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Colleges Worry About Declining Enrollments, But You Should Sense Opportunity Amid the Turmoil

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Today’s New York Times includes an article about worried admissions officers across the land, especially at private colleges, who are noticing steep declines in the numbers of applications.  Conventional wisdom has it that the financial aid picture is so bad that students dare not dream of attending a private school for fear of being unable to afford it.
While it is true that some of the credit options for parents are a bit sketchy, college still have plenty of financial aid to give away–and perhaps fewer applicants to whom to give it.
What does this mean for you?  Well, it means that if you have played your cards right by applying to colleges that are both good fits for you and also likely to accept you, it’s altogether possible that your aid package may be sweetened as an incentive fo you to attend.
If admissions officers sense that they will have a hard time attracting good students, they may rejigger their aid offers in order to ensure that the size of their class does not decline.
It’s also possible that we will see a lot of movement on waiting lists this year, as colleges move to fill their classes in May.  This will primarily benefit students who are able to pay and who are not seeking large financial aid packages.
The students I really worry about are the ones who have applied to state colleges in the belief that this is the only place can afford.  Not only will classes be super-crowded at state colleges in the fall, but some will not be accepted.  And as state funding dries up, some public colleges are capping enrollment.  Some may actually accept fewer students in the past, leaving students who thought of their state college as a “safety” school are left hanging.
While it’s impossible to forecast all the craziness that this admissions season will bring, it’s important that students and their parents not lose their senses.  Good planning and a good strategy for admissions and financial aid will leave many folks with a variety of good options to choose from once those admissions letters come out in early April.
Mark Montgomery
College Counselor

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