2.95 47
3.175 47 2.925 47
3.15 48 2.9 48
3.125 49 2.875 49
3.1 49 2.85 49
3.075 50 2.825 50
3.05 50 2.8 50
3.025 51 2.775 51
3 52 2.75 52
2.975 52 2.725 52
2.95 53 2.7 53
2.925 53 2.675 53
2.9 54 2.65 54
2.875 55 2.625 55
2.85 56 2.6 56
2.825 56 2.575 56
2.8 57 2.55 57
2.775 58 2.525 58
2.75 59 2.5 59
2.725 59 2.475 60
2.7 60 2.45 61
2.675 61 2.425 61
2.65 62 2.4 62
2.625 63 2.375 63
2.6 64 2.35 64
2.575 65 2.325 65
2.55 66 2.3 66
2.525 67 2.275 67
2.5 68 2.25 68
2.475 69 2.225 69
2.45 70 2.2 70 & above
2.425 70
2.4 71
2.375 72
2.35 73
2.325 74
2.3 75
2.275 76
2.25 77
2.225 78
2.2 79
2.175 80
2.15 80
2.125 81
2.1 82
2.075 83
2.05 84
2.025 85
2 86

Once you know your GPA and what you need to qualify, how can you get these scores? Read on for our important tips and strategies.

How To Hit Your Target ACT Scores

Play To Your Strengths

Since NCAA adds together all your section scores, all sections of the ACT are important and require test prep. However, since there is no minimum per section, you can achieve your target sum score with any combination of section scores. Put it another way, you can play to your strengths. What subjects are you stronger in? Which subjects are not your forte? If you love English but feel like math messes with your head, to give one example, you can aim for a higher target score in the English and reading sections than in the math sections.

While you definitely need to prep for all sections, you can define different target scores for English, reading, math, and science depending on your strengths and what you can realistically achieve with the time you have to prep.

Devise a Strategy

Once you have your target scores defined, take a look at the raw score chart we presented above. How many questions do you need to get right? If you need an 18 in English, for example, you need to answer 17 – 19 questions correct (aim for at least 19). This is less than ⅓ of all the English questions!

As you’re taking the test, don’t waste time on the really hard questions. Seek out questions you can confidently answer. At the same time, don’t leave any questions blank. As we mentioned above, there is no point penalty for wrong answers, so you might as well guess. If you skip any questions, leave a little time at the end of each section to fill in the rest on your bubble sheet.

You may also be able to improve your scores by taking the ACT more than once. Check out the ACT test dates here – start early to make sure you have enough test dates.

Get Training

As with the rigorous hours you put in for your sport, you need to step up to some serious training for the ACT. Doing well on the ACT is not about just showing up and being smart – it’s all about how prepared you are. Studying will help you get better, just as practices allow you to improve as an athlete. This isn’t a metaphor – it’s how any skill is developed. And believing that you can grow and get better is a big part of clearing the way for growth to happen. As you know during exhausting practices and games, a huge part of performing is winning this mental game.

These values of dedication, effort, discipline, and internal motivation will help you on the ACT and carry you through your career as a student-athlete in college. Figure out your strengths, drill your weaknesses, and keep up your drive and hunger to achieve your goals.


Find Time

Finding time for test prep is easier said than done, especially with your packed schedule of school, homework, practices, games, and social life. Create a schedule and set aside specific time for ACT studying to ensure that you make time.

As you take practice tests, time yourself the way the real test will be timed. This will help you get used to the pacing of the questions in a short amount of time, as well as understand your own stamina and what you need to do to keep up your focus and energy levels.

Use the Right Materials

You wouldn’t train for baseball with a wiffle ball, just as you shouldn’t train for the ACT with sub-par materials. High quality test prep questions are a must for preparing you for the test and breaking down the skills and content you need to master within each section. Check out our free E-Book for important tips about the ACT.

ACT Questions of the Day are also an easy and convenient way to add some extra test prep to your day. They can be accessed online or on your phone. By starting months ahead of your test, ACT QOTD will get you familiar with a variety of questions and help you figure out which kinds of question need extra attention.

To Sum Up…

By being aware of NCAA ACT and GPA requirements well ahead of your application deadlines, you will have enough time to train for the ACT, take the test several times, and ensure that you meet the NCAA eligibility criteria.

As an athlete, you know well that training and practice makes all the difference. By applying those same skills of self-discipline and internal motivation to your ACT prep, you will be able to take your career as a student-athlete to the next level at the college of your choice!

About the Author

Rebecca Safier graduated with her Master’s in Adolescent Counseling from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has years of teaching and college counseling experience and is passionate about helping students achieve their goals and improve their well-being. She graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University and scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT.


NCAA SAT Scores: What You Need to Be Eligible


| Posted by Rebecca Safier
Calling all student athletes! Are you aiming to go to college as an NCAA athlete? Two important NCAA Clearinghouse requirements have to do with your high school grade point average (GPA) and SAT scores, which are compared on a sliding scale. Let’s talk about the eligibility criteria for NCAA athletics, and how you can achieve the scores you need.
First, let’s review GPA requirements and how your GPA is calculated.

Review of How GPA Is Calculated

Your GPA is calculated on a 4.0 scale, meaning your letter and percentage grade scores get translated to a number between 0.0 and 4.0. As you can see on the chart below, a 4.0 is an A or A+. A 3.0 is a B, and a 2.0 is a C.

Letter Grade Grade Point Percentage
A 4 94-100%
A- 3.7 90-93%
B+ 3.3 87-89%
B 3 83-86%
B- 2.7 80-82%
C+ 2.3 77-79%
C 2 73-76%
C- 1.7 70-72%
D+ 1.3 67-69%
D 1 60-66%
F 0 0-59%

NCAA only looks at your core courses to determine your GPA. Your core courses include 4 years of English, 3 years of math at Algebra I level or higher, 2 years of natural or physical science (one lab if offered at any high school attended), 1 year of additional English, math or natural/physical science, 2 years of social science, and 4 years of foreign language, philosophy or comparative religion.

You can review core course requirements here, as well as check your own high school to see which of its courses count as NCAA eligible core courses. Since NCAA is only looking at the grades in your core courses, your NCAA GPA may be different from the one provided on your transcript, which usually includes all your courses and electives.

Another important requirement for NCAA is your SAT score. Let’s take a look at how the SAT is scored and why this matters for your NCAA eligibility clearinghouse.

Review of How SAT Is scored

Your SAT is scored in three sections, Critical Reading, Math, and Writing. NCAA doesn’t even look at the Writing section or essay score, so all you have to worry about is Critical Reading and Math. These sections are scored out of 800, so you could get a maximum total of 1600 for Critical Reading and Math combined.

Check out our article for a review of exactly how your SAT scores are calculated. To give a quick review, your scaled score falls somewhere between 200 and 800. It is calculated from your raw score, which is just the number of questions you got right minus 0.25 points (or a ¼ of a point) for each question you got wrong. Skipped questions do not add or subtract anything from your score.

If you answered 20 Critical Reading questions correctly and got one wrong, for example, then your raw score would be 19.75. This translates to a scaled score of about 430 in Critical Reading.

If you take the SAT more than once (which is a good idea – students almost always improve the more times they take the test), then NCAA will look at your best section scores across all dates. So if your Critical Reading is higher on one test and your math is higher on another, the NCAA will take these scores to determine your SAT combined score for initial eligibility.

Now that you know NCAA is looking at your core course GPA and Critical Reading and Math combined score, let’s discuss how they relate to each other.



NCAA Eligibility – The Sliding Scale

To be eligible for the NCAA, you need to achieve a certain GPA and SAT (Critical Reading + Math) score. However, what you need on your SAT varies with your GPA, and vice versa. If you have a high GPA, then the requirement for your SAT scores is lower. If your GPA is on the low side, then you need to make up for it with higher SAT scores.

For example, let’s say your core course GPA is a 2.5. With this GPA, you need at least a combined score of 1000 on your Critical Reading and Math for your NCAA SAT scores. This could mean you get a 500 on both sections, a 600 on Critical Reading and 400 on math, or really any combination that adds up to a 1000. If you score an 820 on your SAT, which is a bit lower, then you would need a core course GPA of at least 2.95 to be eligible for NCAA.

This chart shows the requirements for student athletes who aim to play on Division I teams. Starting August 1, 2016, you will need at least a 2.3 GPA to fully qualify. Students with a GPA between 2.0 and 2.3 may qualify for “Academic Redshirt” – they will get athletic aid and practice but cannot compete. Scroll down to see the sliding scale for Division II.

Division I Division II
Core Course GPA SAT (Verbal and Math) Core Course GPA SAT (Verbal and Math)
3.550 & above 400 3.300 & above 400
3.525 410 3.275 410
3.5 420 3.25 420
3.475 430 3.225 430
3.45 440 3.2 440
3.425 450 3.175 450
3.4 460 3.15 460
3.375 470 3.125 470
3.35 480 3.1 480
3.325 490 3.075 490
3.3 500 3.05 500
3.275 510 3.025 510
3.25 520 3 520
3.225 530 2.975 530
3.2 540 2.95 540
3.175 550 2.925 550
3.15 560 2.9 560
3.125 570 2.875 570
3.1 580 2.85 580
3.075 590 2.825 590
3.05 600 2.8 600
3.025 610 2.775 610
3 620 2.75 620
2.975 630 2.725 630
2.95 640 2.7 640
2.925 650 2.675 650
2.9 660 2.65 660
2.875 670 2.625 670
2.85 680 2.6 680
2.825 690 2.575 690
2.8 700 2.55 700
2.775 710 2.525 710
2.75 720 2.5 720
2.725 730 2.475 730
2.7 730 2.45 730
2.675 740-750 2.425 740
2.65 760 2.4 760
2.625 770 2.375 770
2.6 780 2.35 780
2.575 790 2.325 790
2.55 800 2.3 800
2.525 810 2.275 810
2.5 820 2.25 820
2.475 830 2.225 830
2.45 840-850 2.2 840 & above
2.425 860
2.4 860
2.375 870
2.35 880
2.325 890
2.3 900
2.275 910
2.25 920
2.225 930
2.2 940
2.175 950
2.15 960
2.125 960
2.1 970
2.075 980
2.05 990
2.025 1000
2 1010

Now that you have a sense of what scores you need, read on to find out exactly what steps you should take to hit your target scores.

How To Achieve Your Target SAT Scores

Create a Testing Strategy

As we said above, NCAA only looks at your Critical Reading and Math scores – they do not look at Writing. So right off the bat, you can focus your prep and energy on those two sections.

Find out your core course GPA so you know exactly what your target scores are. Since this is a composite target score, you can define your own goals for each section.

Where do your strengths lie? Do you like reading and analyzing texts, or are you more of a math person? Once you know your target composite score, you can play to your strengths by focusing your prep more on one section than on the other.

With your target scores figured out, you can also determine what raw score you need, or how many questions you can afford to get wrong or leave blank in each section. For example, to get a 400 in Critical Reading, you need a raw score of 16, or only 16 correct answers out of 67. To get a 400 on math, you need a raw score of 13, or only 13 correct answers (keeping in mind the 0.25 point deduction for wrong answers).

You could even skip ⅓ of the questions in math and still achieve qualifying scores for NCAA! This means you can leave the hardest ones completely blank. This way you won’t waste time on questions you’re unsure about, and you won’t risk getting the 0.25 point deduction. While you also shouldn’t waste too much time determining which questions are hard and which are easy, you can be strategic about how many questions you answer. So skip the ones that are totally unfamiliar and look for ones you know to build up your raw score.

Treat SAT Prep Like Your sport

Just like with your sport, you’ll improve your SAT performance through training. Doing well on the SAT is about how prepared you are. Studying will help you get comfortable with the concepts, familiar with the format of the tests, and skilled at pacing yourself under timed limits.

To keep up your training schedule, you need to access the same values of practice, dedication, discipline and internal motivation that you give to athletics. Make time to practice, drill your weaknesses, and become an SAT pro.

Understand the Test

Make sure you understand the content and format of the SAT. Check out our free E-Book and other resources to learn more about the test. By understanding the skills and subskills being tested, you can figure out what exactly you need to master.

The math section, for example, covers algebra, geometry, probability, and number operations, to name a few. Each skill can be further broken down – for example, algebra may involve solving equations, graphing functions, and other problem types.

Not only will a thorough understanding of the test help you figure out exactly what you need to study, it will also help you break up your studying into small, manageable goals that will aid you in seeing your progress over time. Remember, NCAA continues to have academic requirements once you reach college, so these principles and this approach to studying will help you succeed as a student-athlete throughout college.


Find Time in your Busy Schedule

With your busy schedule of school, homework, practices, and games, you don’t have the luxury of studying here and there in your spare time. Make a schedule and set aside specific time for SAT prep. Creating and sticking to a schedule is critical in ensuring that you prepare sufficiently.

You can also add some extra practice to your busy day with SAT Questions of the Day. They are a quick and easy way to practice online or on your phone, to try a wide variety of questions, and to figure out where you need to practice more.

Take the Test More Than Once

Students almost always improve the second and third time they take the test. Since NCAA will take your highest section scores across all test dates, you can take the SAT more than once without worrying about one section score going down. Start early to give yourself enough available test dates. If the test registration fee is financially difficult, check out our article on SAT fee waivers to see if you might be eligible to have the fee waived.

When you register for the SAT, enter 9999 to indicate the NCAA Eligibility as one of your score recipients.

To Sum Up…

Now that you know all about how the NCAA sliding scale works, you can figure out your core course GPA and NCAA SAT requirement well ahead of time, at least in early junior year. This way you’ll have enough time for test prep and to take the SAT more than once to reach your target scores.

Since you already have proven yourself to have the drive, discipline, and motivation to be an NCAA athlete, now you have to believe in your academic self and access these same qualities to achieve your target scores and continue your career as a student-athlete at the college level.

About the Author

Rebecca Safier graduated with her Master’s in Adolescent Counseling from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has years of teaching and college counseling experience and is passionate about helping students achieve their goals and improve their well-being. She graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University and scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT.


The 10 Best Art Schools in the United States


| Posted by Samantha Lindsay

If you have a passion for art, you should go to a college that will nurture your creativity. An art school will help you to develop your skills and learn more about what it takes to succeed in the professional world of art and design. In this article, I’ll give you the details on what defines a great art school and provide a list of the best art colleges in the country for undergraduate students.

How Is an Art School Defined for This List?

On this list of the best art schools in the United States, I only included schools that exclusively cater to art and design students. Keep in mind that there are many other colleges that have excellent art programs but are less specialized. Colleges like Yale, UCLA, Tufts, and Columbia also have fantastic art programs. I didn’t include those schools because this list is geared towards students who are absolutely certain that they want to study art at the college level (and would like to be in an environment with similarly-minded people).

There are huge advantages to going to a specialized art college if you fall into this category of students. You will make friends with other people who share your interests and who may inspire you to expand your creative horizons. You also will have the benefit of being in a place where art is never a secondary concern. Career services will be devoted to helping students in artistic fields break into the job world, and you can usually make even better connections with working artists at these schools. If you know that you plan on studying in an artistic field, the schools on this list are great college options.

At a school full of art students, everyone has paint on their hands at all times, and you can be as pretentious as you want without facing judgment! 

What Makes These Art Schools the Best?

There are several factors to consider in determining what makes an art school great. First of all, it should have a diverse and modern curriculum. A great art school equips students with the skills they need to enter a rapidly changing, highly competitive job market. It should offer a wide variety of programs that are in step with current artistic trends and movements. The best art schools are invested in providing students with instruction in design practices that are shaping the world’s creative landscape today.

A great art school should have excellent facilities for students, with access to the latest technology and artistic tools. Many of the schools on this list have extensive digital labs, on-campus art museums, and workshops that provide students with the ability to practice metalworking, laser cutting, woodworking, and other less accessible artistic disciplines.

The quality of the faculty is important as well. The best art schools employ professors who are also successful working artists and leaders in their fields. Reputation is another factor that ties into this. If the alumni of a school have been successful in their careers, the school will have better name recognition and provide you with more future opportunities.

The schools on this list have strong combinations of these qualities (and more!). They encourage students to think critically about art-making in the context of modern society and provide students with great opportunities to find their niche within the exciting world of art and design.

The art world is always in flux. Is this “graffiti” or “street art”? Or is it both? As methods and standards change, so do the curricula at art schools!


The Best Art Schools in the US

For each of the schools on this list, I will provide admissions statistics and information about application requirements. I’ve also listed a few facts that will give you a sense of what these institutions offer to undergraduate art students.

#1. Rhode Island School of Design: Providence, RI


Undergraduate enrollment: 2,014
Acceptance rate: 27%
Average GPA: 3.5
Average SAT score: 1855
Average ACT score: 28

Special Requirements

Prospective applicants are urged to follow a college preparatory program in secondary school, taking courses in studio art and art history where possible. A portfolio submission is required for admissions consideration.

Your portfolio should show a selection of 12–20 examples of your best recent artwork. This work may be presented in any medium (including film or video) in either finished or sketch form. It can be the result of an assigned project or a self-directed artistic exploration. You’ll also need to send in two drawing samples. For more details, see the admissions website.

Notable Facts

The campus museum displays over 80,000 works of art, so inspiration abounds! RISD offers advanced tools and resources to its students, including laser cutters and a kiln room. RISD also employs many famous faculty members like Chris Van Allsburg (who illustrated The Polar Express!).

body_RISD.jpgRhode Island School of Design

#2. School of the Art Institute of Chicago: Chicago, IL


Undergraduate enrollment: 2,490
Acceptance rate: 72%
Average GPA: 3.4
Average SAT score: Not reported
Average ACT score: Not reported

Special Requirements

In order to be considered for admission, you will need to submit an artist’s statement that represents you and your work. You are also required to submit a portfolio that showcases 10-15 examples of your best and most recent work. There are no limitations on the artistic medium!

Notable Facts

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago has a facility called the Computer Resources and Information Technologies Center, which ensures that students get access to and training on the latest digital equipment. There are also unique program offerings like art therapy and visual communication. SAIC has many distinguished alumni, including Walt Disney.

body_SAIC.jpgSchool of the Art Institute of Chicago

#3. California Institute of the Arts: Valencia, CA


Undergraduate enrollment: 895
Acceptance rate: 31%
Average GPA: Not reported
Average SAT score: Not reported
Average ACT score: Not reported

Special Requirements

You are required to submit 20 examples of your most recent and highest quality independent artwork for your portfolio. You’ll also need to include an artist’s statement.

Notable Facts

All faculty members at the California Institute of the Arts are working artists with lots of real world artistic experience. Every student is assigned a mentor who guides them through the program and assists them in independent study. CalArts has eight galleries dedicated to showing student work and helping students get accustomed to hanging and presenting art in various forms.

The school provides extensive facilities for student use including various media labs and a “Super Shop” for processes such as woodworking, metalworking, and moldmaking. I’m not sure why they chose to go with “CalArts” as the shortened version of the school’s name when CIA was an option.

California Institute of the Arts

#4. Pratt Institute: New York, NY


Undergraduate enrollment: 2,933
Acceptance rate: 67%
Average GPA: 3.64
Average SAT score: 1770
Average ACT score: 26

Special Requirements

You are required to submit a portfolio that includes 12-20 examples of your best work. You must also submit three to five observational drawings to demonstrate your drafting skills.

Notable Facts

Pratt is located in New York City, so you’ll have access to all kinds of great internship opportunities and connections to the art world. Faculty members are working artists with international reputations as well as dedicated teachers. Students get free access to the Frick Collection, the MOMA, the Whitney Museum, and more.

Pratt Institute

#5. Maryland Institute College of Art: Baltimore, MD


Undergraduate enrollment: 1,863
Acceptance rate: 58%
Average GPA: 3.54
Average SAT score: 1773
Average ACT score: Not reported

Special Requirements

You must submit a portfolio of 12 to 20 pieces of artwork for consideration.

Notable Facts

The Maryland Institute incorporates internships and other professional development activities into its curriculum to give students a strong foundation for careers in the arts. There are over 150 exhibitions per year by Maryland Institute students, faculty, and visitors. A strong advising system guides students through all four years at MICA.

Maryland Institute College of Art

#6. Art Center College of Design: Pasadena, CA


Undergraduate enrollment: 1,540
Acceptance rate: 82%
Average GPA: Not reported
Average SAT score: Not reported
Average ACT score: Not reported

Special Requirements

There are different portfolio requirements for different majors, but, in general, you are required to submit 10 to 15 pieces of artwork. See the admissions site for more details.

Notable Facts

This school is for students who know exactly what they want to do: Art Center gives students a comprehensive education in their chosen discipline starting on day one and there is no first-year general education program. However, the Transdisciplinary Studios program also allows students to collaborate with each other across different majors. Art Center College of Design partners up with companies and organizations in their Designmatters program to sponsor student projects that will make a real impact on the world.

Art Center College of Design

#7. California College of the Arts: Oakland, CA


Undergraduate enrollment: 1,389
Acceptance rate: 82%
Average GPA: 3.25
Average SAT score: 1601
Average ACT score: 24

Special Requirements

First-year applicants are asked to submit 10 to 20 images of their best work as a portfolio sample.

Notable Facts

The faculty is comprised of leaders in various artistic fields, and one-on-one attention is common (average student-teacher ratio is 8:1). CCA includes a First Year Program that introduces students to studio practice and incorporates a portfolio review at the end of the year to assess students’ readiness for the majors. There is also a First Year Student Exhibition every year. CCA offers numerous resources for professional development and networking in the arts that will help students to start fulfilling careers.

#8. School of Visual Arts: New York, NY


Undergraduate enrollment: 3,678
Acceptance rate: 74%
Average GPA: 3.09
Average SAT score: Not reported
Average ACT score: Not reported

Special Requirements

You will need to submit a statement of intent describing why you’re pursuing undergraduate study in the visual arts. You must also submit images of 15-20 pieces of your best work for your portfolio. You can decide to submit a film reel instead if you’re interested in studying film.

Notable Facts

There are three galleries at SVA that present over 50 exhibitions every year, so students have frequent opportunities to show their work. SVA has an Internship for Credit program that allow students to work with top creative agencies in New York City. The Digital Imaging Center and Print Lab offers extensive technological resources to students studying graphic design and advertising or enrolled in classes at the Center.

School of Visual Arts

#9. Parsons the New School for Design: New York, NY


Undergraduate enrollment: 6,695
Acceptance rate: 66%
Average GPA: 3.24
Average SAT score: 1630
Average ACT score: 25

Special Requirements

Prospective applicants must complete the “Parsons Challenge”, an artistic project exploring something that is usually overlooked in their environment. See the admissions site for more details on this. (I kind of want to do it just for kicks!) Applicants must also submit a portfolio of 8-12 pieces of recent artwork and an artist’s statement.

Notable Facts

Parsons incorporates digital arts strongly into its undergraduate curriculum, particularly in first-year coursework. Parsons also has a special first-year study program that teaches students to think creatively across different disciplines. With its location at the center of the New York art scene, this is a great place for students to explore different methods of art-making and learn how to turn their creative passion into a career.

Parsons The New School for Design

#10. Massachusetts College of Art and Design: Boston, MA


Undergraduate enrollment: 1,825
Acceptance rate: 70%
Average GPA: 3.37
Average SAT score: 1629
Average ACT score: 25

Special Requirements

You must submit a portfolio with 15-20 examples of your strongest and most recent artwork. You will also need to include a statement of purpose that describes you as an artist.

Notable Facts

MassArt is the nation’s first independent public college of art and design. The college has seven on-campus gallery spaces, routinely featuring work from students, faculty, and visiting artists. Degrees are offered in a wide variety of disciplines, from Industrial Design to Animation to Art Education.

Massachusetts College of Art and Design 

Which Art School Is the Best Choice for You?

All of the schools on this list will give you a great education in the arts, but some of them might be better fits than others for you and your interests. Location is a big factor to consider in deciding on the right art school for you. A few of these schools are located in the heart of New York City, which might be an awesome place for some students but an overwhelming place for others. Learn more about the differences between colleges in urban and rural environments.

You should also consider the program offerings of each school. The School of Visual Arts, for example, is a great place for film majors. Parsons is a great place for students who are interested in fashion and digital arts. If you’re still not sure exactly what you want to study in the arts, you should choose a school that has a first-year general education program and a strong advising system like California College of the Arts. If you are sure of what you want to study, you might choose a school like Art Center College of Design, which allows students to begin working in their chosen major from day one without any general education requirements.

Admissions statistics are important as well. If your grades aren’t spectacular, you should look for a school where admission is granted mainly based on artistic talent and a lower GPA and test scores won’t ruin your chances. Some of these schools can be very competitive, but if you present an impressive portfolio, you can expect to have a shot at admission.

About the Author

Samantha Lindsay is a blog content writer for PrepScholar. Her goal is to help students adopt a less stressful view of standardized testing and other academic challenges through her articles. Samantha is also passionate about art and graduated with honors from Dartmouth College as a Studio Art major in 2014. In high school, she earned a 2400 on the SAT, 5’s on all seven of her AP tests, and was named a National Merit Scholar.


3 Tasks to Help High School Juniors Boost College Success

Get insights from real students on how to use this year wisely.

Teacher Helping Male Pupil Studying At Desk In Classroom

Junior year is a perfect time for students to delve into electives and other specialized courses.

​For many students, junior year of high school is also the most difficult year. Students must prepare for their upcoming ACT or SAT test dates, evaluate potential colleges and function beneath an immense amount of pressure to achieve high grades to impress these colleges.

In addition to this academic stress, students must also begin asking themselves important questions about their ideal college experience in order to find schools that are a great fit. Much of this process is new and unfamiliar to students and there are some specific actions that juniors can take to navigate it successfully.

Three college students who have been through this process shared insights from their own junior year experiences, and here are their tips:

1. Sign up for AP or specialized classes: Your freshman and sophomore years of high school are typically filled with general education courses and other mainstream subjects that students are required to study – but what about classes that go beyond that? Junior year is a perfect time for students to delve into electives and other specialized courses. It can even help students prepare for college in a number of ways.

Sarah Turecamo, a junior ​at Washington University in St. Louis majoring in biology and anthropology, suggested this route for students.

“It would be helpful to take some specialized classes, such as AP classes or upper-level electives, to explore what you would like to major in,” she says. “Of course, you don’t have to know exactly what you want to study in college, but it would be helpful to explore a few options before entering college.”

Turecamo feels this action benefited her, but she also wishes she had pursued it even further.

“I did take AP Chemistry, which helped to explore my interest in the sciences,” she says. “However, I regret not taking a computer science or engineering elective because I never really got to see if I was interested in pursuing an engineering career path.”

2. Talk to current college students: As mentioned before, students may struggle to reflect on what they want in a college. This upcoming chapter in their lives encompasses a great deal of unfamiliar territory, and it can be hard to know where they possibly begin.

From campus size, to dining options, to available academic programs, there are many factors to consider in a college experience, so it might be worth going straight to those who are currently experiencing it – the college students.

“Talk to current students about life there and what classes are like,” says Andrew Hu, a senior​ at the University of Georgia. ​​”The current students at each specific university know what’s best needed to succeed.”

Needless to say, one of the first steps in getting connected with those students is to visit campuses. Hu noted that he regrets not having done this himself, saying he felt he would have had a better idea of what he wanted to get out of college if he had visited schools during his junior year.

3. Begin touring colleges: Hu is not alone in wishing he had taken this step at the appropriate time. Cala Fils, a Montclair State University senior, ​says she strongly thinks high school juniors should start visiting schools.

Fils also wishes that she herself had done so as a high school junior. She notes that students should begin preparing themselves mentally for this significant transition now.

“Senior year goes by fast and time will not be on their side,” she says. “I started to do those things during the spring of my senior year and I felt overwhelmed.”

Turecamo says she did take this action during her junior year and that it helped her identify what she was really looking for in a college.

“After touring a few schools of different sizes and in various locations, I decided I wanted a medium college with a research reputation near a city,” says Turecamo. “Just knowing these basic requirements helped me expedite the application process my senior year.”

One common theme that all of these actions have in common is exploring new ideas. Academics, lifestyle and the school itself will be different in college than what students are used to in high school. Both Hu and Turecamo advised keeping an open mind.

“In terms of a social transition, approach everything with an open mind,” Hu says. “Everyone is there for the same reasons you are.”

Turecamo emphasized the importance of this action as well.

“When you enter college, you will meet people from all different backgrounds, and a key part of the college experience is being pushed outside of your comfort zone to explore different perspectives and cultures.”

Cathryn Sloane is a marketing coordinator for Varsity Tutors. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Iowa.

Varsity Tutors is a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement. The company’s end-to-end offerings also include mobile learning apps, online learning environments and other tutoring and test prep-focused technologies. Got a question? Email admissionsplaybook@usnews.com.


Online Education Options Vary by More Than Cost

Students looking to learn a specific skill may pay less for online education than those seeking a degree.

pic7Viewing content on sites such as Udacity, Udemy and Lynda.com can cost anywhere from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars.

When it comes to online education, there are a lot of different options with a lot of different price points.

Prospective learners can choose between free massive open online courses, or MOOCs, that are not for credit, for instance, and for-credit courses, which can cost thousands of dollars.

“Almost all free courses are leisure learning courses, or courses you’re taking because you want to,” says Vicky Phillips, the CEO of GetEducated.com, an advocacy website for distance-learning programs. “There’s usually no certification and no employment credibility. Usually when you have to pay you are paying for the certification, the standardization. The course has to meet certain quality standards.”

When it comes to determining which online course to take, academic or career goals are usually a major deciding factor, Phillips says. Still, examining the costs of different online education options can help you see what you’re getting for what you pay.

MOOCs and Other Free Online Courses

Subsidized by outside parties such as universities, MOOCs are among the most widely used form of free online education, and they come with both benefits and downsides, experts say.

MOOCs are generally free and for the most part offer no college credit or form of certification – unless the student pays to take an exam. One example is Coursera’s Signature Track program, available in select classes, in which a verified certificate typically costs $30 to $100.

While anyone can enroll in a MOOC, some of the courses can be equivalent to graduate courses, which can make the class difficult if you don’t have a background in the specific field, says Kenneth Green, founding director of The Campus Computing Project, which examines the impact of computing, e-learning and information technology on higher education.

Additionally, with the low cost of MOOCs comes larger class sizes, often with thousands of students – even tens of thousands, says Michael Cusumano, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management, who has studied the economic implications of MOOCs.

As a result, MOOCs can be “notoriously weak in terms of interactivity,” says Steven Weiland, a professor in the education school at Michigan State University. Discussion boards can have thousands of responses, for instance, making them difficult to follow.

In terms of advantages, experts say many MOOCs are very well designed and are often taught by world-renowned faculty.

Christopher Wang, a third-year student at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who has completed around 10 computer science-related MOOCs since his senior year of high school, says MOOCs allow him to learn simply for the sake of learning.

“I think a free course focuses more on learning as opposed to grade-achieving, something that gets lost in the real classroom and the accreditation route,” Wang says, and the flexibility of MOOCs enables him to withdraw if he finds a course uninteresting.

Beyond MOOCs, there are other free options out there, too. Sites like Khan Academy, a nonprofit organization, provide instructional videos and other interactive assessments for students.

Skills-based Online Options

Sites such as Udacity, Udemy and Lynda.com have become popular in the past few years, experts say, and they can cost anywhere from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars.

In contrast to MOOCs, the content on Lynda.com is packaged as educational videos that teach very specific skills, from InDesign typography to using Google Analytics. Members can access all the videos they want for $25 a month or $250 per year, plus premium options.

Udemy offers a similar concept, providing students with educational videos from experts around the world. And Udacity provides free access to course materials. However, students who pay for certain classes can obtain professor feedback and earn a verified Udacity certificate.

Certificate Programs at Colleges and Universities

Online certificate programs at colleges and universities typically last around a year, maybe two. They are generally cheaper to enroll in than online degree programs, says Brad Voeller, co-founder of CollegePlus, a company that helps students design customized bachelor’s degree programs. Enrollment is typically a few thousand dollars a year.

For example, at Pennsylvania State University—World Campus, students enrolled in a graduate certificate program in distance education who are taking fewer than 12 credits per semester pay $784 per credit, and those taking 12 or more credits pay a flat rate of $9,408, according to the school’s website.

“A certificate is recognized for if you want to change your career or re-specialize your career, which happens more and more frequently,” says GetEducated.com’s Phillips.

Degree Programs

The most expensive option is an online degree program, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars, just like a degree obtained through a typical college class.

Experts say degree programs are useful for developing transferable skills, such as writing and critical thinking, that aren’t specific to a certain career but instead are broader and can be applied to a range of jobs.

“Everyone should think, ‘Why am I taking this course?’ and then pick that course accordingly,” Phillips says.


Online Degrees Don’t Impede Job Searches

People who have received degrees online say employers are receptive to the nontraditional education.


Rather than go to college after graduating from high school, Scott Marrone opted to join the armed forces. After a three-year stint in the Army that ended in 2001, Marrone was equipped with expertise but no college degree. While in the Army, his facility with computers earned him a position as a network systems administrator, which he thought would serve him well as he transitioned into the “real world.” He was able to earn contract positions at computing giants IBM and Microsoft but was told pointedly by superiors that despite his experience and information technology certifications, he would never be hired full time without a college degree. “The job market was very challenging,” he says. “I realized that just having experience without a degree wasn’t going to cut it.”

In his mid-20s and supporting himself, Marrone knew he couldn’t afford to take time off from work to earn a degree, no matter how badly he needed one. His solution: enroll in the University of Phoenix and take courses online. Though the school is accredited as traditional universities are, Marrone wondered if employers would be receptive to an online degree. “I was a little skeptical of it,” he admits. “But out there in the real world, we’ve got real problems and real demands. I couldn’t stop working.”

He treaded water in his career while attending school, but he emerged in 2008, five years after he first enrolled, armed with not only a bachelor’s degree but also a master’s in technology management. Despite his initial worries, he was pleased to find that potential employers had no qualms about his online education. Now Marrone is the information technology manager for building materials firm ASC Profiles. “They’re just looking for degrees,” he says. “No one looked any differently on an online degree than an on-campus degree.”

Marrone’s story is not uncommon. Many Americans opt to go back to school well beyond their teenage years. Some opt to do it to finally earn a bachelor’s degree and others in order to add a graduate degree to their résumés in hope of accelerating their careers. Either way, completing a college degree later in life can be a daunting task. Most who do so are supporting themselves—or a family—and can’t afford to take a few years off to complete an education. One way to circumvent this problem is to earn a degree online, which can be done from the comfort of home at a time convenient to the student. Those who have made that sacrifice say that balancing a full workday with an online class load is draining but ultimately worth it. “Being sleep deprived definitely did take its toll,” says Jessica Guberman, who received an online master’s degree in psychology from Capella University in 2001. “But I never got to the point where I wanted to stop doing it.”

Guberman, who jumped into a job in the nonprofit sector immediately after graduating from the State University of New York–New Paltz, soon realized that her aspirations to receive a master’s degree might be derailed by her 50-plus-hour-a-week job. A magazine ad for Capella piqued her interest and seemed like a viable solution. Still, she, like Marrone, had some reservations before she took the plunge. “I was a little hesitant because I hadn’t heard of anybody else doing it before,” she says. “I didn’t want to sit in front of a potential employer and have them say, ‘Nope, that [degree] doesn’t count.’ ”

But after reviewing Capella’s accreditation credentials, Guberman decided the school gave her the best option to support herself while advancing her education. Because Guberman attended the school in online education’s infancy, Capella offered her pointers for handling employers who might be wary of hiring someone with an online degree. In interviews, she was able to highlight how curriculum online was similar to that of traditional schools, and she claims that employers were impressed with her choice to attend school, online or not, while still working. Guberman is now the executive director for public relations at Community Options Enterprises, a nonprofit dedicated to helping the disabled.

Several years ago, Becky Bravo, who had a bachelor’s degree and nearly a decade of work experience, wanted to go back to school. A military wife, Bravo moves often with her family, and she felt a graduate degree would expedite her job search each time she moved. Unwilling to sacrifice time with her daughters in order to attend classes, Bravo turned to American InterContinental University‘s online program, and in 2009 she received a master’s degree in education. Last September, her husband’s job required the family to move from Texas to North Carolina, but Bravo’s new degree helped her land a job at a private school just 15 days after the move. The Bravos will be moving again, this time to Florida, at month’s end. Bravo is undaunted by an unemployment rate that remains above 10 percent and is confident that the skills she honed as an online student will earn her a job soon after arriving. “I don’t imagine it will be too difficult to find a job,” she says. “[Employers] expect you to be computer literate. They expect you to know your stuff.”


4 Steps to Financially Prepare Your Student for College

Talk about finances now, but know when to let your child slip up.

Young girl with hands on books at school with friends in background
Young girl with hands on books at school with friends in background


Heading off to freshman year of college is a gateway to new experiences—a time to explore academic interests, meet new people, and, for some students, embrace newfound financial independence.

“Sometimes, this is the first time that they’re actually starting to manage money on their own, without their parents being right there with them to help them along the way,” says Doug Schantz, director of the Office of Student Accounts at Ohio’s Wittenberg University and founder of CheapScholar.org. “For those of us who have been managing our finances, you assume that this is basic financial information—but the fact of the matter is, it really isn’t.”

For parents, preparing your student to be financially successful in college is a delicate balance between supplying enough funds and know-how for your child to get by and becoming so overly involved that he or she can’t fully flourish, both personally and financially. Here’s what to brief your students on before they head off to school—and what you should let your children learn on their own:

1. Don’t deposit and dash: For parents who plan to supply their student with extra spending money, realize that your offer is both incredibly generous and potentially hazardous, if you’re doling out a semester or year’s worth of cash without a loose framework of how that money should be divided, notes Houston Dougharty, vice president of student affairs at Grinnell College in Iowa. “Too often, I have worked with [parents] who, upon dropping off their student, say, ‘I’ve put $2,000 in your checking account for the year,’—and then that student is the most generous pizza buyer for the first month of college,” Dougharty says. “[By] October, they don’t have money to do laundry.”

Instead, talk to your students about the importance of intentional, incremental budgeting. Help them set up a month-to-month plan that allows for unexpected expenses, such as an off-campus dinner with hall mates or a few extra loads of wash. That conversation is also a great opportunity to be honest about what they can assume from you; if you expect your student to save money to cover the last two years of tuition, for example, or if he or she will be paying for textbooks out of pocket, mention that now, experts recommend.

2. Embrace—and limit—financial slip-ups: After helping with a budget framework, step out of the process and leave it to your son or daughter to make it work, recommends Jerry Weichman, a clinical psychologist in Newport Beach, Calif. “If your kid runs out of money [one] month, they’re not going to starve—they can buy some Ramen,” Weichman says. “One of the best things parents can do is to allow your kids to struggle financially for a little bit if they mismanage their money, because the consequences are so much easier for them now versus what that would equate to when they’re adults. You learn so much more from your mistakes than your successes.”

Still, parents who remove themselves don’t have to leave their students completely helpless. “You can put limits on how dangerous financial experiences can be,” notes June Walbert, financial planner at USAA Financial Planning Services. Encourage your student to get a debit card or a credit card with a low spending limit, she recommends, and recap his or her financial experience together at the end of each semester or school year. “Much of the learning during college happens outside the confines of the classroom, especially on the personal finance front,” Walbert says. “We want students to be free to make financial decisions, but within boundaries.”

3. Encourage financial freedom: Often, a part-time job—usually for about 10 hours a week—can help increase a student’s productivity, organization, and time management skills, claims Grinnell College’s Dougharty, in addition to providing a little financial leeway. If your student works, suggest the earnings be used as spending money—whether he or she chooses to put it toward laundry, occasional meals off campus, or extracurricular activities—rather than set costs such as tuition or room and board, Dougharty recommends. By choosing where to allocate earnings, students actively make a connection between money earned and money spent, and will likely be more effective at budgeting after college since, Dougharty says, “That’s what real life is like.”

4. Utilize web resources: Though releasing the tether from your soon-to-be college student may still be a terrifying thought, rest assured that neither you nor your student needs to tackle the upcoming challenges alone. With the help of the Internet, students have financial management resources at their fingertips. Check out Mint.com for help with your budget, recommends Katherine Cohen, founder of Ivywise.com; explore the government-run MyMoney.gov for advice on making informed financial decisions; or see if your school has a virtual financial literacy program that makes money issues fun and understandable, such as the program Schantz is currently implementing at Wittenberg University.

And if it gets tough making the shift from “daily parent to occasional coach,” as Grinnell’s Dougharty puts it, keep in mind that, after years of personal training within your family unit, allowing your student some leeway is a healthy route to tackling problems in school and beyond.

“Money management, conserving, saving for what you need, and tracking your expenses are parts of what any adult needs to be successful, let alone a college student,” counselor Weichman says. “Parents are teaching their kids not just how to deal with college, but how to deal with life.”


5 Financial Questions to Ask Before Getting an Online Degree

Students should find out about costs for the entire program – and what happens to financial aid if studies are interrupted.​

pic1If you’re not making progress toward your online degree, talk to a financial aid counselor, says one expert.


Online students have many of the same cost, financial aid and student loan questions​ as their counterparts attending brick-and-mortar schools.

But some unique money questions may arise as well.

“There are certainly a few regulations that online students should understand going into the process, given that so many of them are working adults, who attend college part-time,” said Susan Aldridge, president of Drexel University Online, in an email.

For example, enrolling in fewer than six credits or taking a semester or two off may affect aid or trigger loan repayment, says Aldridge.

Other questions may arise about how the program handles financial aid or transfers academic credits.

Below are five money questions that students should ask before pursuing an online degree.

Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Deana Coady, vice president of student financial aid for Apollo Education Group Inc., parent company of Western International University and University of Phoenix

What is this degree going to cost me, and how am I going to pay for it?
If you’re speaking with a school representative who cannot clearly give you the cost of the program, I’d suggest hanging up the phone. And don’t just think about cost over one year. You want to look at the entire experience as you would with a home or a car. Understand what it’ll cost you over the life of that program and think of loans as an investment.

Betty Vu, director of MBA and MPA programs, California State University—Dominguez Hills

How does the financial aid process work within the program? At some schools the online programs are not a very big component, so they might not have specific financial aid processes that cater to those online programs.

At my school, online programs are not a huge component, so I warn students that their financial aid disbursement is not going to go by the academic calendar. My online program runs on a quarterly system, but the university runs on a semester system.

So, my students can start school in June but the university doesn’t start until August and they don’t disburse financial aid funds until then. That might be a deal-breaker for some students.

Vicky Phillips, 
founder, GetEducated.com

Does your chosen school maintain scholarship programs just for older online degree seekers? 
Look for scholarships just for online degree seekers or adult students. But be wary of Internet ads that promise scholarships for studying online but that only let students use these scholarships at one school or at a group of specific for-profit colleges.

These “scholarship programs” are really advertisements paid for by the limited schools listed on the application forms. These programs are designed to get your name and contact data which is then sold for X amount to the ad client schools.

The schools listed on these programs pay Internet sites upwards of $100 for each student “lead” – that’s the ad term for your contact data – the sites are able to send to their telephone call or recruitment centers. Filling out one of these forms is a great way to end up on the relentless end of a telemarketing loop or email spam operation.

​Meg Benke, past president of the Online Learning Consortium and professor at SUNY—Empire State College

What happens if I need to take a break for an emergency? 
Ask what happens if you get out of step and need to move forward. And leave room in your schedule, so that when life happens, you can catch up. Recognize and give yourself room as a parent or someone caring for an elderly family member, whatever the circumstances. If you’re not making progress, you should immediately get in touch with the financial aid office or student services office. Financial aid has complicated regulations, and it takes a professional to help interpret them.

If you’re not making progress toward your online degree, talk to a financial aid counselor, says one expert.

Cheryl Storie, associate vice president for financial aid, University of Maryland University College

What are the real, fixed costs of this online program? Regulations governing federal financial aid require that schools include tuition and fees, room and board, books, transportation, personal and miscellaneous expenses in their cost of attendance, even though the majority of these costs don’t apply for online institutions.

So, you may be able to borrow to cover room and board, even though the institution doesn’t have dormitories, or transportation, even though you’re attending class online in your living room. You run the risk of over-borrowing, taking out $25,000 thinking that it covers a year’s worth of education, when tuition may have only cost $5,000 or $7,000. It’s not inaccurate, but it’s confusing. ​

Trying to fund your online education? Get tips and more in the U.S. News Paying for Online Education center.

pic3Susannah Snider is an education reporter at U.S. News, covering paying for college and graduate school. You can follow her on Twitter or email her at ssnider@usnews.com.