How College Admissions has Changed

It’s what college admissions offices will never tell you – but what every parent should know.

It’s time to think about a dirty little secret – one which most of us know, but we rarely think through the consequences.

Universities are, first and last, businesses.

It’s always understood that colleges need to make money – but there has often been this thought of them as places outside the business world, guided by the higher ideals of education.

That may have been true at one time. It is still true at a very few colleges and universities today – the most elite two dozen or so, which tend to have a need-blind admissions process.

That’s not true for the thousands of other universities that most students apply to. They most decidedly do look at need – and they favor families that can afford to pay full tuition, all else being equal.

Think about that again for a moment. Schools often aren’t making their mind up based on merit – why should they? They have more than enough qualified applicants for every available slot. Why not maximize the profit from each potential student?

Admissions officers call it ‘net tuition revenue,’ and it represents the total amount of tuition that each institution wants to hit with an incoming class. Since most schools are needs-aware, that means they’ll stop accepting students in need of financial aid if it will drop them below their tuition goal.

Of course there are other factors. Every college wants to boast of having students from all 50 states, and as many countries as possible (and, with some liberal arts colleges having incoming freshmen classes of 250 students or less, making those quotas can be a challenge). Every university wants as much diversity as possible – in terms of race, talents, background, everything.

But that’s often where financial aid comes in. For the great majority of universities, a needy student best bring something unique to the table – colleges will pay to up their diversity. If the applicant is just another outstanding student, financial need will definitely factor into the equation.

What does this mean for applicants?

How To Play The System To Your Advantage

First, throw out the old saying, Choose a school first, worry about the finances later. Finances already factor into what a school thinks of you when you apply, and affects your chances of acceptance. It only makes sense to take it into account when deciding where to apply.

It also means, look where you can fill a need. If you’re a male, you’ve got a better shot at a converted women’s school which has more ladies than lads. The reverse is just as true.

If you’re in the humanities, applying to schools known for their sciences will up your chances. Make sure your department is good as well – they often are world-class, simply overshadowed by the more famous divisions.

Applying to schools outside your region can help as well – it’s harder for east coast schools to get west coast children, and vice versa.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg – there are plenty of other strategies for maximizing your chances, not only of acceptance, but also of getting the most possible financial aid.

If you want more in-depth advice about this topic, a great place to start is signing up for our free college funding webinar.  The information and strategies presented in the webinar can help you figure out exactly where you stand with regard to admissions and financial aid… and what you can do better your position.

To your successful college pursuit,

Scott Weingold

Related Articles:

College Admissions Trends for 2011

College Admissions Strategies

College Admissions Strategies, Part 2

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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News,, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.