On a recent very long flight, I was pacing up and down the aisle and noticed a header on a computer screen: “The Financial Crisis: Danger or Opportunity.” I have no idea what my fellow passenger was writing about, but I started mulling over that line from an admissions perspective.
The crisis has placed unprecedented demands on financial aid providers at a time when credit is tight and government budgets are shrinking. Danger. At the same time, President Obama’s stimulus package, if passed, will increase financial grants and tax credits for students. Schools are scrambling to maintain financial aid programs and some are even offering guaranteed loan programs to all incoming students. Opportunity lurks.
Going back to the danger signs. There are widespread reports of EMBA programs losing students because companies are cutting back or eliminating sponsorship, a trend that is accelerating with the recession. At many graduate programs those without or with limited funding either are choosing not to attend or only applying to programs they can afford. If you are one of the many whose access to funds is compromised by the credit crunch, your graduate educational aspirations are in danger.
So where is the opportunity? If you can gather the cash to pay for your graduate education, you will probably have an easier time getting into competitive programs next year. If you are waitlisted this year and the financial crisis forces others to withdraw their names or attend less expensive schools, your chances of moving from the waitlist to the accepted list at a “name” private program will improve. If there are programs that appeal to you and their final deadline for this year has not yet passed, don’t decide to wait until next year just because your application might be “late.” Your chances are probably better for late round submissions this year than in the past.
What can you do to turn this crisis into opportunity?
- Prepare to convert non-liquid assets into cash and reduce debt so that you can self-fund much of your graduate education.
- Stay informed about the rapidly changing financial aid programs and educate yourself about options and alternatives. Don’t assume that today’s financial aid program will be there tomorrow. It may be gone entirely. It may be more or less favorable to you.
- Develop a Plan B so that if the resources you are counting on disappear, you can still attend your dream schools. Consider turning to family for assistance.