Your Higher Education Marketing Link of the Week… University of Rochester: Best Financial Aid Entry Page… 12 March 2021

Clean, simple, easy-to-scan financial aid entry page at University of Rochester

Scholarships and net cost… in a recent CarnegieDartlet survey two of the top 3 elements high school students used in choosing a college were (1) scholarships and (3) net cost. How many colleges and universities make net cost information easy to find? Very few.

University of RochesterThe University of Rochester, on the other hand, leads potential students into overall financial aid content with the clearest, easiest to scan display of financial aid links that I’ve seen on a higher education website. (If you know of something similar, do let me know as I’ve only been to 100 or so sites.) And while the words “net cost” do not appear on the page, there’s a clear link to an unusual approach to “Cost Calculators.”

Pages like these don’t need large hero sized images at the star of the page that force key content lower down, often out of immediate site when the page opens. On both mobile and desk-top, that doesn’t happen here. There’s a narrow image at the top… but you can immediately see “Your Guide to Affording a Rochester Education” when the page opens. As you go further into this arena the image disappears.

Scannable in 5 seconds… 19 links

Just under the heading, scannable in 5 seconds or less, are 4 large blocks introducing 19 links to:

  •  Application Process
  • Application Documents
  • Cost of Attendance
  • Types of Aid

The “Cost of Attendance” heading includes just two links, one to the dreaded “Tuition and Expenses” page that lists sticker price costs. This is the information that too many in higher education complain chases students away because they don’t understand that few people, if any, pay the sticker price. Every page like this should include something akin to “average cost” paid and a link to learn more about reducing the sticker price. University of Rochester, like nearly all others, does not include that in this page. Easy enough to add for people who arrive here without first going through the entry page.

Quick net cost estimator… just 6 steps

University of RochesterThe other link under “Cost of Attendance” is to “Cost Calculators” and here again Rochester stands out with one of only two website pages I’ve seen that combines an easy-to-complete 6 step net cost calculator just above the link to a typically complex and more usual “Net Cost Calculator.”

The first entry here is the marvelous “MyInTuition” guide to net cost which is accurately described as “A quick estimate of your cost.” If you like what you see here you can continue (although you don’t have to) to the “College Board’s Net Price Calculator,” described as “A more in-depth estimate of your cost.” For most people these should give very similar results.

Note that the “net price” words appear at the top of the page. A personalized estimate of net cost is what’s most important to potential students and their parents visiting pages like this. I’d go back to the entry page and add the “Net” word in front of the “Cost Calculators” now used. Can’t hurt. Might help.

If you’re not yet familiar with the MyInTution alternative to the typical net cost calculator, visit their website that includes includes a list of the colleges and universities now using it.

Scholarship merit aid…

The “Scholarships” link on the entry page takes us to a page that introduces the difference between scholarships based on “merit” and aid based on “need.” Potential applicants learn that merit awards are decided during review of an application.

What’s missing from this page is any clue as to what an individual person’s chances are to receive a merit scholarship. The range (from $2,000 to full tuition) is included. Additional info that potential students might appreciate: how many awards are given? What are the different amounts? What are the “merit” criteria at this university? In other words, do I have a chance of getting one of these merit awards?

Some schools do offer potential students a merit aid estimator distinct from net cost estimators that can be complete in just a few steps.

Writing Right for the Web note… the “you” word prevails

Many financial aid websites are not written by people who understand they are talking to civilians who don’t have the same professional knowledge they do. A bureaucratic tone often prevails.

You can tell that folks at University of Rochester take a different, people-friendly approach right from the first use of the “you” word in the page heading. You’ll see that repeated throughout the content. Nowhere do you find the “Students will do… ” this and that that is prevalent on so many pages like this. Special kudos to Rochester for getting this right.

Follow the Link(s) of the Week

Experience the a distinctive financial aid entry page when you visit “Your Guide to Affording a Rochester Education.”

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