, , , , , ,

Need Blind Versus Need Aware and Why You Should Know the Difference

Muhlenberg College

Muhlenberg College

If you’re like most families, you’re concerned with how much four years of college is going to cost you. My boys are two and six years old, and I worry about it already. And while so much of the college search is focused on working through the differences between colleges to find that “right school”, all too often one major difference is overlooked.

That difference is whether a school is need blind or need aware.

Need blind schools don’t consider an applicant’s financial need when making admissions decisions, but many are not able to meet applicants’ full need with their financial aid packages without adding work study (which rarely helps a family pay for college) and unrealistic loan options. Highly selective colleges like Yale and Harvard belong to a very small group of schools who are completely need blind and who meet full need. Due to massive endowments, they have unlimited financial aid budgets. If a student is admitted to these colleges they will have 100% of their financial need met.

Need aware schools do consider finances in their admissions decisions, but this control can give colleges the ability to meet full need for all accepted applicants. They must manage an annual financial aid budget that has limitations but by paying honoring these limitations, the colleges are trying to make sure that the student can actually attend. While some students would say a need aware policy is unfair and that decisions should not be made due to financial constraints, the reality is that there is only so much money to go around.

Some schools are a combination of both and while neither approach is perfect, you absolutely need to understand how their application review operates. Earlier this month I was visiting colleges in eastern Pennsylvania and several of them indicated that they are need blind until they get to the last 15-20% of their decisions. At that point, an applicant who has a greater ability to pay would get the nod over a student who was going to need significant financial aid in order to attend.

So how can a family best assess its options? Ask the right questions, of course.

When you visit a college or talk to admission counselors at high school visits or college fairs, ask them if they are need blind or need aware. Let them explain how they review applications so that you can fully understand how your ability to pay may affect your college applications.  You may be disappointed by what you hear, especially if you feel your family’s financial situation may affect your chances at a need aware college, but without knowing how a college will treat you, you run the risk of greater disappointment when the financial aid award doesn’t come close to making the school affordable.

In the college search and application process, information is everything.

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.

Read More
, , ,

What To Look For When Researching Colleges

Elon University

Elon University

With students applying to more colleges than ever before, it’s critical for them to know what it is they are most interested in before they begin the arduous work of filling out applications and writing supplemental essays. Obviously, things like geographic location, campus size, cost, and chances of admission are talked about frequently. With that in mind, I’d like to talk about some points students should be paying attention to that don’t always enter the conversation right away.

Look at the numbers

While admission rates and averages for GPA and test scores can provide valuable information that should factor in deciding whether you should apply to a college, there are other numbers which are just as important, if not more important. Pay attention to a college’s retention rate, the percentage of students who are in-state versus out-of-state, the make-up and diversity of the student body, the number of males to females, and how many students live on campus. You will find out very quickly that colleges are not created equal.


I beat the drum on this issue with my students because I just don’t want to ever see any of them graduate with excessive student loan debt. Start off by finding your EFC (Expected Family Contribution) and then compare that number to how much assistance the college is likely to give you. For students who have a low EFC (will qualify for need-based aid), pay close attention to how much of your need a college meets. For students with a high EFC (will not qualify for need-based aid), pay attention to a college’s merit scholarship opportunities for high achieving students.

Explore Academic Programs
While you don’t necessarily need to know your major when you begin your college search, you should invest some time figuring out your VIPS. Knowing what you’re good at, what you’re interested in, what’s important to you and what your skills are can go a long way to helping you identify programs that will be better suited for you. So, whether you know your major or not, a few things you should focus on as you research your colleges include:

  1. Does the college have specific requirements outside the major or is there an open curriculum?
  2. If there are specific requirements, how extensive are they?
  3. Is there a first-year student program and, if so, what is it designed to help you with?
  4. If you know your major, are there core requirements you need to complete?
  5. If you don’t know you major, can you design your own?
  6. Who will be advising you? A professor from the department? A general advisor who advises all first-year students? A graduate assistant?
  7. Does the college (or the department of your major) require internships and, if so, do they help with securing internships?

All colleges have strengths and weaknesses and it’s up to you to find out how well a college fits your needs. So take the time to research schools, get to know them and determine for yourself which ones are the best ones for you.

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.

Read More

The CSS/PROFILE: The “Other” Financial Aid Application

The CSS Profile The Other Financial Aid ApplicationThe CSS/PROFILE went live on October 1st officially kicking off the start to the financial aid season. Ironically enough, many families don’t even know the CSS/PROFILE exists.

It does and here’s what you need to know about it:

1. While every college requires a student to file a FAFSA to qualify to federal need-based aid, over 200 mostly private colleges require students to complete the CSS/PROFILE as well for consideration of scholarships.

2. Here in Connecticut that list includes: Connecticut College, Fairfield University, Quinnipiac University, Sacred Heart University, Trinity College, University of New Haven, Wesleyan University, and Yale University.

3. While the FAFSA is a free application, the CSS/Profile is not. The initial application is $25 and then each subsequent submission costs $16.

4. Unlike the FAFSA, a family’s home equity is taken into account as an available asset.

5. If a family owns a business, 100% of its equity will be assessed.

6. Assets held in the names of siblings will be considered parental assets and assessed as such increasing the parents’ EFC.

7. Only untaxed social security benefits for the student will be excluded whereas benefits for the parent will not be excluded.

8. Pre-tax contributions to flex-plans for healthcare and dependent care are assessed as untaxed income.

9. Schools have their own deadlines for when the CSS/PROFILE should be filed and these dates can range from as early as sometime in November for Early Decision or Early Action applicants to as late as February for students applying Regular Decision. When in doubt, families should always check the school’s website or call the financial aid office to verify deadlines.

As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into the CSS/PROFILE. It’s costly, it’s invasive and it’s just another hurdle standing in the way for many students and their parents.

If you would like some assistance filing the CSS/PROFILE as well as the FAFSA, contact me today. Like an accountant would with your taxes, I can help you gather the documents you need, assist you in the filing of both applications and then also help you with appeals should the need arise.

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

Read More

College Counseling Tip Of The Day – Don’t assume you won’t qualify for financial aid

Everyone should apply for aid, regardless of what type of salary they earn. You never know when life might change and if a situation should arise where you want to take out a loan, you will need to have filed a FAFSA to qualify. 

Read More