Avoid the Financial Aid Gap

 

financial aid gapIs your child’s financial aid offer enough to meet their financial needs? If not, they may be a victim of “gapping” or “admit/deny”, when a school accepts a student, but does not give a student enough aid to realistically attend.

Is Your Financial Aid Offer Meeting Your Full Need?

Your child has finally received the financial aid offer from their dream school. You are excited for the great experience they could have at this school, but after taking some time to decipher the offer you realize that the money the school is offering has not completely met your need. You are stunned when you calculate the total amount you will owe after factoring in grants and scholarships from the college.

The practice of accepting a student and then not offering them enough financial aid to afford the college is known as “gapping”, or “admit/deny”.

This practice is shockingly common. According to The 2014 Survey of College and University Admissions Directors, over half of college admissions directors practice gapping at their institutions, although it is much more common in private schools. 72% of private college directors and 39% of public college directors say that they use this practice. The majority of private college directors, and about a third of public school directors say the practice both is necessary and ethical.

This is an issue for both need-blind and need-aware colleges. In theory a need-blind college cannot deny a student based on their ability to pay. In practice, however, these colleges know they will receive a greater benefit by accepting more students who have the ability to pay the bulk of their tuition. Instead of rejecting these low-income students outright, they admit them without offering the financial aid they need, which is in effect, a denial.

How to Fill Financial Aid Gap

Families often have a hard time deciphering financial aid offers, and it may not be immediately clear to them that their full financial need has not been met. Unfortunately, many of these students end up taking out massive loans in order to attend a school that is only meeting 75%, 50% or less of that family’s need.

What they should do instead is learn how to interpret financial aid offers, and compare offers between colleges to see who is offering the better deal. To find the true cost of attending a college, you must know your expected family contribution and subtract that number from the total cost of attending (total cost includes tuition, fees, room, board and living expenses).  Unsubsidized loans and Parent Plus loans are available to anyone regardless of need and should not be considered part of your need-based aid.

Colleges also report how much aid they give out, so you can look up a chosen university to see the average aid they award, as well as how many students receive financial assistance. For example, Stanford is more likely to be a pricey school as they only give aid to about 55% of their students.

Gapping is more likely to happen at private schools, and schools that are a reach for the student. There are some schools that are committed to meeting the full need of the students who apply, though these schools may be more difficult to get into, and are often need sensitive or need aware.

The best defense against gapping is to ensure that the student has applied to colleges that are a good fit for them. If a student is attractive to a college, they will be willing to entice the student with a greater share of financial aid dollars.

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About the author: Carly Stockwell is the media director at CollegeFactual.Com, a website that helps students make better decisions about where to go to college.

 

5 Summer Jobs for Students

 

summer jobs for studentsSummer is the perfect time for students to save up for the next semester and get some practical experience to complement their degree programs. Websites like Randstad Education can help students prepare for job interviews, find work and read articles about teaching.

According to Forbes, some of the best summer jobs for students help to pad a resume, while providing valuable work experience. With the fierce competition of today’s job market, students have to work harder than ever to stand out in a pool of highly qualified applicants.

Freelance Writing

Students that don’t need a job immediately can get started on the road to freelance writing. Getting clients and working to build a portfolio of writing over the summer is the perfect time to get involved in an industry that shows great promise and growth. Additionally, students that succeed can build a source of income that can be accessed for the rest of their lives.

Internships

An internship requires some preparation, and typically an internship is not paid. The benefits of an internship might include some light compensation and the ability to bolster a resume with relevant work experience. If a student decides to do an internship, it’s important to pick one that is relevant to the chosen career field. Often, internships turn into real, paying jobs once the student graduates from college.

Restaurant Jobs

Working in a restaurant is a good way to earn some extra money and develop valuable customer service skills. Students who work as servers, attendants, hosts and hostesses can earn some pay while getting real-world practice dealing with difficult situations. The food industry is notoriously difficult, and working as a waiter or waitress increase a student’s ability to hold information in their mind and increase memory.

Start a Business

Students don’t have to settle for working for someone else while in college. Taking the initiative to start a business can show great work ethic and prove the student is a self-starter. There are plenty of options for starting a business and students can offer tutoring, complete chores for neighbours or create a craft that can be sold on one of the many online websites, like Etsy.

Construction Work

For students who want high-paying, temporary work and don’t care about how it looks on a resume, construction work can be very lucrative. It’s definitely hard work, but construction work helps keep you in shape, teaches the value of hard work and pays extremely well compared to many other industries.

Your student can surely benefit from any of these summer jobs. Not only can it help them earn during summer time, but the value of hard work and experience will certainly help shape them into a more responsible and mature individuals.

 

Wednesday’s Parent: It’s Financial Aid Award Season

 

financial aid award seasonIt’s financial aid award season. Students and parents are anxiously awaiting the news from colleges that offered admission. How much financial aid will they offer? What type of aid will you receive? How will this aid factor in to your student’s final decision.

College acceptances for regular admission will be posted and arriving soon. Just a little later, will come the financial aid award packages. Before you and your student have to make the final college choice and before the financial aid awards arrive, consider these four activities in preparation, add these four tasks to your schedule.

Before the Offers of Admission and Financial Aid Awards Arrive

It’s a joyful day for your high school senior when an offer of college admission arrives, and the joy is magnified by a financial aid award. Award letters arrive along with (or soon after) acceptance letters. I remember the first time I saw one, my daughter’s senior year. Quite honestly, it was Greek to me. How were we supposed to compare the offers? Every college was different and every award letter was different.

Breaking Down the Financial Aid Award Letter

Is your child’s financial aid offer enough to meet their financial needs? If not, they may be a victim of “gapping” or “admit/deny”, when a school accepts a student, but does not give a student enough aid to realistically attend.

Avoid the Financial Aid Gap

Prepare yourself beforehand. The decision on which college to attend will be a lot easier, especially when you add the financial component to the mix.

Read Wendy’s article: 5 Questions to ask about financial aid front loading

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Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Wendy and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Wendy and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound.

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from parentscountdowntocollegecoach to pocsmom.com and vice versa.

Mom-Approved Tips: What Frustrates Parents Most About College Prep?

 

college prep adviceWhat frustrates parents most about college prep? I hear the frustration in parents’ voices every day about the overwhelming amount of knowledge a parent and student need to navigate the college maze. I call it a maze because that’s exactly how it feels. All throughout the process, parents feel lost, confused, off-track and often bewildered.

Not understanding your part in the process

It’s difficult for parents to know how involved you should be in the college prep process. It’s a balancing act between helping and hurting. Where do you pitch in? Should you teen handle everything alone? When do you cross the line?

In today’s world of highly involved parents, you need some help to define your boundaries and give your student the slack he needs to become independent:

Top 10 Dos and Don’ts of Parenting a College-Bound Teen

Motivating your student

I had an unmotivated student. It’s not that he wasn’t capable of achieving academic success; it was just that he didn’t have the motivation or the desire to do his best. He never soared in high school, or in the first semester of college, but he did reach his academic potential, finally.

It was hard having a child who didn’t grasp his full potential, no matter how much I told him he was capable of straight A’s. It just didn’t matter to him. Passing with average grades was good enough for him. Those grades, however, contributed to some difficult life choices and some hard lessons along the way. In the end, there were four tips that finally motivated him academically:

4 Tips to Motivate an Unmotivated Student

Finding a way to pay for the high costs

If you have a college-bound teen you’re well aware of the cost of college–it’s high. In a recent story in Business Week, one graduate confessed she had given up on her student loan debt of $186,000. She is not alone. With the nation struggling under a $1 trillion student debt crisis, stories like hers are nothing uncommon. For the first time ever, the national student loan default rate exceeds the credit card delinquency rate, and so long as student loans remain one of the few types of debt that can’t be discharged in bankruptcy, chances are the situation won’t improve any time soon.

As her parent, it’s up to you to make sure she doesn’t fall prey to debt that she cannot repay after graduation. Before she ever accepts an offer of admission, you need to talk to her about financing college. Following are a few tips to help broach that uncomfortable topic with your college-bound teen:

Talking to Your Kids About Financing College 

And you might also like to read:

10 Ways to Attend College for Free (or almost free)

Getting help and knowing who to ask

I was speaking with a parent the other night about advice her daughter received from an independent college counselor regarding standardized tests. The counselor told the student not to bother with either the SAT or ACT; they weren’t necessary. He made this statement before receiving a list of colleges and asking if she was applying to test optional schools! The parent questioned the validity of this advice, and rightly so.

With college admissions becoming ever more competitive, it may seem logical to consider working with an independent counselor. They can offer expertise and a personalized approach to the complex, time-consuming, and often stressful college prep, search and application process. But ask any group of parents and you will hear a variety of opinions. While some parents feel that engaging an independent counselor is an essential part of helping their student be a competitive applicant to his or her top choice schools, others question whether hiring someone adds value beyond what a student can already receive from parents and the high school.

Some parents choose to guide their student through the process and some choose to hire a professional. Neither is right nor wrong. The decision should be based on each family’s individual needs and resources.

Need some help trying to decide? Here’s an article I wrote for University Parent:

Should You Work With an Independent Counselor?

How to handle rejection

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. The best of times—getting an offer of admission. The worst of times—getting a letter of rejection. Or is it really? Is there any way to spin the disappointment? Parents have dealt with their kids facing rejection throughout their lives, but there is no greater disappointment that losing what you feel is your dream—getting in to your dream college.

I’ve found some very wise words from some very wise experts over the last several weeks. When the emotions subside and your college-bound teen is ready to talk, show them these words. It could open their eyes to the truth about college rejection letters:

The Truth about College Rejection Letters

Scholarship Friday: Professional Reps Scholarships

 

professional reps scholarships

Anytime I find a scholarship with few applicants which improves the odds of winning, I like to pass it along. If your student is interested in the hospitality industry, they could score $2,500 for college with these Professional Reps Scholarships.

Professional Reps, a small business in the foodservice industry, is handing out three scholarships for the 2015 academic school year. The three scholarships available are:

The Amana Leadership Scholarship ($2,500)
The Hungry To Lead Scholarship ($2,500)
Leadership Recognition Award ($500)

Professional Reps would love to award this money to foodservice/hospitality program students. This is a huge opportunity for students as only a few apply – great chances!

Who can apply:  Those eligible to apply are high school seniors, or college students’ registered/pre-registered to attend an accredited school in the United States. Applicant must be pursuing a degree in a foodservice/hospitality program, or directly related. The scholarship is merit based on high school records, ACT and/or SAT scores, college transcripts if applicable, and extracurricular activities. Minimum requirements as follows: High School or College cumulative GPA of 2.5, SAT of 1300, or ACT of 18. Applicants will also be judged on their ability to demonstrate leadership capabilities.

Deadline: June 1, 2015

Where to apply: Online at http://www.hungrytolead.com  or you can mail your application to the addressed provided at the website.

 

Wednesday’s Parent: My College Visit Experiences

 

college visitsIn the spring of my daughter’s junior year we began our college visits. Since we live in Texas, we began with Texas colleges. My daughter was and is a very opinionated person. She knew what she wanted and she was very precise in her particulars.

Here are four different college visit experiences we had with her. They prepared her for her final choice which wasn’t in Texas and wasn’t her dream school. You just never know where the journey will take you.

Baylor University

This wasn’t an actual visit, but it does demonstrate how emotional college visits can be. She refused to visit Baylor because Waco was the location of the Branch Davidian compound. Even though she had several friends who were considering that college and the setting and course offerings were perfect for her, she crossed it off the list before we ever set foot on campus.

North Texas State University

This was the only public university she visited and we had barely stepped out of the car before she said, “I don’t like it here. It’s ugly.” We did take the campus tour, which further cemented her distaste for the campus. It was one of the only colleges on her list that had a strong program of study that interested her, but there was no convincing her to consider it after the visit.

SMU

When we drove up to this private university, it was love at first sight. The campus is gorgeous and the buildings were immaculately maintained. After taking the tour, she decided to spend a night on campus. Meeting other students, seeing the sorority houses and spending time in a few of the classes cemented her love for this school. It would be the jewel to compare other colleges to; and she found one just like it in Boston.

Newberry College

This was a small college in the suburbs of Boston. She applied to this college because 1) it was in Boston, and 2) it had a strong program of study that she was interested in. We visited this college after she was accepted and offered a full-ride scholarship. She never got out of the car. Her words, “I’m just not feeling it.” You can imagine my frustration but I knew that if she wasn’t happy she wouldn’t excel there, especially this far away from home. So I counted to 10, we drove off, and went to the next college—the college she ultimately chose–Bentley College (a campus like SMU in Boston).

As you can see, it’s not an exact science. You can plan and prepare all you want, do your research before visiting, and make a list of likes and dislikes prior to pulling up to campus. But it’s that first impression that will have a lasting impact on their college decisions. There’s nothing logical about a teenager. Prepare for a wild ride.

Read Wendy’s post: Getting the Best out of College Visits

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Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Wendy and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Wendy and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound.

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from parentscountdowntocollegecoach to pocsmom.com and vice versa.

Help For Your Soon-to-Be College Freshman

 

college freshmanYou’ve done the best that you can. You’ve taught you’re son or daughter to ride a bike, catch a ball, deal with heartache and tried to instill a strong work ethic and an empathetic heart. Despite the ups and downs of adolescence you’re proud of what they’ve grown into. So why are you still so nervous about their upcoming college freshman year? You’re not crazy…you just care and that’s a good thing.

Feeling helpless is common but there are things a parent can do to make the transition from high school to college a smooth one for their child (aside from already forking over tens of thousands of dollars for that aforementioned college education.) There are thousands of helpful sites online that can put your young student in a great situation moving forward into their freshman year, and below are some of the most helpful for prospective collegians.

  1. Roomsurf – The move to a college dorm or apartment is an exciting one, but it’s not without its pitfalls. A frustrating, disrespectful or altogether annoying roommate can sour even the most stimulating college experience. Learning to live with someone who has opposing thoughts, beliefs, likes and dislikes is part of what makes a person become more open and understanding. That being said, improving the prospect of a harmonious roommate relationship is not without its benefits. Roomsurf allows its users to narrow down the roommate selection process and give a leg up on deciding what qualities a potential roommate can or cannot live without. Smoker/non-smoker, neat-freak or dirtball, night owl or morning person – this site can offer users a proactive approach to finding a better roommate match. (https://www.roomsurf.com/)
  2. Roommate Harmony – Even with a great roommate in tow, it doesn’t take much to spark shared living frustration.  From a perpetually full and dirty sink to missing food items, small amounts of disrespect and laziness can easily turn into large arguments and an uneasy living situation. Roommate Harmony hopes to curb these common roommate problems with its line of products and helpful blog. Personalized sticker pages delineate which foods are “Jake’s” and which are shareable. A chore chart reminds roomers what job is theirs for the week with a helpful “area to be cleaned” breakdown and checklist. Paired with a blog that promotes realistic advice like “speaking up” and “not being taken advantage of”, this site helps to avoid the preventable problems between roommates. (http://www.roommateharmony.com/)
  3. Chegg – Chegg is a one stop shop of sorts in the college website realm. Right on the homepage they promote three of their services: Find Cheap Textbooks (Good), Get Homework Help (Better), Find Internships & Jobs (Best!!!). The going rate for a college textbook these days is roughly equivalent to, oh, I don’t know, giving up the kidney of your choice. Saving money on textbooks is no longer wishful thinking but a necessary reality. Getting set up with a tutor might not be a bad idea for that particularly difficult subject that is required for graduation. And any help with internship and job prospects is a huge plus – otherwise what’s even the point of a college education? All this along with an informative and funny blog and you have yourself one heck of a website. (http://www.chegg.com/)
  4. Self-Control – We all wish we had more of it but unfortunately cheesesteak pizzas and peanut butter cup sundaes are not going anywhere in the foreseeable future. Self-Control is a fittingly named application that helps students (and anybody else for that matter) avoid distracting websites. It basically blocks whatever email accounts, websites and social networking addictions the user deems a threat to the completion of their 40-page term paper. Choose the sites to block, set the time to stay blocked and, BAM!, procrastinating influencers gone. And all this for the low, low price of FREE! Aside from the prospect of finishing a project prior to the blocking time limit being complete and being denied your favorite distraction, the only downside is that Self-Control is currently only available for Mac users. (http://selfcontrolapp.com/)
  5. Seven Quotes – A child going away to college can be a stressful and difficult thing for both parents and students (although they might not admit it.) Seven Quotes offers a bit of strength and inspiration to both sides. After signing up for their daily email service, Seven Quotes will email a motivating quote of the day to keep you moving in a positive and joyful direction. With quotes like, “Peace begins with a smile,” and, “We meet no ordinary people in our lives,” coming to your inbox, it’s easy to make the day slightly more amazing! (http://www.sevenquotes.com/)

With the gamut of emotions that come with a change as big as a child moving away, it helps to focus on what one can do to make the transition easier. These sites can help your future or current college student maintain a sense of control and thereby allow you to sleep a bit more soundly.

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Today’s guest post is from Chad Jarrah at Roommate Harmony. Roommate Harmony’s goal is to improve the shared living experience, strengthen human relationships and promote inner peace. Whether you visit our website, read our blogs, or purchase our products, our hope is to spread Roommate Harmony!

 

Truth or Fiction: Are Boarding Schools Exclusive?

 

Hollywood has warped the concept of a boarding school. Many people think of these schools as private country clubs that are expensive and exclusive. The truth is that these schools are very diverse, with children from all over the world attending classes and participating in their extracurricular activities.  A local neighborhood school relies on the community for students, but boarding students come from everywhere. Because you live with your classmates, you actually have more opportunities to get to know them and learn about their culture.

Around one-third of the students receive some type of financial assistance to help with their tuition. An education at a boarding school is much more accessible than ever. Many schools offer grants, scholarships, and loan programs for families who want their children to receive a rigorous education. Read further for more information about the diversity and availability of a private education that emphasizes personal growth and academics.

Click graphic below to see entire infographic.

boarding schools

Infographic from Athol Murray College of Notre Dame

Avoid These Three College Stressors

 

3 college stressorsIf your child is the first in the family to go to college, that carries a whole lot of stress. Being a first generation student can put added pressure on the student and the family.  As stressful as that seems, here are three college stressors even bigger, and some tips on how to alleviate them:

It’s so much more expensive than you thought

When it comes to college, expect two, high-voltage doses of sticker shock. The first comes when you start looking at the tuition price. If information is free, why is the diploma so expensive? Once you fully accept that college is something you should have been saving for all your life, there is the second financial reality to deal with.

The price of college is more than the cost of credits. Your child is leaving home for the first time and could possibly need to take out a student loan. Don’t worry. You’re not alone. About 60% of college students take out a student loan to help pay the tab, according to the information on this site. It walks you through all the key information you need for understanding, and selecting a good student loan. Once your child graduates, and paychecks start arriving from his gainful employment, he will begin repaying the loan. In the meantime, you are still on the hook for those expensive Nike shoes.

You worry about his commitment to academics in college.

Every parent believes their child is going to be the next Einstein. Even if your child was a good student in high-school, it does not follow that she will be brilliant in college. There is too much riding on good grades to leave it to chance. What you need is some type of college prep assessment to be certain little Johnny has what it takes to make it in the big league.

Accuplacer and Work Keys are good places to start. These assessment systems give your child the opportunity to figure out his academic strengths and weaknesses. They are only two of several options that serve the same purpose. For a reasonably good student, ACT and SAT test prep courses may be sufficient. Either way, you, as a parent, don’t have to go into it blind. That should be a huge stress relief.

Letting go is easier said than done.

You think you’re ready to kick them out of the nest, and start your new life as a professional vacationer. But when you make that long drive home after dropping them off at college, you are flooded with all the doubts and misgivings associated with separation anxiety.

Fortunately, most of that worry is necessary. You did a good job preparing them for life. They have the same chance of surviving and doing well as you had, maybe better. Still, not everyone matures at the same rate. For some, eighteen years may not be quite enough. If you are genuinely worried about their ability to be independentl, keep them home for another two years while they work out their issues in community college. Academically, they will lose nothing, while gaining a little more time to mature at home. You will also save money.

Money, aptitude, and letting go make up three of the biggest stresses you will face when sending your child off to college. With student loans, prep tests, and community college, these stresses can be nearly eliminated.

 

Wednesday’s Parent: The High School Resume-Getting to the Point

 

high school resumeThe one thing employers will all say about resumes, “Make it concise and to the point.” A resume should catch the reader’s attention immediately and keep it long enough to give the reader an idea of who you are and what you represent. Long resumes rarely get read. If the employer doesn’t see something on the first page to catch his attention, he won’t continue reading the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th pages.

Applying these simplistic resume directions to the high school resume, what does your student want to communicate in his resume?

Consistency

Colleges look for consistency over four years. If the resume lists a multitude of activities, a spattering of extracurriculars, or a few hours of community service here and there you aren’t communicating consistency. Instead of listing every single activity you have participated in, consider focusing on the one that represents who you are and a consistent involvement throughout high school. It’s not about the numbers, it’s about the level of involvement that matters.

Honesty

When a college looks at your resume, it should be an extension of your essay and the rest of your college application. Don’t pad it or pretend to be someone you are not. Be honest and thorough without being monotonous. If your essay talks about the summer you spent abroad volunteering with a religious organization, this should be an extension of who you are—not just something to impress college admissions. Don’t brag; use the resume as a tool to show off who you are and what is most important to you.

Commitment

The high school resume should communicate commitment—commitment to academics, commitment to excellence in school activities, and commitment to service. Each item on the resume should speak to that level of commitment. Anyone can join a club, play one semester of a sport, or take one difficult, challenging class. But colleges are looking for the student who goes “all in”, not someone who stands by the sidelines and watches.

The high school resume should get to the point and show colleges why they should offer you admission. It’s your tool to shine in the college application process.

Ready Wendy’s article: 5 surprising uses of a college prep resume

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Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Wendy and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Wendy and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound.

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from parentscountdowntocollegecoach to pocsmom.com and vice versa.