Friday, December 24, 2010

Early Decision / Early Action Results are In .... Deferment, Acceptance, and Rejection

Commentary by Lauren Kahn, Educational Consultant / CEO of Lone Star Ed Consulting, LLC

By Caralee Adams from Ed Week written on December 19th, 2010

"Early Decision Up, Yet Still Small Part of Admissions Pie"

Lunch rooms, hallways and Facebook are abuzz with news of who got in where as colleges begin to send out early decision and early action notices this month. Perhaps I'm hearing about it more because I have a high school student or is this the new pathway into college?

First, to clarify the terms:

Early decision is when a student applies to his first-choice school and, if accepted, the decision is binding.

Early action is similar to early decision, but the student doesn't have to commit immediately. She can still apply to other colleges and wait to make a decision until spring.

(Lauren Kahn says that if you have any hesitancy about your first choice, go with early action and do not sign up for the early decision option. The elite universities do share information in secretive ways about their accepted students. If a student that has been accepted early decision backs out for non-financial driven reasons, they could be penalized in the regular decision pool with other universities.)

About 18 percent of colleges offer early decision and 24 percent have early action plans, according to the 2010 State of Admissions Report by the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). These plans are more common at private colleges.

(Harvard, Princeton, and University of Virginia eliminated the early decision option from their application process in 2007, announcing it in the fall of 2006. A commenter from the Huffington Post writes, "Students need several backup schools in order to evaluate their financial aid packages across a wide range of schools. Yes, Harvard, Amherst, and a couple other schools have widely hailed scholarshi­p programs for poor students. It is middle income students - family income between $60,000 - $100,000 that are facing the highest stress and uncertaint­y.”

For students who have their hearts set on a school, it can boost their chance of getting in over the regular admission process. Colleges with early decision policies reported a higher acceptance rate for their early decision applicants as compared to all applicants (70 percent versus 55 percent), and the gap between the acceptance rates has grown in recent years.

Students are catching on. For the third year in a row, about half (47 percent) of colleges reported increases in the number of early decision applications and nearly three-quarters (74 percent) had an increase in early action applications.

(For University of Pennsylvania, applying early decision is actively encouraged amongst Penn Alumni as a strategy to boost their chances for admission) See below these startling statitistics.

Penn’s approximate admit rates over the last five years:

The admit rate for legacy applicants in the early decision pool is between 38 - 42%, while the non-legacy admit rate for students applying early decision is between 28-42%.

Here is what may shock you: The regular admit rate for students that are legacy and non-legacy is between 13-15%. For the full-cycle the admit rate is 32% - 34% for students that are legacy and 16% - 18% for non-legacy. See the complete memo from Penn Alumni here.  

While legacies are admitted at a slightly higher rate, particularly during the Early Decision round, the Alumni Office is very sensitive to the fact that nearly two-thirds of legacy applicants are not admitted to Penn each year. (If you would like to review the most current statistics for University of Pennsylvania, we encourage you to visit the Admissions Incoming Class Profile: Colleges are finding it's (EA and ED) a helpful tool, as well to gauge who is most interested in their school. About 65 percent of colleges report admitting more students under these plans in 2009, and 43 percent in 2008 also reported an increase.

Still, early decision applicants represent only a small portion of the total applicant pool at colleges that have these policies. Only 7 percent of all applications for fall 2009 admission to early decision colleges were received through early decision, the NACAC report showed.

So, it's somewhat of a gutsy move to go early decision—a little less so for early action. Both scenarios require students to be focused and get their act together early in their senior year. Those lucky ones who now know where they are headed next fall can enjoy the holidays—hopefully with no second thoughts about their commitment—while many of their classmates will spend winter break filling out more applications and agonizing in the coming months about their future.

Well, here are the EA/ ED results in thus far compiled from

MIT: On Thursday, the first 772 students were invited to join the Class of 2015. MIT received 6,405 early action applicants, and those accepted have until May to commit. (Admissions Web site)

Yale: On Wednesday officials announced they had invited 761 students to join the Class of 2015. The school had 5,257 early applicants, denied admission to 1,497 and deferred 2,952 students to the regular decision round. The early action program is non-binding. (Yale Daily News article)

Johns Hopkins: On Wednesday morning, admission officials mailed acceptance letters to 518 students who were selected from a pool of 1,330 early-decision applications. Then, starting at 6 p.m. they hit send on an e-mail alert to all of the applicants. Those accepted are expected to pull all other applications and attend Hopkins. (Hopkins Insider live blog)

Georgetown: Officials announced Wednesday they had accepted 1,120 students from a pool of 6,654 early applicants. The early-action program is non-binding, and students have until May 1 to commit. (Press release)

Duke: On Tuesday evening, officials e-mailed 645 students and welcomed them to the Class of 2015. More than 2,200 students applied to the early decision program this year, and those accepted are expected to enroll. (Duke Chronicle article)

Dartmouth: This week officials announced they had accepted 444 students from a pool of 1,759 early-decision applicants. The deadline for admitted students to declare their intent to enroll is later this month. (Press release)

University of Pennsylvania: Early applicants sat at their computers Friday afternoon waiting to check the admissions website at 3 p.m. Out of a pool of 4,571, the university accepted about 1,195 students. The offer is binding and students are only allowed to apply early to one school. (Daily Penn article)

Stanford: Friday afternoon officials e-mailed more than 5,900 early applicants — 754 were accepted, and about 500 were deferred. Students have until May 1 to accept. (Stanford Daily article)

University of Notre Dame: They accepted 1940 students out of the 5300 applications they received. They accepted approximately 36% of those that applied EA for the graduating class of 2011. They had an increase of 21.4% in applications for early action.

Chart Below from NY Time Choice Blog:

More from the NY Times Choice Blog:

New York University said it had received 3,125 applications by the Nov. 1 deadline for its binding, early decision program. While that is about as many as last year at this time, the figures are not comparable; this year, as opposed to last, the university is enabling students to apply during a second round of early decision, with a deadline of Jan. 1.

Among colleges with nonbinding early-action programs — in which those accepted can wait until spring to make their decisions — early applications to the University of Chicago are up 18.5 percent; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, about 15 percent; Georgetown, nearly 9 percent; and Boston College, 7 percent.

Lauren Kahn notes: Don't panic if you applied early action or early decision, and received a deferrment or rejection from one of these elite schools above. There is time to regroup and apply to several other schools that could be a great college match for you over this winter break. (January 1st and January 15th are the most common deadlines for regular decision applications.) I do not believe in the soulmate concept for college. I believe there are several schools that are ideal for each candidate and it is what you make of your college experience. In order to give yourself the optimum number of choices for college, have several people that you revere, review your college applications.

Lone Star Ed Consulting offers essay and resume editing services and can provide rush services for a fee. 


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The information was provided by Lauren Kahn, CEO of Lone Star Ed Consulting. If you would like more information about Lone Star Ed Consulting's college planning services, please e-mail Lauren Kahn or call her at 512-294-6608. You can also view LSEDC's brochure here.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Myths and Truths on the Legacy Factor in College Admissions

10 Myths About Legacy Preferences in College Admissions (some are half-truths in my opinion)

Brought to you by Lauren Kahn, Educational Consultant, from Lone Star Ed Consulting
Originally published in The Chronicle of Higher Education

 By Richard D. Kahlenberg

Legacy preferences, which provide a leg up in college admissions to applicants who are the offspring of alumni, are employed at almost three-quarters of selective research universities and virtually all elite liberal-arts colleges. Yet legacy preferences have received relatively little public attention, especially when compared with race-based affirmative-action programs, which have given rise to hundreds of books and law-review articles, numerous court decisions, and several state initiatives to ban the practice.
The secrecy surrounding legacy preferences has perpetuated a number of myths, including the following:
1. Legacy preferences are just a "tie breaker" in close calls. MYTH

While some colleges and universities try to play down the impact of legacy preferences, calling them "tie breakers," research from Princeton's Thomas Espenshade suggests that their weight is significant, on the order of adding 160 SAT points to a candidate's record (on a scale of 400-1600). Likewise, William Bowen, of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and colleagues found that, within a given SAT-score range, being a legacy increased one's chances of admission to a selective institution by 19.7 percentage points. That is to say, a given student whose academic record gave her a 40-percent chance of admissions would have nearly a 60-percent chance if she were a legacy.

The children of alumni generally make up 10 to 25 percent of the student body at selective institutions. The proportion varies little from year to year, suggesting "an informal quota system," says the former Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Golden. By contrast, at the California Institute of Technology, which does not use legacy preferences, only 1.5 percent of students are children of alumni.

2. Legacy preferences have an honorable history of fostering loyalty at America's great institutions of higher learning. MYTH

In fact, as Peter Schmidt, of The Chronicle, notes, legacies originated following World War I as a reaction to an influx of immigrant students, particularly Jews, into America's selective colleges. As Jews often outcompeted traditional constituencies on standard meritocratic criteria, universities adopted Jewish quotas. When explicit quotas became hard to defend, the universities began to use more-indirect means to limit Jewish enrollment, including considerations of "character," geographic diversity, and legacy status.

3. Legacy preferences are a necessary evil to support the financial vitality of colleges and universities—including the ability to provide scholarships for low-income and working-class students. HALF TRUTH

While universities claim that legacy preferences are necessary to improve fund raising, there is little empirical evidence to support the contention. In fact, several colleges and universities that do not employ legacy preferences nevertheless do well financially. As Golden notes, Caltech raised $71-million in alumni donations in 2008, almost as much as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ($77-million), even though MIT, which does provide legacy preferences, is five times the size and has many more alumni to tap. Berea College, in Kentucky, favors low-income students, not alumni, yet has a larger endowment than Middlebury, Oberlin, Vassar, and Bowdoin. And Cooper Union, in New York City, does not provide legacy preference but has an endowment larger than that of Bucknell, Haverford, and Davidson.

Moreover, a study included in our new book, Affirmative Action for the Rich, finds no evidence that alumni preferences increase giving. Chad Coffman, of Winnemac Consulting, and his co-authors examined alumni giving from 1998 to 2007 at the top 100 national universities (as ranked by U.S. News & World Report) to test the relationship between giving and the existence of alumni preferences in admissions. They found that institutions with preferences for children of alumni did have higher annual giving per alumnus ($317 versus $201), but that the advantage resulted because the alumni in colleges with alumni preferences tended to be wealthier. Controlling for the wealth of alumni, they found "no evidence that legacy-preference policies themselves exert an influence on giving behavior." After controls, alumni of legacy-granting institutions gave only $15.39 more per year, on average, but even that slight advantage was uncertain from a statistical perspective. Coffman and his colleagues conclude: "After inclusion of appropriate controls, including wealth, there is no statistically significant evidence of a causal relationship between legacy-preference policies and total alumni giving at top universities."

The researchers also examined giving at seven institutions that dropped legacy preferences during the period of the study. They found "no short-term measurable reduction in alumni giving as a result of abolishing legacy preferences." For example, after Texas A&M eliminated the use of legacy preferences, in 2004, donations took a small hit, but then they increased substantially from 2005 to 2007.

Nor can legacy preferences be said to be necessary for colleges to maintain high standards of excellence. It is intriguing to note that, among the top 10 universities in the world in 2008, according to the widely cited Shanghai Jiao Tong University rankings, are four (Caltech, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Oxford, and the University of Cambridge) that do not employ legacy preferences.

4. After a generation of affirmative action, legacy preferences are finally beginning to help families of color. Pulling the rug out now would hurt minority students.

In fact, legacy preferences continue to disproportionately hurt students of color. John Brittain, a former chief counsel at the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, and the attorney Eric Bloom note that underrepresented minorities make up 12.5 percent of the applicant pool at selective colleges and universities but only 6.7 percent of the legacy-applicant pool. At Texas A&M, 321 of the legacy admits in 2002 were white, while only three were black and 25 Hispanic. At Harvard, only 7.6 percent of legacy admits in 2002 were underrepresented minorities, compared with 17.8 percent of all students. At the University of Virginia, 91 percent of early-decision legacy admits in 2002 were white, 1.6 percent black, and 0.5 percent Hispanic.
Moreover, this disparate impact is likely to extend far into the future. In 2008, African-Americans and Latinos made up more than 30 percent of the traditional college-aged population but little more than 10 percent of the enrollees at the U.S. News's top 50 national universities.

5. An attack on legacy preferences could indirectly hurt affirmative-action policies by suggesting that "merit" is the only permissible basis for admissions. MYTH

The elimination of legacy preferences would not threaten the future of affirmative action, because the justifications are entirely different. Affirmative-action policies to date have survived strict scrutiny because they enhance educational diversity. (For some members of the Supreme Court, though not a majority, affirmative action also has been justified as a remedy for centuries of brutal discrimination.) Legacy preferences, by contrast, have no such justification.

Because they disproportionately benefit whites, legacy preferences reduce, rather than enhance, racial and ethnic diversity in higher education. And rather than being a remedy for discrimination, they were born of discrimination. Affirmative action engenders enormous controversy because it pits two great principles against each other—the antidiscrimination principle, which says we should not classify people by ancestry, and the anti-subordination principle, which says we must make efforts to stamp out illegitimate hierarchies. Legacy preferences, by contrast, advance neither principle: They explicitly classify individuals by bloodline and do so in a way that compounds existing hierarchy.

6. Legacy preferences may be unfair, but they are not illegal. Unlike discrimination based on race, which is forbidden under the 14th Amendment, it is perfectly legal to discriminate based on legacy status, as the courts have held.

Remarkably, legacy preferences have been litigated only once in federal court, by an applicant to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill named Jane Cheryl Rosenstock, in the 1970s. A New York resident whose application was rejected, she claimed that her constitutional rights were violated by a variety of preferences, including those for in-state applicants, minorities, low-income students, athletes, and legacies. Rosenstock was not a particularly compelling candidate—her combined SAT score was about 850 on a 1600-point scale, substantially lower than most out-of-state applicants—and she was also a weak litigant. She never argued that, because legacy preferences are hereditary, they presented a "suspect" classification that should be judged by the "strict scrutiny" standard under the amendment's equal-protection clause.

The district-court judge in the case, Rosenstock v. Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina, held that it was rational to believe that alumni preferences translate into additional revenue to universities, although absolutely no evidence was provided for that contention. The decision was never appealed. As Judge Boyce F. Martin Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit notes, the 1976 opinion upholding legacy preferences in Rosenstock addressed the issue "in a scant five sentences" and is "neither binding nor persuasive to future courts."

A generation later, two new legal theories are available to challenge legacy preferences. First, Carlton Larson, a law professor at the University of California at Davis, lays out the case that legacy preferences at public universities violate a little-litigated constitutional provision that "no state shall ... grant any Title of Nobility." Examining the early history of the country, Larson makes a compelling case that this prohibition should not be interpreted narrowly as simply prohibiting the naming of individuals as dukes or earls, but more broadly, to prohibit "government-sponsored hereditary privileges"—including legacy preferences at public universities. Reviewing debates in the Revolutionary era, he concludes: "Legacy preferences at exclusive public universities were precisely the type of hereditary privilege that the Revolutionary generation sought to destroy forever." The founders, Larson writes, would have resisted "with every fiber of their being" the idea of state-supported-university admissions based even in part on ancestry.

Second, the attorneys Steve Shadowen and Sozi Tulante argue that legacy preferences are a violation of the 14th Amendment's equal-protection clause. While the amendment was aimed primarily at stamping out discrimination against black Americans, it also extends more broadly to what Justice Potter Stewart called "preference based on lineage." Individuals are to be judged on their own merits, not by what their parents do, which is why the courts have applied heightened scrutiny to laws that punish children born out of wedlock, or whose parents came to this country illegally.

Shadowen and Tulante argue that legacy preferences at private universities, too, are illegal, under the Civil Rights Act of 1866. Unlike Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which outlaws discrimination only on the basis of "race, color, or national origin," the 1866 law prohibits discrimination on the basis of both "race" and "ancestry."

7. Legacy preferences—like affirmative action, geographic preferences, and athletics preferences—are protected by academic freedom, especially at private universities and colleges.

It is true that the courts have recognized that colleges and universities should be given leeway in admissions in order to promote academic freedom. But that freedom is not unlimited, even at private institutions. As Peter Schmidt notes, the Supreme Court held, in Runyon v. McCrary (1976), that private schools could not engage in racial discrimination in admissions. In Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), it struck down the use of racial quotas. And in the 2003 Gratz v. Bollinger decision, the court invalidated a policy that awarded bonus points to minority students. Ancestry discrimination—providing a leg up in admissions based not on merit but on whether a student's parents or grandparents attended a particular university or college—likewise falls outside the protected zone of academic freedom.

8. Legacy preferences have been around a long time and are unlikely to ever go away, because powerful political forces support them.

In fact, legacy preferences are not only legally vulnerable; they are politically vulnerable as well. Polls find that Americans oppose legacy preferences by 75 percent to 23 percent, and in the past decade or so, 16 leading institutions have abandoned them. As affirmative-action programs come under increasing attack, legacy preferences become even harder to justify politically.

Moreover, as a matter of tax law, legacy preferences are fundamentally unstable. Assuming it is true that they entice alumni to provide larger donations than they otherwise would—a claim that has not been empirically proven—then IRS regulations raise questions about whether those donations should be tax deductible. If universities and colleges are conferring a monetary benefit in exchange for donations, then the arrangement, writes the journalist Peter Sacks, "shatters the first principle underlying the charitable deduction, that donations to nonprofit organizations not 'enrich the giver.'" The IRS regulations place universities in a legal Catch-22: Either donations are not linked to legacy preferences, in which case the fundamental rationale for ancestry discrimination is flawed; or giving is linked to legacy preferences, in which case donations should not be tax deductible.

9. Legacy preferences don't keep nonlegacy applicants out of college entirely. They just reduce the chances of going to a particular selective college, so the stakes are low.

True, legacy preferences don't bar students from attending college at all. But the benefits of attending a selective institution are substantial. For one thing, wealthy selective colleges tend to spend a great deal more on students' education. Research finds that the least-selective colleges spend about $12,000 per student annually, compared with $92,000 per student at the most-selective ones. In addition, wealthy selective institutions provide much greater subsidies for families. At the wealthiest 10 percent of institutions, students pay, on average, just 20 cents in fees for every dollar the college spends on them, while at the poorest 10 percent of institutions, students pay 78 cents for every dollar spent on them. Furthermore, selective colleges are better than less-selective institutions at graduating equally qualified students. And future earnings are, on average, 45 percent higher for students who graduated from more-selective institutions than for those from less-selective ones, and the difference in earnings ends up being widest among low-income students. Finally, according to research by the political scientist Thomas Dye, 54 percent of America's corporate leaders and 42 percent of governmental leaders are graduates of just 12 institutions. For all those reasons, legacy preferences matter.
10. Everyone does it.

Legacies are just an inherent reality in higher education throughout the world.
In fact, as Daniel Golden writes, legacy preferences are "virtually unknown in the rest of the world"; they are "an almost exclusively American custom." The irony, of course, is that while legacies are uniquely American, they are also deeply un-American, as Michael Lind, of the New America Foundation, has argued.
Thomas Jefferson famously sought to promote in America a "natural aristocracy" based on "virtue and talent," rather than an "artificial aristocracy" based on wealth. "By reserving places on campus for members of the pseudo-aristocracy of 'wealth and birth,'" Lind writes, "legacy preferences introduce an aristocratic snake into the democratic republican Garden of Eden."

For the most part, American higher education has sought to democratize, opening its doors to women, to people of color, and to the financially needy. Legacy preferences are an outlier in that trend, a relic that has no place in American society. In a fundamental sense, this nation's first two great wars—the Revolution and the Civil War—were fought to defeat different forms of aristocracy. That this remnant of ancestry-based discrimination still survives—in American higher education, of all places—is truly breathtaking.
Richard D. Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, is the editor of Affirmative Action for the Rich: Legacy Preferences in College Admissions, being published this month by the Century Foundation Press.

The information was provided by Lauren Kahn, CEO of Lone Star Ed Consulting. If you would like more information about Lone Star Ed Consulting's college planning services, please e-mail Lauren Kahn or call her at 512-294-6608. You can also view LSEDC's brochure here.

    Tuesday, August 31, 2010

    National Merit Finalist Contest: PSAT Cut Off Scores are in for 2011 Class

    Written by Lauren Kahn, Educational Consultant / CEO of Lone Star Ed Consulting, LLC

    Updated on January 2011
    Before we delve into the "overachiever" scores for the 2009 PSAT (Class of 2011), I want to put things in perspective. If you are a national merit semi finalist for the 2010/2011 school year, you performed exceptionally well on this standardized test and scored in the top 1% of your state. Bravo to you. To see the next steps in the process to cementing your place as a National Merit Finalist and possible scholarship recipient, click here.

    According to the College Board, the average Selection Index for students in eleventh grade is about a 141. Note: Only students in eleventh grade are eligible to enter NMSC scholarship programs. This score is equivalent to about a 1000 on the CR and Math combined for the SAT. The PSAT Selection Index, which is used to determine eligibility in National Merit Scholarship Corporation programs (NMSC), is the sum of the three scores in each test section (CR + M + W). The Selection Index ranges from 60 to 240.

    Thursday, June 3, 2010

    Women in College Exceed Men ... The Gap is Widening

    Written by Educational Consultant, Lauren Kahn, M.A., CEO of Lone Star Ed Consulting   
    Commentary from Nancy Greisemer of College Explorations and Mark Perry from University of Michigan (Flint)

    When I graduated from Emory University in the late '90s, there was nearly an equal ratio of 1:1, women to men in my undergraduate class. Today, 52% are female and 48% are male. This may not seem like a significant gap, but let me break it down for you in numbers. In a freshman class of 1300, there will be 52 more women than men, which means it will be even harder for a woman to get a date on campus, much less find a nice gentleman to help her with her heavy groceries. All kidding aside, whenever there is a significant gender discrepancy in any direction, it affects the college climate.

    Women continue to account for a disproportionate share of the enrollments at postsecondary institutions.

    Wednesday, June 2, 2010

    The Graduation Gap in Texas Universities

    Reprinted from and brought to you by Lauren Kahn M.A., lead college consultant from Lone Star Ed Consulting, LLC 512-294-6608

      The Graduation Gap in Texas Universities 

      Picture of Texas State University Business School by Lauren Kahn
      For years, Texas universities have focused on getting more students, particularly low-income students, onto their campuses. The hard part, it turns out, is getting them to leave — with degrees.
      Of the 32 Texas state universities tracked by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics, only five schools have self-reported graduation rates above 50 percent.
      The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University have the highest graduation rates: Both graduate 78 percent of their students in six or fewer years, but that's still a step behind national peers like the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of Michigan, which graduate 90 percent and 88 percent, respectively.

      Thursday, April 8, 2010

      Post April 1st ... The Countdown To Making Your Final College Choice

      Written by Educational Consultant, Lauren Kahn, M.A., CEO of Lone Star Ed Consulting  

      It is now post April 1st and you still have not made your final decision on where to attend college next year. Perhaps, you got offered the wait list from your first choice school, but a great scholarship opportunity from your "safety" choice. Maybe, you have decided you would like to defer going to college for a year.  What to do?  No need to fret just yet. 

      Please find below some helpful guidelines and blogs on how to make this life altering decision more palatable.  

      Monday, March 22, 2010

      March Madness Impact on College Admissions

      Written by Educational Consultant, Lauren Kahn, M.A., CEO of Lone Star Ed Consulting

      It is "March Madness" in NCAA College basketball and this year has been captivating in terms of the number of bracket busters, buzzer beater games, and Cinderella teams in the Sweet 16. Unfortunately, the Texas Longhorns did not come out on top after their 1 point loss to Wakeforest in round one.

      So, how does this relate to college admissions? Through history from the past 30 years, college basketball teams that make the cut for the Sweet 16 may boost the number of students applying to their schools by as much as 3 percent next year, while the winner of the NCAA basketball tournament, often called "March Madness," may see a 7 percent to 8 percent jump in applications, according to a Virginia Tech researcher.

      March Madness creates heightened emotions amongst college and high school students across the country. Let me take a brief moment to educate the virgin to "March Madness."

      Wednesday, March 10, 2010

      Campus Visit Guide

      Provided by Lauren Kahn M.A., Educational Consultant / CEO of Lone Star Ed Consulting, LLC

      Maximizing the College Campus Visit
      Sophomores, Juniors, Seniors ....
      What college campuses will you visit this spring break?

      College Campus Visit Guide
      Top 10 Ways to Test Drive a College, with Some Added Features

      Brown University - Spring 2007
      by: Lauren Kahn, M.A.

      NOTE: If you are staying in town this spring break and live in the Austin metro area, you may want to consider attending Lone Star Ed Consulting's Essay & Resume Writing Workshop. March 15th - March 19th, 2010. For details, click here.  
      Lone Star Ed Consulting will provide you the first six tips in this blog. Contact us directly if you would like to receive the remaining college campus visit tips or call us at 512-294-6608 to schedule a college planning consultation. We serve families throughout Texas, California, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington DC.    

      1. Timing of Your Visit - Lauren highly recommends visiting a college campus during the academic school year. Try and visit a campus while school is in full swing to get an accurate picture of everyday college life. A prime time to visit is during your high school spring break. Colleges often have spring breaks at different times. Check which schools do not overlap with your break and start your college visit planning.

      College Tool Kit reports, "Although summer might be the most convenient time to make such excursions, it is the worst time to experience a college; most smaller schools are not in session, so students and classes are absent. Dorm rooms are empty and devoid of all personal touches, making it difficult to envision oneself there. Bulletin boards, usually so revealing of the cultural and social opportunities of the college, are bare. The campus grounds, on the other hand, look neater and cleaner than they will look again the entire year."

      Thursday, February 11, 2010

      Blizzard Delays Impact the ACT Too

      Reprinted by Educational Consultant, Lauren Kahn, CEO of Lone Star Ed Consulting  512-294-6608

      Written by Nancy Greisemer of College Explorations

      Among the casualties of the first blizzard to hit the DC area were the many ACT tests scheduled for last Saturday. Most—but not all—test locations rescheduled and posted new dates on the ACT website. They range from as early as next Saturday, February 13 to as late as February 27.

      If you were supposed to take the February 6 ACT, at one of the centers closed for snow, you should be notified of the rescheduled date and given complete instructions. This process is taking time as many of the centers have been continuously closed since the original storm.

      Tuesday, January 26, 2010

      PSAT: National Merit Scores Are In - Did you make the cut?

      Written by Lauren Kahn, Educational Consultant / CEO of Lone Star Ed Consulting, LLC

      Updated on August 31, 2010
      Before we delve into the "overachiever" scores for the 2008 PSAT (Class of 2010), I want to put things in perspective. If you are a national merit semi finalist for the 2009/2010 school year, you performed exceptionally well on this standardized test and scored in the top 1% of your state. Bravo to you. To see the next steps in the process to cementing your place as a National Merit Finalist and possible scholarship recipient, click here.

      According to the College Board, the average Selection Index for students in eleventh grade is about a 141. Note: Only students in eleventh grade are eligible to enter NMSC scholarship programs. This score is equivalent to about a 1000 on the CR and Math combined for the SAT. The PSAT Selection Index, which is used to determine eligibility in National Merit Scholarship Corporation programs (NMSC), is the sum of the three scores in each test section (CR + M + W). The Selection Index ranges from 60 to 240.

      Wednesday, January 20, 2010

      University of Texas at Austin Ends Sponsor of National Merit Scholars

      Reprinted from The Chronicle, with additions from The Daily Texan
      By Elyse Ashburn

      Provided by Lauren Kahn, Educational Consultant, Lone Star Ed Consulting, LLC

      Starting in the fall of 2010, the University of Texas at Austin will end its scholarship program for National Merit Scholars, instead devoting more money to need-based aid amid mounting budget pressures.

      "When we looked at what was happening in the economy, we decided it was important to redirect resources to make sure that all students that are qualified to be admitted to the university are able to attend regardless of need," said Tom Melecki, director of student financial services.

      The university will honor the National Merit Scholarships of current students, Mr. Melecki said, and it will continue to offer both universitywide and departmental merit-based scholarships for which scholars will be strongly considered.

      Previously, the university had awarded most National Merit Scholars $13,000 over four years. In 2008, the university sponsored 213 of the 281 freshmen at Texas who were selected by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation competition. It enrolled more freshman scholars that year than any college other than Harvard University, according to data provided by the corporation.

      Students enter the competition by taking the PSAT by their junior year, and must score above a certain cutoff, which varies by year and state. Of the 1.5 million students who compete, about 16,000 are selected as semifinalists based on their scores. From that group about 15,000 are selected as finalists based on academic performance and their SAT scores.

      Recently, the National Association for College Admission Counseling criticized the program for using PSAT cutoff scores as the primary factor in selecting scholars. Admissions tests, the group argues, are not designed to serve as the primary screen for scholarship applicants, and should only be considered as one of many qualifications.

      In a letter to NACAC, the College Board, which owns the PSAT and is a partner of the scholarship corporation, defended the selection process, saying that it is the fairest way to evaluate 1.5 million students a year and that the PSAT serves as an "access and equity tool" because it introduces many low-income students to the college-going process.

      Mr. Melecki said Texas' decision had nothing to do with how the scholarship program is run. Rather, it was one of the easiest merit-based aid programs to end because most such scholarships at the university are endowed by private donors. The National Merit Scholarships were primarily paid for by the university, but about 20 percent of their cost was covered by an endowment.

      The Daily Texan provided this perspective and praised the administration's decision to end National Merit Finalist large financial awards.
      Those who argue that canceling this program signals that the current administration is not dedicated to attracting top students are wrong. The University still has hundreds of merit-based scholarship programs to attract top students that test well. The Austin-American Statesmen notes that the University will award more than $60 million in aid that is wholly or largely merit-based, even after ending this program. The choice to end the National Merit Scholarship program should be applauded. It brings UT closer to competing with top universities for truly top students and further from the pool of mid-tier colleges desperate to attract Merit scholars.
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      Monday, January 18, 2010

      College Applications on the Rise for Class of 2014

      Provided by: Lauren Kahn, M.A. from Lone Star Ed Consulting, LLC 512-294-6608

      USA Today reports, "College applicants are facing one of the toughest years ever to gain admission to the nation's public colleges and universities as schools grapple with deep budget cuts and record numbers of applications. As cash-poor state governments slash budgets, colleges are capping or cutting enrollment despite a
      surge in applications from high school seniors, community college students and unemployed workers returning to school." 

      Saturday, January 16, 2010

      FAFSA: Priority Deadlines ... File Just in Case

      By: Lauren Kahn, M.A. from Lone Star Ed Consulting, LLC 512-294-6608 
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      Don't jeopardize your son or daughter's opportunity to attend their dream college by not applying for financial aid. You may have heard stories from friends where families did not apply to the FAFSA, because they assumed they did not qualify, only to find out later that they lost out on some serious grant money or loans to finance their children's education. According to the Department of Education, the U.S. government will provide more than $116 billion this year to help millions of students and families pay for post-secondary education. All federal aid applicants, regardless of family income, are eligible to participate in the unsubsidized Stafford loan program. 

      Saturday, January 9, 2010

      FAFSA - The definition of a "parent" according to the government

      Are you a parent or step-parent of a student about to go off to college? If yes, read on ...

      Here are some answers to possible questions regarding who qualifies as a “parent” in the financial aid process. You might be surprised by some of the results.

      Definition of a parent for financial aid purposes
      What is a dependent student for financial aid purposes?

      Dependency is not based on age of the student, but on a series of questions that the student answers on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Dependent students must provide both student and parent information on the FAFSA. For the 2009-2010 academic year, a student is considered dependent on his or her parents if he or she answers "No" to all of the following questions:

      o Were you born before January 1, 1986?

      o As of today, are you married? (Answer “Yes” if you are separated but not divorced.)

      o At the beginning of the 2009–2010 school year, will you be working on a master’s or doctorate program (such as an MA, MBA, MD, JD, PhD, EdD, or graduate certificate, etc.)?

      o Are you currently serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces for purposes other than training?

      o Are you a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces?

      o Do you have children who will receive more than half of their support from you between July 1, 2009, and June 30, 2010?

      o Do you have dependents (other than your children or spouse) who live with you and who receive more than half of their support from you, now and through June 30, 2010?

      o When you were age 13 or older, were both your parents deceased, were you in foster care or were you a dependent/ward of the court?

      o As of today, are you an emancipated minor as determined by a court in your state of legal residence?

      o As of today, are you in legal guardianship as determined by a court in your state of legal residence?

      o At any time on or after July 1, 2008, did your high school or school district homeless liaison determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless?

      o At any time on or after July 1, 2008, did the director of an emergency shelter program funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless?

      o At any time on or after July 1, 2008, did the director of a runaway or homeless youth basic center or transitional living program determine that you were an unaccompanied youth who was homeless or were self-supporting and at risk of being homeless?

      Parents' marital status

      The FAFSA asks about parents' marital status because your marital status directly affects the treatment of income and assets in the EFC calculation. Parents must report their marital status as of the date the application is completed.

      Who is considered a Parent?
      The term "parent" is not restricted to biological parents. Sometimes a person other than a biological parent is treated as a parent, and in these instances, the parental questions on the application must be answered, since they apply to such an individual (or individuals).
      Parents who are both living and married to each other
      Answer the questions about each parent.

      Parents, who are living together and have not been formally married
      Those who meet the criteria in their state for a common-law marriage, should report their status as married. If your state does not consider your situation to be a common-law marriage, then you should follow the rules for divorced parents. Check with the appropriate state agency concerning the definition of a common-law marriage.

      Foster Parents, Legal Guardians, and Grandparents:
      A foster parent, legal guardian, or a grandparent or other relative is not treated as a parent for purposes of filing a FAFSA unless that person has legally adopted the applicant.

      Adoptive Parent:
      An adoptive parent is treated in the same manner as a biological parent on the FAFSA.

      Deceased Parents:
      If one, but not both, parents died, answer the parental questions about the surviving parent. Do not report any financial information for the deceased parent on the FAFSA. If the surviving parent dies after the FAFSA has been filed, the student must submit a correction updating his/her dependency status to independent, and correct all other information as appropriate. If the surviving parent is remarried as of the date the FAFSA is completed, answer the questions about both that parent and the person he or she married (stepparent).

      Divorced Parents:
      Answer the questions about the parent the student lived with more during the 12 months preceding the date the FAFSA is completed. If the student did not live with one parent more than the other, provide information for the parent who provided more financial support during the 12 months preceding the date the FAFSA is completed, or during the most recent year that the student actually received support from a parent.

      If this parent has remarried as of the date the FAFSA is completed, answer the questions on the remaining sections of the FAFSA about that parent and the person he or she married (stepparent).
      A stepparent is treated in the same manner as a biological parent if the stepparent is married, as of the date of application, to the biological parent whose information will be reported on the FAFSA, or if the stepparent has legally adopted the student. There are no exceptions. Prenuptial agreements do not exempt the stepparent from providing required data on the FAFSA. Note that the stepparent's income information for the entire base year, must be reported even if parent and stepparent were not married until after the start of the year, but were married prior to the date the FAFSA was completed.

      Legally Separated Parents:
      The same rules that apply for a divorced couple are used to determine which parent's information must be reported. A couple doesn't have to be legally separated in order to be considered separated for purposes of the FAFSA. The couple may consider themselves informally separated when one of the partners has left the household for an indefinite period of time. If the partners live together, they can't be considered informally separated. However, in some states, a couple can be considered legally separated even if they still live together. If the couple's state allows legally separated couples to live together, and they are legally separated, then they are considered separated for purposes of the FAFSA. In this case, the applicant would report the information on the parent that provided the majority of the student's financial support.

      Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act
      The California Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act of 2003, which extends new rights, benefits and obligations to individuals in California Registered Domestic Partnerships, became law on January 1, 2005. If you or your parent(s) are in a Registered Domestic Partnership, this legislation may affect your eligibility for state and university financial aid. If this new law reflects your family's living situation, contact the Financial Aid Office. You will be asked to complete a Domestic Partner Information Form, and your eligibility for state and university aid will be reevaluated. Your eligibility may increase or decrease based on the new information provided. The provisions of the Act do not apply to federal aid.

      Parental marital status + FAFSA  = a complicated situation. Know the rules and you will be fine.

      The information above was provided by UC Davis and Lauren Kahn, M.A. Educational Consultant of Lone Star Ed Consulting, LLC.

      If you would like more information about Lone Star Ed Consulting's college planning services, please e-mail Lauren Kahn or call her at 512-294-6608. 


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      Thursday, January 7, 2010

      Seniors, Time to Apply for Federal Financial Aid (FAFSA)

      Provided by: Lauren Kahn, M.A. Lone Star Ed Consulting 512-294-6608

      Seniors, besides merit scholarship options, there is also another way for you to finance your college dreams. Apply for federal financial aid. As says, "Few students can afford to pay for college without some form of education financing." It is time for the U.S. government to show you the money! If your parents make less than $150K in combined income and you are a U.S. citizen, I would advise you to at least submit your application for federal aid. Financial Aid comes in all sorts of packages: including grants, loans, and work study options. If you need information on the types of financial aid available, visit

      If you plan to attend a private four year school, the retail cost of your first year of college could be as high as 60K. This estimated cost includes the total cost of attendance, including tuition, fees, room and board, books, travel and incidental expenses. The average cost of a private four year school for the 2008-2009 year was approximately $36,000.00 ( At a public four year university, the average cost for a first year student was approximately $16,000.00, with only $6,600.00 for tuition and fees. The room and board cost for students is estimated at $8K a year. However, this cost will greatly vary based on dorm options and food plans. (It is my recommendation that most first year students live on campus in university housing, unless there is limited housing on campus and there are safe housing alternatives nearby campus.)

      This is a reminder for the parents of college-bound seniors to submit their online FAFSA in the next few days. Parents need to keep in mind financial aid is given on a first-come, first-served basis from “pools” of money; waiting to submit the FAFSA may be harmful to your son or daughter’s potential for receiving significant need-based financial aid awards.

      To complete the online FAFSA:  Click below. 

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