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First steps in the College Admissions Decision

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“The Most Important Criteria for
Selecting a College or University”

There are a number of factors to take into consideration when making a college admission decision, and we will discuss them in more detail in this month’s newsletter. We are convinced that it is important to dedicate this blog to this topic because it is one of the most important decisions that a young person can make – and also one of the most personalized decisions. Choosing a school because one’s friends want to go there, or because the college (or its football team) are considered “cool” this year, or because of a famous name or general academic reputation, is simply not good enough to allow for a proper match.

This month, please have a look at these criteria for making a well thought out college decision. Our experience has shown that these are truly important topics for discussion as your student prepares for college, no matter how far along the process they might be at this point!

There are many questions to be answered in order to come to the right conclusion regarding this question. Here are several questions to get started:

1) Is A Private Or Public College Better?

Private colleges sometimes get a bad rap because everyone thinks that they are too expensive to attend. That is not always the case, however. Funding for private colleges can often exceed what you might get at a public institution. Private colleges also have the reputation of being extremely selective about the incoming students. That is also not the case. Some private colleges are extremely particular, but not all. Public colleges are often (on paper) less expensive than private colleges. They tend to be cheaper to attend than private institutions and that is often the case. It is worth the effort to apply to both private and public colleges, and find the ones that are the best fit, either way.

2) Where Is The School Located?

Much like in real estate, location-location-location is extremely important. It sets the scene for the environment for the following four years (at least). Some students find it’s very important to be close to home. If this is important to your child, then trying to find something within the area in which you currently live is vital.

The downside to this option is that your child might not have access to the best colleges because they are simply out of range of where they’d prefer to be. This is extremely personal, however. Some students want to stay close to home because the impression is that out-of-state schools will be far too expensive. In some cases, out-of-state schools can be extremely affordable.

3) How Is The Learning Environment?

Everyone has a particular style or way of expressing themselves. Colleges are no different. Although it is hard to convince people otherwise, applicants really shouldn’t concern themselves too much about rankings (based on a variety of perhaps irrelevant statistics) or a college’s overall selectivity. The college environment will have a lot to do with how well your child will be able to learn. Is a school that is known for being extremely academically rigorous the right choice for your child? If your child learns best under those circumstances then, absolutely, yes. If your child thrives when s/he feels comfortable academically and able to push him or herself at a pace that is more self-managed then a school with more academic flexibility could be the ideal place for him or her.

4) What’s The Student-to-Faculty Ratio?

Not all students thrive in an environment where they are one of 400 students in a large lecture with little access to the teacher for questions or follow-up. If your child learns better in smaller class settings, then that is something that’s important to consider. Larger schools will often – but not always – mean larger classes. Check each school to find out what the student to faculty ratio is. This will be especially important if your child has already decided on a major. Core classes tend to be larger but classes within a particular major may not be so large.

5) Is This College Affordable?

Affordability is something that is important to nearly every parent of a child ready to enter college. It is a concern for many parents as college tuitions seem to rise at an exponential rate. What happens and often scares off many parents is the ‘sticker price’ of any college. To be fair, these prices are often quite shocking. The good thing to remember, however, is that nearly no one pays the published price.

Many parents are concerned about whether they might be qualified for aid. It is important that every incoming student apply for aid, regardless of financial circumstances. One really never knows how much one is eligible for aid unless s/he applies. Colleges vary widely on their aid packages so it is essential to apply to a variety of schools, both public and private, and then make a decision after receiving the financial aid package.

Students can also be eligible for scholarships. This is highly coveted aid because this is money that does not need to be paid back. This varies depending on the talents and capabilities of the students. It’s a good idea to do research for every school to determine what types of scholarship opportunities are available for incoming students. Regardless, it is an extremely good idea to speak with a college financial advisor with regard to financial aid and financial preparation for college in general.

6) What Are The Job Prospects After Graduation?

Getting into and through college can be difficult enough. Entering the job market after college can seem even more daunting. It doesn’t have to be that way, however. There are some colleges that have excellent career services programs and even internships and job placement programs within excellent industries. Others will have special programs for professional schools like law, medicine, business, or dentistry.

These types of departments can help students make the transition from student to employee (or graduate/professional student) to help ease the burden. It’s a good idea to research which schools offer these types of programs to assist your child in entering the workforce as smoothly as possible.

As you and your student work through these criteria to seek the schools that make the most sense for a bright and rewarding future, we know that it can sometimes be challenging to come up with the right colleges and universities for a personalized fit.For this reason we stand ready to serve with insights and suggestions, if you feel that a bit of expert analysis could be of assistance in this effort. After all, it is what we do best!

Until next month,

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Types of Financial Aid: Available vs Reliable

                                                 

   Types of College Financial Aid – What is Available?  What is Reliable?

Dear Parent,

It is not hard to find information about the constantly increasing costs of higher education in this country.  The news reports on it, neighbors with college-age children complain about it, and parents of high school students worry about it.  The simple fact is that the days of easily-affordable highly education are pretty firmly in the rearview mirror for most people, and costs are not going down.

Because we are professionals who deal with all of the details of higher education preparation, from academics and application to (especially) college funding, we understand precisely how these costs affect the vast majority of the population. We are also, due to our experience and knowledge about these processes, able to offers families some insights into the workings of college application and managing the related costs after admission.

For families to understand the best ways to prepare for and successfully tackle the college years, it is vital that they know exactly what options are available to them.  Of course, we keep our fingers on the pulse of this process at all times, but we find that the families who best navigate these waters are those who have taken the time to understand the possibilities and make informed decisions as to the best way forward in their circumstances.

If college or university education is important – and we are completely convinced that it is – then understanding the best ways to manage the financial side of the higher education years is absolutely vital… and that is true, no matter how much or how little a family earns.  Starting earlier is always better, if course, but it is most important to get started at all, and not wait until the last minute.

Because of this fact, in this month’s newsletter we will focus squarely on the main types of financial aid that are available to students.  Some of them are more readily available than others, based on individual, family, and/or financial circumstances.  Some of them are – in our professional estimation – much more desirable or even more sensible than others.  But regardless, it is important for families of college bound students to know exactly what is available out there to help with the ever-increasing costs of higher education.  For a complete breakdown of which options make the most sense for your student and your family situation – remember, college financial aid is NOT a one-size-fits-all proposition! – please feel free to contact us at your convenience.

Sources of Financial Aid

So, looking forward to the day when your child is ready for college, it is good to determine exactly where some of those sources of funding are coming from. There are essentially four sources of aid from which funds are dispersed for college. These sources include:

  • The federal government
  • The state government
  • Post-secondary institutions – (meaning the colleges or universities themselves)
  • Private organizations

Money that comes from the federal government comes in the form of loans, work-study programs, and grants – we will discuss more about these later. If a family is interested in these types of programs’ then it is absolutely necessary to fill out a FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It should come as little surprise that the federal government is the largest distributor of financial aid overall.

Funds that come from individual state governments can also come in the form of loans, grants, scholarships, work-study programs, and other forms of assistance for tuition. The financial aid counselor at each college or university will be able to clearly inform families about the different offerings from within their state, and this is especially true if they are considering sending their child to an in-state college or university.  State residents tend to pay less in tuition and may also be eligible for other forms of special aid.

Aid that comes from institutions themselves comes from the funds that colleges and universities set aside specifically to provide to students.  Some schools will have a very large endowment for this aid, and others will not.  This type of aid can come in the form of grants, scholarships, and work-study aid, etc. Each institution will have specific requirements as to who is eligible for which type of aid, and how much can be awarded. Researching each institution for possible types of offerings is the best option to discover exactly what might be available for your child. Your college funding advisor will have access to much of this information and can assist in making these sorts of estimations.

Private organizations also can offer funds to students by way of scholarships, private aid, etc. These organizations can include corporations, religious communities, professional clubs, and so on. More information about what may be available in your area can be researched in conjunction with your local college funding advisor, as well as through organizations with which the family is directly affiliated.

Types of Financial Aid

Now that we’ve identified the different sources of aid, we can now look at details regarding the different types of aid that are available. There are basically four types of aid available, as mentioned above:

  • Grants
  • Scholarships
  • Government Loans (these come in two types)
  • Private loans

Let’s look now at the different types of options available.

Grants are funds that are provided but do not need to be paid back. Grants can be offered by the federal government as well as by your state government. You may also find that many colleges and universities offer grant programs, as well. These grants will fall into different categories. They may be based on merit, need, or may even be specific to a student. Grants that are specific to the student might include grants that are awarded to those who are from minority group, a student with a disability, a student who is a military veteran (or dependent), and so forth.

Some of the grants that are currently awarded by the federal government include:

  • Pell Grants
  • TEACH (Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education) Grants
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG)
  • Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants (for military veterans)

Scholarships, much like grants, also do not require that you pay the funds back. These types of aid are usually offered by single organizations or private institutions and are given based on a number of different factors. These factors can include high academic record, sports ability, affiliation with a specific religious organization, ethnicity, in addition to others. Scholarships often require that the applicant complete an application, try out, audition, or even write an essay to be considered.

Loans are (unfortunately, in our view) often the most commonly used form of aid when going to college. Loans are distributed both by the government and through private organizations.  Remember, however, that loans – unlike the aforementioned scholarships and grants – DO require repayment. This repayment also comes with interest. There are two different types of loans to consider: subsidized and unsubsidized.

  • Subsidized loans are granted to students under more favorable conditions than unsubsidized loans. For example, the Department of Education is required to pay the interest while a student is in college and will continue to do so for 6 months after s/he graduates.
  • Unsubsidized loans can be distributed to students regardless of their level of need. The downside of this loan is that the student is responsible for the interest for the entire duration of the loan. That means that the interest that is accruing during the college years will need to be repaid by the student after graduation.
  • There are additional loans available, as well, namely PLUS loans and Perkins Loans.

 

Private loans can also be offered through private banks or financial institutions. These types of loans might be utilized by those who have not received enough aid through subsidized and unsubsidized loans… or by those who have a shortfall in financing due to insufficient planning. While they can help cover costs that will not be covered by the other types of aid that’s been offered, they tend to be expensive. Private loans are also generally available to those who have a good credit score. One of the downsides is that the interest rates for private loans are often higher than what is offered by the federal government. For this reason, a private loan should be considered a last resort.

As we mentioned above, there is no single best option for arranging college funding.  We make sure to work closely with both the parents and students to find the best possible solutions that will fit with a family’s financial situation as well as the future goals and aspirations of rising college students.

Along with our monthly newsletters, we spend considerable time and effort to find ways to share information that will assist families with college preparation.  One of our best offerings – appreciated by many families – is our series of College Funding Workshops.  These presentations provide live interaction with some of the very best college funding professionals to be found.  The workshops also provide current information for parents regarding the ins and outs of their child’s forthcoming college education.

While our workshops are provided free of cost for attendees, due to room requirements we do require a reservation in order to attend.  This policy allows us to maximize the learning environment for everyone involved.  If you would like more information on upcoming College Funding Workshops in your area, call our workshop team toll-free at 614-923-1515.  Questions about locations, times and dates, or workshop-specific details can all be handled by these professionals.

In addition, we offer a popular published report especially for parents who are looking for the best ways to manage upcoming college expenses.  We call this report “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College.” It is available only by request and it is sent to parents without any cost or obligation.  For your own copy of “Nine New Ways To Beat The High Cost of College,” you can reach out to our staff at 614-934-1515 and we email you a copy right away.  We are eager to help however we can!

 

Until next month,