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Applying For Financial Aid

Appying For Financial Aid2If your son or daughter is going to college, then you already know that you should apply for financial aid if you want to be considered for need-based aid, grants and loans. What you may not know is that there are two different financial aid applications.

First, let’s talk about the application everyone needs to fill out.

The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It’s the application that is required by every college in order to consider and then award financial aid to your son or daughter. The FAFSA is free and while it will take some time to fill out, if you organize yourself ahead of time it will be much easier.

The FAFSA is a smart form which you will find very helpful. Based on the information you enter, the FAFSA customizes the questions so that you only need to answer questions that pertain to your individual situation.

While everyone needs to fill out the FAFSA, based on colleges you are applying to, some of you may need to also fill out the CSS Profile.

The Profile is only required by a couple hundred private schools in addition to some scholarship programs. Unlike the FAFSA, the Profile is not free. It will cost you $16 to register and then an additional $9 per school for each school to which you send the form. The Profile also takes longer to complete and digs deeper into your financial picture.

To help yourself out with both the FAFSA and the CSS Profile, some of the information you will want to gather before you get started include:

  • Student and parents’ social security numbers
  • Student and parents’ driver’s license numbers
  • Statements for checking and savings accounts
  • Copies of last year’s tax return and W-2’s
  • Statements for any 529 accounts
  • Statements for any investment accounts
  • Current mortgage statement (Profile only)

Keep in mind that while current seniors are just filling out the FAFSA now (it went live on January 1st while the CSS Profile became available on October 1st) next year’s seniors will be able to fill out both the FAFSA and the CSS Profile starting in October.

This is a welcome change to the FAFSA as it will allow you to file financial aid applications using real numbers rather than estimates. Currently, you apply for financial aid using estimations for income and assets based on prior year information. With this new timeline, you will now use prior-prior year information – there will be no more guessing.

For those of you are very much depending on financial aid to help make a decision on where your son or daughter will be able to go to college, having this information in the fall of their senior year rather than waiting until the late spring, when they only have so many weeks left before the May 1st deadline is going to be very helpful.

There’s a lot to like about that.

If you would like some assistance with your college search or financial aid process, contact me today for a free 60-minute consultation.

Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.


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Why Just Submitting an Application isn’t Enough

Why Just Submitting An Application Is Not EnoughFrequently I find students applying to too many colleges. They think there’s some underlying mathematical equation that says the more colleges you apply to, the greater your chances are of being admitted to one.

Unfortunately, it’s just not true. Especially with the more selective schools that sit atop the various sets of rankings. If your profile as an applicant doesn’t match up well with what the school looks for,  no matter how many schools you apply to, admission isn’t likely.

So, what are students to do?

The first thing I tell my students to do is to get beyond this ever-growing obsession with brand names. In my experience, what you do with your college experience is more predictive of your future success in life. It’s not the name of the school or how highly they were ranked on US News or Forbes. In fact, in most high profile professional fields a bachelor’s degree doesn’t get you very far. You’re going to need a master’s degree, or more, and that’s where you should be more focused on name brand recognition.

It’s about where you finish, not where you start.

The second thing I tell them is to build a college list that is focused more on quality than quantity.

I tell them they should be applying to colleges they love and where they feel they will be happy and successful. I tell them to apply to colleges they can afford. I tell them to apply to colleges where they will find everything they are looking for, where they will grow as people and where they will be successful.

Sometimes this means the list of colleges is five, sometimes it’s eight.

Regardless of the number, what matters most is how much effort they put into connecting with these schools prior to applying. When a student has matched themselves up well with a college and then does the right things along the way such as visiting, sitting in on a class, interviewing with an admission counselor, meeting with a professor or coach, attending special visit programs or an open house – when some combination of these factors happens, admission becomes much more likely.

Why?

Because demonstrated interest matters more now than it ever has. Colleges are in the business of enrolling students and as the number of applications far exceeds the number of seats in an incoming class, it becomes critical for colleges to identify the students who are most likely to enroll. There are so many ways to demonstrate your interest to a school while you attempt to learn everything you can about it. Apply to too many schools and you may not be able to demonstrate your interest let alone put together quality applications.

Ultimately, there will be circumstances outside of your control so make peace with that idea and control what you can: which colleges you apply to and how sincere and genuine your interest is. You may not get in everywhere you apply to, but if you conduct your college search the right way, you will get into and enroll at a college you love.

If you would like some assistance with your college search, contact me today for a free 60-minute consultation.

Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.


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What is Financial Aid?

What is Financial AidFinancial aid is money that students and their parents can receive to help pay for college costs.

Aid is categorized in four ways:

Need-Based: For students and families who demonstrate a high level of need based on information provided on the FAFSA. Need-based aid can be awarded in the form of grants (federal and state), work study, low-interest loans (and often interest-deferred while enrolled) and the Parent Plus Loan.

Non-Need-Based: For students and families who qualify for private scholarships and grants outside of the FAFSA.

Merit-Based: For students who have excelled academically both with their GPA and standardized test scores.

Self-Help: Another way to categorize loans which students and families may choose to take out.

In my opinion, all students, regardless of their family’s financial situation should apply for financial aid. Why? Because it’s the only way to qualify for a federal loan. So even in a situation where a family has a high EFC (expected family contribution) and won’t qualify for any need-based aid, they can qualify for a student loan. Taking out a federally-backed loan like this with a low interest rate is a great way for a student to not only have some skin in the game but it will also help them establish some credit.

Additionally, a vast majority of students receive some form of financial aid. At private schools, where the cost of attendance can easily exceed $60,000, most students receive something as a higher cost makes it easier to demonstrate financial need.

Because this process gets complicated, it’s important to do your homework and stay on top of dates. Proper research into what a college may award, completing an EFC calculator to gain a thorough understanding of your ability to pay and running the numbers to know what potential student loan payments may look like will go a long way to helping you be more confident in the decisions you will be faced with.

If you would like some assistance with your college search, contact me today for a free 60-minute consultation.

Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.


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Building A Strong College List

Building A Strong College ListWhile high school seniors are wrapping up supplemental essays and preparing to submit applications, it’s time for the juniors to get their college search underway. And while it’s all well and good to like a college because you’ve been a fan of their basketball team or because one or more of your parents are alums, it makes a whole lot of sense to understand just what it is about a college that makes it a good option for you.

Here’s a few things to pay attention to as you work on building a strong college list:

1. Don’t get hung up on location

Not until you’ve really investigated a college, at least. If you’re willing to be open-minded, sometimes a great school might be just around the corner from what you think is your comfort zone.

2. Be realistic

Especially when it comes to gauging your chances of admission. When you see ranges for GPA and test scores for colleges and yours fall in the lower 25th percentile of who gets admitted, your chances really aren’t that great.

3. Merit scholarships go to the top students

Don’t think a college is going to give you a merit scholarship just because you’ve worked hard. Often, your GPA and test scores BOTH need to be in the top 25th percentile of who gets admitted for you to be considered for merit.

4. Find your WHY

Why you like a college is important. And it should never just be about the college's name.

5. Majors are not created equal

If you’re looking for a major in sports management, you will find it at some schools. You will also find it as a concentration under a business major at some schools. Don’t be so quick to discard a school just because you don’t find something listed exactly how you hoped you would. Also, keep in mind that many students change their majors and, for the ones who don’t, a major doesn’t always dictate what they will do in their lives. So be open-minded!

The bottom line? You have to research and turn over all the rocks to make sure you find what you’re looking for. You have nothing but time right now so put it to good use developing your college list. When you visit college campuses, you will have a more informed idea of who they are and what you need to find out before you submit your applications next fall.

There’s a lot to like about that.

If you would like some assistance with your college search, contact us today for a free 60-minute consultation.

Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.


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The Value Of Identifying Your VIPS

VIPS“What are you thinking about majoring in and why?”

This is a question I love asking students.  It appears to be a very simple question on the surface, but can get at something much deeper. While some students are very undecided and have no idea what they want to do (which is okay – really, it is), most are able to talk about one or more ideas they have. They want to major in engineering or nursing. They want to be a teacher or go into business. They have a feeling for something but they’re not entirely sure why.

And regardless of whether they have an idea or not, the table has been set to explore what I call their VIPS – Values, Interests, Personality-Style and Skills. These are the attributes students need to explore and understand better in order to have a successful college admission experience. Yet most students lack an awareness of their VIPS. This is never clearer than in conversation with current college freshmen who say, “I’m not happy.” When I start asking questions to get to the root of the matter, the same themes pop up:

They don’t know what really matters to them.

They haven’t thought about how their skills and abilities match with their major.

They don’t understand what careers or skills a particular major will afford them.

At the end of the day, so many students just don’t know what they want out of their lives. And while I don’t believe in the pressure of having to choose a course in life right away, students have to be encouraged to explore their VIPS.  They need to be pushed to reflect on their successes and failures in life, the moments they have enjoyed and the ones they have dreaded. They need to understand what makes them tick so that when it does come time to choose something, that choice is a well-informed one.

Why? Because I’m a firm believer that if you do more of what you love, if you invest your time in the things that matter the most to you, if you delve deep into the subjects you are both interested in and good at, you will find success in life.

High school students need to focus on identifying their VIPS and then use this information to launch their college search. Along the way, they can seek out job shadow opportunities so they can try something on before committing to it. They can identify individuals to interview so they can learn more about a professional field and what it takes to do well at it. And in the long run, they are essentially “branding” themselves by focusing on the things they love to do and creating opportunities to do more of them.

Your college experience should be the first leg on what is a life-long journey of being someone who is really awesome at what you do. Tap into the things you are good at, the things you love to do and the things that are most important to you and that journey will be even better.

If you would like some assistance with your college search, contact me today for a free 60-minute consultation.

Here’s what other families like yours are saying about how Dobler College Consulting made a difference for them.


 

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