|How to Gain Admission into Private High Schools and All Colleges, and How to Pay for Them
Every April, I receive two types of phone calls. One goes, my child just got turned down for their number one choice of schools; can you help me. The other goes, my child just got accepted into a school we can't afford; can you help me. The simple answer is no because I'm getting the calls too late in the process.
Let's deal with private high schools first. Preparation for high school admission starts the first day of school in the sixth grade of grammar school. Why? Because the high schools look at the three following things, in order of preference: entrance test results, 6th, 7th & 8th grade marks, and essays from the application. So, tell your students that every grade from the 6th grade on is important. Tell them to really prepare for the entrance exam; you can hire Kaplan or C2 to prepare your student; they both do great jobs (I hired both for 50 hours each for my son), or you can purchase the test preparation books for your student. As far as the essays go, your student must write compelling essays, saying things that the school won't read from other applicants' essays. Remember, great writing always occurs in the re-writing; when I write something important, I'm generally not satisfied until after the sixteenth re-write. I know it's painful, but these essays are important and can make a huge difference. One hint: tell your student to read the Gettysburg address before starting the writing.
Now, let's talk about easing the financial burden of private high school tuition:
1.) Get great grades in grammar school, score very high on the entrance exam, and write compelling essays on the admission's application, and receive a full merit scholarship. Every school wants smart and exceptional students.
2.) Forget the sticker price; every school lowers it for those accepted.
3.) Apply to Regis High School, probably the best high school in the country. They accept 130 students a year and all receive a full scholarship (my son goes to Regis). It's very difficult to gain admission. They want the 130 smartest boys out there, who can articulate their intelligence. They must be Catholic and Regis is in New York City, and is not a boarding school (I had to relocate to New York City so my son could attend). Believe what I say, the education is well worth it.
4.) Get your student into the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth's summer program. Again, it's very difficult to get into, but well worth it (my son attended the program the summers after his 6th and 7th grade). It's a great credential for your student's application.
5.) Get your student involved in some service project as every school looks for this.
6.) Have your student apply for the Caroline D. Bradley Scholarship, which gives a full four year scholarship to any school the student chooses and gets admitted to, regardless of price. The application must be submitted by April of the 7th grade and your student must take the SAT even though the scholarship is for high school.
7.) Apply for financial aid from the high school; be cognizant of their deadline. If the financial aid is not enough, write the president of the school and ask for more, but you must write a very compelling letter.
8.) In Los Angeles, you can put in for the Catholic Education Fund money, currently at $2,000 a year. Other areas probably have similar programs. As far as high schools go, the Bradley Scholarship, Catholic Education Fund, and the schools are your only financial resources.
9.) One other must do: have your student apply for the Jack Kent Cooke College Scholarship ($150,000); this must be done by April of the seventh grade.
One last thought on private high schools, as far as admissions go: A student can gain a leg up on the admission's process by entering some schools prior to the ninth grade, such as: Immaculate Heart (takes girls in @ 6th grade), Marlborough (takes girls in @ the 6th grade), Windward (takes boys & girls in @ 7th grade), and Buckley (takes boys & girls in @ kindergarten). These are all Los Angeles schools; I suspect that other areas have similar schools with the same arrangement. One more that I really like: St. Monica Academy in Pasadena: takes boys & girls in @ kindergarten and the school’s not as pricey as the others & an excellent education.
Now, on to the colleges!
Preparation for college admission begins on the first day a student enters high school because the colleges look at all grades earned during high school. Students should strive to achieve an A in every class they take. Let your teachers know that you plan on going to Harvard. Sit in the front row and ask lots of questions. Tell your teacher that you are willing to do extra work. Renegotiate a grade less than A. Make every one of your classes the most important class. Study daily and work hard. This way, you can pick your college, and perhaps get a full scholarship. By the way, you are forming the study habits, you will need in college.
Let's deal with some common misperceptions. I hear some people say the college is not important or worth the money. The only people who say these things are people who didn't graduate from college. No one who has graduated from college has ever regretted going. College changes people's lives for the better in all sorts of ways. The difference between a person who has a bachelor's degree and someone who doesn't represents a half a million dollars in lifetime earnings on the average. So unless you plan on playing for the NBA or making it big in entertainment, go to college. And, even if you plan on accomplishing the fore mentioned, go to college anyway. There are many benefits other than money. Lastly, college isn't about preparing you for a specific job; it's about making you an educated person, who will do well at the occupation of your choice, and the many other aspects of life. Not a day goes by where I haven't benefited from my education.
Let's talk about the SAT, which is the most important factor in college admissions. Prepare for it as much as you can for as long as you can. You can never start too soon and you can never over prepare. Don't neglect your school work, but budget some time, starting in 9th grade, to prepare. Buy the SAT preparation books (Barron's, Kaplan & SAT for Dummies); buy all of them. Consider going to Kaplan and C2. The SAT is about math and verbal skills: find resources @ the library to improve your skills in these areas; get vocabulary cards. Ask for help. Take as many practice exams as you can. Preparing for the SAT will also help you @ school.
Now, let's talk about the essay portion of the SAT. It's optional, take it any way as some colleges require it, and some don't even look at it. It generally calls for you to write an essay about a value. Go to Google, where you can find examples and guidance. If you work the area, you can achieve an 800 score and at the same time, hone your writing skills, which you will need to do for college and life.
Many people will encourage you to take the ACT; I don't unless a college you want to go to requires it. Then prepare for it. If the colleges you want to apply for don't require the ACT, then concentrate on the SAT. I can't stress the importance of this test enough. UCLA will not accept you without at least a 2100 out of 2400, and this is certainly true of the Ivy League Schools. Going to a really good school can change your life. Shoot for 2400.
Now, let’s talk about college selection, and where you should apply. I always recommend that my students apply to 4 University of California schools (selectively based on grades & SAT score; @ a sticker price of $33,000 for tuition & room and board, they are a good bang for the buck), 4 California State schools, a community college, and at least 1 private college. Now, how do you pick? Think about the following:
1.) Schools that match your academic profile. Go to College Green Light or College Board to find out what GPA & SAT they require.
2.) What do you want to major in? Find a school that offers the major of your interest.
3.) Geographically, where do you want to go?
4.) Do you want urban, suburban, rural or a college town?
5.) What type of campus life are you looking for? Go to College Green Light or College Express.
6.) What size college will you be comfortable at?
7.) History, Mission & Character of the school.
9.) Support Services
10.) Availability of internships & off campus jobs.
11.) Study aboard opportunities.
12.) Price & available financial aid.
You should definitely read Colleges That Change Lives. Please don't apply to too many schools as it is costly, a waste of time, and you could be depriving someone of admission; this is not a contest. Also, consider schools outside the country like Magill College in Canada.
Before I start the application section, I want to talk about a few schools and other items. I previously mentioned Colleges That Change Lives. These are great colleges that everyone should look at. Let me list them:
Agnes Scott College
Emory & Henry College
Ohio Wesleyan University
St. John's College
St. Olaf College
Ursinus College (JD Salinger's Alma Mater - The Catcher in the Rye)
The Evergreen State College
New College of Florida
Saint Mary's College of California (The Christian Brothers, I went on vacation for years with these guys)
University of Puget Sound
All huge schools with football teams, I'm kidding; although St. Mary's was the national champion in college football back in the 1940's, but that's another story. Most people have never heard of these schools; that's a shame because they are great schools. Take a look.
There are also some colleges you can attend for free or almost nothing. Here's the list:
Cooper Union (a great school, Lincoln announced his candidacy for president there)
College of the Ozarks
Deep Springs College
Warren Wilson College
US Coast Guard Academy
US Naval Academy
Alice Lloyd College
Merchant Marine Academy
Air Force Academy
Curtis Institute of Music
Macaulay Honors College
With the exception of Cooper Union and the academies, I know nothing about these colleges, so do your research.
Here's a list of colleges that will cover 100% of cost if you qualify and can substantiate a financial need:
Bryn Mawr College
California Institute of Technology
Claremont McKenna College
College of the Holy Cross
Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering
Harvey Mudd College
Johns Hopkins University
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Mount Holyoke College
St. Olaf College
Thomas Aquinas College
University of Chicago
University of North Carolina @ Chapel Hill
University of Notre Dame
University of Pennsylvania
University of Richmond
University of Virginia
Washington University - St. Louis
I want to mention a few more schools:
Bard College: takes in students after 10th grade of high school.
St. Francis College in NYC: a great bang for your buck.
Soka University: small, very generous school in California.
Solvenia: Americans can attend college in this country for free and classes are taught in English.
Germany: Same program as above.
University of The People: I do not like online schools, but I like this one. It offers undergraduate and graduate degrees tuition free. John Sexton, Chairman Emeritus of NYU and one of the best guys in higher education is affiliated with this program.
Lastly in this section, I want to talk about community colleges. Years ago, I would have given community colleges the thumbs down, but not anymore. They are a viable way to save money, get your core curriculum courses done, and gain entry into a good four year college. In California, community colleges can be your ticket into the University of California system. No one will ever ask you where you started. The question will be where did you graduate from with your Bachelor's degree. In Los Angeles, there's one special program I want to tell you about:
The Pace Program @ Pierce College, run out of the LAUSD building on Beaudry Avenue in downtown Los Angeles. They guarantee you your Associates degree in two years, very rare for a community college. You only go to class one evening a week and every other Saturday, but you go continuously all year round (no breaks). This is a great program for those who want to work, enjoy small class size, and want to attend class with slightly more mature and serious students. You won't get lost in this program.
Wow, there are a lot of schools out there, and I only mentioned a small percentage of them. Don't be overwhelmed, but do your research. College selection is one of the most important decisions you will make in your life.
By the way, do you want to know the best college? I will tell you. It's the one you end up going to because you make it the best.
Now, let's talk about the application, the essays, and what the admission people want to read. Most admission people want to blow their brains out after reading twenty applications, and many of them have to read thousands of them. They read the same things over and over again. Once in a while, an applicant really has something compelling to say, and those are the applications that win the day. If you have a very high SAT score and a great GPA, all you have to worry about is that your application is not illiterate. But, if you are like middle of the road applicants trying to squeeze into a college, you better have something extraordinary to say. If your student’s SAT and GPA are too low, there's probably nothing you can say to get in, and you shouldn't be applying to that particular college. Nobody gets lucky in this process. Colleges only want people, who can make it through their curriculum, and your SAT and GPA must demonstrate that you can. That's why in the section about choosing colleges to apply to, I suggested looking at the college's website to find out what the school requires. But, even if you meet the requirements, because it's so competitive, you still might not get accepted. This is where a well written application makes a huge difference. What the application is really asking is Why should the college admit you, and Why do you want to attend the college, and, furthermore, what makes you so special. The application is your interview, as most colleges don't do live interviews. Some do like the Ivy League schools and the Military Academies. You have one shot at a good application, so make it your best. There are no do overs. If you treat it like a form, you will lose.
Here are some suggestions:
1.) Incorporate this somewhere in your application: I am applying to your college because I truly believe it is a place, where I can establish a lifelong relationship, not only as a student, who will contribute to the overall success of the school, but also as a giving alumni, who will help future generations of students at the school. The Dean of Admissions will read this and run down to the President's office and tell him to read it. The biggest complaint that most college presidents have is that they educate people, who they never hear from after graduation.
2.) A college President once said to me, if you have a student who writes poetry, that student needs to tell us about it because we need a poet on our campus. Tell the school about things that made you special.
3.) Here's what they want to read in your application: a positive self-concept, confidence, character, determination, independence, a person who works hard and wants to broaden their individuality, a person who has a preference for long term goals, a person who takes advantage of a strong support network, someone who demonstrates leadership, someone involved with their community, and someone who has knowledge in a particular area.
4.) Tell them about the things you are passionate about.
5.) Talk about the obstacles you overcame and how you did it.
6.) Show a determination to get into their school.
7.) Talk about subjects you excelled in & your extra-curricular activities.
8.) Tell them about your awards.
9.) Tell them about any jobs you had.
10.) If you are the first in your family to attend college, if you are poor, if you have a disability, if your ethnicity will help, tell them about it.
11.) Tell them about the causes you care about.
12.) Tell them about your volunteering.
We all are special, and we all have a story to tell. Tell yours.
Now for the part, everyone has been waiting for: getting the money to pay for college. If there's a nickel out there for a kid to go to college, I know where that nickel is. I will now share it with you.
1.) Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): the federal government makes this grant available. Go to www.studentaid.ed.gov. Everyone should apply. Yes, the parents might make too many money for the student to qualify, but know that older parents can earn more because the government realizes that you have to save for retirement too.
2.) Cal Grants (most states have similar programs). You apply for this in conjunction with FAFSA. Non-Citizens (dreamers), who don't qualify for the federal grant, do qualify for this.
3.) Educational Opportunity Program: most states offer this too.
4.) Posse Foundation: a program that matches students with colleges that will give them a scholarship. Start looking @ this in your junior year.
5.) Quest Bridge: similar to Posse; again, start looking at it in your junior year.
6.) CAPPEX.Com: a tremendous resource for scholarships & grants (if I haven't said it, grants are free money).
7.) FASTWEB.Com: similar to CAPPEX.
Now, I'm going to list a lot of places to look at:
Gates Millennium Scholarships
Ebell of Los Angeles Scholarships
College Board Scholarship Search
Peierls Foundation Scholarships
Hispanic Scholarship Fund
DACA Eligible Scholarships
USHLI Scholarship Directory
Scholarship Search by Sallie Mae
Bogg Fee Waiver for community college
Hispanic Heritage Foundation
Ron Brown Scholar Program
Extraordinary College Essays (this doesn't belong in this section, but it is good)
How to Write a Winning Scholarship Essay (Google)
Ronald McDonald House Charities/Scholarships
AXA Community Scholarships
Asian & Pacific Islander Scholarship Fund
Community College Foundation Scholarship
The Never-Ending Scholarship Search on MSN Money
Hispanic Scholarship Fund
Stephen J. Brady Stop Hunger Scholarship
The Comcast Leaders and Achievers
Dell Scholars Program
The Princeton Prize in Race Relations
Optimist International Essay Contest
American Chemical Society
The Buick Achievers Scholarship Program
KFC Colonel's Scholars
National Peace Essay Contest for High School Students
ACLU Youth Activist Scholarship
The Fountainhead Essay Contest
Horatio Alger Association
Sister Thea Bowman Foundation
Francis P. Matthews and John E. Swift Educational Trust
Kaplan Educational Foundation
WGA Caddie Academy (full four year scholarship which includes room & board)
Student Loan Hero: The Complete List of Student Loan Forgiveness Programs & Options
Harold Alfound Foundation (will pay off 50% of your student debt)
Beinecke Scholarship (Graduate School)
America Needs You
Leadership Enterprise for A Diverse America
Enough, enough, there are literally tens of thousands of scholarships and grants. How can anyone say that there is no money for college? It takes an early start, organization, lots of work & effort, endurance, and good writing skills (this might turn a student into a good writer). Scholarships and grants fall into a few categories: merit, need, interest, service and affinity. They exist for everyone. Concentrate on the larger ones, know the deadlines, get organized, be realistic, and go to work.
Over the last five years, I have worked with 350 seniors of various levels of academic achievement; all were able to pay for college with grants and scholarships. My poster boy, Kevin takes in $43,000 a year to cover a $33,000 a year college expense; they are paying him to attend college (he had to file a tax return for the extra $10,000).
One special bonus: If you live in Los Angeles, have your student go to Heart of Los Angeles to enroll. They put students through a SAT prep course in junior year; then, they put them through a great college prep class in senior year, all ending with HOLA giving their students various college scholarships, which HOLA got for them. Last year, HOLA got $5,700,000 from a foundation to distribute to the students for college. How do I know? I've worked @ HOLA on a voluntary basis for five years (see Bob Terry/Heart of Los Angeles on Google).
A couple of final thoughts:
I have a passion for education. I strongly feel that children have a birthright to a good education. I will do anything I can to help a child receive an education. I have donated to schools for years, and have given out many college scholarships. I established The Grace I. Terry Scholarship @ St. Francis College in honor of my deceased mother so that there will always be a student there under her scholarship. I currently pay tuition for 21 students in Los Angeles attending Catholic grammar and high schools. Why do I tell you this? Because, as a student, people helped me, and all I ask of the students I help is that, in the future, they help someone.
Lastly, once you get into college, please don't squander the opportunity. Colleges have very high dropout rates. It is a crime to see a student succeed @ getting into a college, and then fail. Go to class, pay attention, do the work, and study hard. You will never regret it.
Good luck! If you have any questions, just email email@example.com or call me at 646-590-1512.