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Analyzing A College: The College’s Financial Aid Profile

Category: College Money Strategy
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The College Financial Aid Profile


In this series on college financial aid I’ve been showing you how to analyze a college from a College Money Strategy™ point of view.  I told you what you need to look for if you qualify for need based aid as well as merit based aid. As I wrap up this series I want to take a look at some of the other statistics that colleges publish which will help you determine whether or not a college is financial aid friendly. As a reminder my intention is to get straight to the point and give you money saving ideas without burying you in the weeds. Take the ideas below that apply to your situation and focus on those. So here goes.

Admissions Yield

One of the statistics I always look at when I am analyzing college financial aid friendliness is its yield. The yield is simply the percentage of  admitted students who actually enrolled. Harvard, for example, has a yield of 84%. and Stanford’s yield is 73%. Boston college on the other hand is 25% and University of Miami is 18%. Elite colleges and state schools will typically have higher yields . Let me tell you what it means and how you can use it to your advantage. A high yield typically means the college is a more desirable one, it’s more about popularity than quality.  Since a college with a high yield has a large percentage of students showing up who were accepted, competition is going to be tougher. The college can be more selective in who they offer acceptance to because the majority of those will enroll. You will have to look closely at how you rank compared to other incoming freshmen because not only will acceptance be more difficult but there will likely be a lot of competition for financial aid.  I usually tell you to make sure that the student is in the top 25% of incoming freshmen academically but you may want to make sure you are in the top 10-15% of incoming freshman with these high yielding colleges. Low yields on the other hand are ideal if other factors are in place. First let me say that low yielding colleges are not necessarily bad schools. They may not be a popular choice for lots of students at the time but many are quality colleges. As you develop your list of colleges that have the right College Money Strategy™ profile, make sure you take a close look at those who have lower or declining yields. These deep pocket schools may offer more college financial aid to the right students so they can fill seats.

Tuition Guarantee

Tuition guarantees is something I devoted an entire article to. Find a college that offers a tuition guarantee. If they do, the tuition will be frozen for the four years the student is attending the college. That’s big savings considering how college costs are inflating.

Advanced High School Courses

If the student has taken advanced placement or dual credit courses in high school you need to make sure that the college will accept these. This will mean less course work needed in college which will reduce costs. If your student is entering or in the early years of high school make this part of your strategy. Talk to the guidance counselor to find out what type of AP or dual credit is offered by the high school. Every school is different so make sure you are taking advantage of this opportunity especially if your student does well academically.

Extracurricular Credit

If the student is active during their high school years in extra curricular activities you need to find out if the college accepts credit for life experiences. Some colleges will award credits for volunteer work, business or travel experience if you can show that it gave the student practical knowledge in a certain field. Again, make this part of your strategy. If your student is going to be active in these areas and you want the opportunity to get college credit you will need to think through the process. The college will want documentation, essays maybe even an exam. The student will need to take a lead role not a back seat role in the activity they are involved in and make sure you document the activities with a journal and photos.

Subject Exams

You can also get credit for testing in some subjects and meeting minimum scores. The college board offers the CLEP exams and the US Dept. of Defense offers the DSST exams. If you are going to take subject tests with the intention of getting college credit make sure the college will accept it, not all do.

Average Net Price

A lot of people make a big deal about this statistic that many college’s are now including on their website and many search engines also include it. I do look at this number, I just don’t place a lot of emphasis on it because in my opinion it’s too general. If you are looking for a very broad college financial aid view this will give it to you. Keep in mind that this number includes loans as well as the free money but you can’t tell how much is each by just looking at this number. Just understand that it will give you limited information which is not detailed for your particular situation.

% Institutional Aid

The last big statistic I look at is the percent of the cost of attendance awarded in institutional grant aid. This is an easy calculation that you will need to do yourself. Harvard’s cost of attendance for the 2012 year was $57,050 and the average amount of institutional grant aid received by incoming freshman was $37,754. That means that the average freshman that year received 69.7% in grants directly from Harvard. Now that’s college financial aid friendly! You need to do this calculation for each college you are considering.


These are the big areas to focus on. As you are developing your own College Money Strategy™ make sure you are focusing on these areas intently because there is money here.



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