Prep Talk Blog > October 2008

What do NYU, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of Chicago have in common? They’re three of the nation’s most expensive colleges! Ben Popken at The Consumerist ranked the top 25 wallet-breakers based on the total cost (tuition + room and board). At number one is Sarah Lawrence College which will run you $53,166 annually.

Popken writes that he “prefers [his] in-state tuition and debt-free at 25 method of matriculation". Understandable. After all, who wants to graduate with mountains of loans to pay back? But wait a minute — even though private schools can come with hefty upfront price tags, they also often give the most generous financial aid packages. Several even waive tuition altogether for qualifying students.

It might seem ridiculous that a year at any of these schools could buy you a nice car, but never rule out applying somewhere just because of its price. Do some research on the average financial aid package offered, and find out if you qualify for special scholarships or financial aid programs. And remember, you can always renegotiate after you get in.

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Didn’t make valedictorian? No worries. Academic achievement isn’t the only way to score big money for college. You may qualify for free tuition (and even free room and board), if you:

  • Participate in a work-study program
  • Come from a low-income family
  • Join a professional program or track
  • Live in a certain area
  • Study online or overseas
  • Belong to a special group (such as veterans)

Eduk8 lists 100 colleges that give students a free education based on the qualifications above. With so many families now struggling to pay for college, these schools are offering students an irresistable price: nothing at all!

by with 0 comments 2008 Presidential Election Student Vote


(Lee’s Summit, MO) –My College Options®, the nation’s largest College Planning Program, released today the full results of the 2008 Presidential Election Student Vote. This program has allowed 69,753 of our nation’s high school students to weigh in on this year’s election.


Each year millions of High School students tell My College Options about their post-secondary plans in exchange for guidance and connections with colleges and universities.  This year, with the country focused on the election, we let the students chime in about this historic event and gave them a chance to let their voices be heard. 


Over the last several weeks, in thousands of classrooms across the country, ballots were distributed, completed and returned to Missouri for tabulation.  Along with the candidate choice, we asked important questions on the issues facing the country today.


While this program is not a traditional vote, it is substantially more significant than opinion polls.  This data can be generalized to the population of High School students with a margin of error less that +/-1% and represents students from all 50 states, across all ethnicities, income levels and political persuasions.




Which presidential candidate would you vote for?


A.     John McCain              35.8%

B.     Barack Obama           57.7%

C.     Other                          6.6% 


If you registered today, would you register as a…


A.     Democrat                    37.8%

B.     Independent               34.4%

C.     Republican     `           27.8%


What is the single most important issue the new president needs to solve?


A.     The Economy                         57.7%

B.     Education                                5.4%

C.     Energy Policy                         4.2%

D.    Health Care                            7.0%

E.     Immigration                            5.2%

F.      International Relations          2.2%

G.    National Debt                         8.1%

H.    Social Security                       1.2%

I.       Terrorism                               9.1%



For more information on My College Options, please visit

For more information, questions, state by state break downs, or the full data set from responding students, please email Ryan Munce at

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Watch out, tweens! As if the PSAT, SAT I, and SAT II's weren't enough, the College Board is introducing ReadiStep, a two-hour multiple-choice exam for eighth graders. The test, which evaluates reading, writing and math skills, is only for "diagnostic" purposes, and the officials say it was developed in response to demand from schools. ReadiStep won't qualify students for scholarships or impact college admissions, but the test results could give teachers insight into students' readiness for college.

However, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing is calling the new test "a cynical marketing ploy designed to enhance test-maker revenues, not improve access to higher education". They're not the only critics! Though just announced, ReadiStep has already gotten a lot of heat from a lot of people, including The Los Angeles Times, which wrote that this exam will "[push] college admissions testing down to ever-younger students."

A marketing ploy or not, one thing's for sure: if 13-year-olds weren't nervous about college before, they definitely will be now.

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If you don’t think the rankings game was competitive, then take a look at this latest stunt from Baylor University: the school newspaper reported this year’s freshman class was offered a $300 credit at the bookstore for retaking the SAT, and those who increased their score by 50 points earned themselves a $1,000 “scholarship”. To most, this looks like an attempt to raise the university’s average SAT score, in hopes of improving its position in the U.S. News & World Report’s college rankings. Instead, the scheme prompted criticism from the faculty and damaged the school’s reputation.

Baylor cancelled the financial incentives after a wave of criticism from other academic institutions. But the school’s efforts raises important questions about college admissions and standardized tests:

  • Does the SAT really measure aptitude? (After a quarter of the Baylor freshman retook the test, the class’ average score rose by 10 points. Does this mean the students have become better students than before, or have they just gotten better at test-taking?)
  • What are the pros and cons of using the SAT as a standard for comparing applicants?
  • Should universities make it a priority to improve their ranking?
  • Should students decide where they go to school based on rankings?

And besides the fact that taking the SAT serves no purpose after a student’s already been admitted, Baylor’s overemphasis on test scores diverts attention from the academic issues that really matter (class size, student preparedness, etc.)

Chime in with a comment on what you think about Baylor offering financial rewards for SAT retakes.

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Do you think it's fair if college admissions professionals "google" you or look at your Facebook profile during the admissions process?
Yes. If it's out there, it's fair game.
No. If it's not part of my official application package, it shouldn't be considered.
I don't know.
The poll is closed.


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Please email us at to find out if your institution is doing everything it can to reach qualified, prospective students. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Don Munce