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College Admissions: 6 Costly Financial Aid Mistakes to Avoid

Monday, January 27, 2014

 

When it comes to financial aid, take the time to do your research, create a plan and cover all your bases. It’s easy to miss out on a wealth of opportunities if you don’t.

If you have a senior in high school, the next few weeks are critical in the financial aid process. While federal financial aid deadlines (FAFSA) may

stretch into the summer, college-based aid is most plentiful now. The longer you wait, the less money colleges will have to offer you; the pool is not endless. Here are 6 common mistakes that families make that cost them thousands in aid each year:

1. Not reading each college’s financial aid webpage: In a busy world, it’s easy to gloss over the intricacies of financial aid at each institution that your child is applying to. Not reading about all the sources of funding, forms required, due dates and scholarships, can have dire consequences. Carve out several hours and read the sites thoroughly. Then, run your numbers on the net cost calculator for each school to get an idea of the aid you could receive. If you have questions, call the financial aid offices. They are usually very helpful and a wealth of information.

2. Missing CSS Profile deadlines: If you are applying to one of approximately 250 colleges which require the CSS Profile, it often needs to be filed at the time you submit your application. This form allows you to qualify for college based aid at member institutions--one of the largest pools of funding available to students! A list of CSS Profile member colleges and forms can be found at: https://profileonline.collegeboard.com/prf/index.jsp. There is a charge to file the CSS Profile, but fee waivers are available for students with need.

3. Not submitting FAFSA: Unless you can write a check today for the full amount of your child’s college costs, you should file FAFSA forms. I often see families with incomes exceeding $150,000 receive generous need and merit aid packages from colleges. You don’t need a final tax form for 2013; estimates will suffice based on your end of year W-2 and 2012 taxes. Always use the official FAFSA website; the form and filing it are free: www.fafsa.ed.gov.

4. Assuming because you did not get aid for your first child, that you won’t for your second: Rules and funding formulas change, and having a second tuition will usually move your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Additionally, all colleges base merit aid on different criteria, and parents should not discount the possibility that a second child could receive merit aid, even if the first child did not.

5. Failing to disclose special circumstances: If your family has unusual medical bills, a sudden loss of income or other issues that may not be evident on your aid forms. Write a letter to the financial aid office detailing your circumstances and asking for special consideration. Make sure that you include documentation to support your claims.

6. Not appealing your aid package: Most students and parents assume that the aid offer they get is set in stone. At most colleges that is not the case. It is routine for schools to set aside 10-15% of their financial aid pool for appeals. So, if your dream school doesn’t offer you enough to attend, write a letter stating your case and respectfully asking for additional funds.

College is one of the largest investments you will ever make. Take the time to do your research, create a plan and cover all your bases. It’s easy to miss out on a wealth of opportunities if you don’t.

 

Cristiana Quinn, M.Ed. is the founder of College Admission Advisors, LLC which provides strategic, college counseling and athletic recruiting services for students. www.collegeadvisorsonline.com.

 

Related Slideshow: Best Ski + Snowboard Colleges in the East

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Middlebury College

Middlebury, VT

With Stowe and Sugarbush nearby, finding challenging terrain is not an issue at colleges in northern Vermont. Students at Middlebury enjoy the Snow Bowl, owned by the college, for a quick few runs when they are not up for a car ride. In less than a half hour however, they can hit the slopes at Sugarbush or Stowe. You will need to be a top student to get into Middlebury though; with an acceptance rate of just 18%, the college is among a handful of the most selective liberal arts colleges in the country.

Prev Next

University of Vermont

Burlington, VT

Heading north, in the picturebook city of Burlington on the shores of Lake Champlain, you will find the University of Vermont. Famous for producing both Alpine and Downhill Olympic skiers, UVM is a mecca for winter sports lovers. Buses head from campus to the slopes on the weekends, and students tune their skis in the dorm hallways at night. Sugarbush and Stowe are the most popular ski destinations for UVMers, but Smuggler’s Notch and Jay Peak also draw sports classes and snowboarders looking for slopes off the beaten path. UVM is different than most state schools in that 75% of students come from out-of-state, the university boasts an amazing honors college, it’s home to a ground breaking environmental studies program and a highly rated medical school.

Prev Next

St. Michael's College

Colchester, VT

Nearby in Colchester, St. Michael’s is a hidden gem among Catholic colleges in New England. St. Mike’s has a warm, pretty campus with a wide variety of majors, including business. Easy access to Burlington and all the same ski areas as UVM, make St. Mike’s a great option for students wanting a small college with reasonable acceptance rates and a nurturing academic environment.

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Dartmouth College

Hanover, NH

For skiers and snowboarders who can make the Ivy League cut, there is really only one college: Dartmouth. Whether you race cross country or are a downhill enthusiast, Dartmouth’s long tradition of elite athletics will ensure top notch competition. Dartmouth has their own “SkiWay”, but it’s not on campus and most students prefer the challenge of a bigger mountain. Since Dartmouth sits close to the New Hampshire/Vermont boarder, there are quite a few options for big mountain skiing, with Killington and Okemo less than 45 minutes away.

Prev Next

New England College

Henniker, NH

New England College in Henniker is a tiny, ski lovers’ gem. For students who prefer a small college with very personal attention, NEC is a great choice. Those with learning differences will also find a warm and accepting environment with professor mentorships and all the tools necessary to succeed in college.  Students at NEC form a tight knit community and can often be seen heading off with boards tucked under their arms in groups each afternoon to hit the slopes at nearby Loon or Waterville.

Prev Next

Plymouth State University

Plymouth, NH

Plymouth State offers another option for boarders and skiers in central New Hampshire. With easy access to Waterville, Loon, Cannon and even the North Conway area, there are many choices for big mountain skiing. The college sprawls up the hillside in the quaint town of Plymouth, which is filled with shops and restaurants. With a medium size student body, reasonable acceptance rate and low tuition, Plymouth State is easily accessible for many students.

 
 

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Comments:

Good points; however, the Net Price calculator at most schools were designed either to meet the well meaning, but flawed national requirement in the Higher Ed Opportunity Act or to elicit information about the prospective student/family to give the admissions office an early insight into the student.

"Then, run your numbers on the net cost calculator for each school to get an idea of the aid you could receive."

As most schools' NPC show (in fine print sometimes) the figures you get are not generally representative of the student's true net cost (and aid). In fact, the algorithms are generally set to make it seem the school will be more affordable than the actual so to elicit applications. You are better off taking the advice to call the financial aid office directly or look at the school's financial aid through reporting in its common data set or up to date/reputable 3rd party sites like College Navigator, UCAN (privates), College Portrait (publics), etc.

Comment #1 by Prof Steve on 2014 01 29




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