Choosing A School, Fly-In Focus

Applying To & Attending College Fly-in Programs

No Comments 12 August 2016

College fly-in and diversity programs are amazing opportunities for first-gen, low-income and underrepresented students to make important campus visits funded by a scholarship or all expenses paid by the school.  Held at institutions around the country, fly-in and diversity programs give students the chance to sit in on a class, stay overnight in a dorm, meet faculty and current students, and get a real feel for a college’s culture.

Thinking about participating in one of these great programs?  Here are some tips for students on how to find, apply, and prepare for a fly-in or diversity program.

Decide What Programs You’re Interested In

Take a look at College Greenlight’s blog post to see a comprehensive list of colleges that offer these sorts of programs.  Consider which colleges are ones you are interested in attending—you don’t want to waste both your and a college’s time by attending a program at a college you wouldn’t consider, and taking a spot for someone who wants to be there.

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of colleges check into the details of each program and decide if you’re eligible or if it will work with your needs and schedule.  Some programs are only for certain students, like those who are first-gen or come from underrepresented backgrounds or are for students interested in specific fields such as STEM.  You’ll also want to take a look at program dates and deadlines, and see if these particular programs have open applications and that their program dates will work with your schedule.  Junior and senior year can be a very busy time, but taking time to visit a college campus, especially for a fly-in or diversity program, can be worth it come college application time.

Collect Your Materials & Submit Applications

Once you’ve decided on what programs you’ll apply to, you’ll have to collect the necessary materials and fill out an application.  Do your research—each program may have very different requirements, from essays to transcripts to letters of recommendation, and some of these you’ll have to plan ahead to get in time.

It’s important to note that many of these programs are selective and have very limited seats available.  Some are on a first-come, first-serve basis; others are based on merit or a student’s demonstrated interest in the institution.  To have the best chance of getting accepted, apply early and, if possible, use your application materials (like essays) to explain why you are interested in that particular college.

Prepare for Your Visit

Once you’ve been accepted to a program, it’s time to get excited for your visit! It’s also time to prepare for taking advantage of your time on campus.   Make a list of questions you’d like to ask admissions staff, faculty and current students.  Depending on your interests, these questions can include information about financial aid, academics or the college’s culture.   Ask fellow students how they like the college and any other questions that might help give you an idea of how you’d fit in on campus.  Do you participate in sports or clubs or activities you plan to pursue after high school? Do you want to know what there is to do in the surrounding community? These are just a few examples of potential questions, and don’t be shy—ask away!

Interested in a specific field of study?  It can also be helpful to find out before where the faculty offices and classroom buildings are located and see if you can find some time to visit them.  Each fly-in and diversity program is different, and you may only see different parts of campus or you may get a tour of all the buildings.

Follow Up & Apply

Many college admissions professionals agree that the campus visit can be the most crucial part of deciding if a college is the right match or fit for a student.  If after you after attending a fly-in or diversity program you are still interested in the college, the real work starts!

If you met with admissions officers or faculty, you can demonstrate your interest by following up and thanking them for your time.  This not only is polite, but also helps them remember you when you send in your application later.

Don’t forget the most important part: applying!   Take note of deadlines and fill out your application to the school when it opens.  By participating in the diversity or fly-in program you already have an advantage, but there is still the last step: work hard and get accepted!





Choosing A School

Considering a Women’s College

1 Comment 08 August 2016

If you’re a young lady considering schools, you may have heard some common myths about women’s colleges: they’re outdated, won’t prepare you well for living in a co-ed world, aren’t as academically challenging, and that living with women all the time is, well, sort of weird.  In reality, however, women’s colleges have a lot of benefits, giving you an edge over other college graduates in an increasingly competitive global job market.

Here are a just a few reasons why every girl should consider women’s colleges:

Women’s Colleges Are Diverse

Being able to work with a diverse group of people is a valuable trait employers seek in potential employees. Although minorities are still very underrepresented on all college campuses, women’s college have a deep commitment to accepting diverse students given the history of how women’s colleges were first founded- to provide women with equal access to higher education.

Women’s Colleges Create Leaders (Especially in STEM)

It’s no secret that women are still underrepresented in the STEM fields and other male dominated professions such as medicine, law, business, and academia. Women’s colleges have a number of leadership and/or mentoring programs specifically designed to give young women hands-on experience in many of these fields.

For example, Smith College has over 30% of their students majoring in the sciences and with their open curriculum you can study science as well as any of their other 50 areas of study. Scripps College offers its women the opportunity to take classes with other Claremont College students, co-author papers, and present their research at academic conferences through the W.M. Keck Science Center.

Additionally, since there are no men to compete with, women dominate all student government leadership positions. as well as other leadership opportunities on campus. Seeing women in every leadership role can empower either the outspoken or shy student to be a leader themselves- a tangible skill you can put on your resume and take with you after college.

Women’s Colleges are Well-Known and Respected

Women’s colleges were created in response to the fact that Ivy League Schools initially only admitted men. As a result, many of the country’s first women’s college curriculum were designed with the same amount of academic rigor as their male counterparts. Barnard College, which is located right across the street from Columbia University, still maintains its partnership with its historic male counterpart. Today, Barnard College offers a number of world-class internships and research opportunities to its women that it did when it first opened and encourages its students to be independent leaders. Many other women’s colleges share these same traits and boast a number of accomplished women leaders. Take Hilary Clinton or Madeleine Albright for example, who both graduated from Wellesley.

Women’s Colleges Have Strong Alumnae Networks

Women’s colleges work hard to create an inspiring, relevant, and academically challenging experience for students, which in turn creates a highly supportive network for you to tap into once you leave college. These alumnae networks will especially come in handy when searching for job opportunities.

Strong alumnae networks also mean strong endowments since alums are more engaged and willing to donate money to their Alma Mater. If you’re a student who has high financial need, make sure to connect with the financial aid office at your women’s college of choice. There’s a good chance that they might be able to fund most of your family’s need.


To see which women’s colleges are a good fit for you, create your account on College Greenlight and connect with schools like Smith, Barnard, and Scripps.

Choosing A School

4 Advantages to Considering an Out-of-State College

No Comments 23 June 2015

When you’re building your college list, location and distance from home can be a huge factor for many students.  While staying close to home due to financial or personal reasons may be a necessity for some, those who have the option to consider out-of-state colleges may find there can be some big advantages to those who are willing to be a little adventurous with their college choices. Check out this list of four reasons an out-of-state college or university might be the best fit for you, and then consider adding one to your college list on College Greenlight and consider participating in our Summer Challenge! 

Consider What You Want Out of Your College Experience

Depending on what you would like to get out of your college experience, you may find that a school further from home or in another state will have more of the qualities you are looking for.  Do you want to attend school in a rural area, or  in a big city? Do you want to attend a large state school or a smaller, private college? Check out the profiles of the colleges you are interested in on College Greenlight and you’ll be able to learn these qualities about colleges from all over the nation.  If you find one that fits what you’re looking for considering adding it to your list–even if it’s not in your state.

Believe It or Not: Lower Tuition & Scholarships for Out-Of-State Students

A common misconception is that attending an out-of-state school is more expensive than attending one in-state.  Not always! Depending on your home state and the college you’re interested in attending, sometimes going to a school outside of your area will actually save you money. In addition to the tuition being less in some cases, colleges and organizations also offer special scholarships to students who wish to study out of state, so be sure to check with the college and look for organizations in your state.

Major Specializations / Academic Interest

If you already know what major or academic interest you plan on pursuing, seeking out a college known for that particular program can be a great way to maximize your studies. Sometimes, this might be an out-of-state college or university.  Don’t be afraid to consider out-of-state colleges if you feel strongly about your intended major; the experience studying with distinguished faculty and taking classes that you may not be able to find at other colleges can be incredibly valuable.

Similarly, some areas of the country may be more conducive to certain areas of interest and offer networking opportunities you won’t be able to find anywhere else. For example, those studying in the business and finance fields may find more resources like networking opportunities or internships in a larger city.

Get Out of Your “Comfort Zone”

This one may seem obvious, but challenging yourself by changing your location can be a great way to learn to be independent and grow your personal confidence.  Students who end up staying close to where they went to high school often find themselves sticking with the same group of friends or going to the same places.  Going somewhere new after high school will allow you to meet new people, experience different places and learn the ins and outs a whole new city or town while you attend college there.


Check out colleges and create your college list on College Greenlight and make sure to apply to our Summer Challenge Scholarship!


Choosing A School

Decision Day: Understanding Your Award Letter

No Comments 07 April 2015

Decision Day is coming up May 1st, and while there are a number of different factors that may influence your decision, for many students affordability is one of the most important.  A helpful tool for figuring out if a school makes sense to you financially is your Financial Aid Award Letter. If you’re accepted, have completed your FAFSA and listed the school on it, you should receive a letter from the college.  The FAFSA helps to determine your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) which, in turn, helps to determine how much aid you’ll need, or if you’ll need to seek out other ways to fund your education. Your letter usually will arrive a few weeks after you receive your acceptance.

While each school’s letter may look a little different, they each will have information about the Cost of Attendance (COA), how much your family is expected to contribute (based on your FAFSA), how much financial aid you’ll receive from the school, and how much is left over that you will be expected to cover. While that sounds simple enough, it might be a little more difficult to decipher which parts of the letter are scholarships, loans, or other types of aid such as work study and this information is extremely important–you’ll have to pay back those loans (with interest!)

COA, EFC, Out-of-Pocket Cost & Net Price

Cost of Attendance (COA), Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and Net Price are all important numbers that you’ll see, but how do these actually affect how much you’ll be paying for college?  The COA will give you a number for how much one year of tuition, fees, books, room and board and other potential costs will be.  Each year this may change and this number is determined before any scholarships, grants or loans are applied to your personal financial situation. Most schools will then take the EFC determined by your FAFSA and subtract this from the COA before they decide how much aid they can give you.  While your Cost of Attendance might be intimidating, remember, that’s not necessarily how much you’ll be paying.  Once you figure out how much aid in the form of scholarships and grants you’re being offered, you can subtract this from the COA to determine your Out-Of-Pocket Cost–the actual amount of money that you’ll need to pay with through loans or other means.  What you’ll ultimately paying–and the number that might be the most important when comparing schools–is the Net Price.  This number is what you’ll ultimately cover with private, federal Plus loans, or other means that is determiend by subtracting need-based laons from your Out-of Pocket Cost.

Decode the Letter

Usually, you’ll see a total award amount with a breakdown of where the money is coming from for each semester.  Make sure you pay close attention to this part, because there may be confusing acronyms that make it hard to figure out if this is free money or a loan–sometimes it will be as confusing as just including the letters “L” or “LN”.  We recommend circling the loans so you know how much money you’ll pay back, and then doing research on the kinds of loans the school is offering.  Common loans include federal Stafford loans, which are either subsidized (often abbreviated “sub”) or unsubsidized (abbreviated “unsub”) and some schools will include Parent Plus loans.  Unsubsidized federal Stafford loans will accrue interest while you’re in school; the subsidized versions do not.  Parent Plus loans, unlike the Stafford loans, are loans that go in the parent’s name, versus that of the student, so parents should pay close attention to any of these loans awarded in a Financial Award Letter. Additionally, some award letters will refer to private loans from a preferred lender list.  You’ll want to contact the lender directly and decide if this is an option for you.

Accepting Loans & Covering the Gap

Taking some time with your Financial Aid Award letter will pay off (literally!) in the long run and help you determine which school will be giving you the aid you need with a level of student loan debt that’s manageable for your situation.  If you end up accepting student loans, it’s helpful to remember you don’t have to take out the entire amount being offered if, for example, you think you’ll spend less money on books or room and board. You’ll also be required to participate in entrance counseling and to sign a Master Promissory Note (MPN) where you’ll agree to pay the money you borrow back.

Another situation to consider is that even after you’ve accepted loans, you might have a gap between your aid and loans and the cost of the school.  There are a few ways you can “cover the gap”, such as applying for more scholarships (which you can find on College Greenlight.)


Decision Day is May 1st! Check out our post on how to make your college choice and make sure you share where you’re going with us on Twitter and Facebook!


Choosing A School

Decision Day: How To Choose Your College

No Comments 01 April 2015

You’ve been spending countless hours on your college search and applications and all your work has paid off: you’ve got acceptance letters from multiple schools!  Now, you’re faced with a pretty big life decision about which is the right one. As Decision Day grows closer and closer, here’s a guide for picking a school that will be the best fit: where you’ll spend the next few years excelling academically, where you’ll be the most happy, and where you’ll find the school that makes the most financial sense for you.


Decide what aspects of a school are most important to you.  Will the financial aid package fit your budget?  Also consider campus culture, and things like athletics, Greek life, and other extracurriculars you may want to participate in. Do you want a big school or a small school? Do you want to stay close to home or do you want to head elsewhere?  Once you’ve figured how important the answers to these questions are, you’ll be able to better compare schools.

Compare Financial Aid Packages

For many students, financial aid is a big determiner in which school they’ll choose.  Take a close look at the packages that are offered from each school, and see what options are available–will you need to take out loans or do you plan to work while you attend college? Options like these, as well as work-study programs on campus, should be conversations you have with you family to see if a school is a financial fit.  If you log in to your College Greenlight account, you’ll be able to see other helpful tools like the EFC (Expected Family Contribution) and Net Price Calculator that are also useful when looking at this information.

Investigate Academics

Some students may already know what area of study they want to study (and some may have no idea–which is also okay!)  If you already know what you plan to major in, comparing academic programs between schools can help; depending on the school, each department may have different requirements per major.  Students considering a specific major should also check to make sure schools are offering it or should decide if taking a more generalized area of study will work for them. Last, check out the faculty in the department, their accolades, and feel free to reach out to them with any questions you still may have.

Consider Social & Environmental Fit

Don’t underestimate a campus’ culture in your decision–surrounding yourself in an environment you’re comfortable with and enjoy can help you excel academically as well.  Do you prefer a rural or an urban campus? Do you want a bustling, large campus that comes to a halt during athletics or a smaller, more liberal arts-oriented school?  If you were able to make a campus visit, now could be a great time to look over any notes about the campus you took, or, if it’s convenient, visit again.  Not able to make it? Conduct a Virtual Visit using College Greenlight to get an idea of what the campus is like.

Decide & Respond

Once you’ve taken a hard look at these factors and made your decision, make sure you take all the necessary steps to secure your place, including sending in your acceptance, any deposits, and other necessary items by the due date.  In addition to letting the school of your choice know you plan to accept, you should also let any schools you won’t be attending know you’ll be declining their acceptance.  This way, students who are waiting for your spot and any financial aid will get a more timely response and if you decide to transfer you’ll have kept up a good relationship with the school.


You’ve made a big decision–make sure to keep up with the College Greenlight Facebook and Twitter pages and let us know where you’ll be going next year!

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