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A Vital Equation

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Many students do not apply to the most prestigious universities because they think that they cannot afford them. Yet, with the available financial aid, many of those institutions could cost less than a community college.

If a student has the qualifications that meets the requirements of an elite university, the cost itself could is the lesser problem. Harvard covers all the expenses for a student whose family earns less than $60,000 a year, and many top-notch universities use similar criteria.

Even for students whose families are in a higher income bracket, the available assistance can be quite generous. In any case, students can find out beforehand what type of assistance they will receive from the university of their choice.

In 2008, a government regulation required that all universities post on their websites by October 2011 a calculator to help families determine the actual cost of attending a university after financial aid.

The calculator, with slight differences depending on the university, is the best tool for the students and their families to make decisions about attending college.

“The information regarding the net price calculator is the most valuable that you can offer to your audience,” said Laura Talbot, Financial Assistance Director for Swarthmore College, to Univision.

The most selective universities are those more inclined to recommend the use of the calculator because many of them offer scholarships based on financial need rather than academic merit, and these calculations factor into the family's financial information.

The most selective universities spare no expense in seeking the most promising students. As they are the ones with more resources, they have the ability to offer full scholarships to many of their students.

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According to the author of the Brookings Institution study, a low-income student may pay less at a top-notch university than at a non-selective two or four-year college. To check this out the students (and their families) may use the universities' calculators and compare the universities that appeal the most to them and those which do not. Many will be surprised!

“The students,” Reimers says, “should visit four-year colleges, where they could receive more financial aid that they anticipate with chances of admission that are higher that they may think.”

This is particularly true for minority students. According to a study published in 2012 by the Stanford University Center for Educational Policy Analysis, “the most selective colleges usually have a more diverse student body than mid-range institutions.”

The reason, according to the study's authors Sean Reardon, Rachel Baker and Daniel Klasik, lies in the fact that the most selective universities value diversity and have the resources to recruit the minority students with most potential.

Students, however, do not always easily fit with the atmosphere of the universities. So it's good to get to know the universities in advance and advise you appropriately.

IT'S NOT ENOUGH to be accepted by a good university. The challenge is to remain in it. Ruben Elias Canedo, an advisor at the University of California in Berkeley, gives us four tips to accomplish just that.