Some surprising numbers
July 30, 2015

Ian Welham with some surprising numbers.


I just read an interesting survey from Fidelity Investments about paying for college.

Several data points caught my eye. 74% of families believe the cost of college is becoming cost prohibitive, while 55% are concerned their children will have to make compromises in the quality of their education due to cost.

One question asked what percentage of the total college bill parents plan to pay. According to the survey:

– 26% of parents plan to pay all college costs
– 69 % plan to pay a portion
– 4% plan to pay no college costs

Another statistic that surprised me said that families are on track to pay 34% of what they intend to spend on their children’s education. That’s quite a shortfall, and leads me to believe that the student debt trend will not soon abate.

Parents seem to be concerned about saddling their kids with student loans, but may feel their hands are tied. According to the survey:

– Seventy-eight percent of parents don’t want to burden their children with hefty student loans, yet 43 percent of those planning to take out loans do not believe they will be able to secure one to cover the full amount needed to pay their children’s college bill.

In such an environment, your ability to get merit and financial aid is more important than ever. If you’re interested, we can help you with both.

Last month I wrote about Mitch Daniels, the no nonsense president of Purdue, and his great quote about college food choices: “Do you guys understand that higher ed has been around for a millennium and, until the last few years, every college student everywhere hated the food?… [It’s] supposed to be standard and bad.”

Since then I’ve gotten a number of comments about what college dining was like “in the good old days.” One of my readers pointed out a letter-to-the-editor that appeared in Notre Dame Magazine that I found amusing. Here it is:

“‘Everything and the kitchen sink’ celebrated the improved quality and quantity of food service at today’s Notre Dame. In 1957 in the campus cafeteria, I found quite a few pieces of glass in my chili at dinner one night. I took them to a cafeteria supervisor standing at the end of the food line. He took them and, with great disinterest, tossed them over his right shoulder against the back wall. He said, ‘Thanks,’ and stared straight ahead. Obviously students then were much tougher than the coddled students of today.”

Warmest Wishes,
Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101


Do you know these low-cost colleges?
July 29, 2015

Ian Welham on low-cost colleges.


I admit it. I tend to fixate about the high cost of college.

“Give it up, Welham,” you may have found yourself thinking. “We know how expensive college is.”

OK, fair enough. The reason I tend to focus on the most expensive schools is because:
a) I’m incredulous of their high price tag (that keeps rising!); and
b) these are the schools parents in our area seem to have the most interest in

Today I’m going to talk about some of the lowest cost colleges I’m aware of (not counting military academies). Starting with

College of the Ozarks
Location: Point Lookout, Missouri
Tuition: Free (does not include room and board)
Methodology: This is a clever model other colleges could adapt. College of the Ozarks students are required to work 15 hours/week on campus plus two 40-hour work weeks during the school year doing jobs ranging from landscaping to administrative jobs. Putting students to work saves the college the cost of salaries, benefits, etc., for outside workers. Remaining tuition is covered by the school’s $350 million endowment. Students have the option to pay room and board out of pocket or working through the Summer Work Program.

Webb Institute
Location: Glen Cove, New York
Tuition: Free (does not include room and board)
Methodology: In addition to endowments, the school saves money by offering only 2 majors. All students of this engineering college double major in naval architecture and maritime engineering. Every year, all students also do a “winter work” internship in the maritime industry. Given this unique combination of intensive training plus real-world experience, it’s no wonder that 100% of Webb’s graduating class secure jobs.

Curtis Institute of Music
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Tuition: Free
Methodology: According to the website, “The Curtis Institute of Music educates and trains exceptionally gifted young musicians for careers as performing artists on the highest professional level. Since 1928 Curtis has maintained an all-scholarship policy. The Curtis Institute of Music provides merit-based full-tuition scholarships to all undergraduate and graduate, students, regardless of their financial situation. These scholarships are renewed each year of a student’s enrollment. No financial aid application is required for the full-tuition scholarship.”

Cooper Union
Location: New York, New York
Tuition: Half tuition
Methodology: Cooper Union was established under founder Peter Cooper’s belief that an education “equal to the best technology schools established” should be accessible to those who qualify, independent of their race, religion, sex, wealth or social status, and should be “open and free to all”. Cooper Union was 100% free until last year. Today it’s no longer free, but every incoming student receives at the very least a fifty-percent merit scholarship.

Olin College of Engineering
Location: Needham, MA
Tuition: Half tuition
Methodology: Founded in 1997 by the F.W. Olin Foundation, this engineering college reduces costs by teaching only one subject, offering no tenure to professors, subcontracting maintenance and dining services, and not offering an athletics program. All students receive the half-tuition Olin Scholarship.

Warmest Wishes,
Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101


Promise vs. Payments
July 27, 2015

Ian Welham on  Promise vs. Payments


I read a surprising stat the other day from a UCLA survey: only 57 percent of new college students enrolled in their first-choice school last year. That’s the lowest percentage in the 39 years they’ve been keeping track.

What’s the reason why? You guessed it: cost. With the cost of college continuing to rise at 6 percent a year and the overall cost doubling in the last decade, students can no longer choose a college without regard to how the bill gets paid.

How can parents who earn over $100,000 a year qualify for more financial aid? “By lowering their income in the calendar year before they submit the aid application and by shifting assets into certain types of accounts before they file,” says AnnaMaria Andriotis in The Wall Street Journal. She also points out that home-equity loans “are treated as assets” in the federal aid formula, so “borrowing money to build an addition could result in less financial aid.”

This is the time of year when families start making plans to visit colleges over the summer. If that’s you, I have some entertaining reading for you. Actually you may appreciate these articles after you do your touring rather than before. The first article is by Marek Fuchs, a professor at Sarah Lawrence College, writing in The Wall Street Journal. You can find it here:

The second article is called, “Oh, So That’s Why College is So Expensive,” and was written by CCPS’s own Paul Partridge. Paul chronicled his college tour travels with his daughter Grace. The article was featured in and can be found here:

Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101


Hidden Scholarships
July 21, 2015

Ian Welham reveals Hidden Scholarships


Many students choose colleges randomly and somewhat arbitrarily. I’m constantly beating the drum about choosing colleges “strategically” — especially if you seek financial aid.

One way for smart students to improve their chances for merit aid is to apply to schools where they will be in the top 10% – 18% of the incoming freshmen class. The bulk of merit aid funds are distributed to this top segment.

Is there anything else you can do? Yes, there is.

I call them the “hidden scholarships.” Not every school offers these scholarships, but many do. They’re usually offered by the admissions office, the office of the president, or maybe the trustees as a way for the university to entice top talent to their institution. Typically, they’re based solely on academic merit (not need), and often cover full tuition.

The reason I call them “hidden” is because it takes some digging to find them. In other words, you won’t see them listed on the home page of the college’s website. You might find them two or three levels down in the financial aid section; but few people bother to venture that deep. You should, because it’s worth it (assuming you have a bright student).

For example, Johns Hopkins awards two 4-year tuition scholarships by the Dean of Engineering. What’s it take to nab one of these scholarships besides academic excellence? They’re looking for success in science fairs. So if you have a student who’s done well in one or more science fairs, here’s a great opportunity.

Boston College awards 15 full-tuition Presidential Scholarships every year to students who can demonstrate leadership potential, participation in community service and high test scores.

Some of these “hidden scholarships” have a local requirement. Case in point: Right down the street from Johns Hopkins, Loyola University offers a full-tuition scholarship to a Roman Catholic resident of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Further requirements are a GPA of 3.4 – 4.0, upper 1% rank in class, SAT (reading/math) of 1450-1600.

Look for colleges that offer these academic scholarships. The majority require no additional or special application forms.

Warmest Wishes,

Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101


Which is better?
July 17, 2015

Ian Welham asks “Which is Better?”


Have you ever visited a college for an official visit? At most universities, the process goes like this:

Step 1: the Director of Admission or Assist. Director of Admission gives a speech.
Step 2: some students and/or professors are brought in and they give a speech.
Step 3: question & answer session.
Step 4: one or more student guides are brought in and the visitors are assigned guides and off you go on the tour.

I’ve certainly seen my share of colleges, and during the Q & A session there’s one question that always seems to be asked. Usually it’s a Mom (with her son or daughter turning beet red beside her) who raises her hand and inquires, “Is it better to get a ‘B’ in an Honors Course or an ‘A’ in a regular course?

Usually the Director of Admission will start in with the answer and often the audience will finish the sentence… “It’s better to get an ‘A’ in the Honors course.”

One question that’s less frequently asked – and usually stumps the audience when it is – is this: Is it better to be a well-rounded student or to have a single special skill?

The myth is that colleges and universities seek well-rounded applicants. While true to some extent, the truth is, you have a better chance of getting accepted — and getting a tuition reduction — if you have a unique or special skill that distinguishes you from other applicants. The fact is, there are tens of thousands of well-rounded kids out there. But there are very few kids who play the vibraphone well enough to perform at the Village Vanguard in NYC, for example (I was just reading about a youngster doing just that).

Think about it: Every incoming freshmen class is a unique mini community. What does that community need? It needs dancers and debaters, newspaper editors, long jumpers, tuba players, glee club members, etc., etc. — not a whole bunch of generalists.

If you have a special skill or talent, what’s the best way to communicate that to a prospective college? For starters, include it on your application; and also talk about it in your essay, personal statement, and if possible, during an interview. In addition, you can ask your coach/teacher/mentor to write one of your letters of recommendation.

Sometimes parents ask: Should we include newspaper articles or citations that highlight activities or achievements? I suggest caution here. For one thing, admissions officers don’t have lots of time to read extra information beyond what’s requested. And even though Grandma Jones may think it’s a big deal to be mentioned in the local town paper, the college admissions officer probably won’t.

Warmest Wishes,

Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101


The Funny Side of College
July 15, 2015

Ian Welham on “The Funny Side of College”


Are you familiar with the Onion? It’s a satirical newspaper. Funny stuff.

A recent article called, “How The College Admissions Process Works,” promised the inside scoop on how colleges determine the makeup of their incoming freshmen class. Some of my favorites:

Step 2: Colleges dispatch officials to monitor students while they sleep to see if they actually dream of going to their school

Step 7: The final decision is made as to who is admitted and who needed just one more extracurricular

Step 9: Admissions office throws out big stack of applications they didn’t get to

I got a big chuckle out of reading the article and thought you might, too.

Here’s the link:,35625/

Warmest Wishes,
Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101


R u being watched?
July 13, 2015

Ian Welham reports that college admissions officials are spying on students online.


Here’s something you won’t find disclosed on a college application…

But it could be as important as your extracurricular activities or teacher recommendations.

According to a national survey, more and more colleges are “using social media to evaluate applicants.” In other words, college admissions officials are spying on students online.

Evidently, it’s not just the occasional curious onlooker. The number of college admissions officials checking out students’ digital presence increased 400% in the last 12 months, reports USA TODAY.

The two primary methods of spying are Googling and Facebook watching. What are they looking for? Essay plagiarism. Vulgarities. Inappropriate photos.

Ray Brown, admission dean at TCU claims he rejected one applicant who had posted pornographic photos of herself online. Other inappropriate photos include underage drinking.

The other thing they’re looking for is consistency between your college application persona and your online persona. “If you were able to find out that somebody misrepresented themselves in their application, I think it could be used to help [us] make a decision,” declares Paul Marthers, VP for enrollment at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

I was surprised at how often admissions officials say they find objectionable posts. 12% say what they found “negatively impacted” the applicant’s chances of being admitted. That’s a much bigger percentage than I would have guessed.

Warning to students: Be careful what you write, what pictures you post, what kind of banter you engage in online. Your college career may depend on it.

Warmest Wishes,

Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101


Are you asking the wrong question?
July 9, 2015

Ian Welham wants to know if you are asking the wrong question.


This past week I met with several parents who were extremely worried about their children getting into college. I tried to reassure them that everything was going to be okay, that their students would get into college and a good one.

After being involved in college planning for so many years, I can tell you:

It’s highly likely that your child will be accepted to approximately 70% of the schools they apply to.

The only exception might be if your child is a borderline student or is applying only to Ivy League colleges or the most competitive schools. Remember, there are 2,774 four-year colleges* out there. Every one of them needs students to help pay their massive operating expenses.

This is great news for parents. Not only does it take the pressure off, but it gives also you leverage . . . if you know how to take advantage of this fact.

So, what’s the “right” way to look for colleges and universities for your child?

Instead of blindly picking schools based on how pretty the campus is, or how successful the sports teams are, or because your friend or relative’s son loves a particular college, you must look at one other very important benchmark:

Can this college or university meet my family’s financial need and give us more free money and fewer loans?

Remember, your child will get into most of the colleges s/he is applying to. So the question is NOT, “Will my child get into this school?” Instead, the right question to ask is, “Will this college give me the money I will need to send my child there for (hopefully) four years?”

If you haven’t realized it yet, college is very expensive these days. State universities can cost $25,000 to $45,000 a year, and private colleges can cost $60,000 and more.

Blimey! And that’s just for one year. Remember, you have 3 more years after that (and more, depending on how many children you have who aspire to college). And what if the little darlings want to go to graduate school?

There’s no doubt it’s expensive no matter how you slice it. But there are ways to minimize your out-of-pocket costs. One of the best ways to do this is by picking schools that historically have the best policies of giving financial aid.

Warmest Wishes,

Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101


Duck Dynasty Scholarship
July 7, 2015

Ian Welham discusses Duck Dynasty scholarship


Is your child into duck calling? There’s a scholarship for that. Long before the Duck Dynasty clan, there was Chick and Sophie Major from Stuttgart, Arkansas. So legendary was their duck calling and duck call making ability that a scholarship was started in their name.

Each year, high school seniors compete for the title of “best duck caller,” which comes with a scholarship. There’s an out-of-state as well as in-state division. To date, the Chick and Sophie Major Memorial Duck Call Contest Scholarship has given out over $60,000 in scholarships.

Of course there are other weird and wacky scholarships out there as well.

Tall Clubs International bestows scholarships of up to $1,000 for girls 5’10” or more and boys 6’2″ or taller.

The Vegetarian Resource Group gives away two scholarships to students who do not eat meat, fish or fowl and who “[show] compassion courage and a strong commitment to promoting a peaceful world through a vegetarian lifestyle.”

The American Fire Sprinkler Association offers 10 scholarships to students who can pass an online test on the history of sprinklers, how they work and careers in the industry.

My problem with chasing after scholarships is that most are in the $500 to $2,000 range. While that’s nothing to sneeze at, $1,000 is not going to put much dent in a $60,000/year tuition bill. Here are a few scholarships that can make a difference.

Ursinus College offers a $30,000/year J.D. Salinger Scholarship to a creative writing student. The student gets to live in the same dorm room occupied by the Catcher in the Rye author.

The Buick Achievers Scholarship Program gives away scholarships up to $25,000 per year for four years.

The NJ State Golf Association awards 4-year scholarships to caddies (boys and girls). Caddies who plan on attending certain Midwest colleges can apply for the full tuition Chick Evans Scholarship.

If you’re not a caddie or a J.D. Salinger-caliber writer, my recommendation is to pursue the bigger dollar awards of federal financial aid and/or merit aid. There are literally billions of dollars available in these pools. And on the merit side, your income is not a factor. So even high-income families can get free money.

Warmest Wishes,
Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101


Advice from someone smarter than I am
July 1, 2015

Ian Welham on Words of Wisdom


If you missed it the first time, I’m repeating one of our most popular posts — words of wisdom I wish I wrote but didn’t.

Here’s some life advice from 90-year-old Regina Brett from Cleveland. It’s called “Lessons Life Taught Me.”

1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don’t have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.

8. It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.

12. It’s OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don’t worry; God never blinks.

16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

17. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful, beautiful or joyful.

18. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.

19. It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.

Warmest Wishes,

Ian “The Professor” Welham
Certified College Funding Advisor
(973) 467-0101


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