We're pleased to share with you today an excellent piece by W. Kent Barnds, Vice President of Enrollment, Communication and Planning at Augustana College. Barnds sheds always welcome light on the concept and reality of the EFC or Expected Family Contribution, showing how it is possible that a student with an EFC of $15,000 and considering three colleges with the same price might be expected to pay $19,500 at one and $9,500 at another.
Financial aid offices are not set up like admission offices. They are often less well staffed, and they have the college’s existing student body to care for, as well as applicants and their families. What does this mean for you? You cannot ask a financial aid officer to hold your hand. You need to do as much as you can to master the process, and call on the aid officer with specific and informed questions. That is how you will obtain the best guidance.
The vast majority of aid officers do their jobs because they care about helping families afford higher education. Many were able to get through college themselves because of financial aid. They want to make this work for you as well— within the legal and institutional guidelines under which they operate. So treat your financial aid officers well. And don’t forget to say thank you!
March is a big month for seniors in more ways than one. Not only will most admission decisions be released this month, but students will also be evaluating their financial aid awards. This is one of the last steps in your college admission process. Even though we hope you will be celebrating and contemplating your choices, you will also need to be focused and diligent about evaluating those offers—both with regard to where you will spend the next four years and also how you will pay for them. College advisor Alice Kleeman is back with lots of terrific advice for students and families about what they should be doing this month.
* Soon after you filed your FAFSA, you should have received your Student Aid Report (SAR) via email or, if you did not provide an email address, via snail mail. The SAR summarizes the information your provided on the FAFSA and provides the Expected Family Contribution. If you do not receive the SAR within three to five days of filing the FAFSA, check the status of your application by going to the "FAFSA on the Web" home page or calling the Federal Student Aid Information Center for assistance at 1-800-4FED-AID.
In a guest post today, Jennifer Karan, Executive Director of the SAT Program at The College Board, discusses the steps high school freshmen can take to plan ahead for a college education -- a key to success. This article originally appeared on The College Board website.
As a former English teacher and high school dean of students, I know that there are few things as daunting, mysterious and exciting to a teenager than freshman year of high school. It’s a whole new world: the hallways are foreign and at larger schools, students sometimes feel as though they need a GPS to get from class to class; the upperclassmen seem so much older and are brimming with a glowing confidence; teacher expectations and homework may require substantial adjustment. And college seems like a distant point on the horizon.
Part of the trepidation may be what adults understand as not being able to see the forest for the trees. However, when students are able to envision how the various academic courses and opportunities in arts, athletics and other programs that develop interests (the school paper, community service or a part-time job) form the "Big Picture," they are able to navigate this terrain successfully, with greater purpose and enjoyment.
Seniors, you should still be applying for scholarships at this time. But, as you do, please check with the colleges to which you’ve applied about how they handle scholarships from private groups and organizations— known as “outside awards”—in the calculation of their financial aid award. Different colleges calculate their impact differently.
Colleges are legally prohibited from overawarding federal aid. In other words, the total amount of aid a student receives cannot be greater than a college’s cost, and usually not more than a student’s overall calculated financial need. Some colleges count half an outside award toward grant aid and half toward student self- help, lowering the student’s work- study or loan amount by the equivalent of half the outside award. Others count the entire outside award against loans and work- study, and only lower the institutional grant portion of an aid award if self- help is brought down to zero. Still others count the entire outside award against institutional gift aid. Best advice: always apply for a scholarship, but check with every college and university on your list about their *outside scholarship policy* so you can understand what happens to your need-based financial aid package when you win a merit scholarship.
February is Financial Aid Awareness Month! And college advisor Alice Kleeman is back with advice on what students and families should be doing this month in applying for financial aid.
* Because February is Financial Aid Awareness Month, there are usually numerous initiatives to educate families during these weeks. Look for financial aid nights at local high schools, any "open office hours" a financial aid office might hold for prospective students, national programs such as College Goal Sundays or state programs such as California's Cash for College Workshops. Attend with your family so that you are sure you've done everything possible in pursuing financial aid opportunities.
* Finish the FAFSA if you have not already done so! Again, you do NOT have to wait until you and your parents have filed your income tax returns; you may use estimates on the FAFSA and then update the information once you have filed your income tax forms. It is better to file on time with estimates than to file late!
* Pay attention to deadlines this month! February is a time when many deadlines kick in.
It's Financial Aid Awareness Month. Check out Vanderbilt University's Dean of Admissions Doug Christiansen in Financial Aid: The University Insider's Guide on the college's YouTube channel. What if I'm uncomfortable talking about my finances? Should I fill out both the FAFSA and CSS Profile? Will it impact my chances of admission if we ask a lot of questions about financial aid? Christiansen answers these questions and more about student aid. And the video also provides resources and links for more information. Check it out here.
February is Financial Aid Awareness Month. So who better to feature as our Counselor of the month than Frank Palmsani? A veteran counselor now in his 20th year at Hinsdale South High School in Darien, Illinois, Palmasani is also the originator of the Financial Fit Method, a program that provides families with a step-by-step process for figuring out affordable colleges, how to file financial aid documents, how to pay for college and how to analyze award letters. His guide to choosing and paying for college, Right College, Right Price, was published in January.
Palmsani spends his days at Hinsdale South, a comprehensive high school -- and a magnet school for the deaf -- with a diverse population -- socioeconomically, ethnically, and academically -- of approximately 1800 students. One of nine counselors at the school, Palmasani is charged with assisting students with personal, social, and academic concerns, as well as college counseling and selection and career/vocational plans.
CollegeWeek Live has a series of excellent videos on financial aid available on their website. Note especially Financial Aid Execution from Frank Palmasani, author of Right College, Right Price, and our upcoming Counselor of the Month for February. Because February is Financial Aid Awareness Month! Check out the videos here. (Note: You may have to register on the site to access the videos, but it is free and well worth the minute it takes to do create a sign-in. No other information is required.)
Applying for financial aid can be complicated, and the stakes are high. You may have received offers of help in the mail or see them on the Web and in magazines. Some of these are legitimate. Others are from individuals or companies trying to make money off unsuspecting students and parents. Beware of come- ons like these:
• “This scholarship is guaranteed or your money back!”
• “Attend our seminar to understand how to get more financial aid.”
• “We guarantee you’ll get aid.”
• “The scholarship requires a small fee.”
Never pay a fee to locate scholarship or aid information. And avoid any organization or service that either guarantees a reward or charges a fee for completing the FAFSA or applying for or receiving a scholarship.
Information on legitimate financial aid and scholarships is easily available at no cost at:
• Your local library
• Your high school college counseling