Lynn O'Shaughnessy

Sometimes my interviews can turn tedious. During one such interview I had recently with a university law professor - the subject was endowment fiduciaries - we both mercifully veered the discussion to our kids.

The professor told me that she had a heavy workload, but it now seemed like a breeze because her son is a freshman in college. Last year, when her son and his friends were applying to schools, cramming for SAT and advanced placement tests and generally positioning themselves to appear like stellar freshman candidates, she was a wreck.

Boy, could I relate to what she was saying. All, that is, except the relief part. My daughter is a junior in high school, so our family has a long way to go before we emerge from the college admittance wind tunnel. Like a lot of our friends, my husband and I alternate between worrying if Caitlin is doing enough to get into a wonderful school and how we're going to pay for it.

Many months ago, I shared some tips on how to make college more affordable. I've learned a few more tricks since then that I thought I'd pass along. Just promise me, however, that your kid won't compete for the same schools as my kid.

LOOK FOR EMPTY SEATS.

Luckily, not every school is as popular as Yale or Stanford. Many colleges and universities experience their own rejections each year after mailing acceptance letters to high school seniors.

The rejection is only natural because seniors, who will often apply to several schools, can obviously commit to only one. As a result, schools accept more high school seniors than they could accommodate in hopes of getting just the right number of freshmen. In pursuit of college cash, you should consider searching for good schools that have lower enrollment yields. A school that accepts 1,000 students, for example, but only ends up with 210 freshmen, will have a 21 percent yield. That's on the low side.

Yield ratios of 50 percent and 60 percent are on the higher end. For a frame of reference, 79 percent of the students recently accepted to Harvard ended up in Cambridge.

"Schools with more seats to fill are more motivated to entice a kid to attend and will quite often be willing to negotiate based on other offers the student has received," says Deborah Fox, founder of Fox College Funding, a San Diego firm that provides college-planning advice for affluent families.

You can find enrollment yields by thumbing through any number of college guides or by visiting the Web site of Peterson's, a resource for education information, at www.petersons.com.

CHECK OUT COLLEGES IN THE SAME ATHLETIC CONFERENCE.


Lynn O'Shaughnessy

Lynn O'Shaughnessy is the author of Retirement Bible.

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