5 More Days to Save 20% on Financing Your Future

Time is running out for you to save 20% on Accepted.com’s essential scholarship resource guide, Financing Your Future: Winning Fellowships, Scholarships and Awards for Grad School.

In Financing Your Future, Linda Abraham and Rebecca Blustein reveal practical, hands-on advice to help you complete your fellowship, scholarship, and award applications, and obtain those critical funds that will make attending the grad school of your dreams possible.

Buy Financing Your Future: Winning Fellowships, Scholarships and Awards for Grad School and save 20% when you use coupon code FUTURE20 by July 30, 2010.

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Financial Aid Improvements to the Rescue!

More students will be eligible for more financial aid due to changes and improvements made by some of the largest financial aid programs in the country, reports a Businessweek article titled “Financial Aid: Help is on the Way.”

The first step in these improvements was made when the U.S. Senate passed the Student Aid & Fiscal Responsibility Act, a loan bill that led to the revamping of federal student loans. (This bill is the largest government investment in higher education since the GI bill was passed in 1944.) This historic bill will affect how loans are obtained and the amount of aid that students get. For example, one major change is the elimination of intermediary banks and programs; rather than obtaining loans through Sallie Mae or Nelnet, as was done in the past, students will receive their loans directly from the U.S. Education Dept’s Direct Loan Program. This change will make the student loan process more transparent and easier to navigate, explains Edie Irons, a spokeswoman for The Project on Student Debt.

The benefits of “direct lending” (i.e. cutting out the middlemen) will offer immediate benefits, including:

•    Lower interest rates (around 7.9% instead of 8.5%).

•    More accessibility — Half of the families that were denied loans through the FELP program (which used the intermediary banks) were later approved loans under the Direct Loan Program.

•    Since the government won’t be paying intermediary banks, there will be a government savings of $60 million. This money will now go towards one of the most popular need-based scholarships, the Pell Grant Program. The maximum annual Pell Grant for this upcoming academic year will be $5,550, compared to last year’s $5,350. The average grant is expected to go up $220 from last year to about $3,685.

Another improvement: Some students won’t have to wait until graduation to consolidate loans; rather, those that have at least two of the following will be able to consolidate their loans while still in college: FELP loans via private lender, FELP loans that were bought by the Education Dept., and Direct Loan Program loans. Consolidating loans eliminates confusion that’s often associated with paying loan payments to more than one source.

Another recent financial aid update has been made to the Income-Based Repayment loan program — monthly loan payments are now capped at certain rates depending on individual income. In other words, if you qualify for this program, you will never have to pay more than 10% of your monthly income to pay off your loans. Eligibility to this program will be expanded — another improvement to the program.

Not sure how you’ll manage paying for graduate school? Accepted.com can help! Between now and July 31, 2010, you can buy Financing Your Future, a succinct guide to winning fellowships, scholarships, and grants, at 20% off! Enter coupon code FUTURE20 at checkout to save.

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New Public Service Loan Repayment Program in PA

The state of Pennsylvania is doing its part to sustain the public service sector. The Pennsylvania Bar Foundation and the Pennsylvania Interest on Lawyers Trust Account Board are initiating a new statewide school loan repayment program, offering “one-year loans to qualifying attorneys at IOLTA-funded legal services organizations that can be used to repay undergraduate and law school debt and will be forgiven at the end of each year,” as reported by New York Lawyer.

The goal of the program, approved by the state Supreme Court, is to assist public interest lawyers so that they don’t have to leave their profession due to student loan debt. Especially in this economy, “recruitment and retention are real problem areas in the public service sector.” Through the program, each qualified attorney can receive about $2,000 in the first year, after which the program can be changed so that they would receive tiered payments based on their individual debt-to-income ratios.

Save 10% on all law school services through July 31st! If you are applying to law school and could use some assistance, check out our early bird special to save. Insert coupon code EB10 at checkout. 

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Money Talks: A College and MBA Admissions News Round Up

Here’s what’s going on in the world of college and MBA admissions…money-wise.

  • Many b-school students will be returning to class this fall without having had the rosy summer internship experience they had expected—that is, if they were lucky enough to land an internship at all. The main cause for disappointment: Fewer internships are turning into full-time job offers. “The number of offers at the end of the summer is shrinking, because companies don’t know their hiring needs, and so they’re very conservative,” says Kellogg assistant dean and director of career management, Roxanne Hori. The recent Businessweek article that covers this topic (“Salvaging an MBA Internship Gone Bad“) suggests that if you haven’t been offered a job by August, you shouldn’t despair—at least not yet. There are ways to persuade an internship employer to turn your summer stint into the real deal. Some tips from the article: Plan a mid-summer meeting with your employer. Discuss how you will contribute to the company long term. And if your employer still doesn’t bite, continue working hard until the end of the summer, and exit with dignity, making sure that you’re networking and job searching at the same time.
  • Another recent Businessweek article compares private and public university spending per student for teaching, concluding that private universities spend twice as much as public ones. In the academic year 2007-2008, private colleges lay out teaching costs, on average, of $19,520 per student, while their public counterparts spent $9,732 per student. Both rates are up significantly in the last ten years—private costs by 22% and public by 10%.
  • Yet another salary survey has been released by the Businessweek blog Getting In (“Salaries Strong for Recent Business Grads“). This one reports an increase in the number of jobs that corporate employers plan to offer undergraduate and graduate business grads, particularly to those coming out of summer internships. Looks like the author of our internship article (above) didn’t see this survey finding (conducted by Compensation Resources, Inc.): “This year, nearly 90 percent of corporate respondents plan to offer interns full-time jobs compared to only 60 percent in 2008.”
  • Tuck alumni show appreciation to the Dartmouth business school by hitting a world record in its alumni giving participation rate. 66.7% of Tuck alumni participated in the recent Tuck Annual Giving campaign, surpassing other top b-schools by a landslide. The Tuck alumni giving rate has been above 60% consistently for the last 25 years. No other top b-school has ever even come close to that rate—this year, the next highest participation rate was at 42% and the average of the other nine schools on the top ten list was at a mere 20%. (Source: July 2010 Tuck Tip Sheet)
  • Seeking more job optimism? The New York Times reports that hiring is on the rise, on Wall Street and elsewhere. A professor at Columbia calls the stock exchange “very resilient.” Everything has its ups and downs–look at hiring stats for companies like JPMorgan or Goldman Sachs, and you’ll see that the economy is about to experience an up. See the New York Times’ Wall St. Hiring in Anticipation of an Economic Recovery” for more details.

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MBA Admissions News and a Little College, Too

  • Top European b-schools continue making the same mistake: First, in 2008 London Business School ousted their new dean, Robin Buchanan, for being too much of a businessman and not enough of an academic dean. Now IMD‘s president, John Wells, is stepping down due to similar criticism. Finally, Frank Brown, Insead‘s current dean, also plans to step down in 2011 because of similar accusations. Each of these three b-school leaders will have held their posts for just a few years. According to a Financial Times article on the subject, Professor Wells “ruffled faculty feathers at IMD from the start, principally by introducing an Anglo-American management team”—while there are several French or Belgian professors at IMD, none were appointed to any of the five senior positions. IMD and Insead were both hit hard by the economic crisis since both rely heavily on revenue earned through running short executive programs, which took a serious toll these last few years. IMD faces other challenges, including the fact that its former president, Peter Lorange, recently established another business school close by in Zurich. Like IMD, the Lorange Institute focuses on executive education.
  • Another recent Financial Times article, “Shift to international standards happening, but slowly,” reports on some of the challenges b-schools have been facing in the area of global business harmonization, particularly with regards to accounting. The rules of accounting have traditionally varied by jurisdiction, yet the EU has been attempting to include accounting in its international financial reporting standards (IFRS) since 2005. The U.S. Financial Accounting Standards Board, however, have confirmed that they will not meet the June 2011 deadline, creating educational limits for providers who are seeking to standardize and internationalize their accounting programs. Accounting professors must juggle both American and international standards until the two merge following what may be many more years of debate and planning. According to the FT article, soon, localized accountancy training will disappear with the “globalization of accounting practices and the eventual adoption of IFRS.”
  • Big GMAT test prep books have gone the way of bulky dictionaries and encyclopedias—they’ve gone digital. Future MBA hopefuls will no longer need to tote oversized paper GMAT books, but will be able to download easily accessible GMAT apps for their smart phones, reports a Businessweek blog post. iPhone apps include Kaplan GMAT Flashcards, GMAT ToolKit, and the new GMAT Pill, a month-long study plan developed by GMAT high-scorer, Zeke Lee. The benefit of such programs—besides for the amount of space they’ll save in your bag—is that they implement more visual explanations through video tutorials. As Lee explains, “What’s special about these videos is they are really helping students change the way they think.” Android and BlackBerry users will also have GMAT options at their fingertips, for affordable, on-the-go GMAT prep.
  • Rising college costs are a source of anxiety and anger for many students and their families. According to a recent Businessweek blog, tuition and fees for private nonprofit universities and colleges has increased by about 4.5%, about 0.2% greater an increase than last year. While these increases may wreck havoc on your bank account and retirement plans, it is interesting to note that these tuition hikes (last year’s and this year’s) are actually the two lowest increases since the 1972-1973 academic year. 4.5% may seem unmanageable, but it beats the pre-recession increase average of 6% per year. Another silver lining: Grant and scholarship programs received a 6.8% average increase this year.

Do you need help financing your future college or graduate school costs? Buy our featured ebook, Financing Your Future, by July 31, 2010 and receive 20% off when you use coupon code FUTURE20 at checkout.

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Save 20% on Must-Have Scholarship Resource Guide during July

Applying to graduate school can be complicated enough—and that’s before you start worrying about how you’re going to pay for it. This month’s featured ebook, Financing Your Future: Winning Fellowships, Scholarships and Awards for Grad School, will provide you with valuable tips on how to secure funds for the next stage in your educational future.

Want a preview of some of the tips you’ll find in Financing Your Future? Here are a few on staying organized during the scholarship search:

You’ll likely be juggling fellowship applications and your grad school applications simultaneously. Grad School itself can be a constant dance of deadlines, projects, courses, extracurricular activities, and work. Organization, needless to say, is key.

Whatever organizational system works best for you—using paper files, going all electronic, programming deadlines into your phone—make sure you use it consistently.

  1. Track all deadlines and all activity on each open application.
  2. Note your interactions with your recommenders. When did you contact your recommenders? When did they respond? Have you scheduled meetings or phone calls?
  3. Check the order time for official transcripts. When do you need to order them?
  4. During your research, when you identify future funding opportunities, file that information with your other fellowship materials and make a note of their deadlines.

In this easy-to-download ebook you’ll find more practical tips on when, where, and how to apply to various funding sources, as well as receive helpful links and resources about scholarships, awards, and fellowships.

Invest in your graduate school future when you buy Financing Your Future today. Save 20% by entering coupon code FUTURE20 by July 31, 2010.

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2010 AIGAC Conference in Boston

The Charles River Near MIT Sloan

I will run out of superlatives if I attempt to describe the 2010 AIGAC Conference in Boston. Suffice it say that it was extraordinarily illuminating.  MIT Sloan and Harvard Business School graciously and generously hosted the event, which was kicked off by MIT Sloan’s Dean David C. Schmittlein, who discussed the reasoning behind MIT Sloan’s portfolio of programs as well as the school’s three-fold focus on innovation, action learning, and knowledge creation. He was followed by multiple presentations about MIT Sloan, several panels with representatives from Columbia, NYU Stern, Michigan Ross, INSEAD, Tuck, Yale SOM, Haas, Kelley, UCLA Anderson, UVA Darden, and Duke Fuqua. The conference ended at HBS with a dynamic presentation and tour of the magnificent HBS campus. (Ok I’ll can the superlatives.)

Several impressions and take-aways for applicants from the different events and sessions:

MIT Sloan Panels:

From the MIT panels it is clear that MIT is looking for demonstrated success academically and professionally.  The latter translates into success or professional progression that is better than the norm for your peers. In terms of those fuzzy attributes and personal characteristics that schools talk about, Sloan wants to see drive; an ability to build relationships and influence others;  and the establishment, pursuit and achievement of goals.  A few details about the individual programs:

  1. 100% of the MFin grads have jobs this year, this program’s inaugural graduating class.
  2. The EMBA is a program for those in mid-management with a demonstrated record of success who either want to advance in their career or make a slight career change without leaving their job.  Neither sponsorship nor the GMAT is required. (the latter may be requested if MIT has questions about the applicant’s quant skills.)
  3. The LGO program focuses on managing the global production and distribution of goods and services. It is a joint, quant-heavy 24-month program between MIT Sloan and MIT’s School of Engineering. Participants earn both an MBA and an MS in Engineering.

MIT Sloan

We also heard two presentations by MIT Sloan professors. If you have any doubt that MIT Sloan is serious about innovation and global reach, abandon them. The creativity and global impact evident in just these two hours would force you to reshape your views.

Impressions from Conference Day 2 (Multiple presentations by various schools reps)

  • Schools and admissions committee members look at different elements when they evaluate an application.  Pay attention to the nuances.
  • Your informal and personally identifiable interactions with school admissions personnel are highly revealing. They COUNT! Arrogance at any point in time is a death knell for your application (and most relationships too.) Rudeness to a receptionist is a ding. What qualities impress positively? In your essays and interviews, reveal dignity, generosity of spirit, self-awareness, authenticity, and consideration of others. These qualities cannot be faked or “spun.”
  • Regarding financial aid, merit aid tends to go to the top X% based on academic stats. Generally, when evaluating fellowship essays, the readers do not refer to your application essays. Poor credit can prevent you from obtaining the loans necessary for you to attend the school of your dreams if merit aid and your resources don’t cover the tab; get your credit in order before you apply.
  • Regarding career development, the MBA employment picture improved throughout 2009-10. Read the employment reports for schools before you decide to apply and certainly before you decide to attend; you need to know school strengths as revealed in these reports. Understand the role of the career services staff (educating students about effective career planning and job search) and the limitations of that role. (They don’t create or find jobs for you.) Networking, which is about building relationships not the size of your contact list, is more important than ever. In order to build relationships, you must move beyond email.

Harvard Business School

Harvard Business SchoolBaker Library at HBS
At Harvard, we enjoyed an interactive two-hour presentation that was stimulating and engaging. To the extent it reflected the dynamism of the Harvard educational experience, I was extremely impressed.

This visit clarified for me that Harvard’s unparalleled brand is not just a matter of US News Rankings or smoke-and-mirrors branding.  At the same time, HBS is not for everyone, but like any top graduate program, it can be a fantastic experience for the right individuals.

Before the conference started my husband and I met with an acquaintance who is a professor at HBS. The professor was curious about my work, and I was curious about his. He asked me what I believe distinguishes Harvard students from the rest of the applicant pool. I thought for a moment and replied, “Leadership and impact.” He smiled, and the conversation moved on. Just before leaving, I asked him, “From your perspective as an HBS professor, what is a common quality shared by HBS students?” He replied, “I smiled when you answered my question because the students come from incredibly diverse backgrounds. However, if I have to identify a common thread, it would be leadership and impact.” If you are serious about attending Harvard Business School, make sure you demonstrate leadership and impact.

Reflections and Thank yous

Accepted.com staff at HBSAccepted Staff at Aldrich Hall (HBS). Standing: Robbie Walker, Tanis Kmetyk, Paul Bodine. Seated: Cindy Tokumitsu, Jennifer Bloom, Linda Abraham, Judy Gruen
It is our job as admissions consultants to help you choose the best target programs and show that you  belong at your chosen schools. The candor and graciousness shown by the hosting schools as well as by the presenting admissions directors will help Accepted’s staff do exactly that.

I am proud to report that Accepted’s staff was well represented at  the conference. In addition to myself, Jennifer Bloom, Paul Bodine, Judy Gruen, Tanis Kmetyk, Cindy Tokumitsu, and Robbie Walker attended.

Profound thanks to the hosts and presenters as well as to AIGAC, led by Graham Richmond of Clear Admit, and specifically to Maxx Duffy of Maxx Associates and Anna Ivey of Ivey Consulting who co-chaired the event. Thanks also to the sponsors: Veritas Prep, Clear Admit, Hult International Business School, Manhattan GMAT, MBA Podcaster, and Zoom Interviews

Learn More:  Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Choosing the One for You.

By Linda Abraham, President and Founder of Accepted.com.

No-Loan Pledges Help Diversify Colleges

More and more colleges are signing “no-loan pledges” in an effort to reduce students’ post-graduation debt, reports a Washington Post article, “Colleges offer grants, work-study to reduce students’ debt.”

In order to fill the gap between what colleges charge and what students can afford, many colleges are boosting their work-study opportunities, as well as promising more aid in grants.

Private schools like Harvard, Princeton, and the University of Pennsylvania are even going so far as to eliminate loan debt for most of their graduating seniors. And at a time of economic hardship, this is not an easy feat; in fact, Penn’s financial aid budget just increased 78% to $149 million, just in the last years. Penn administrators say that this investment is worth it.

At many state universities, the practice of eliminating loans for low-income families has been in practice already for a few years. Today, however, not only are middle class families unable to take on more debt, but that lower-class bracket now includes more than half as many students as it did five years ago. In other words, a growing number of students require aid; nonetheless, many schools are committed to their no- or reduced-loan policies.

Such changes in the way loans are administered is helping top-tier, private, liberal arts colleges widen their application pools. More students from more diverse backgrounds are able to considering schools like Penn or Harvard (not to mention the now-expensive state schools) for the first time ever, now that they know that attending such a school won’t leave them with hundreds of dollars of unmanageable debt.

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College and MBA Admissions News Round Up

1.    A Chronicle article titled, “On Sticker Prices and ‘Wishful Thinking,’” reports that students and parents have hastily “ruled out colleges based solely on published sticker prices without considering how much financial aid they might receive.” According to a recent survey, these students and their parents did not use online financial aid calculators, nor did they investigate in other ways to see if they could make college more affordable through aid, loans, or grants. Survey findings show that in higher-income families, the parents were the ones who took advantage of the aid calculators; in the lower-income families, the students conducted financial aid searches. To prevent potential students from “dropping out” even before they walk through the college doors, the federal government next year will require colleges to provide “net-tuition calculators” to help families better determine how much they’ll likely pay, as opposed to accepting sticker prices as final. The Chronicle article also states that students are exceedingly optimistic (or rather, unrealistic) when it comes to their financial aid expectations. For example, 45% of students with SAT scores below 1000 believed that they would receive merit-based financial aid.

2.    Here’s one way to attract prospective students to an international MBA program—fly them out for a weekend visit. Nyenrode Business Universiteit, a top b-school in the Netherlands, has just announced that it will offer free flights from anywhere in the world to ten prospective students for its “immersion weekend.” “We have invested heavily in shaping what we believe is now a world-class MBA programme and we are absolutely determined to attract the very best people to it,” says Desiree Van Gorp, the international MBA’s director. “The new programme is focused strongly on personal development and the enhancement of leadership skills and that’s exactly what participants can expect from the weekend of the 25th to 27th June, albeit in miniature.”

3.    Bloomberg Businessweek has published yet another article about the b-school drive to expand their global footprints. This time, in “Top B-Schools Set Sights on India,” author Alison Damast discusses the moves American b-schools are taking to set up shop in India. These schools view the growing demand for high-quality management education in India as a clear invitation for them to make themselves at home, building new, state-of-the-art campuses in India. Such initiatives are contingent upon the passing by the Indian Parliament of a bill that will permit foreign schools to open their doors in India. If such a bill is passed, as is expected, then top U.S. business schools, including Duke Fuqua, will begin planning off-shore sites in India. The new Duke campus will offer EMBA degrees, one-year MAs in business, and other graduate programs.

4.    While most people blame college grads’ inability to find a job on the economy, a recent NPR story blames it on the grads themselves. That’s why ill-prepared college seniors are getting a bit more attention these days in the areas of job readiness, communication skills, and life in the “real world.” David Polk, a York College professor who’s developing a new curriculum in “professionalism,” says, “There’s a sense of entitlement that we’ve picked up on, where people think they’re entitled to become, let’s say, president of the company within the next two years; they’re entitled to five weeks of vacation.”

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How to Choose a University: Price over Prestige?

A recent CNN.com video, “Students choosing price over prestige?” describes how American high school seniors have some pretty tough decisions to make: Should they pursue a prestigious, top-dollar education at an Ivy League school? Or should they settle for a more affordable option—a state school or community college? Which, in the end, will offer more value?

Part 1 of this video tells the story of a high school valedictorian who chooses to attend The College of New Jersey, over Boston College, so that he can afford med school later on. The video explains how such a move (away from prestige and towards a more attractive price tag) is increasingly popular, as is the decision to attend a three-year undergraduate program, another hot topic in the discussion of cutting costs and increasing value.

Part 2, as commentary in the New York TimesThe Choice puts it, is “a cautionary tale.” It tells the story of an NYU graduate with a business degree who now lives in Pennsylvania, over a gas station, and with a two-hour commute to his New York City job, so that he can pay off his $250,000 debt.

For more on determining school value and return on investment (ROI), please see related Accepted blog posts:

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