Saturday, April 19, 2014

Decoding the Financial Aid Letter

As the May 1st deadline approaches for students to inform colleges of their intent to enroll, it is the perfect time to decode the financial aid letter. Listed below are four types of 'awards' found on a typical financial aid letter.

1. Scholarships

A scholarship is an award based upon student merit, meaning, students have accomplished something exceptional. This is on their high school academic record or their standardized test score (ACT, SAT, etc...). Other types of scholarships are based upon a student's unique talent, such as their athletic performance or musical ability. Scholarships are awarded for various lengths (first year only, renewable for four years, etc...). Make sure you investigate their stipulations. No matter the length, scholarships do not need to be repaid to the school.

2. Grants

These are similar to scholarships as they do not need to be repaid, but they are based upon 'need.' These can from the institution in which you were accepted or from the federal government. There are 3 common federal grants:

  • Federal Pell Grant: Up to $5,500 awarded 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. 
  • TEACH Grant: Up to $4,000 is provided to students who take coursework in education. Students then agree to complete four years serving children in low-income communities. 

3. Federal Work-Study

This program is designed for students to earn the awarded amount in an on or off campus job. There are ample campus jobs reserved for federal work-study students. Students cannot earn in excess of the amount offered on the award letter. Most common positions are working in the admissions office, school cafeteria or recreation center.

4. Loans

Many time, in the financial award letter, schools will package in loans to help defray the remaining cost of attendance. The four type of main loans are:

  • Direct Subsidized Loan: These are the first loans awarded based upon financial need. They are given for a 10 year repayment period and accruing interest is paid by the Department of Education (DOE) until 6 months after a student leaves school. The loan limit is $3,500 to $5,500, depending upon the year in school.
  • Federal Perkins Loan: These loans are in addition to the above loan, if the government deems there is still financial need. The interest rate is slightly higher, but again, interest is paid by the DOE provided a student is in school. The loan limit is up to $5,500 for undergraduate students.
  • Direct Unsubsidized Loan: These loans are not based upon financial need. The borrower is responsible for all interest. The amount awarded is based upon grade level and dependency status. 
  • Direct PLUS Loan: This loan is for a student's parents or guardians. It is not based upon need and the borrower assumes all interest. The interest rate is slightly higher, but generally it will be lower than an outside private (or bank) loan. The maximum amount borrowed is the cost of attendance, minus any financial aid received. 

Remember, when comparing financial aid award letters, do not compare the amount the school is awarding the student. Compare the financial commitment of the family 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.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The 5 Cards of a College Experience

Otterbein University is known as a college of opportunity since its founding in 1847. This progressive university takes pride in the fact that the first two graduates of this Westerville, Ohio campus were women. Located 15 minutes from Columbus, the 2400 undergraduates have access to  internships, job opportunities and student activities. Although a suburban campus, Otterbein offers students a quintessential small college experience.

Equestrian Program

The Austin E. Knowlton Center for Equine Science, a $5 million equine facility makes Otterbein a leader in the equestrian field. This state-of-the-art facility allows up to 60 student to board and use their horses in the indoor riding stable. This impressive complex has not only enhanced their equestrian program, but provides students the opportunity to study unique majors such as Equine Preveterinary Medicine and Equine Business Management.

The Equine Pre-Veterinary Medicine program prepares students for graduate school programs and colleges of veterinary medicine. Included in the program are multiple internship opportunities, along with employment at Otterbein's own equine facility.

The Equine Business Management Program offers students the opportunity to learn about careers in the equine world. Such careers in the equine field using this degree might be: manager of an equine facility, an equine insurance adjusters and breeding farm administrator.

Theatre Program

Otterbein Theatre and Dance department is nationally renowned. The program attracts students from across the nation. Amongst the thousands of applicants each year, the department invites approximately 400 students to a live audition. This competitive department accepts only 4 males and 4 females to earn a BFA in the acting and musical theatre program. A limited number of students will also be accepted into the BFA Design &Technology program. Students can also choose to earn a BA in Theatre, which offers more flexibility as students can study more than one area of theatre.

Shared Government

Since 1920, administrators at Otterbein administrators believe that the running of the school should involve the students. The board of trustees has an elected student representative that maintains equal  voting rights on every matter of the school. This is something truly unique amongst college hierarchies.

Five Card Experience

Every Otterbein Cardinal is guaranteed the following experiences while at school.:

  1. Participation in undergrad research 
  2. Involvement in community engagement. 
  3. Contribution in a global engagement and/or an intercultural experience. Many OU students will take advantage of studying abroad at one of the 30 partner universities. 
  4. Internships and Professional Experience. Located 15 minutes outside of the state capital, finding a place to hone your skills while an undergrad is not difficult. OU prides itself on their student internship assistance program on campus.
  5. Leadership and citizenship. These experiences combined will allow Otterbein students to leave school with an experiential transcripts proclaiming what they were able to participate in, while attending school. 

These five guarantees allow students the experience and training for jobs to be created in an ever changing world. With a strong liberal arts core curriculum, Otterbein graduates are well rounded and well prepared for life after Otterbein.

If you would like to know more about Otterbein University, or other colleges, contact us.

Friday, April 4, 2014

UBP '14

The Annual Ultimate Blog Party is here!

Frog Fountains at Texas Christian University (TCU)
Welcome to In and Around the Quad, an ongoing discussion created by Thomas J. Jaworski, founder and lead consultant of Quest College Consulting. In this blog, I will help guide families through the college admissions process. Did you know:

  • For the 2012-13 academic year, 151 colleges charged annual tuition, fees, room and board totaling more than $50,000, according to College Board? 
  • There are over 500 Common Application members in 46 states and the District of Columbia, as well as in France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, and Switzerland?
  • As of January 1st, you can begin and submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) without having finished your 2013 Federal Income Taxes?
  • Even though many colleges and universities are changing to Score Choice, SuperScore and/or becoming test optional, your ACT/SAT score should align closer with the median 75% than the median 25% when comparing your admission prospects for a particular school?  

Would you like to learn more about the college process or understand the above statements? Come back weekly as I will post advice, strategy, tips, news and notes from around the college world.

Feel free to contact us with specific questions, subscribe to our E-Newsletter or take our College Finder Quiz.