Paying for College

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.

Education Tax Benefits

The IRS Information Center has an easy to use and thorough breakdown of the tax credits, deductions and savings plans -- and more, including the taxable status of scholarships -- to help taxpayers with higher education expenses.You can find the information, updated for January 2013, here. Hat tip: Todd Weaver of Boston's Strategies for College, Inc.

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

Frank Palmasani, Hinsdale South High School

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.

Financial Aid Videos on CollegeWeek Live

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.)

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:

www.FAFSA.gov

The U.S. Department of Education

Resources for LGBTQ Students

As of November 1, the Point Foundation scholarship application for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students is available online and can be accessed here. Point Foundation is the nation’s largest merit-based scholarship organization for LGBTQ students, empowering them to achieve their full academic and leadership potential -- despite the obstacles often put before them -- and to make a significant impact on society, by providing financial support, leadership training and mentoring. Point is currently supporting 77 scholars in undergraduate and graduate school, assisting with tuition and living expenses. Since its inception in 2001, Point has invested more than $14 million in the education and support of 222 scholars.  For more information, visit the Point Foundation website here.

Additional resources for LGBTQQI students can be found at "Resources" under the Book tab here on collegeadmissionbook.com. Please navigate to the bottom of the page to find additional scholarships and general information.

October Financial Aid Checklist for Seniors

 

Paying for college is a concern for most families. This is the second installment in a monthly series for seniors on what you should be doing with regard to financial aid, written by college advisor Alice Kleeman. Remember, while in most families it is up to the parents to provide the bulk of the money for college costs to the extent of their ability to pay, it is the student who applies for student aid. Read, save and use these monthly reminders!

 

          *             Check with your high school about the availability of informational sessions on financial aid or      scholarships at your school or in the surrounding community.

          *             Never pay a fee to locate financial aid or scholarship information. Beware of scams. You may see offers of help in obtaining financial aid or scholarships in the mail, on the Web, and in magazines. Some of these are legitimate. Others are not. 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:

                      • FAFSA

                     • The U.S. Department of Education

                     • College Goal Sunday

How Financial Aid Influences Students' Thinking

"To some extent, families and students are engaged in what appears to be naive or wishful thinking not only about how they will pay for college, but the kind and level of financial support they are likely to receive," according to a new poll from the College Board and Art & Science Group, LLC. Despite the federal requirement that colleges include net-price calculators on their websites, the studentPOLL study found that slightly more than half of the 1,461 students surveyed had ruled out colleges on the basis of the sticker price alone without considering their likely financial aid awards. At the same time, the poll found students also hold unrealistic expectations about the likelihood of receiving merit aid. 

Understanding financial aid is crucial for students and their families. Students and their families should start learning about and investigating financial aid as early as possible in the process so that opportunities aren't lost. The studentPoll study may provide some motivation. The poll findings and conclusions can be seen here.

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