Monday, April 10, 2017

How To Make a Final College Selection

May 1st is around the corner and that means high school seniors must send their housing deposit to the college of their choice. If a student fails to inform a school by this date, colleges will no longer guarantee their admission. Here are a few tips for a high school senior to make a proper decision on which college to attend.

Social Fit

As an 18 year old high school senior, it is hard to imagine making a decision that will impact the next four years of their life. The first step to make sure the school is the proper social fit. Having hopefully already visited campus, this on-campus experience should have provided the student enough knowledge to make an informed decision. But can the family envision the student on campus, participating in the activities in the quad, eating in the dining halls or sleeping in the dorms rooms? If they can, this is a good sign. If they cannot, perhaps a last minute follow-up visit to the campus might be in order.

Financial Fit

By now, the soon to be college freshman has received a plethora of acceptance letters and financial aid awards. Reexamine each of the acceptance letters and financial aid awards and ask yourself, “Can I afford to send my son/daughter to this school?” If the answer is a clear cut yes, then compare each of the school’s finances together. Think about the programs they offer and your likes/dislikes about each school to make a proper decision. Select the school that you feel is the best fit for your family.

If there is some hesitation in affordability, here are some things to consider regarding the college:

  • How many loans will the student have to take out?
  • What will the final amount of loans be when the student graduates in four years?
  • Can my son/daughter receive the same quality education at a school that is not their first choice, but offering more in terms of financial aid?
  • Is the scholarship they are receiving a one year scholarship or renewable for four years?
  • What are the qualifications to be renewed?
These are important questions to discuss as a family as May 1st will be here soon. 

Eliminate Friends From Decision
You can meet new friends at school, 
such as the Colgate Raider!
Many high school seniors are afraid to leave their comfort zone. Many adults are like this too; it is only natural. Making their college decision based upon where their friends will be attending is not a recommended way to make a decision. With Facebook, Twitter, text messaging, Skype/Facetime and email (snail mail to teenagers) students will easily be able to keep in touch. This is a great time for students to learn to think for themselves, be an individual and make an adult decision. They should choose the college that best fits themselves academically, socially and financially; not those of their friends. Young adults are resilient, they will be able to find their routine by keeping in touch with their high school friends while also making a campus full of new ones.

Post a comment regarding your college acceptance experience! If you have questions regarding the college process, contact us.

Monday, February 13, 2017

What Goes Into a Financial Aid Award Package?

As colleges begin to send out financial aid award letters, now is as a great time to discuss financial aid. Listed below are four types of 'awards' typically found on a financial aid letter.

A scholarship is merit based, meaning, students have accomplished something. This may include:
  • Academics
  • Standardized Test Score (ACT/SAT)
  • Unique Talent (Athletic, Performing/Visual Art)

Scholarships are awarded for various lengths. Make sure to investigate their stipulations. Regardless the length, scholarships do not need to be repaid to the school.

Based upon 'financial need,' grants, like scholarships, do not need to be repaid. They are the biggest reason to complete the FAFSA. These awards can be from the institution, federal or state government. There are 2 common federal grants:
  • Pell Grant: Up to $5,920 (for 2017-18 school year) to students who demonstrate financial need.
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant: In addition to the Pell Grant, this award is up to $4,000 for families that demonstrate exceptional financial need.

Federal Work-Study
Students work an on-campus job and earn a specified amount. There are ample opportunities reserved for federal work-study students in places such as the admissions office, school cafeteria or recreation center. Students cannot earn in excess of the amount offered on the award letter.

To defray the remaining cost of attendance, colleges will most likely package loans into the award letter. The are three types of main loans.
  • Direct Subsidized Loan
    • Based upon financial need. 
    • 10 year repayment period Accruing interest is paid by the Department of Education until 6 months after a student leaves school. 
    • Loan limit is $3,500 to $5,500, depending upon the year in school.
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loan
    • NOT based upon financial need. 
    • Borrower is responsible for all interest, which accrues immediately. 
    • 10 year repayment period on this loan (including accrued interest) does not begin until a student leaves school. 
    • Award amount is up to $2000 a school year. 
  • Direct PLUS Loan
    • For a student's parents/guardians. 
    • NOT based upon financial need. 
    • Borrower assumes all interest. 
    • The interest rate is slightly higher, but generally lower than a private loan. 
    • Maximum amount borrowed is the cost of attendance, minus any financial aid received.

When comparing financial aid award letters, do not compare the actual awarded amount. Compare the financial commitment between schools and the amount of loans the family will have to repay. 

If you have questions regarding your family's financial aid award letter or how to prepare for the rising cost of college, contact us

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Options to Delay College

The term gap year came into America's mainstream vocabulary last year with Malia Obama's announcement that she will delay her entrance into Harvard until Fall 2017. An Australian and European mainstay, the gap year means an academic year spent between high school and the start of college to pursue enrichment opportunities.


  • Work
    • Intern at a company of your academic interest
    • Teach English in South America 
    • Au pair in Europe. 
  • Volunteer
    • Start at your local food pantry
    • Join City Year to help rebuild America
  • Travel
    • Gain invaluable life experience by backpacking through Europe
    • Driving a camper across Australia
    • Go to South America like Malia Obama 
  • Learning
    • Develop those entrepreneurial skills and intern at a startup company
    • Learn a new language in a foreign country
    • Research a passion in its actual setting.


  • A gap year allows students to take a step back and 'recharge' from working hard to create a spectacular high school resume (link to old blog post) 
  • The life experiences gained can make students better prepared not only academically, but socially as well for college.
  • Working can not only begin a professional resume, but can help earn money for college, taking the pressure of tuition or other college costs. 
  • Students get the chance to experience life away from home before starting university through travel, experiencing a new culture(s) or being immersed in a new language. 


  • Taking part of an organized gap year program, traveling across countries or living in a new city can be expensive.
  • College financial aid packages may be changed as families will have to once again complete the FAFSA.
  • Do students just want to travel? Perhaps they can consider cheaper alternatives while accruing college credits through college study abroad programs.
  • For students who fail to develop important organizational habits, it might be easy to lose focus and fall out of the academic routine.
  • A poorly planned gap year may mean a year spent binge watching Netflix.

While a gap year between high school may not be for everyone, neither is immediately attending college. Perhaps some of these options can be used as an extended summer break while in college, explored during a study abroad semester, or done prior to entering the workforce/graduate school. If you would like to further explore Gap Year options, here is a recommended website.

If you would like to find out more about Gap Years, or anything college related, contact us.

Monday, January 9, 2017

4 College Scholarship Questions

The most frequently asked question I receive as an Independent College Counselor is, "Do you help with scholarships?" While 85% of all scholarships will be awarded from the colleges themselves, this does not mean students should not seek to win the estimated  $3.3 billion awarded from private sources. With all that potential money available, along with $100 million in scholarships unclaimed,  the answer  is, "yes."

What Is a Scholarship?

A scholarship is an award based upon student merit, or the accomplishments of the student. This may include high school academics, standardized test score (ACT/SAT), or unique talent (athletic, performing or visual arts). Scholarships are awarded for various lengths. Make sure to investigate their stipulations. Regardless of length, scholarships do not need to be repaid.

When is the Best Time To Look?

Another question I receive about scholarships is "when is the best time to look?" The answer: "all the time!"  Students should set aside an hour a month to search for scholarships. This means an hour to just research. Create a spreadsheet to track due dates. Make sure to budget additional time to craft an essay and complete the application. You do not have to be obsessed with this, but take the proper amount of time needed to win. Think of this as a job. In the end, hopefully you will be 'paid.'

Are Scholarships Only for Seniors?

Keep in mind, not all scholarships can be only won by seniors. Many times any student can apply for the scholarship, with the money either being held and sent to the future school of choice, or paid to the family with the expectation it be used for college. Check the 'rules' of every application.

When to Stop Looking?

The easiest answer is never! Why stop when most colleges allow for 'stackable' scholarships? This means any outside scholarship brought to the college will be 'stacked' on top of the financial aid package awarded. Keep in mind, smaller scholarships may have a smaller applicant pool because students do not feel these are worth their time. A few of these smaller scholarships will add up to a larger scholarship! Remember, you cannot win unless you try.

If you interested in learning more securing college scholarships or anything college, contact us.