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Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D.
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Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D.
guides her clients to define and realize educational and career goals. 

With over thirty years of experience as a university professor & admissions committee member you're invited to leverage her extensive knowledge of university curricula and career opportunities to BUILD YOUR COLLEGE PLAN!.
 
 
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Congrats!!! A SAMPLE of of recent College Acceptances Include:
Carnegie Mellon,Brown, Princeton, Cornell, Georgia Tech (Engineering, Bio-Chem), NYU, Bowdoin, WUSTL, Reed, Michigan (Engineering & Other majors), U.Illinois (Engineering & Others), Boston U., UNC, Notre Dame, Miami, Dartmouth, Duke, SCAD, Tulane, Drexel Honors, Parsons, Berklee College of Music, U.Arizona, Penn State, UT Austin, Pittsburgh, SUNY Stonybrook, RIT, UF, plus many more


COVID POLICY UPDATE
 
Your College Admissions Goals Haven't Changed - But Your College Plan May Need Adjustments.
 
All our appointments are held remotely. Access personalized online college counseling with Bonnie Rabin, PhD.

We're not new to remote college counseling. In fact, we've been serving our clients throughout the US through virtual platforms for years. We're ready to answer all your questions about College Admissions, College Applications and College Essays in these uncertain times.


Understanding
Financial Aid & Scholarships


Greetings Students & Families

It’s the start of Financial Aid and Scholarship application season- and I want to get you up to speed on that process. This note provides the details you need to understand EVERYTHING you need to know about financial aid and scholarships. A few weeks ago, I sent a detailed note: Everything to Know About College Admissions. Both these newsletters are packed with resources relevant to families in 8th to 12 grades. Please reach out to schedule your College Admissions Planning Assessment.


Whether you are a parent of a senior or freshman, you'll find this information invaluable and I invite families to schedule a conversation if you have any questions about the process of applying for financial aid and particularly if your potentially unique/odd etc. circumstances require some guidance in the navigation of the standard FAFSA and CSS Profiles (I'll tell you all about those two forms below in more detail). Please ignore misguided information and I want to assure you there is absolutely no increase in your aid package for filing your financial aid forms tomorrow. We file by due dates- mostly January (ED is an exception and some state colleges) and the size of your aid package is completely unrelated to the date you submit your FAFSA. Get it right – don't rush.  Financial aid and Merit Scholarships are two different beasts- I’ll explain all of this and more in this newsletters.



The Common App and Financial Aid:
If you’re a senior completing your Common App 2020-21 – there’s a question asking if you want to be considered for financial aid. Please indicate “yes” to the question on the Common App regarding “need based aid” – there is no impact on your admissions- we refer to this as “need blind admissions” -- also .


WHAT To KNOW ABOUT FINANCIAL AID & SCHOLARSHIPS?

All families have many questions about financial aid and paying for college including:
  • Is our family eligible for financial aid?
  • When and how do we apply for financial aid and what’s a FAFSA or CSS Profile?
  • What Scholarships are available?
  • Under what circumstances should we consider a private college in lieu of our state’s public universities-?(especially if you’ve participated in your state’s college planning 529 plan such as the Florida’s Pre-Pay program.)
  • How does early college planning increase chances of college acceptance and finding internal scholarships?


In this very detailed newsletter, I'll answer all these questions and we'll explore how financial aid is an essential part of forming your balanced list of colleges. Early academic planning can be invaluable to positioning each student to realize educational goals that are affordable.

The “fit” between a student and a university is based upon three pillars, including “Academics”, “Social” and “Financial”.


FINANCIAL AFFORDABILITY

Every family faces unique financial circumstances and we factor those into the choices of where to apply and enroll.
If you’re ineligible for financial aid (determined by each college's review of your completed FAFSA), the investment of a college education takes on more importance given the substantial cost. Given the economic uncertainty many are facing in the challenges of the pandemic, it’s often difficult to imagine the cost of higher education. Universities are adapting and adjusting.

 If you’re a senior ’21– you’ll be applying for financial aid during the late fall of 2020 based on your 2019 tax return and the income reported during that year. If your financial circumstances changed during 2020, please reach out to discuss how to alert colleges of this change. Whether your family is financially secure or facing serious challenges– the cost of a four-year undergraduate degree is a significant investment. Sadly, the more selective universities with stronger educational programs are the same price as less selective programs. The cost of running a university doesn't vary much – and it’s not reflected in the price tag. That said, this newsletter informs you about how to understand that the price tag isn’t always what you are going to pay. Today, I’ll help you to understand how to access scholarships and financial aid to reduce the stress that results from mis-information and yes, being an easy target for “scholarship and financial aid scamsters!”

THERE ARE MANY CAMPUSES PROVIDING an EXCELLENT EDUCATION offering deep discounts on tuition given your “admissions profile”. 

As my seniors have finalized their lists of colleges for the 2020-21 college application season. One of the questions most often raised is whether a student should be applying to private colleges if a family has participated in their state’s pre-paid tuition plan?  The short answer to the question is that there are many outstanding universities offering both financial need-based and merit based assistance. Colleges want you! Universities provide inviting “discounts” on tuition.


Knowing how evaluate your financial situation and how to plan your high school student’s academic path in a way that creates scholarship opportunities is essential.  As regular readers of my newsletters know, each school year is an opportunity for further exploration into academic areas of interest and strength, as well as enhancing existing learning and time management strategies.  


WHEN, HOW AND WHERE DO I APPLY FOR FINANCIAL AID? 

FAFSA and the CSS PROFILE??

The process to apply for financial aid involves at minimum – filing a FAFSA and for most private colleges, a secondary form – a CSS Profile. FAFSA is a federal and free form and the CSS Profile is sponsored by the College Board and there’s a cost. The CSS Profile also requires separate forms for both the custodial and non-custodial parents.   


– YES YOU CAN AFFORD COLLEGE!
First, let’s get a rough idea of your eligibility for financial aid.

If you haven’t already done so – there’s an estimating tool at the link below for the FAFSA4CASTER– showing you what you can be expected to contribute based on hypothetical levels of income and assets. This is a non-binding unofficial tool- you should have no fears of experimenting here.  

If The FAFSA4CASTER indicates your Estimated Financial Contribution (EFC) estimates are above $60k – there is little if any aid to be received as the cost of attendance exceeds all public universities and is close to the cost of most private universities at 65 to 75k. Any assistance will go to families with more perceived need. 

Again, regular readers of my blogs and newsletters know the importance of shaping your balance list of colleges to include financial safeties potentially leveraging awards later in March.
Rough guide- families at $150k in W-2 Earnings EFC $30k (unbelievable but true – there is a link below to the algorithm of the EFC calculation and more details follow- hang on - this is a lot to absorb.). It’s important to understand how your aid is calculated so you can engage in proper college planning.

It’s also important to avoid scamsters on social media offering to help you reduce your EFC by shady and illegal practices– I gringe everytime this information crosses my FB newsfeed and wish I could send up a warning flag. There is no magic – and you shouldn’t pay anyone to help you file a free form or mess with your data- because the form is straightforward for most people. The form you file will link to an IRS data retrieval tool.The complex and unusual situations aren’t handled on the form but in direct communications with college admissions officers AFTER you are accepted and receive your award letter. Tha’s where I can guide you best to negotiating your aid package. Your FAFSA leaves little room for changing any variables within your control. Any service that advertises otherwise could get you into a ton of trouble.

IT’S ALSO IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND THAT WHILE THE FAFSA IS A FEDERAL FORM – ESSENTIAL TO RECEIVING ANY FEDERAL AID YOU MIGHT BE ENTITLED TO (I.E. PELL GRANTS OR SUBSIDIZED STUDENT LOANS), THE PRIMARY REASON YOU’VE FILED THIS FORM IS TO GENERATE AN EFC .

THAT VALUE IS USED BY COLLEGES TO DETERMINE WHAT IF ANY AID PACKAGE TO AWARD. IT’S THEIR MONEY AND HOW THEY DECIDE TO PROVIDE AID HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE GOVERNMENT. THIS WEEK SOME ANGRY PERSON CALLED ME CLAIMING “I PAY A TON IN TAXES” AND SOMEHOW FELT ENTITLED TO ASK ME HOW HE COULD HIDE HIS MONEY AND RECEIVE MORE AID FROM FAFSA. FAFSA DOESN’T AWARD ANYTHING – IT’S JUST A FORM – A FORM USED TO GUIDE COLLEGES IN DETERMINING WHETHER TO GIVE YOUR STUDENT ANY MONEY THAT ALUMNI AND PRIVATE INVESTORS HAVE DONATED FOR THIS PURPOSE.

This is why it's so important to know how much you can be expected to contribute as you get ready to determine your balanced list of colleges.


FAFSA has a “link/retrive to IRS” process- making this a fairly straightforward form for you to complete. The link is to your 2019 Federal 1040. If 2020 was a difficult year — we have a process to providing that information to colleges. Other data you’ll need to have on hand include the amount of money in savings, checking, college (529 or state pre-pay) , & retirement funds for both the custodial parent and student. If you have any “complex” issues that don’t fit the questions or windfalls from house sale, one time bonus, inheritance, or other oddities- let’s talk before you enter large numbers that affect your EFC

—  Unusual — that means- income going up or down widely from 2019 2020 to 2021 – job loss, windfall gains/losses, With the pandemic, it’s very likely your family had a reduction in income or business revenues, potentially experienced high medical expenses, separation/divorce -all of this – including supporting family abroad in troubled communities- please let’s talk.

RULE OF THUMB_ divorced or separated families – the lower earning parent (and that includes the income of the remarried spouse) should be listed as the custodial parent. If necessary – update and amend the 2019 tax form and school address to align. The gains to financial aid are significant and outweigh the puny tax deduction of one child. I can walk both parents through this discussion and maintain your privacy from your ex-spouse on financials.

Please check each college's website to determine if you also need to file a CSS Profile. These are required at most but not all private colleges and few if any public universities.

There are some "tricky" questions you'll feel are rather personal - and the best way to get over it to be assured the information is confidential. But mostly- if you want financial aid from a private university - you must play by their rules-- meaning you must answer all the questions honestly on both the FAFSA and CSS Profile.


LITTLE KNOWN FACTS ABOUT FINANCIAL AID AND SCHOLARSHIPS….

As an experienced university faculty and admissions committee member, let’s begin with a discussion of how colleges determine your financial aid award and some tips to increase your chances of receiving financial aid and scholarships.

Need Blind Admissions

Nearly all colleges practice “need blind admissions” meaning admissions decisions are unrelated to your request to be considered for financial aid. That said, university budgets and financial aid awards are built around “discounting” – a practice of offsetting a college’s annual financial aid budget with the dollars received from full paying students to minimize the impact on the institution’s endowment. 

As a full-paying family, you may be surprised to know that as much as a quarter to a third of your tuition dollars are used to award financial aid to another deserving student.  We know for certain that many colleges are seeing some budget shortfalls at the moment as families hedge their bets on enrollment given the uncertainty of whether classes will be offered in-person or online - this was true for fall and again for spring. We also know that international students in many universities are a significant component of full pay tuition revenue– yet, borders are closed to travel to and from many countries. This is a fluid situation impacting financial aid and university operating budgets in the short-term.
HERE’S SOME REALLY GREAT NEWS– !
Prior to the pandemic, we continued to see "Discount Rates" Hit Record Highs as Private Colleges Set New Record on Tuition Discounts. In Spring 2020- this was challenging however as colleges didn't realize their enrollment targets and in fact freshman enrollment across the US has declined. 2021 will be another odd year - a mix between university budget slashing and high-pressure marketing for students (beyond the top 50 colleges and universities- where costs have no impact - there are as many as 10 qualified students for every space in the freshman class).

What is the real cost of a four-year undergraduate degree? 

The short answer is to avoid sticker price misconceptions. 
The key take away is that- early academic planning increases your chances of acceptances that will include scholarship assistance. If you're a more attractive applicant- there's more scholarship / merit-based aid. Knowing what's expected, you can build a solid college admissions plan at the outset of high school. As noted, College Admissions is “need-blind”.  There is no adverse impact on admissions if you apply for financial aid. Likewise, you don’t increase your chances of admission being a full-pay student.There are two sources of funds:

Need based financial aid     
and  
 Merit based Scholarships.

Financial assistance can originate with the college or from a third party (federal/state governments or private scholarships). Need Based Financial aid is awarded directly from the college based on your demonstrated financial need as determined by your FAFSA Estimated Family Contribution (EFC).  Details follow below.

A number of privately funded merit-based scholarships are also need-based, including the prestigious QUESTBRIDGE  full scholarship for students with demonstrated financial need and outstanding academic achievements. Low income families are encouraged to explore Questbridge. Applications begin during the Junior year!!

Merit Based Aid – These awards are based on a competitive review of the student’s academics, athletics, community service, etc. The awards are unrelated to financial need (or lack thereof). Merit aid is awarded by colleges and also by private scholarship funds.
  • There are scholarships for a variety of majors and these are VERY competitive.
  • Ron Brown Scholarship is an example of a private scholarship.
  • Some competitive colleges offering full-rides include Penn State, Miami, Boston, Washington University, Emory, Vanderbilt
  • The chances of receiving a lucrative scholarship increase with higher GPA and demonstrated research/competition in your intended field of study.This is just one of the reasons why I encourage students in 8th-10th grades to focus on setting their educational goals early and taking steps to realize these goals. Earning a 4.0 GPA is impressive but insufficient to earn prestigious merit based awards! Scholarships are given to students with impressive accomplishments both within and outside the classroom. DO YOU HAVE A COLLEGE ADMISSIONS PLAN?
  • Private colleges will offset  and reduce some or all of any grants awarded by the amount of external scholarships received.


WHAT WILL MY FINANCIAL AID PACKAGE INCLUDE?
It pays to be a "stellar" (Interesting) student!!

Let’s be crystal clear. While admissions is need-blind, once admitted, if you are eligible for financial aid (COA-EFC= Unmet Need), institutional financial aid can be in the form of grants, work-study, student loans and parent loans. 

The mix of that aid is subject to negotiation. I’ve seen financial aid award letters including $60k of grants where the same student receives a package of $50k in parent and student loans at another university!! What does this tell you about how attractive a college finds your student? What does this tell you about how to target and select colleges? 

If you want more money– your admissions strategy is to be the top end of the applicant pool. e.g. If your student has a 3.6 GPA, you’ll receive more grant money at colleges that seek out students with a 3.3 GPA. There's no differences in Ivy League schools- aid packages are fairly consistent across-the-board and every accepted applicant is stellar.


COLLEGE APPLICATIONS & FINANCIAL AWARD LETTERS:
Your unmet need is certainly subject to negotiation depending on a number of factors that relate to the strength of the student’s profile, gender, selected major, location to name a few.  

The stronger your admissions portfolio and in particular your common application essay(s) where you clearly demonstrate how you will contribute to the institution and show “informed interest”, if you’re eligible for aid, the greater are your chances of receiving an award letter with more grants and less allocated to your unmet need in the amount of student loans. 

It is heartbreaking to receive a well-earned acceptance letter only to open the financial award letter and see LOANS rather than grants.  Loans are what public universities offer.

KEY POINT!!  Please begin your Educational and College Admissions Planning EARLY in High School. Setting goals and building your strategic plan to allow each young adult to explore emerging academic interests and leverage personal interests will set you apart from tens of thousands of equally qualified and seamingly identical applicants.  Please,   College Planning- Don’t Leave It to “CHANCE” ,but begin your planning early.
FINANCIAL AID – – IS OUR FAMILY ELIGIBLE FOR FINANCIAL AID? HOW TO PAY FOR COLLEGE?



  • Are there “financial safeties”? The short answer is YES!!

  • FINANCIAL AID ELIGIBILITY
Many families make the mistake of concluding they aren’t eligible for financial aid and/or don’t bother to work with a professional to help understand and apply for and appeal financial aid award letters. My clients have been successful appealing their financial aid award – that process of appeal occurs in the spring of the senior year.

Even if you aren’t eligible for financial aid- I want to talk also about the process of “discounting”. Many universities offer substantial amounts of “merit-based” scholarships- or “discounting” when they are interested in YOU. 

MISTAKE TO AVOID: The Florida (and other state) Pre-Pay trap: Don’t limit yourself to in-state public institutions because you participated in Florida Prepay. Your financial circumstances may actually favor out-of-state private college attendance. You are encouraged to schedule a meeting to discuss how we shape your balanced college list when it comes to paying for college. If you’re eligible for financial aid – then it may be less pricey to attend a private university than pay within-state public tuition. Public universities don’t have much in the way of financial aid to disperse.

As for receiving financial assistance from an out-of-state public university – you should assume there is little to no assistance. Very few public universities will offer any substantial financial assistance to out-of-state residents that would create a comparable financial offset to your own within-state public university. That said, we do know that some public universities are among the finest educational experiences within the US. 

Your educational aspirations are important in integrating financial costs into the larger picture of selecting a college to attend.

Many (not all, and certainly not the Ivy League) Universities want to attract you to attend their campus by offering lucrative merit scholarships.  Based on your academic and extracurricular record– there is quite a sum of merit-based assistance for targeted students. A 4.0 and 1550+ SAT are awesome but insufficient to receive a merit package at an Ivy League or highly selective university that focuses exclusively on need-based vs merit based assistance. You essay and extracurriculars determine if you are one of the students earning a merit scholarship. All applicants for prestigious scholarships have awesome GPA and test scores. That’s why I’m always pushing the idea of “finding joy/finding a passion” and getting involved in those exact joyful experiences throughout high school.

HOW MUCH CAN WE AFFORD TO PAY FOR COLLEGE?
Based on whatever “list” of college rankings appeals to you (recall, I don’t favor using lists at all), I often ask new clients and ongoing clients to consider a simple exercise. There is a simply continuum of the most highly selective to least selective colleges– also reflecting the quality of education provided. Somewhere on that linear progression, slot in your state’s public university flagship and all the remaining colleges (reach, match, safety) on your current balanced-short list.

Now unlike buying a car, a house, a restaurant meal, or a host of other purchases – I need you to understand and accept that the published price tag for college tuition shows little if any price variation reflecting the rankings or quality of education. Literally, the most selective colleges have very similar price tags to “average” or even “below average” universities. Recognize why that occurs?! 
Aside from the operating costs being similar across most colleges (the largest part of their budget are faculty and staff salaries)– imagine for a moment if prices really did reflect the quality- which colleges would want to advertise their lessor quality by a lower price- who would want to enroll?! This is nothing new — old news.

Looking at that continuum of colleges you just placed on a horizontal line—you can see the price tag of your public university – is that something you can afford? 

Even if you can afford that amount– do you want to pay for what you will receive? What if the student is not accepted to the best within-state public university –where would you want to attend? How much in tuition can your family afford —COMFORTABLY?

This amount might originate either from your college savings and/or through the ongoing household budget. Whether that amount is $10k, $30k or $70k – let’s switch the conversation to what college financial aid officers think you can afford relative to what you think you can afford so you can understand how the process of financial aid is going to work and also use this information to shape your balanced list of colleges.  Stay with me….
ACTIONABLE ITEM:  WHAT DO FINANCIAL AID MODELS INDICATE YOU CAN AFFORD?

Please head to www.fafsa4caster.gov –it is a non-binding estimating tool to explore what your family EFC (more about that below) might be. 

THE Website is private- takes you 5 minutes to complete… stop here, and go through that process….. If short on time, here’s an accurate hypothetical.

Rough rule of thumb: Household earnings $150k, EFC is $30-$35k depending on savings.

I’m guessing at this point- your assessment of what you can afford and the FAFSA model are way out of sync.  RIGHT?!! 

Shocking amounts of money are revealed in that model. For most families – FAFSA generated an annual expected family college contribution that often exceeds what you pay for your mortgage and perhaps even your annual retirement savings. Stay with me…..

Next: Looking at your diagram of colleges– there’s a price point break on that line isn’t there? There’s a dollar value that you can comfortably manage. In addition- there’s two conflicting data points here. First, you already know that you’re not going to pay at any price to attend the University of “FILL IN BLANK” but you may find a way to pay (if accepted) to attend the University of “FILL IN THE BLANK”.

  • EVERY FAMILY HAS A SWEET SPOT FOR EVERY PURCHASE- AND COLLEGE TUITION IS NO EXCEPTION BECAUSE IT’S AN INVESTMENT AND SHOULD BE THOUGHT OF MUCH THE SAME AS ANY OTHER MAJOR PURCHASE.
  • While you might be unable to afford the full price of the most selective colleges, chances are you’ll figure /manage a way to pay the added cost beyond any financial aid received for those “special colleges” – investments in education that more than pay for themselves in short-term summer internship opportunities, higher quality education, higher exception rates to graduate school and overall, a lifetime of more opportunity and higher earnings (the data on all these points is readily available for every university). That is not to say there are individual success stories for students who attend much less selective universities- but a higher quality education is always a goal.
  • So looking at what you can comfortably afford and what colleges suggest you can afford—there are still exceptions.

  • Would you somehow manage UPenn-Wharton for your aspiring business major? How about MIT for your aspiring engineer? Most talented Musical Theater major ever– NYU ?  How do you feel about the Humanities – will you pay $75K for your student to earn an undergraduate degree in a field with lower than average job prospects? These are all difficult choices – but it a conversation to have prior to selecting colleges where you’ll apply and attend and for students to appreciate the financial costs and commitments that parents are assuming by investing in their education.  


  • How do you feel about paying for a second year of tuition if the student is on academic probation– should we ever pay students for grades or penalize them for poor performance? The latter are individual parenting choices and guidelines about academic expectations may be part of your family conversation.


  • KNOWING HOW MUCH
1) YOUR FAMILY CAN AFFORD IN COLLEGE TUITION
2) ARE EXPECTED TO CONTRIBUTE (FAFSA EFC) AND
 3) ARE WILLING TO CONTRIBUTE
WILL HELP YOU DETERMINE WHERE TO APPLY- ESPECIALLY IN LIGHT OF THE COST OF YOUR BEST PUBLIC UNIVERSITY AND THE UNCERTAINTY OVER OUR ECONOMY FOR THE NEXT 18 MONTHS.IF YOU WERE ACCEPTED TO MIT, HARVARD, PRINCETON, BOWDOIN OR WHATEVER DREAM SCHOOL IS ON YOUR RADAR—HOW DO YOU COMPARE THAT AGAINST THE COST OF WITHIN-STATE PUBLIC UNIVERSITY TUITION?

WILL YOU ATTEND A LESS SELECTIVE UNIVERSITY FOR A DEEP DISCOUNT?

There are numerous colleges that will welcome your student at a significant discount- perhaps even “free”—how far down that continuum of selectivity feels “comfortable” should you receive an acceptance to a university that is beyond your financial comfort level much further on the “educational selectivity” continuum.

ACTIONABLE ITEM: 
Every family should have at least 1 to 2 financial safeties that you would consider as viable alternatives to your best public university and/or an acceptable option. 

We have ZERO prediction accuracy on the state of our economy for spring 2021. That’s a hard fact.
Every student should have a balanced list of universities – reach, match and safety- but having a much loved “safeties” – those institutions that we KNOW the student finds attractive while offering a very appealing package of merit aid reduces a ton of stress in the college application process. Those should be on your radar and the first college applications you submit.
Recap: The “fit” between a student and a university is based upon three pillars, including “Academics”, “Social” and “Financial”.
HOW IS YOUR FINANCIAL AID AWARD LETTER DETERMINED? UNDERSTANDING FAFSA -CSS PROFILE ?


As noted, to receive financial aid, you must submit a FAFSA. FAFSA is just a form – you don’t receive money from FAFSA. It’s a form that determines how much your family is expected to contribute to the cost of your education- the link to that algorithm is below- and includes a number of things- primarily your family income as reflected on the tax return and your assets. That form will link to your IRS return – so any ads or emails you see from “scamsters” offering to help you with your FAFSA and shield assets is something to ignore.. 

Please don't become that misguided gentleman I referenced earlier in this newsletter-- there’s no large pot of federal aid awaiting you to cover the cost of an education. There are Pell grants for lower income families — but the primary reason you’re completely a federal form is to guide private colleges in determining your “financial need” and then it’s up to each college whether to award you grants -that liklihood is based on the desirability of the student – a college might see you as needing assistance and award a parental plus loan rather than a grant. It’s their money and they can decide how to allocate and which students are of interest. This is why early college planning matters- because it allows the student to develop clear academic interests and nurture those interests both within and outside the classroom.

Parents if you want a task – please start the process of maintaining a list of all colleges where you’ll track BOTH THE FAFSA and CSS PROFILE DUE DATEs for PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS (these are DIFFERENT FROM CURRENT STUDENTS.)

 
HOW IS MY FINANCIAL AID PACKAGE DETERMINED:??
As noted, College Admissions is “need-blind”.  There is no adverse impact on admissions if you apply for financial aid. Likewise, you don’t increase your chances of admission being a full-pay student.

Need Based Aid – Financial aid is awarded directly from the college based on your demonstrated financial need as determined by your FAFSA Estimated Family Contribution (EFC).  Details follow below.

THE DETAILS! FAFSA, EFC, CSS PROFILE?!

FAFSA does NOT GIVE YOU MONEY. It is simply an algorithm, which is further impacted by responses to college specific questions on the CSS PROFILE (submitted at the College Board ) and each university can and will do as they please. Institutional financial aid can be in the form of grants, work-study, student loans and parent loans. The mix of that aid is subject to negotiation and defined below.

Completing a FAFSA generates your family ESTIMATED FAMILY CONTRIBUTION - EFC

The difference between the cost of attendance and the EFC represents your UNMET NEED. 

Each college can respond to meeting that need in a number of ways.

 If you want more grant award dollars over loans– your admissions strategy is to be the top end of the applicant pool. e.g. If your student has a 3.6 GPA, you’ll receive more grant money at colleges that seek out students with a 3.3 GPA. In contrast, you may only receive a package of loans even if you are eligible for aid. That variance is why we are careful to select colleges that are known to provide stronger packages for a student that fits your admissions profile.

Your unmet need is certainly subject to negotiation depending on a number of factors that relate relate to the strength of the student’s profile, gender, selected major, location to name a few.  

The stronger your admissions portfolio and in particular your common application essay(s) where you clearly demonstrate how you will contribute to the institution and show “informed interest”, if you’re eligible for aid, the greater are your chances of receiving an award letter with more grants and less of an amount in loans. 

  Loans are what public universities offer.
As noted, seniors ‘21 enrolling as freshman in 2021-22, the 2019 tax return will be used to determine your eligibility. The EASIEST way to complete a FAFSA is to utilize the IRS Data Retrieval tool – it’s a simple click on the FAFSA form- a little blue button “link to IRS”—DONE.

Some families expect some changes in their 2020 income compared to 2019- especially those with small businesses and/or those who lost a job during the pandemic. If your family income will fluctuate by as much as 10% I can help you convey that information to reducyour EFC. Reduced income from job loss, disability, retirement, business loss etc. should be included on your financial aid application.
The FAFSA not only generates your EFC for colleges to determine whether to provide you with scholarship awards, but the FAFSA is also is used to determine your eligibility for federal grants and student loans.

There’s a ton of information on the FAFSA government webpages, and much of it is clear but so overwhelming to find what you might need to know. I provided some basic information to get you started and invite you to contact me to discuss your concerns and unusual circumstances.


If you would like to understand the algorithm behind the calculation of the EFC – there is a detailed government publication explains the process. Pay particular attention to page 9. With proper financial planning early in the high school path, the EFC can be reduced. I can partner with you and your financial planner/accountant to clarify this process.



Nearly all undergraduate public and private universities utilize the FAFSA financial model to determine the extent of private institutional aid awarded, if any.   The FAFSA approach seeks to estimate the “Estimated Family Contribution (EFC)” towards the “Cost of Attendance”. 

The Cost of Attendance for each student is unique to each college and includes tuition, room & board, books, supplies, personal expenses, travel and applicable fees. The range across private institutions is $45 to $70k+.

Keep in mind that this is a budget of sorts, whereby the first two items are billed through the College Bursar and paid directly to the institution. These are the two largest items comprising COA. The remaining items are out-of-pocket expenses leaving quite a bit of room for a student/family to minimize costs with reasonable effort to do so.

The key piece of information we need to focus upon is your family Estimated Family Contribution (EFC).
The difference between the COA and the EFC is your family’s Unmet Financial Need.

How a college meets that difference is determined by all the factors noted at the outset of this note: size of endowment, alumni giving, etc and the strength of the student’s application.

??? TIP: Thinking of selling your home and downsizing? –
DO NOT DO THIS! 

The cash proceeds from a home sale are included in determining the EFC. In sharp contrast, the value of your primary home and retirement savings are both excluded in calculating your EFC! 

Don’t sell your home until after your youngest child starts the senior year of college. A second mortgage has the desired impact on your EFC.

You might ask me if you should take savings and buy a large home – NO, because the question on the FAFSA and CSS Profile asks “year of purchase”. The senior year is too late to move savings into home assets for financial aid planning.
Most important- your home is your asset – and financial planners would clearly discourage you from handing your home to your child to pay for college!

DETERMINING YOUR EFC?
Factors that determine an EFC include parental AGI, assets in the student’s name, unusually high medical expenses, divorce/separation status and the number of children in college at the same time.
DIVORCED and FINANCIAL AID: I’ve worked with several divorced and blended families and I am able to sit down with you one-on-one to discuss your situation so we can ensure that the college choices are supported by what your family can afford and how financial aid works. Regardless of what your divorce decree indicates, the lower earning parent should claim the student as a dependent on the 1040 – thus becoming the custodial parent for FAFSA purposes. I also maintain a database of colleges that request and overlook the non-custodial parent income.
Each situation is unique and I will work on your behalf to minimize the pain of applying for and understanding financial aid.  The most important consideration for all students is to ensure you haven’t eliminated colleges on your radar given misconceptions about financial aid.


DO YOU HAVE A STRATEGIC EDUCATIONAL & COLLEGE ADMISSIONS PLAN FOR SUCCESS?

ARE YOU ON TARGET?

YOUR PERSONALIZED EDUCATIONAL AND COLLEGE ADMISSIONS PLAN RESULTS IN MOTIVATED, SELF-DIRECTED & CONFIDENT YOUNG ADULTS READY TO SUCCEED!

WITH OVER THIRTY YEARS OF EXPERIENCE AS A UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR & ADMISSIONS COMMITTEE MEMBER YOU’RE INVITED TO LEVERAGE HER EXTENSIVE KNOWLEDGE OF UNIVERSITY CURRICULA AND CAREER OPPORTUNITIES TO BUILD YOUR COLLEGE PLAN!.

I WISH ALL HIGH SCHOOL AND UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS CONTINUED SUCCESS - defined by a joyful and meaningful year both within and outside the classroom. It may certainly be difficult in these extraordinarily painful times - a pandemic is scary and offers lots of uncertainty in so many ways. But our teens are capable of great feats. YOU WILL LOOK BACK AT BOTH DIFFICULT and also EMPOWERED MOMENTS THAT DEFINED YOUR NEXT STEPS since our pandemic began.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT YOURSELF?
 INTROSPECTION IS PART OF GROWTH – GROWTH IS TO BE HUMAN.



COLLEGE ADMISSIONS PLANNING – Define and Set Your Goals with College Advisor Bonnie Rabin, PhD

Post-Pandemic In-Person
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STEM, Business, Humanities, Creative Arts - Find Your Passion and Be Unique!
Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D.
561.509.0021
607.280.4905
 
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