If you are the parent of a rising junior or senior in high school, mark your calendar for the week of July 30 to August 4. This week is Virginia Private College Week at 25 member colleges of the Council of Independent Colleges in Virginia.
During Virginia Private College Week, these colleges will all hold tours of their campuses for prospective high school juniors and seniors and transfer students. All students who visit three or more campuses will receive three application fee waivers to the Virginia private colleges of their choice.
It’s important to visit college campuses when making the decision where to attend college to get a feel for the school. Students can thrive in college when the fit is right. Some students do really well at a large public college like University of Virginia or Virginia Tech. For other students, a smaller campus is a better fit.
Most of Virginia’s private colleges are smaller with an average of 12:1 student/ faculty ratio and an average class size of 16 students. Although many parents think that private colleges are out of their reach financially, there is a lot of financial aid offered by private colleges, making tuition more affordable that you may realize.
Parents and students should not consider the sticker price of a private college as a firm price. Private colleges offer need-based and merit scholarships as well as the Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant, also known as VTAG. In the 2012-2013 school year, 23,000 Virginia residents will receive a non-need based grant of $2800 from the VTAG. This is a renewable grant which students do not repay. The initial VTAG deadline is July 31, 2012 for the upcoming school year.
Private colleges also offer students the options of low-interest student loans and work-study programs, which further reduce the cost of tuition. The average price gap between a Virginia private and public college is $4700 after all grants.
Although some think that only wealthy families can afford to send their students to private colleges, this is not the case. Private colleges serve a diverse population including students from all income levels. A higher percentage of Federal Pell Grant recipients attend private colleges. Pell Grants are typically awarded to students whose annual family income level is $40,000 or less.
Several Virginia private colleges are located in or near Lynchburg including Liberty University, Lynchburg College, and Randolph College in the city and Sweet Briar College, located about 20 minutes north of Lynchburg.
Many others are located within two hours of Lynchburg including Averett University in Danville, Bridgewater College near Harrisonburg, Roanoke College and the University of Richmond.
Private colleges have a warm, friendly feel among the students. Because the average size is smaller than many public colleges, students can form closer relationships with those they meet in class or various activities. Many private college students participate in athletics or other activities while in school.
You can find links to the websites of all 25 of the participating colleges at the Virginia Private College Week website link near the beginning of this article. You will also find schedules for campus tours. On a personal note, our three youngest children graduated from Virginia private colleges last year. The educations they received will prepare them well for life.
So mark your calendars, make sure your paperwork is in order, and have your son or daughter search the web to find three or more colleges to visit during Virginia Private College Week. You and your student will be surprised to learn how affordable college can be.