Scholarship Saturday – May 3, 2014

The deadlines for the scholarships that were on this list have passed. To see scholarships that are still accepting applications, visit more recent Scholarship Saturday posts.

Summer Before College Checklist

It is May 1st – National College Enrollment Deposit Day! You made it! I hope that you’ve sent in your deposit by now to save your spot for the fall. And, if you’ve mail the deposit, it doesn’t hurt to check in with the school to make sure they received it!

I know that the past few months have been stressful. You’ve been pouring over your college acceptance letters and financial aid award letters. You’ve done a lot of thinking over the last few months! You can finally breath a sigh of relief because you know where you’ll be going to college in the fall.

Although the hard part of choosing the college is done, there are quite a few things you’ll need to make sure you do this summer. But relax – the list below is easy compared to making your final decision on what college you’ll be attending.

  • Let the other colleges know you won’t be attending. Let them know so that they can close out your application. Plus, letting them know could open up a spot for a student on the wait list, or ensure you won’t have an awkward phone call from the Admission Counselor.
  • Submit your Housing Application/Questionnaire and deposit. Make sure these things are in by the deadline to ensure you’ll have a place to stay in the fall. Plus, if you get the application and deposit in by the deadline, you’re more likely to get your first choice of residence hall.
  • Update your FAFSA and provide required financial aid documents. If you estimated the figures to get the FAFSA in by the deadline, log back in and provide the correct information. Also, if the college is still requesting documents, turn them in. You made your decision based on your financial aid award letter – you don’t want to lose out on a scholarship because you didn’t turn in a document to the Financial Aid Office requested.
  • Make arrangements to have your final high school transcript submitted to the college. Make sure that the transcript is not submitted until final grades are posted.
  • Submit your AP and/or IB test scores. You did all of the hard work, make sure the test scores are in so that you can get college credit!
  • If you have taken college courses, submit the latest official college transcript to the college.
  • Thank everyone that helped you through the college admissions process. People to thank could include your counselor, teachers, letter of recommendation writers, coaches, parents, family members, etc. It was a long process and a lot of people helped out – let them know you appreciate them.
  • Sign up for placement tests, if required by college.
  • Sign up for academic advising and registration. The sooner you sign up for this, the more likely you’ll get the classes you’re hoping to get in the fall.
  • Sign up and attend orientation. New student orientation is a great way to get plugged-in at the college.
  • Continue looking for scholarships. It’s never too late to get a scholarship. There are many great resources available including Fastweb, Zinch, CollegeXpress.

The above list looks long, but the tasks are easy. The tasks are also very important to ensure a smooth transition into college.

And lastly, enjoy your summer before heading off to college.

 

 

Not Attending in the Fall? Let Colleges Know

As you’re making your decision about what college you will be attending in the fall, don’t forget to notify the colleges you did not select.

If you were accepted to a college that has other students on the wait list, letting them know you won’t be attending could open up a post for someone else.

There is another reason I push for students to notify the colleges they won’t be attending. When talking about college admissions, most news outlets only discuss the colleges that have low acceptance rates. These colleges typically don’t have to hold their breath for students to notify them that they will be attending in the fall. What is usually left out of the media is the stories about the colleges that are struggling to reach their enrollment goals.

Why am I mentioning this?

As I’ve mentioned before, I worked in college admissions for some time. The last college I was employed was a college that never knew if we’d reach our enrollment goals. We weren’t alone either; hundreds of colleges were like us. When May 1st came around, we had quite a few students that had sent in their deposits. But, we were hoping for more… and needed more to reach our enrollment goals.

If we had not heard back from a student by May 1st, we would start to contact them. Initially I would start with an email asking if they had made their decision. I’d usually get a few emails back letting me know they had decided to attend another college. Eventually I would make phone calls to my students, and would continue leaving messages because most students wouldn’t answer my calls. Deep down, I knew that most of those students that had not replied to us weren’t attending. But, to the administration, they thought we still had a chance and the Admissions Office was to continue contacting the students until we heard back from them.

When I did get students on the phone, it would be awkward, to say the least. I know students viewed these calls sort of like a break-up. I, on the other hand, just wanted confirmation either way. They didn’t hurt my feelings that they weren’t attending my college – I think they forgot that I once attended college and had to turn down other colleges too.

I mentioned all of this because you really should let colleges know that you won’t be attending in the Fall. Most colleges make it easy for you! If you were mailed an acceptance letter, there was probably a reply card included. Just send it back in the mail saying you won’t be attending. If you received your acceptance letter via email, there is probably a link you can go to let them know you won’t be attending. And, if you don’t have either of the options above, you can email either your admission counselor or the general admission’s email to let them know you won’t be attending. And then it will be done – no awkward phone calls or emails!

 

Questions To Ask About Financial Aid

College is a huge investment of time, energy and money. The money factor puts a lot of stress on students and families because they think that they cannot afford a college education. Luckily, there is financial aid to help with the cost. However, the world of financial aid can be quite intimidating and confusing because each college has its own financial aid policies.

To help you understand the financial aid process at each college, I’ve provided a list of questions you can ask either the Admissions Representatives or Financial Aid staff at each college you are considering.

Questions to ask before applying
General questions about financial aid can be answer by either the admissions representatives or the financial aid advisors. You can contact either department early in the admissions process about financial aid.

What is the total cost of attendance?
Cost of attendance should include tuition, fees, room and board and other costs that must be paid directly to the college. The cost they quote might also include estimates for books and transportation. These items are not paid directly to the college, but are considered a cost you will have while attending college.

Are there other fees I might have to pay that are not published with the general cost of attendance?
At many colleges, some courses will require extra fees. The fee is usually published in the course catalog or class listings, but these are typically not something incoming students see before making their final decision on the college. If there are extra fees, it might be worth asking if you can see a list of all possible additional fees the college may charge.

If there are extra fees to be paid, are they added into MY cost of attendance when figuring out financial aid?
Some colleges will figure these extra costs in, while others do not. It’s good to find out.

How much has the cost of attendance increased over the past four years? Do you expect the cost of attendance to increase at the same rate during my time at the college?
The cost of attendance increases at many colleges every year. It is important to know that what you’re paying your first year will probably be less than what you’ll pay your last year of college.

If the cost of attendance goes up during my time at the college, will financial aid increase as well?
Scholarship amounts do not have to go up with the rising cost of attendance. It is up to the individual college to determine scholarship amounts. Some colleges will increase scholarships, while others will not. If aid does go up, you might see it in loan amounts.

What percentage of your students graduate in four years?
This is an important question because there are many colleges in the country that have students graduating in an average of five years or more. If it takes you five years to graduate, that is five years of tuition and fees to pay! That’s probably a year more than you were expecting. There are many reasons students take longer to graduate. If most students are not graduating in four years, you might want to ask why not.

If the percentage of students that graduate in four years is low, will financial aid, including scholarships, be offered past the fourth year of attendance?
Many scholarship programs are offered with the idea that students will graduate in four years. An additional year may not be covered. This is important to understand because you may not receive any free money after the fourth year.

Besides the FAFSA, is there another application I must submit to be considered for financial aid?
Many colleges do not require anything other than the FAFSA, but there are still some that need more information. You don’t want miss any opportunity for financial aid.

What are the deadlines for applying for financial aid?
Again, you don’t want to miss your opportunity to get financial aid. Students that submit financial aid documentation after the deadline could miss out on scholarships.

Questions to ask after you receive your financial aid award letters
Are the scholarships I received renewable?
Most financial aid award letters will state the terms of the scholarships and grants, but if not, make sure you ask. Colleges sometimes add one-time scholarships to financial aid award letters to encourage a student to choose them over another school.

If the scholarships are renewable, what must I do to renew the scholarships?
You want to make sure that you will be able to do what is required to keep the scholarship.

Will there be opportunities to get more scholarships after the first year?
Some scholarships are only available to first year students. But, there may be others that are only open to upperclassman. It’s good to find out if you’ll have more opportunities to get scholarships.

How can outside scholarships affect my financial aid award letter?
Outside scholarships at some colleges don’t change the scholarships that colleges offer students. At other colleges, the outside scholarships you receive could lower the aid a college offers you.

If offered work-study, are work-study jobs guaranteed? If not guaranteed, what is the process of obtaining a work-study job on campus?
Work-study jobs are not always guaranteed. Many times, students will have to seek out and interview for work-study jobs. It’s good to know this ahead of time so that you can figure out where you want to apply to work.

If I am not offered work-study, are there part-time jobs available on campus?
Some colleges have extra jobs on campus for students that did not qualify for work-study. Others do not.

If you did not receive enough financial aid, can I appeal for more financial aid?
The answer should always be yes. It doesn’t hurt to ask if you can receive more financial aid. Some colleges have tighter budgets for financial aid than others, but if you state your case and show your interest in attending the college, they could increase your financial aid.

If your circumstances have changed since filing the FAFSA, how do I let the college know? Can this change the amount of financial aid I was offered?
Many times, if circumstances have changed, you can notify the college. They may ask for documentation or proof, but they could make changes to your award letter. Again, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

What are the requirements for paying my student account bill?
After financial aid is figured in, most students will still have a balance to pay to the school. At some colleges, the balance is due on the first day of classes. Other colleges require the balance to be paid by the end of the semester/quarter. There are also colleges that allow students to set-up payment plans. It is important to find out your payment options so that you don’t get charged late fees – that just adds to your cost of attendance!

Conclusion
I hope that the questions above will help you to find all of the information you need about financial aid at the colleges you are considering. By taking the time to ask these questions, you’ll make the most informed decision when applying to colleges and choosing the colleges you will ultimately attend.

 

Understanding And Comparing Financial Aid Award Letters

We’re very close to May 1st (National Decision Day) and thousands of students are trying to decide what college they will attend in the fall. One of the most important factors in choosing a college in this late stage of the decision process is cost. But, do you know how to read the financial aid award letters you’ve received?

One of the biggest mistakes that students and their families make when reviewing financial aid award letters is that they assume that the award letter with the biggest “award” total is the best. This is not always the case.

The main reason it is so difficult to compare financial aid award letters is because colleges are not required to use a standardized form. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Education asked colleges and university to use a “shopping sheet,” but it is not required at this time. Until all colleges use a standardized form, it won’t be easy to compare financial aid offers.

I will help you decipher how to read those award letters so you can figure out what college is giving you the best deal. Keep in mind that the review process can take a while, especially if you need to do some research on your own – and more than likely, you will need to because not all colleges will provide all of the information you need.

As you go through the steps, I recommend creating a spreadsheet so that you can compare everything side-by-side.

Step 1: Figure out the Cost of Attendance.
Cost of attendance includes:

  • Tuition and fees
  • Housing and meals
  • Books and supplies*
  • Transportation*
  • Other educational costs**

*Transportation, books and supplies are not paid directly to the school. These figures are provided to give students an estimate of how much they will pay while attending college for the academic year.
**This will vary from each school depending on other things the college may require.

Not all of the award letters will include the cost of attendance. Students may have to go to college websites or contact the school directly to get this information.

Some things to keep in mind about cost of attendance:

  • Cost at many colleges will go up over the years. Some might have increases every year. Although the colleges might not have the figures for each year, it doesn’t hurt to ask about cost increases.
  • Although all colleges give estimates for the cost of books, the amount will be different for each student and can change each semester or quarter depending on the classes the student is taking.
  • There may be added costs after students register for classes that are not included in the quoted tuition and fees. For example, courses that require labs usually have extra fees not included in the quoted tuition and fees cost.

Step 2: Calculate “free money.”
Free money is all of the grants and scholarships that students do not need to pay back.

Things to keep in mind about free money:

  • Find out if the scholarships and grants are renewable all four years. Sometimes colleges will add one-time scholarships to incoming student’s financial aid award letters to encourage students to choose them over other colleges.
  • If the scholarship is renewable, find out what you must do to renew it all four years. Will you be able to keep up the requirements to keep the scholarship?
  • As tuition goes up, will scholarships amounts increase or remain the same? This is a question to ask the financial aid department at each school.

Cost of Attendance – Free Money = Total YOU Will Pay (somehow)

The college with the smallest “Total YOU Will Pay” is the college that will cost you the least, at least the first year. I mention the first year because multiple things can change from year-to-year as I discussed above.

Step 3: Were you offered work-study?
Work-study is another option that does not need to be repaid. However, as the title suggests, students have to work for the money. Work-study wages are usually given to the student in the form of a check, just like a regular job. Most work-study jobs will be on campus, but there may be off-campus positions also available.

Questions to ask about work-study:

  • Is the work-study job guaranteed?
  • Will students be assigned a work-study job, or will they have to apply for the work-study position?

Step 4: What loans were offered?
Many financial aid award letters will include loans. These loans will need to be paid back at some point. There are multiple loans that could be added on the award letter:

  • Federal Subsidized Loan – Student does not pay on the loan until the student has been out of full-time education for six months. During the time the student is in school, interest WILL NOT accrue.
  • Federal Unsubsidized Loan – Student does not pay on the loan until the student has been out of full-time education for six months. During the time the student is in school, interest is accruing on the loan.
  • Federal Perkins Loan – Students do not pay on the loan until student has been out of full-time education for ten months. During the time the student is in school, interest WILL NOT accrue.
  • Parent PLUS Loan – This loan is offered to the parents of the students. Although this loan is included on the financial aid award letter, parents will need to show they do not have adverse credit history. Parents will set-up a payment plan.

Cost of Attendance – Free Money – Work Study – Loans =
Amount you must pay out of pocket

The amount that the student has to pay out of pocket is usually paid at the beginning of each semester. Many colleges will allow students to start a payment plan. Typically, if the student has a payment plan, the balance for the term should be paid by the end of the term.

Comparing the Offers
The most important numbers to pay attention to when comparing the offers is the cost of attendance and the free money (scholarships and grants). When you subtract the free money from the cost of attendance, the difference is what you will ultimately have to pay one way or another to attend the college.

Choosing the college that you will attend in the future should not be solely based on cost. However, we all know and understand it is a huge factor. Hopefully the explanation you’ve found here makes it easier to compare the financial aid award letters that you have received from the colleges!