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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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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!