Under-match…..a troubling, rising statistic
What is Under-Matching? It is something that has been on the rise in the past seven years in terms of college selections. Students are choosing schools for which they are over-qualified. What’s wrong with this? There are many reasons why this fact is not good.
- Geography: Many students are choosing NOT to go away to college, and many parents are choosing not to send their children far from home. Some are becoming commuters; others are living on campus, but within an hour’s drive from Mom and Dad.Some reasons are for the choice to stay close to home include: increase in serious violence on school grounds, cultural fit —some cultures do not want children away—, cost of transporting and cost of living in other locations, particularly larger urban areas.
- Cost: The perception of many parents, often erroneously, is that the costs of many schools, which would be a good match, are too expensive. People unfortunately look at sticker costs, and are not adequately informed about the actual cost paid by the majority of people. Erroneous information is passed by parents, uninformed counselors, etc. No one seems to ask the correct authorities about true costs.
Today, very few colleges have increased the cost of an undergraduate four year degree in the past few years. Not ALL. There are exceptions to this, of course, but many have topped out in terms of cost. Additionally, most large schools, most notably, very large private and pretty much all large public schools offer tuition breaks immediately, upon acceptance. Parents should NEVER defer applying to a good school because of money. NEVER! This year I have had many of my seniors’ placements offer anywhere from 25-80% off the tuition cost per year, upon acceptance during the early process. They have yet to even do their FASFA forms to learn what they might qualify for in terms of additional work-study, loans, or other types of scholarships. Some Universities boast that more than 75% of tuition is amended for 90% of the full-time student body. The actual percentages of those schools offering subsidies up front is somewhere between 70-90% of all students are subsidized, and the majority are getting 100% subsidized by “scholarships” right off the top to begin with, and then a combination of other scholarships, loans and grants.
Since the average four year full time, on campus living, undergraduate degree is about $125K and the average fully financed student walks away with loans of $30-$35K…is testament to how much is subsidized. The average starting salary in urban areas in the US for a four year degrees is $41k (not for just any degree-these are averages) and for two year degrees the average is $36K….so the majority of those graduating, who start working, the salary is more than the debt. If the student is prudent, has a bit of fiscal knowledge or advise from a good financial manager (which most banks offer for customers for free)…the debt can be paid back in about a decade, while offering more cash in their pockets up front because of the tax deduction, also while earning a valuable increase in FICO score, which could help finance a graduate degree or a home within a decade. Those who have financial prudence learn that having that debt can be a strategically good asset in the long run. Many know that even if you can pay off your note immediately, it is good to keep it alive for a bit to build credit. Today’s college’s financial aid offices can offer strategic planning for post-graduation, which can truly assist the graduate with some valuable knowledge on how to deal with any debt effectively. All the student needs to do, is ask!
- Fit: What is Fit? Fit is non-academic. It is about how the student fits into the school. Some students do not fit the school regardless of the academic match. Many parents have cultural needs, for which, not every college offers the appropriate support. Some students have physical needs or demands, which also cannot be met by a college. Although colleges are all required to follow the ADA Law….many colleges were built more than a Century ago, and not all buildings are accessible, but each college tries to offer the best support it can. Also some students just do not fit into a particular culture. Some schools do not have great support for some non-academic passions. A math major, who loves to play in bands, might not fit into a school that has limited music options as extra-curricular. Fit is not really a measurement but more an emotional and psychological choice.
But what is Match then? Match is truly a pairing of measurable academic qualifications with colleges which best match them. Grades, Advanced Course work, standardized test scores, etc. are measurements that can be matched to college.
What is the downside of attending a college for which match is not good? One very real statistic is that the rise of under-matched students. Some have measured the consistent rise from 16-40% in the past seven years. The unfortunate reality of under-matching is that on the other side, one result is the failure to complete college. Graduation rates decline in a proportion to the rise of under-matching. Students are attending classes with others who are not as bright or as prepared as they. They are also discouraged because of the lack of challenge going to a school whose student body is far below them in pure academics.
What can prevent the under-matching of college and student? One thing that is a very true assistance is seeking out effective and appropriate college advice. Many college guidance counselors, especially is more rural areas without a lot of support staff, are not well informed of changes and realities of schools. Some of these counselors deter students from actually applying to very competitive schools for some of the above reasons. Parents, although well-meaning, often place far too much credence on another parent’s experience, fearing the same will happen to their child. Many parents fear that the more prestigious and costly the institution, the more money they will be required to pay. When the reality is that the more prestigious and costly the school, typically, the more financial resources it has to offer to defray qualified students’ costs. College and Universities want to attract talent that will blossom while attending their classes. These schools work to make sure the students who match them, can attend.
Getting really good education college advice is one of the wisest expenditures any parent could make. I met with a student, who was approaching her senior fall, and who had had no really good college advice. First, the choice of which standardized test she should have prepared for was completely wrong as her scores were ridiculously low for the colleges her grades would match. Second, her college list was developed by conversations with a school counselor who was first year on the job, her ACT tutor, and other students in her school. Her parents got a few names from other parents. Immediately, I got her to get prepped for the SAT as her initial SAT scores were vastly higher than any of her three ACT attempts. She went up 400 points in the fall of her senior year, thankfully. Second, we changed her list to match her grade first and then anticipated her potential SAT rise along with her actual SAT from junior winter. We then put her to work on essays, which she did a great job. Formalized her resume, and got to work sending out all the applications. She had gotten into to all her early choices so far! We dropped all those silly schools for which her ACT dictated but for which her grades were far superior. The last thing we discussed was money. So far, she has been offered scholarship money for every school, the smallest amount is $15K per year and the largest is $35K per year, and we are eagerly anticipating only more good news.
I spoke to a woman recently who went through the process last year. She listened to a counselor who told her to choose schools in certain geography that had major in a particular sphere of interest. She told me that she thought her son would get a couple of acceptances, but ended up with eleven. She said trying to decide was a nightmare. She was leaning towards the one that offered the most money, but her son wanted the most popular name in his high school. She told me at no point did anyone talk to her about match. After his first semester, he realized he was in a school that was far beneath his abilities. So, all summer, she and he went about trying to find a correct match for him. He did not get into to a choice as a transfer and went back to the school he had started. They are, once again, working on transfer for next year. It is discouraging if the match isn’t right.
Consider a good match before accepting a college! If you are just starting out, please consider seeking professional advice. You can get support at any stage, and the cost is minimal. You can pay for the entire process, which is also fairly small in regards to what you are buying. Think of it this way, would you invest your money….thousands of dollars….into the market, without getting advice from a professional that knows the market? NO. You are investing thousands in college. Why on earth would you not get professional support?