Thoughts on getting into college


College Admission PlanningFinding value in the college search.

Most of us follow a logical step-by-step consumer pricing procedure with all high-priced consumer purchases. Except one, a college education.

Only with a college education are you urged to look at price last. 

When you shop for any high priced consumer product (for example, a car) you START with the price, make several “need vs. want” calculations from there, and arrive at a final decision. You purchase what you need at a price that is within your family’s financial resources.

Why not start your college search that way, because that is almost certainly where you’ll finish your search.

Yes, it pays to go to college. Lifetime earnings will double on average. Several other positives also; civic engagement (voting, volunteering etc.) increases and average life span is longer.

But is that value affordable? In fact, value is there for the savvy consumer who knows where to look.

Examples of value you will find in the college search include:

  • co-op programs (examples: Drexel in Philadelphia and  Northeastern in Boston) where valuable paid internships in the discipline of your college major area are a requirement.Income to help with expenses and  practical ‘on-the-job’ experience at the same time! What is not to like?
  • five college consortiums (examples: the Five Colleges in Amherst, Mass and the Claremont Colleges in California) in which a student enrolled at one college may take courses at any of the other colleges, each with its own distinct strengths.
  • PG or “Gap” year programs for the student who may get little out of the college experience right now. Whether it be another year of high school in a different setting (“PG” ) or an intense and maturing work experience (‘Gap”) the evidence is clear that students who defer college for a year get more out of college once he/she does enroll.
  • colleges for whom the SATs or ACTs are optional. More than 25% of four year colleges are “test optional.”
  • non-traditional college settings for those of us who learn in at a different pace.
  • service academies or ROTC programs where part/all of expenses are paid for by the US taxpayer.

Want some college “shopping “tips? When you visit a campus, work hard to find out the following:


  • graduation rate within 4 years? within 6 years?
  • job placement by major? for the previous year’s senior class?
  • average student loan debt at graduation?
  • is the net price calculator easily navigable?
  • level of student support?

Nice to know and you’ll find it out soon enough once you enroll

  • who teaches freshman courses, full professors? TAs?
  • hybrid courses?
  • % of grades that are A or B?

Be an educated consumer. If you view a college education as an investment, why approach the college search any other way?

Next posting: Make the college fair experience work for you.

David W. Clark, Ed.M. is an independent college admission consultant who has been working with high school students for more than thirty-five years. David is a graduate of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He can be reached through his informative website .