2014 was groundbreaking in a number of fashions. On one hand, American universities witnessed a record number of applicants — accompanied by reports of the lowest acceptance rates in history from schools such as Harvard and Yale. On the other, the class of 2014 is reported to be the most indebted group of graduates ever, a disheartening admission in the face of the ever-rising interest rates of both federal and private loans.
The trend that emerges is an unsettling one. A degree is becoming more and more necessary to be competitive in today’s job market, a necessity increasingly hogtied by rising tuitions, higher loan interest rates, and intensifying competition for spots at elite institutions. As a result, more and more students are facing a particularly difficult decision: pursue a top-notch, debt-laden, and financially strenuous education, or sacrifice a brand-name school in the name of minimizing debt. Naturally, this dilemma applies less to those that can comfortably bear the brunt of tuition — before or after financial aid — yet thousands of families will be weighing this choice in the upcoming admissions season.
Fortunately, the brand v. debt situation isn’t as black and white as it immediately appears. A surprising number of elite institutions have programs that, while being less traditional, offer significantly lower costs while preserving both brand and networking opportunities. These programs are what I refer to as the backdoor, or plan B, regarding admission to the upper echelon of American universities — providing the opportunity for a discounted, accessible, and less selective world-class education.
It is worth stressing that these opportunities do not constitute a way to cheat the more traditional admissions route; they provide options for those who weren’t raised as ‘perfect students,’ students who don’t mind ‘taking their time’ to earn a degree, families facing difficulties in financing an elite education, adults returning for additional (or first) degrees, and for anyone who values a top 40 education above being a traditional applicant. These opportunities also provide a solution to the debt v. brand dilemma. Students do not have to chose between a less impressive diploma or being up to their necks in debt; these programs have the ability to lift the financial strain from both them and their families while providing the education they deserve.
Even if you or your child are not facing such a dilemma, every student would do well to be fully aware of the opportunities available to them. An introduction to and discussion of these programs can be found in my book, “Open The Gates To The Ivy League,” which is available on Amazon and in a number of libraries around the country.