FAQ College: Frequently Asked Questions about College Admissions and Costs

Question of the Week: What is a likely letter?

person raising hand in classA “likely letter” is a letter from the college admissions office stating that you are likely to be admitted as long as nothing changes before the official admissions deadline. They are not formal offers of admissions–just notices that students are very “likely” to be admitted. Students receive likely letters a month or two before the regular admissions decision deadline.

Likely letters are common for athletic recruits to the Ivy League. Since Ivy League schools don’t award athletic scholarships, they use likely letters as a means to indicate to the athlete that they will be accepted at the school. According to Tier One Athletics, “it varies from between sports and schools, but 2/3 to 3/4 of the varsity athletes in the Ivy League are Likely Letter recruits. ”

However, it isn’t only athletes that receive likely letters. According to the Harvard Crimson, the admissions office sent out 300 likely letters in 2011 and 100 of them were addressed to non-athletes. Instead of offering these students early admissions, they receive likely letters. At Brown, approximately 1/5 of the class receives likely letter with about half sent to athletes.

It’s not just Ivy League schools that send out likely letters. The University of Virginia also sends out likely letters. Other schools that send out versions of the likely letter are Smith, Clark, and Grinnell.

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FAQ College Money Issues

Do I need to be admitted to a college before I can apply for financial aid?

No. You can submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the College Service Scholarship PROFILE (CSS PROFILE) ...
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Do parents automatically qualify for PLUS loans?

Parents do not automatically qualify for the federal Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS).  The PLUS loan application process includes ...
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FAQ: Are scholarships taxable?

Scholarships are taxable depending on what they are spent on. If you are a degree candidate, the amount of your ...
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FAQ: Can I appeal my financial aid award?

Yes. You can appeal your financial aid award if there has been a change in your family circumstance or if ...
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FAQ: Can I send the FAFSA to more than 10 schools?

Students can enter up to 10 schools on the FAFSA if completed on the web. Any schools added after the ...
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FAQ: Do I have to report outside scholarships to the financial aid office?

An outside scholarship is one that is not part of the financial aid package awarded to you by the college ...
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FAQ: Do students get the same amount of financial aid every year?

Students are not likely to receive the same amount of financial aid every year. This can be a good thing ...
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FAQ: Does Applying For Financial Aid Hurt Your College Admissions Chances?

There are very few situations when applying for financial aid could possibly hurt your chances for admissions. For your financial ...
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FAQ: Does home equity affect financial aid?

It depends on which colleges you apply to. If you apply to colleges that use the FAFSA only for calculating ...
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FAQ: How do I become an Independent student for financial aid?

Just because a student is paying for all of his own expenses doesn't make him an independent student for financial ...
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FAQ: How do you get in-state tuition?

Public colleges and universities charge non-residents higher tuition than in-state residents. Therefore, students who want to attend an out-of-state public ...
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FAQ: I won’t qualify for financial aid, why should I fill out the FAFSA?

Even if you think your family makes too much money to qualify for financial aid, you should still fill out ...
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FAQ: I won’t qualify for financial aid, why should I fill out the FAFSA?

Even if you think your parents make too much money to qualify for financial aid, you should still fill out ...
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FAQ: If my EFC is 0 does that mean I can go to college for free?

Unfortunately, the answer for most students is "no." There are several issues in dealing with your EFC. The first is ...
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FAQ: What are Net Price Calculators?

Net price calculators (NPC) are a way for students and their families to estimate how much it would cost to ...
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FAQ: What is college average net price?

In the most general terms, Average Net Price is the price that students actually pay for college as opposed to ...
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FAQ: What is financial aid gapping?

A financial aid gap occurs when a college’s financial aid award for a student doesn’t meet the student’s financial need ...
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FAQ: What is merit aid?

Merit aid refers to college awarded financial aid that is not based on financial need. The most commonly recognized form ...
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FAQ: What is self-help financial aid?

Self-help financial aid is aid that the student earns through work or is required to pay back. Student loans and ...
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FAQ: What is work study?

The federal work study program is one of the financial aid options available when you qualify for federal aid.  Colleges ...
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How will I get my financial aid?

Federal, state, loan disbursements, and institutional financial aid is distributed through your college. Outside scholarships maybe be distributed directly to ...
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I can’t afford private school tuition, why should I even bother applying?

Most people can't afford the published private school tuition. But most people don't pay the listed price for private school ...
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Is there a limit to the number of years I can get financial aid?

There are specific limits for federal financial aid programs. Since July 1, 2013, first time borrowers of subsidized loans are ...
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My parents are divorced. Which parent do I use for my FAFSA?

For students with divorced parents, the custodial parent is the one the parent they lived with the for the previous ...
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Should I apply to colleges I don’t think I can afford?

No--with a big assumption. The assumption is that you already know approximately how much you can afford and how much ...
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What are 529 plans?

529 Plans are college savings plans operated by the state or educational institution. The main advantage of a 529 plan ...
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What are private education loans?

Private education loans are loans  to college students made by financial institutions such as banks and credit unions. The do ...
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What are the different types of financial aid?

Colleges and universities award students financial aid packages to help cover the cost of attendance. The package is typically made ...
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What are the federal student loan programs?

There are four types of federal loans. Three are loans to students and one is a loan to parents. The ...
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What are the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant requirements?

The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG) program is a campus-based aid program. The school’s financial aid office receives a ...
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What federal grants are available for undergraduates?

There are four major federal grant programs available for undergraduates: Federal Pell Grants Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) Teach ...
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What is a PLUS loan?

The Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS) is a federal program that allows parents of undergraduate students or graduate and ...
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What is EFC (Expected Family Contribution)?

EFC stands for expected family contribution. This is the amount of money families are expected to pay for their students ...
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What is financial aid preferential packaging?

Preferential packaging is the practice of changing the type and amount of financial aid awarded to a student based on ...
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What is financial aid?

Financial aid is money students are awarded to pay college. There are two forms of financial aid: gift aid and ...
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What is need-based aid?

Financial aid is awarded based on two general categories, need-based and non-need (merit) based. When people hear the term "financial ...
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What is the CSS PROFILE?

The CSS PROFILE is basically a non-governmental financial aid application administered by the College Board, the same people who bring ...
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What is the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans?

There are two types of federal guaranteed student loans: subsidized and unsubsidized. The subsidy refers to the payment of interest ...
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What is the FAFSA?

The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid administered by the Office of Federal Student Aid. Students must ...
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What is the Federal Methodology?

The Federal Methodology is the formula used by the federal government in calculating a student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC) which ...
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What is the financial aid SAR (Student Aid Report)?

SAR stands for Student Aid Report and is what you receive after your FAFSA is processed. If you provided an ...
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What is tuition discounting?

Tuition discounting refers to the scholarships and grants colleges and universities provide to students. The Association of Government Boards of ...
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What’s the difference between average net price and cost of attendance?

The Cost of Attendance (COA) and Average Net Price (which for some reason never gets abbreviated) are actually defined by ...
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When do I apply for financial aid?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can be filed any time after October 1st of the student's senior ...
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Where can I find scholarships?

The key to finding scholarships is to understand that most are targeted for specific student populations. This means two things ...
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Who is eligible to receive financial aid?

Financial aid consists of all awards from government sources, private organizations, and colleges themselves. Therefore, eligibility for financial aid will ...
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FAQ College Admissions Testing

Are there any free SAT/ACT test prep resources?

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FAQ: Do I Need to Take Both the SAT and ACT?

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FAQ: How many times should a student take the SAT or ACT?

The answer is not "as many times to get the score she wants." As usual, the answer depends on the ...
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FAQ: What is a good ACT score?

The ACT test has four sections, English, Math, Reading, and Science, each scored on a scare of 1 to 36 ...
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How do I convert my SAT scores to an ACT equivalent (or my ACT scores to the SAT)?

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Should I apply to colleges where my test scores will be low?

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What are SAT Subject Tests?

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What are test optional colleges?

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What is a good SAT score?

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What is superscoring?

Superscoring is the practice of taking the best sub scores from multiple test dates to create the highest superscore possible ...
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What is the PSAT?

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When Should You Take the SAT?

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FAQ College General

Are college campus visits necessary?

No. You do not have to visit a college in order to be admitted to a college. I get the ...
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Do I have to major in the sciences to get into medical school?

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FAQ: Can I go to college with less than a 3.0 high school GPA?

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FAQ: How important are extracurricular activities in college admissions?

Extracurricular activities are important as a secondary factor in the college admission process.  According to a survey by  the National ...
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FAQ: My high school doesn’t offer AP classes, will it hurt me in admissions?

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FAQ: What are the different college calendar types?

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FAQ: What is a 3-2 engineering program?

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FAQ: What is a flagship university?

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FAQ: What is a Liberal Arts College (LAC)?

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FAQ: What is a likely letter?

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FAQ: What is a Public Ivy?

The term "Public Ivy" was coined by Richard Moll in Public Ivies: A Guide to America's Best Public Undergraduate Colleges ...
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FAQ: What is a stealth applicant?

You are considered a stealth applicant if the first time the university has any record of interacting with you is ...
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FAQ: What is a suitcase school?

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FAQ: What is a Tier 1 University

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FAQ: What is the difference between an honors college and an honors program?

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FAQ: What is the difference between early action and early decision?

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FAQ: What is the difference between public and private colleges?

Families need to understand the difference between public and private colleges because of the differences in prices and financial aid ...
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FAQ: What’s the difference between a college and a university?

In the United States, there isn't any official difference between a college and a university. There are no rules that ...
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How do I get the most out of a college fair?

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How do I know if a college is too hard for me to get into?

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How important are grades in admissions?

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How many colleges should you apply to

A common recommendation is that students should apply to six colleges with some going as high as ten. These recommendations ...
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Should I avoid Liberal Arts Colleges if I’m interested in science?

No. Many people believe that only universities can provide the facilities and classes for undergraduates to complete a strong undergraduate ...
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Should I Live on Campus or Off?

Often students do not have a choice of whether to live on or off campus. It's simply a matter of ...
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Should students apply to “reach” colleges?

The simple answer is not to apply to any college that you can't afford to attend. Of course, given that ...
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What are articulation agreements?

Articulation agreements are agreements between community colleges and four-year institutions on how students' credits will transfer. This is not the ...
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What are college retention rates?

The college retention rate is the percentage of full-time students who return after their freshman year. The retention rate is ...
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What are independent college counselors?

Independent college counselors also known as independent educational consultants (IEC), are individuals other than high school guidance counselors who provide ...
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What are learning communities?

A learning community is when a group of students take two or more courses together. The courses may be based ...
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What are residential colleges?

Depending on the university, residential colleges can mean simply themed housing or dorms set aside for specific majors to a ...
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What does “need blind” admissions mean?

"Need blind" admissions refers to the process of a college evaluating an admission application without regard to the student's financial ...
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What is a first-year experience?

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What is a gap year?

A gap year is time taken off (usually a year) after graduating from high school and before starting college. Gap ...
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What is a safety school?

When applying to colleges, students are often encouraged to apply to reach, match, and safety schools. These categories describe the ...
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What is a weighted GPA?

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What is an academic resume for college admissions?

An academic resume is simply a summary of your high school "career." It will include the same information that will ...
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What is demonstrated interest?

Demonstrated interest refers to the interactions initiated by college applicants with colleges they apply to. These interactions include: Requesting information ...
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What is the Academic Common Market?

The Academic Common Market (ACM) is a program that allows students to pursue degrees not available in their state at ...
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What is the Common Application?

The Common Application is an application for undergraduate admissions that is accepted by almost 500 colleges. Member institutions are required ...
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What is the Common Data Set

Whenever you search for colleges using the College Board, College Data, or US News & World Report, you are using ...
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When should I start visiting colleges?

If you know enough to ask the question, you are ready to start visiting colleges. But what if you’re only ...
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