Frequently Asked Questions (Students)
I come from an upper-middle class family with a higher income. Does this mean I’m not eligible to receive funding for college?
No, not at all. Financial aid comes from many sources including the Government, the College or University, and Private Sector Scholarship Sponsors. While your family may not be eligible for need-based funding from the Government, you are most likely eligible for other types of funding. In addition, there are a number of financial planning strategies that can place your family in an advantageous financial position when it comes to paying for college.
When should I start looking at colleges and planning to finance my education?
The short answer to your question is NOW! Ideally, during your sophomore year of high school you should begin working on your career path and start researching the qualities that you are looking for in a college or university. Planning to finance your education should start at approximately the same time. This will give your family plenty of time to make any adjustments to the family’s finances to give you the best eligibility for financial aid. Don’t despair if you are already past your sophomore year – even seniors in their first semester can effectively choose a college and plan for financing an education but it will take a great deal of time and dedication in a relatively short period of time to do so. Your best plan is to start early!
Do I really need to decide on a career before I start searching for a college?
Deciding on a career path or at least an area of study before you start your college search is the best strategy for optimal college selection and funding. You will be properly equipped to find the college offering the best program in your desired area of study. Doing so will also prevent the loss of time and money that comes with a change of schools when a student discovers that his or her chosen school doesn’t offer a quality program in the desired area of study.
Do I apply for admissions or funding first?
Technically you will apply for admissions first (Fall of your Senior Year) and funding second (January of your Senior Year). However, you should start planning your funding strategies long before you actually apply to the schools. Also, private-sector scholarships vary greatly in their deadlines. You may be able to apply for some of these funds during your junior or even your sophomore year of high school.
My family doesn’t have much money. Do I have to settle for a less expensive school?
No, most-often you will not have to "settle" for a school. This is one of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to selecting a college, and paying the bill. There are a number of strategies that will help you maximize the funding that you may receive from various sources. With proper planning and foresight, you should be able to receive adequate funding for your education - no matter which school you choose to attend.
How many colleges should I apply to?
It is recommended that you apply to six (6) institutions. These should include four good selections, one "long-shot" selection and one "safety" school.
My Dream School offered me $12,575 in funding, but it will cost $22,000 per year to attend. Is that the best offer I can get, or is there something else I can do?
In many cases you may appeal for a better offer of funding. Many schools will start low in their initial offers of financial aid. Knowing when and how to appeal can make the difference between receiving enough funding to attend and being turned away.
Frequently Asked Questions (Parents)
Should we talk with the colleges or should we let our student?
The student should be at the center of the process - especially the attendance decision-making process. Parents however certainly play a very important part - guidance, suggestions, and support are essential. Colleges like to see the student who has a great support structure, but the student's ability to "stand on their own two feet" is very important.
We are divorced and remarried. What parents' information needs to be reported and to who?
The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), which is required from all students seeking funding for college, asks questions specifically about the student's current household. This could be natural parents, step-parents, or a combination of both. The CSS/Profile, which is a more detailed version of the FAFSA and is required in addition to the FAFSA by approximately 10% of the schools, may also ask questions about the non-custodial parent if the natural parents are divorced.
What is the difference between an un-subsidized and a subsidized loan?
An un-subsidized loan accrues interest while the student attends college; whereas, the government pays the interest on a subsidized loan during attendance. Please note that a student must demonstrate financial need to qualify for a subsidized loan.
We have heard we might make too much money to qualify for college funding - is that true?
No - not any more! Colleges are now willing to offer funding (basically through their endowment funds) to families with higher annual incomes and greater net assets. Students from families with annual incomes of $250,000+ are commonly offered very attractive funding packages.
Who really receives the most money for college and why?
Although college financial aid was originally intended to go to those students who needed it the most, in many cases, it may actually go to those who know the most about the process. Colleges now use financial aid as a marketing tool to attract the students they would most like to enroll. The more you know about the overall process, and the more you are able to implement what you know into a workable plan, the more likely you are to receive the best education at the best price.
Should we go on campus visits with our student?
es - if at all possible. It's very important to let the student "do the talking." However, an extra set or two of eyes and ears will certainly pick up a great deal of additional information that can be discussed and weighed into the final decision.
What is the most important part of the college planning process?
Understanding the fact that college is not only essential and expensive, but it is also a business. Colleges consider themselves communities and look for a wide range of students to diversely fill each community. Keep in mind that colleges typically offer admission to 3, 4, or even 5 times as many students as they need to keep their seats filled. Being accepted for admission is by no means the end of the "battle." The institution making the student's attendance possible by offering adequate funding is the real key.