So you’ve submitted your application, what now?

by College Advisor of New York on November 21, 2017

By Deb Coco

November 1 is a big milestone in the world of college admissions.  Early Action is the first in a “series” of possible application deadlines for college seniors.  At The College Advisor of New York, we encourage many of our students to submit their applications (if offered by colleges on their list) on this deadline.  And therein lies one of the many caveats to this process – not all schools offer “EA” and not all students should use it, if indeed it is offered.  There are six possible admission plans in the world of college admissions:  Early Action, Single Choice/Restrictive Early Action, Early Decision, Regular Decision, Rolling Admission, and Open Admission.  Confused?  It’s important that you understand the difference because they are not all created equal, and if misunderstood, each can affect the outcome of your candidacy.

Early Action is the earliest available deadline.  If a school offers this 11/1 or 11/15 option, we normally advise students to select it.  However, every EA pool is different and it’s important to have a knowledgeable college consultant advising you on whether or not your qualifications are suited to the Early Action pool at the schools of your choice.  EA is non binding, allowing applicants to apply to more than one EA school; it does not require a final decision until the May 1 deadline.

Early Decision is a binding contract, meaning students may only apply to one “ED” school and if accepted, they MUST attend.  We advise “ED” to very few students, simply because most 17-year-olds are not secure enough with their decision making to commit to the college of their choice, early in their senior year.  We believe that in most cases, it is wise for students to apply to at least 7 schools and weigh the options when the decisions come in.  Being “wed” to one school can actually cause angst at the 11th hour and there is no way – other than the school not offering an adequate financial aid package – to wiggle out of an “ED” acceptance.

Regular Decision and Rolling Admission are just as they sound and the most common.  Regular decision deadlines range from between January 1 and March 15.  Rolling is “anytime” meaning students will submit when they’ve completed their application and schools send decisions on a “first come first served” basis, typically within 3-5 weeks of submission.

So, you’ve hit the submit button . . . what happens next?  First, I tell all my students that this process has many moving parts and their application represents just one.  Official standardized test scores need to be sent from the testing companies (ACT and The College Board) unless you are applying to “test optional” schools.  High school transcripts, school counselor and teacher recommendations are transmitted from the student’s high school.  It is crucial for students to be in constant contact with their school counselors to assure that their documents are sent out on time.  It is prudent to follow up with college admission offices and verify that they’ve received ALL the components of your application.  You should do so about a week after you’ve applied.  Believe me, we’ve seen the fall-out of panic when students realize they forgot to send their test scores or their supplemental essay…it happens.

The most important quality during this entire journey is patience.  The majority of our students begin working with us at some point in their sophomore or junior year, so, once the application deadlines have come and gone, they are more than one year in.  It is at that point that the real waiting begins.  Acceptances for Early Action and Early Decision normally begin to roll in around the holidays, but Regular Decision notifications won’t be available until early spring.  That can feel like a lifetime of running to the mailbox.

Just hold tight because most (if not all) students will receive at least one “deferral” letter.   Deferrals place students who applied under the Early Action plan on a “wait list” until the entire application pool is reviewed – usually in the spring.  Most schools will offer the option of remaining on the deferral list or not.  This can cause some last minute anxiety, but unfortunately is quite common.

The take away is that this process is long and drawn out, with curves and speed bumps.  The sigh of relief after pushing the “submit” button is closely followed by worry, both by student and parent.  As Tom Petty told us so well, “the waiting is the hardest part” and nowhere is that more evident than waiting for a letter of admission to arrive.  I tell my students that the best way to fight the anxiety is to understand that the work is done.  Don’t look back and don’t fret . . . it’s time to let go and let the process play itself out.  Take some comfort that your essays are written, the “I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed!  Senior year comes but once in your life, so congratulate yourself on a job well done, sit back, try to relax and I wish you the best of luck!


Don’t Save For Retirement

by College Advisor of New York on October 12, 2017

By Dr. Dean Skarlis, President

 “You can take out loans for college, but there are no loans for retirement.”  It’s a familiar refrain among those in the financial services community and has been sound advice for many families for years.  But in 2017, it may be the worst advice a financial advisor can give to his clients.  Here’s why.

Cumulative student loan debt in the United States has surpassed $1.4 Trillion.  It now exceeds all consumer credit card debt.  Approximately 71% of students who attend 4-year colleges have taken on student loans…and that’s just student loan debt.  Add to that parental debt which is approaching $100 Million, and the fact that many parents have added home equity loans to their debt service (which is not counted in the above figures), and you have a crisis – a big one with lasting effects as this Money Magazine article describes.

The reason loans have exploded is of course, the rising cost of college.  Tuition, room, board and fees have increased by more than 1200% over the past 30 years.  When I first began my business 13 years ago, there were a couple of dozen colleges whose total costs had eclipsed $40,000/year.  Today, those same schools – and many others – have now crossed the $70,000/year mark – that’s more than $280,000 to educate one child.  Compare these numbers with most private schools back in 1986 when I began college.  Tuition, room and board at my private college was $11,000/year.  That same school now charges more than $55,000/year.  Even public institutions now exceed $100,000 over 4 years in California, New York and many other states.

As a result, most middle and upper middle class families have few options other than to take out huge loans or attend a community college.  But the problem with the “old school” advice is that families who take out loans in today’s world, must seek hundreds of thousands more than I did in 1986.  Back then, it was more reasonable for my peers and I to borrow $5,000 per year and pay back the $20,000 in a realistic time frame.  That covered almost half our total cost.  Today, this is next to impossible.  If a student takes federal student loans each year of college, he would have to repay $27,000.  If he adds an extra $15,000/year in private student loans, you now have $87,000 over four years.  This is a significant burden for just about any family.  This scenario also assumes that mom and dad, student, or someone else will cover almost $200,000 for an expensive private college or about $15,000 at a SUNY school from a mix of savings and cash flow.  That’s a tall order.

Most of the clients with whom we work are in their mid to late 40s.  On average, they have saved $300,000-$500,000 in their 401(k), IRA or other qualified plan.  Some teachers or public employees have pensions.  It is for these families that I have begun to give what some would call radical advice.  Others deem it bad advice.  But here it is:  Rather than save the maximum of $18,000/year (or $24,000 for people over 50) in your qualified retirement plan, divert some of those dollars into the college savings vehicle of your choice.  If a family lives in New York State, the New York 529 plan offers a state tax deduction of up to $10,000 for married parents filing jointly ($5,000 for single parents).  While the tax math still favors your full 401(k) contribution, the amount of loans parents and students need will be significantly reduced.

A 47 year old with $400,000 in his 401(k) or IRA has plenty of time to continue saving for retirement, and most models indicate that his nest egg will turn into $1.6 Million even if he stopped contributing completely (assuming he retires at age 65 and realizes an 8% annual rate of return) – which I never recommend.  On the other hand, a family with two children, may have to pay in excess of $600,000 for college over a much shorter time horizon – often within 6 or 7 years.  I have found that most parents have tried to save for college, but just don’t have the time or resources to set aside enough money, given the ridiculous rise of college costs.  Most of our families have amassed less than $60,000 for college.  So their only remaining option is to take out huge loans.

Moreover, because assets are counted at only 5.64% of their value in the financial aid formulas, saving more will have only a minimal effect on a family’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC), and if the family’s other income and assets are too high to garner more aid, then there will be no financial aid lost.  We teach our clients these and other strategies to help them maximize financial aid, enhance tax savings and increase merit scholarships.

The bottom line is that college costs have skyrocketed at a pace much faster than any other expense, including health care, over the past 20 years.  And the traditional advice of taking more in student and parent loans does not cut it anymore.  It’s time for a paradigm shift.



Stand out! Why your college application should be anything but ordinary.

September 12, 2017

By Deb Coco  College Admissions Coach The College Advisor of New York, Inc. Fall is in the air.  School is back in session, the days are a bit cooler and the pumpkin spice obsession is back.  And, at The College Advisor of New York, our seniors are hard at work selling themselves. It may seem […]

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Need a cure for the summertime blues?  Write your college essay!

July 30, 2017

  By Deb Coco The lazy, hazy days of summer are slipping by quickly.   At The College of Advisor of New York, one of our goals for our rising seniors is to complete their main college essay by Labor Day.  By Labor Day you say?  Your friends aren’t even thinking about college applications yet! There […]

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It Does Not Take A Village . . .

June 17, 2017

By Deb Coco, College Admissions Coach, The College Advisor of New York If you’ve watched a newscast within the last few years, you’ve probably heard some depressing news about the future of the next generation:  they are categorized as “lazy,” “out of touch with reality,” or “unfocused.” As college admission coaches, each of us spends […]

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Free Tuition? The Fine Print on New York’s Excelsior Scholarship

May 31, 2017

By Deb Coco, College Admissions Coach, The College Advisor of New York Free is an enticing word and it grabs our attention.  So when New York unveiled its Excelsior Scholarship or “free” tuition program, the buzz began in earnest.  And with good reason.  Parents of prospective college students are especially vulnerable right now as the […]

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Tune In To Life Happens Radio this Saturday

May 28, 2017

Set Your Graduates Up For Success Upcoming Show – Saturday, June 3 Lou Pierro and Dean Skarlis   As we celebrate the achievements of our high school graduates in June, families should also be laying the groundwork for their child’s legal transition to adulthood. Tune into Life Happens Radio on June 3, when Lou Pierro […]

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The Campus Visit: According To The Experts

April 28, 2017

By Erin Wheeler, College Admissions Coach, The College Advisor  of New York I love a good road trip!  Sunny weather, loud music, junk food and good company.  It’s always fun to hit the open road and see new places, meet new people and enjoy new experiences.  Taking those trips with family or friends to visit […]

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Decisions, Decisions!

April 12, 2017

By Deb Coco It’s finally that time of year.  Our students have visited, visited again, applied and of course, WAITED.  May 1 is just a few weeks away. If you are like most students, you’ve received offers from several schools and now it’s time to buckle down and weigh your options.  It’s more difficult than […]

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How Do You Survive Junior Year? Start The Process In Your Sophomore Year

April 5, 2017

By Deb Coco Parents – do you remember your junior year of high school?  My recollections revolve around a pack of girlfriends, Friday night football games, dances and the dreaded curfew.  I have to think hard to recall SAT prep (I’m not even sure I did any, and the ACT was virtually unknown in Boston). […]

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