March Financial Aid Checklist for Seniors

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.

Laura Stewart, Ensworth School

Laura Stewart, our March Counselor of the Month, had both a unique opportunity and challenge when she joined the college counseling program at Ensworth School, an independent college preparatory high school in Nashville, Tennessee. For 46 years -- since 1958 -- the school had served only elementary and middle school students. Then, in August, 2004, Ensworth added grades 9 through 12, opening the new 127-acre Devon Farm campus one month after Stewart joined the school as Assistant Director of College Counseling.

Over the next five years, Stewart rose to become Director of College Counseling -- in 2009, one year after Ensworth School graduated its first senior class. As a result, she has had the opportunity to participate in building a counseling program where there were no preconceived ideas. As Director, she has been able to establish policies and procedures that reflect a philosophy with her own creative stamp and then watch the program grow. "It's hard for me to imagine being anywhere else because I've been so fortunate to get to do what I want," says Stewart.

February Financial Aid Checklist

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.

Vanderbilt's Dean talks Financial Aid

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

Seniors: Beware of financial aid scams


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:


The U.S. Department of Education

College Goal Sunday 

The College Board 



• Your local library

• Your high school college counseling

Seniors: File the FAFSA!

Apply for financial aid by completing the FAFSA! The single largest mistake families make in the college application process is failing to apply for financial aid. So apply, even if you think you won't qualify. You may be surprised.  Whether you are considering attending two-year or four-year colleges— all students applying for financial aid will complete a FAFSA.

And check to see if the schools on your list also require the CSS PROFILE (College Scholarship Service Profile) that is available from the College Board. Many private colleges and universities -- and some scholarship programs -- require this financial aid form in addition to the FAFSA in order for you to be considered for receiving institutional financial aid. A list of the schools and programs that require the CSS PROFILE can be found here. The CSS PROFILE should be completed by the earliest school or program filing date. Check the deadlines at each college to which you are applying.

Information on financial aid can be found here:


The U.S. Department of Education

January Financial Aid Checklist for Seniors

It's time to apply, apply, apply for financial aid! College advisor Alice Kleeman is back to kick off the New Year with advice for seniors on what you should be doing. Remember it is you, the student, who applies for aid. But families need to work together to obtain the best result. Here are this month's reminders. Read, save and use them!

*             Check with your high school counselor about financial aid evening workshops scheduled at your school or in the community and attend with your parents!  

*             Complete the FAFSA, reading all instructions CAREFULLY! 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!

*             Submit your FAFSA electronically as soon as possible! Once submitted, the colleges you have listed and coded will receive your information electronically.

*             Each state also has its own FAFSA deadline, which in many cases is different from the federal submission deadline each year.  Make sure to submit your FAFSA by your state's deadline or as soon as possible after the first of the year to get the most financial aid possible. Deadline information can be found here.

Jim Montague, Boston Latin School, and Helen Montague, Lincoln School

Jim Montague is Director of Guidance and Support Services at Boston Latin School in Boston, Massachusetts, a public college preparatory school serving an urban, culturally and socioeconomically diverse student population in grades 7 to 12. Helen Montague is Director of College Counseling at Lincoln School in Providence, Rhode Island, an urban independent college preparatory school for girls from pre-kindergarten through grade 12. We are pleased to feature this husband and wife team as our counselors of the month for January in the new year of 2013. Twice the advice from a duo of counselors who approach our questions from the vantage points of two distinguished educational institutions.

Boston Latin is this country’s oldest school, founded in 1635, with 2,414 students among whom today more than 40 languages are represented. Latin admission is based on a secondary school exam and a strong academic record.  “We think of them as the best and brightest in the city of Boston,” says Jim Montague.

December Financial Aid Checklist for Seniors

College advisor Alice Kleeman is back this month with advice for seniors on what you should be doing with regard to financial aid. Remember it is you, the student, who applies for aid. But families will need to work together to obtain the best result. Here are this month's reminders. Read, save and use them!

*          Most importantly, do apply for financial aid to be sure you are considered for all assistance available. Even if you think you won't qualify, apply. You may be pleasantly surprised.

*          December is a good time for families to gather all the tax-related information that is available before the year's end; this will facilitate early filing of both taxes and the FAFSA in the new year. The FAFSA can be filed based on estimates if tax returns are not completed, but beginning to assemble all the important information necessary for prompt tax filing can hasten the process for a year in which a family is applying for financial aid. Just remember, do not SUBMIT your FAFSA before January 1—it will not be processed for the correct school year!