Applying to College

Finding Alternatives to Scholarships for Student Athletes

Going to college on an athletic scholarship is a dream for many high school athletes, particularly if it means studying in and playing for their preferred school. However, statistics show that student athletes often find it difficult to receive full scholarships on athletic merits alone. Fortunately, alternative scholarships exist that allow students to receive their education while nurturing their athletic talents.

Statistics on Student Athletes

College athletic scholarships are a necessity for many student athletes. Majority of students and their families simply do not have the financial capacity to pay for a college education, considering that about 86% of athletes in college live below the poverty line. The average athlete playing for the NCAA pays around $3,000 in school-related costs every year. Any compensation they receive is usually given as cost-of-living stipends (ranging from $2,000 – $5,000 per year), hardship funds for emergencies and travel, and athletic scholarships. If the student’s family earns $35,000 a year, they can only contribute around $2,600 to cover for college costs annually. Compare this amount to annual college expenses that can easily top $20,000.

What Student Athletes Can Expect About Athletic Scholarships

A student athlete is not exactly guaranteed to receive a college education on an athletic scholarship. Even the numbers are not exactly encouraging. For example, an estimated 8 million students participate in athletics during high school. Of these, only around 500,000 will play at NCAA schools. From here, students hope to get a shot to compete in the major leagues but only a small percentage of college athletes will make the transition from NCAA to become professional athletes.

The NCAA Divisions

Colleges and universities are classified under one of three divisions in the NCAA or National Collegiate Athletics Association in the U.S. Of the three divisions, Division I or D-I is considered the highest intercollegiate athletics label under the NCAA. It includes 346 colleges and universities with 176,00 student athletes. Around 56% receive financial aid.

Division II or D-II, is represented by 307 colleges and universities. It has 118,000 student athletes, with 61% receiving athletics aid. By far the largest of the divisions is Division III or D-III, which includes 439 colleges and universities. This division has 187,000 student athletes, 82% of whom receive academic grants.

Typically, D-III schools are composed of smaller universities and private schools. As expected, the admissions requirements and academic levels expected from students are different from those required by D-I and D-II schools. Many of the most popular D-III schools are located in the Midwestern, Southern and Northeastern states.

Playing in the NCAA

Among high school seniors who play NCAA level basketball, only 3.3% are male and around 3.7% are female. Of these athletes, about 130,000 will be awarded either partial or full athletic scholarships. In 2008, an estimated 1 million young men played football in American high schools, and yet, around 28,000 of them were given a sports scholarship to pursue higher education in either a Division I or a Division II college.

A Look at the Figures

Many student athletes hope to receive a sports scholarship to get them through college but current figures suggest it may not always be enough. The average amount of athletic scholarship that a student can hope to receive is only around $10,400. If basketball and football are excluded, a student athlete can expect an athletic scholarship assistance to average at only around $8,700.

It is not a walk in the park for student athletes on sports scholarships, either. Once they become recipients of a sports scholarship, students are expected to work to keep it. Athletes who play for Division I colleges, for example, spend plenty of time in the court or on the field. Student athletes who play football, baseball and basketball can expect to spend as much as 40 hours a week playing, practicing and competing.

Why Choosing Division III Schools is a Good Option

Student athletes who attend D-III schools are not as focused on sports as students who pursue their education at D-I and D-II schools. Many student athletes who compete under the D-III banner do so because they love the sport and relish the competition. The prestige of playing for major D-I and D-II colleges and universities may not be present, but student athletes still enjoy an exciting learning environment where they can pursue higher education while participating in the sport they excel at. D-III schools host a wide number of sports, including the more popular ones such as basketball, baseball, volleyball and football, and less popular sports such as bowling, water polo, rowing and ice hockey.

Benefits of Playing for Division III Schools

Division III is like the youngest sibling in the NCAA and yet, it has become the largest college sports division. It currently has the most number of institutions and student athletes under its wing. In spite of these figures, Division III schools are viewed as the institutions where student athletes who failed to make the senior high school varsity team enroll in. The truth is that students go to Division III colleges may have different priorities and access to opportunities. Due to less pressure in upping their sports performance to keep a scholarship, D-III student athletes can focus on both academics and their preferred sport while interacting with other students in a community-like environment.

The main difference about Division III colleges and universities is that they do not grant athletic scholarships. As such, students who enroll in these schools need to build their credentials based on other forms of merit and not just in sports. Although sports-based financial aid is not available, students can expect to receive financial aid to cover their education costs via needs-based assistance and leadership grants. As such, student athletes with very good showing in academics and have other key accomplishments can still expect excellent financial support from these schools.

D-III schools are considered the lowest level in terms of competition but many D-II level and even D-I level athletes are enrolled here. Although some student athletes prefer D-III schools for the academics, many also consider the overall aid package these schools offer to be better. In fact, some D-III schools offer academics-based merit awards and other accomplishment-based aid that could reduce tuition costs by as much as 100%. In all, D-III schools offer both financial and academic awards that many student athletes prefer.

To learn more about the infographic created by Ohio University’s Online Masters in Coaching program.

Source: Ohio University

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Duke University: More than getting in

The Turner Chapel AME Church in Marietta, Georgia, hosts a teen Bible Study for high school juniors and seniors on the second Sunday of each month. Part of the meeting engages students in conversations regarding college preparation, planning, and admissions. Today, we were fortunate to have many students returning home from their respective college campuses to share their candid insight into their college experiences. One of the students attending today’s session is a Gates Millennium Scholar and an undergraduate at Duke University. Her comments regarding her financial aid package, campus life, and the lack of diversity on Duke’s campus provided important insight for other students to carefully research their institution beyond “getting admitted” to life on campus after admission.

A Forbes interview with Christoph Guttentag, Duke University Dean of Admissions,  provides important insight into the admissions process to highly selective colleges and universities. Following is a summary of some of Mr. Guttentag’s comments regarding the admissions process.

Reviewing the Application:

  • There is a first read of regional admissions officer for a particular state
    • Makes preliminary assessment as to how competitive a candidate is for admission
    • 50% of applicants are considered competitive
  • There are 2 additional reads and assessments in six areas
  • After a 3rd assessment, 5% of applicants are considered strong enough for admission

Admissions Consideration:

  • An admissions officer makes a case for admission
  • Academic credentials are considered
  • Typically, applicants are in top 2-3% of public schools, top 10-25% of private schools
  • admit rate 110-11%
  • Approximately 32,000 applications are received from approximately 10,000 high schools
  • There is a careful review of school profiles
  • Students are considered within the context of their school—how has a student challenged themselves at their school?
  • They look to identify strong academic candidates with impact and engagement (engagement in their coursework and community)
  • How does the student fit to the institution?

There are many other important criteria that goes into the decision making process that students should consider if they are committed to making themselves competitive candidates for admission to selective institutions like Duke. The student who spoke at our meeting today successfully navigated the admissions process to become one of the small percentage of African-American students admitted to Duke.

After listening to the the student share her experiences and watching the interview outlining what Duke looks for in structuring its freshman class I wanted to learn more about who gets into Duke, so I reviewed the Duke University Common Data Set (click here to download).

In 2012, Duke received 30,374 applications for admission and admitted 1,714 students:

  • .6% Native American (11)
  • 5.6% Hispanic (97)
  • 9.1% International (157)
  • 9.9% Black (171)
  • 21.4% Asian (368)
  • 47.7% White (819)

Both the student and Duke admissions officer affirmed that students must research the institutions to which they will be applying. They must look beyond the national ranking to what the institution values. I could not help but wonder, of the 171 Black students admitted to Duke, how many of them were athletes? This may provide further insight into what they value.


Stories of Resilience

The great equalizer in college admissions is student performance. Students who are willing to make the sacrifice and commitment to pursuing academic excellence, whether in Oakland, California, Long Island, New York, or India, are gaining admission into top colleges.

Oakland teen, Akintunde Ahmad (pictured here), accepted into multiple Ivy League schools (Yale, Brown, Columbia, and more).

Click here for video…

Washington, DC student, Rashema Melson, whose father was killed when she was 7 months old, goes from homeless shelter to Georgetown University on a full scholarship.

Click here for video…

Long Island, New York student, Kwasi Enin, accepted into all 8 Ivy League schools.

Click here for video…

Dawn Loggins, senior and high school janitor, accepted into Harvard.

Click here for video…

Indian students use Ivy League colleges as their “safety” schools.

Click here for video…

From Mississippi to the Ivy League for low-income students, Justin Porter and Travis Reginald.

Click here for video…

Richmond High School student, Guadalupe Morales, is Ivy League bound (Brown University). Teachers describe her work ethic, commitment, and grit in overcoming the challenges that she faced.

Click here for video…

Your Degree Matters

The research study, “Higher Education Pays: The Initial Earnings of Graduates of Texas Public Colleges and Universities” (CollegeMeasures.org2013) provides important considerations for parents and students formulating their postsecondary plans. Although the report focuses on data from the state of Texas, it has important national considerations regarding selecting between community college, 4-year undergraduate, and certificate programs based on each student’s long-term educational and career aspirations.

Key findings:

  • Students receiving 2-year technical degrees in high demand fields have median first-year earnings over $50,000 and over $11,000 more than graduates from bachelor’s degree programs.
  • These students, earn on average, $30,000 more than other students completing 2-year degree programs.
  • Average earnings varies for 2-year degrees varies significantly from college to college ($20,000 – $65,000).
  • Students earning certificates in business administration/management and criminal justice/police sciences earn more than community college students earning academic and technical degrees in the same fields.
  • Earnings for students receiving bachelor’s degrees varies widely by field from $25,000 in biology to $47,000 in accounting.

The illustration below demonstrates the huge differences in earnings for students earning associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and technical degrees.

From this illustration, a typical student pursing a 2-year technical degree has significant options for continuing his or her education after community college. For example, the costs of attending a community college are significantly lower than attending a 4-year institution. Receiving a high demand technical degree provides a student with the opportunity to enter into the workforce at a significantly higher salary than the typical community college graduate with the option of continuing their studies at a 4-year institution and continuing on to earn a master’s degree. With many employers providing tuition reimbursement and loan forgiveness programs, such a student could earn a top salary and continue his or her education at a substantially reduced or no out of pocket cost.

The next illustration demonstrates the huge gap in earnings by degree field for students earning bachelor’s degrees.

Parents of students choosing to pursue a bachelor’s degree in psychology, the most popular major on most college campuses, should brace themselves for years of paying back student loans (56% of students from the Texas university system graduate with an average of $22,140 in student loan debt (Project on Student Loan Debt)) as students will enter into the workforce with the lowest earnings among students graduating with a bachelor’s degree.

Many parents and students are aware of the widely publicized job opportunities for STEM-related careers (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). However, the illustration below indicates that earnings widely vary between such STEM majors as biology and mathematics. Interestingly, research indicates that a student’s level of science and mathematics completed during secondary school is the clearest predictor of college preparation and graduation. Subsequently, students who excel in high school math and continue on to major in math will find themselves among the highest paid bachelor’s degree holders.

The following illustration demonstrates the huge variation in earnings for students pursuing a master’s degree based on their degree field. The most significant master’s degree field is clearly a MBA (Masters in Business Administration). While the gap between a student with a bachelor’s degree in business versus a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering is over $30,000, the gap for a student holding a master’s degree in business versus a master’s degree in engineering is only $1,000 with a MBA holder having higher earnings than master’s degree holders in all other degree fields.

For those students who are interested in pursing the highest paying community college technical degree programs, the next illustration demonstrates the earnings of the three most popular technical associate’s degree programs by college. Although graduation rates for community college students, as reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education(13.1% for public community colleges versus 24.4% for 4-year public institutions) are among the lowest of all institutions, for those students able to complete the course work and earn a technical degree, the Texas community college system offers low cost certificate programs with huge earnings potential. It is also important to note that the graduate rate of 59.3% for for-profit 2-year institutions in Texasis significantly higher than the 13.1% 2-year public community college and 24.4% public 4-year college graduation rates.

The Georgetown University report, Certificates: Gateway to Gainful Employment and College Degrees, provides insight for parents and students considering certificate programs. Among the important research findings is the significant difference in the cost of pursuing a certificate program through a public community college (Amarillo College, Central Texas College, Lone Star College System) versus private nonprofit (e.g., Jacksonville College, North American College, Southwestern Christian) and for-profit institutions (e.g,. Allied Health Centers, Arlington Career Institute, Dallas Nursing Institute).

The U.S. Department of Education’s College Navigator website will allow you to identify the public, nonprofit, and for-profit community colleges or 4-year institutions in your state and by certificate or degree program.

Click here to download the Georgetown University report, Certificates: Gateway to Gainful Employment and College Degrees


High school students have many postsecondary options for entering into high paying jobs and careers. Students can avoid incurring large amounts of student loan debt by entering into the community college system. However, students must also carefully consider their areas of study (e.g., cosmetology versus mathematics), type of degree (e.g., associate’s versus certificate), and institution they will attend (i.e., public, private nonprofit, private for-profit). Parents and students must begin their postsecondary conversations prior to students entering into high school if they are to ensure that students have the widest range of postsecondary options after high school and that such options are appropriately matched to student’s interests, educational aspirations, and career options.



Social Media and College Admissions

The New York Times table of 2013 College Acceptance Rates indicates that college admissions is the most competitive ever with admissions rates as low as 13.67% at Amherst College, 14.48% at Bowdoin College, and in the single digits at all of the 8 Ivy League institutions such as Harvard at 5.79% of the 35,023 applicants. The U.S. News & World Reports listing of top 100 colleges and universities with the lowest acceptance rates (2012) identifies other colleges with single digit acceptance rates as Stanford (6.6%), Curtis Institute of Music (6.8%), U.S. Naval Academy (6.8%), Cooper Union (7.0%0, Juilliard (7.3%), MIT (9.0%), U.S. Military Academy at West Point (9.0%), College of the Ozarks (9.5%), and the U.S. Air Force Academy (9.9%).

With college admissions the most competitive ever, students should carefully consider that images and language they are projecting through such social media as Facebook®, Twitter®, and Instagram®. Natasha Singer notes in her New York Times article, “The Loved Your G.P.A. Then They Say Your Tweets” shares important comments from college admissions officers regarding social media and the impact it can have on a student’s college admissions decision. Although there are no statistics as to how many college admission officers visit prospective students’ social media pages, students should carefully consider the language and images they project and how the language or images may adversely impact their chances for college admissions or for employment opportunities.

Kat Cohen, in her Huffington Post article, “The Truth About Social Media and Admissions,” notes that a survey of college admissions officers indicated that 27 percent of respondents indicated they had performed an Internet search of prospective students, 26 percent had looked up applicants’ Facebook® Pages, and 35 percent indicated that they found something that negatively impacted an applicant’s chances of being admitted.

The U.S. News & World Reports’ article, “Can Facebook Posts Lead to College Rejections?” provides some important advice from college admissions counselors regarding a student’s social media profile:

  • A racy Facebook profile could ruin your college offs—why risk it?
  • Don’t take the chance—use good common sense
  • While social networking, portray yourself in a responsible manner
  • Facebook can hurt, but also help, when applying to college

Take the advice and use good common sense.



Colleges That Do Not Require SAT Scores

SAT/ACT scores are becoming increasingly less important to students who are opting to apply to “Test Optional” colleges and universities. However, a recently released research study, Defining Promise: Optional Standardized Testing Policies in American College and University Admissions, examines the outcomes of standardized testing policies in the Admissions offices at 33 public and private colleges and universities. Two critical research findings are (2014 p. 3):

  • There are no significant differences in either Cumulative GPA or graduation rates between students who submitted SAT/ACT scores and those who did not.
  • College and university Cumulative GPAs closely track high school GPAs, despite wide variations in testing. Students with strong HSBPAs generally perform well in college, despite modest or low testing.

Bates College (ranked 22nd nationally on the U.S. News & World Reports liberal arts college rankings) published the report, Defining Promise: Twenty-five Years of Optional Testing at Bates College, which provides similar research findings (2011 p. 6-7):

  • No significant differences in their Bates College Cumulative GPAs for students who submit SAT/ACT scores (3.16) versus students who do not submit scores (3.13)
  • No significant differences in Bates College graduation rates (1 percent)

These research findings suggest that students must carefully consider their financial need and the colleges to which they will seek to apply. Students who do not submit SAT/ACT scores may not be considered for merit-based institutional grants and scholarships. Students who need to qualify for non-need merit-based financial aid, may need to achieve SAT/ACT scores that qualify them for such merit-based institutional financial aid which will widely vary by institutions. Students whose SAT/ACT scores are outside of the range required to qualify for such merit-based institutional aid and would like to explore college admissions at colleges that do not require SAT or ACT scores have many colleges to choose from.

The National Center for Fair and Open Testing website ( provides a listing of several hundred colleges and universities that do require students’ SAT or ACT scores to be considered for admission.

Major universities include:

  • Arizona State University
  • Brandeis University
  • DePaul University
  • Ohio State University
  • University of California, Santa Cruz

Private liberal arts colleges include:

  • Agnes Scott College
  • Bard College
  • Bates College
  • Bowdoin College
  • Benning College
  • Bryn Mawr College
  • Hampshire College

HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities)

  • Alcorn State University
  • Arkansas State University
  • Grambling State University
  • Hampton University
  • Langston University

Each college has its own admissions policies, which provide alternatives to submitting SAT or ACT scores. Interested students should review the listing and contact the office of admissions at the college or university to which they are interested in applying.

Click here to download a list of colleges…

Click here to reading the NPR story, “College Applicants Sweat The SATs. Perhaps They Shouldn’t…


Universal Common Application

Many students, parents, and educators have expressed frustration regarding technical issues with the Common Application, the lack of technical support, and the confusion being experienced by students and recommenders. In part, due to such problems with the Common Application, many colleges allow students to submit their application for admission through the Universal College Applicationas well as through their own online application systems. Currently, only 33 colleges are accepting applications through the Universal College Application. However, if problems persist with the Common Application, you can expect more colleges to sign up to accept applications from the Universal Common Application.

Read the CNN article, “College Application Instantly Gets Worse” which highlights colleges that are extending their deadlines.

Read the Washington Post article, “Online Common Application problems lead colleges to push back deadlines.”

Read the article, “8 excellent reasons to switch to the Universal College Application.”

Read the article regarding the problems with the Common Application…

Read what Princeton University says…

Read the Harvard welcome to users of the Universal College Application…

Read how other colleges are offering alternatives to the Common Application…

Read why some colleges prefer the University College Application…

Click here to preview the application…


Early Admissions Cycles

Most colleges offer students a variety of opportunities to apply for admission. The purpose of this posting is to assist students and parents in better understanding the early admissions cycles and any advantages students might realize by choosing an early admissions cycle over another.

Early Decision I and II (ED)

Early Decision is a binding contract. Some colleges offer Early Decision I and Early Decision II with different application deadlines. Students may apply to only one college via Early Decision. If the student is accepted, the decision is binding, which means that the student must enroll in the college and should withdraw their applications from any other schools to which they have applied. However, if admitted students can convince the college that the financial aid award is inadequate, the student may be released from the commitment to attend. Student is free to apply to an unlimited number of colleges via their regular decision cycle.

Advantages: The Early Decision pool of applicants is typically much smaller than the regular admissions pool. At all but the most highly selective colleges the chances of being accepted are greater—sometimes, substantially greater. The student receives an early admissions response, typically by December 15 of the student’s senior year of high school. Admitted students who apply for financial aid will also receive their financial aid award letter.

Disadvantages: Students must apply early. Application deadlines are typically between October 15 and November 15 of the student’s senior year of high school. The decision is binding and the student must make a commitment to attend the college loses any opportunity of comparing award letters from other colleges. The student loses any application fees paid to colleges to which the student has applied.

Click here for the Wesleyan University Early Decision I and II options…

Early Action (AD)

Early Action in most respects is similar to Early Decision with one significant exception—it is nonbinding. Under the Early Action program, many colleges do not have a limit on the number of colleges to which students may apply Early Action.

Advantages: Same as Early Decision with the additional advantage of being able to apply to more than one college under their Early Action program.

Disadvantages: Same as Early Decision with the exception that the decision is nonbinding and the student may continue to compare options and award letters from other colleges.

Click here the University of Georgia Early Action policy…

Single-Choice Early Action (SCEA) [also known as Restricted Early Action]

Under the Single-Choice Early Action program, students may apply to only one college as an Early Action or Early Decision candidate. However, the policy may allow students to apply to the Early Action program at public universities. It is important to understand the restrictions of the college to which students apply under the college’s SCEA progam. As in the case with Early Action, the decision is nonbinding.

Advantages: Same as Early Decision.

Disadvantages: Same as Early Decision with the exception that the decision is nonbinding and the student may continue to compare options and award letters from other colleges.

Click here for the Stanford University policy…

Click here for the Harvard University policy…

The Early Action/Decision acceptance rate versus the acceptance rate through the regular decision process can widely vary by college. U.S. News & World Reports provides a listing comparing the acceptance rates between Eagle Action candidates and students who applied via the college’s regular admissions cycle. Click here to view the listing…

The CollegeData website provides opportunities to compare the admission rates at most colleges and universities.

Click here for an example of the Amherst College Early Decision rate at CollegeData…

Click here for the article, “Advice on Applying to Top U.S. Colleges via Early Decision or Early Action.”


AP Courses: Good or Bad?

The U.S. is spending a lot of money on expanding AP course taking. The article, “Louisiana gets federal money to help poor kids take AP tests for free,” notes that Louisiana received $158,085 to cover the costs of administering advancement tests to low-income high school students. This was part of $28.8 million in grants to 42 states to cover fees charged low-income students for taking advanced placement tests.

The Politico article, “Advanced Placement classes failing students,” notes that taxpayers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years to nudge more students into Advanced Placement classes, but that test scores suggests much of the investment has been wasted.

Based on the data contained in the annual College Board report, “AP Report to the Nation,” students from certain racial groups and socioeconomic backgrounds do not perform well on the AP exams. While there are many possible explanations, the undeniable reality is that students who attend high poverty schools or schools with high minority student populations (which are typically high poverty schools) have teachers who are not as experienced in teaching AP courses or preparing students to score highly on the AP exams. Another problem is that the students themselves, may not have adequate preparation for AP level course work nor do they have experience achieving high scores on the AP exams. After all, how do students perform well in college-level course work if their regular high school teachers are less experienced and their regular high school classes are less rigorous?

Additional components that are missing are:

  • Lack of adequate support from teachers and fellow students to transition from the normal course requirements in their high schools to the necessary level of academic rigor to perform successfully on AP exams
  • Lack of study groups to support learning beyond the classroom
  • Lack of adequate preparation for AP exams
  • Lack of supplemental materials

The problem is not that AP classes are failing students, but that schools are engaging in inadequate planning for how to ensure student success in such classes. Perhaps, as President Obama is attempting to hold colleges accountablefor their results, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan should hold states accountable for their AP exam performance results. The Sacramento Bee article, “Math, science program sees big improvement on AP tests,” provides an example what why must accompany the push to enroll students into AP courses:

“The pass rate on rigorous Advanced Placement tests went up by 72 percent last year at high schools that took part in a National Math and Science Initiative program that trains teachers and gives students extra help.”

The article goes on to note that the program includes extensive teacher training, a mentor for each teacher throughout the school year and help for students in Saturday sessions. The article also notes that the pass rate on AP math, science and English exams for participating schools increased by 72 percent compared to 7 percent nationwide.

The bottom line…

If your high school offers AP level courses, selective colleges and universities are going to hold you accountable for taking the classes to demonstrate your willingness to challenge yourself. If your AP teachers are not very good, then you are going to have to find a tutor and supplemental materials to ensure your success, as the colleges you apply to are either going to know your AP exam scores or question why you did not submit them if the AP classes are reflected on your high school transcript.

Here is exactly what will happen:

  1. Colleges that you apply to will request a high school profile from your high school counselor. The profile will list the types of classes offered in your high school (which includes any AP classes), along with average SAT and ACT scores.
  2. Colleges will ask your counselor if your course taking was highly rigorous, rigorous, or on level.
  3. Colleges will compare the number of AP classes you took against the number of AP classes offered in your high school.
  4. Colleges will review your course grades in your AP classes and your AP exam scores.

Colleges, however, will not ask you if your AP teachers were any good, if the classes that you took in preparation for AP level classes were any good, of if the students in your AP classes were any good. So the bottom line is that you will have do what you have to do to be successful, which may mean:

  1. Identifying a tutor
  2. Identifying supplemental materials
  3. Creating study groups
  4. Taking personal responsibility to ensure that you are adequately prepared to score 3 or higher on the AP exam for each AP class that you take

You may view this as being unfair, however, it is what it is.