…from GuidedPath Edge Guru

  • Where will I be living next year?

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    One of the big questions you have as a student (and your parents too) is ‘Where will I be living next year?”  Be sure to explore the housing choices on campus and learn which choices are available to you. 

    Housing Styles 

    • Traditional residence halls typically have double occupancy rooms off of a hallway, with shared bathrooms for several rooms.  This is usually the most common option for incoming freshman. 
    • Suite-style residence halls have more of an apartment feel.  Several students share a common living and kitchen area, with bedrooms sharing bathrooms.  Although often available to upperclassmen, some colleges offer these for freshmen. 
    • Apartment-style residence halls are as they say – student apartments.  These are most often for upperclassmen, graduate students, or married/family housing. 

    Themed Communities 

    • Living/learning communities – Many colleges offer themed living communities.  Those themes may be honors, specific academic programs, language or culture based, or communities based on lifestyle commitments like green living or substance free. 
    • First Year Experience – Often in addition to housing together, classes are offered for first year students to take together.  Living in first year experience housing gives students opportunity to learn and grow together.

    Other considerations 

    1. Meal Plans: How is the meal plan handled – all you can eat meals, or a la carte?  Are there options for extra dollars to use in the coffeeshop or student market?  What happens on the weekend for meals?  Think about your lifestyle (do you eat on the run or sit down for each meal) and choose a meal plan that fits.     
    2. Gender housing: Are there single sex dorms?  Single sex floors?  Transgender friendly housing?  Single sex rooms (with both genders in rooms next to each other?)  How are the bathrooms set up?  What will make you comfortable?  
    3. Alcohol and Drug policies: Be sure to ask about party rules, for you and guests.  Is it a dry campus?  Are some dorms designated drug and alcohol free?  Obviously, all campuses follow the law when it comes to drinking and drug use, however some schools may have more strict policies for the campus or for certain residence halls. 
    4. Security: How secure is the housing?  Do you have to have ID to get inside the building?  What other security measure are in place?  Can you have guests?  What are the restrictions for guests? 

     

    Take Action
    Check online for each college’s housing options.  Make a list of criteria that are most important to you and ask about housing during your admitted student visits.  Make a choice and mark your choice in your discussion notes in GuidedPath. 

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  • What if I’m waitlisted?…

    By now, application decisions should be rolling in to your inbox/mailbox.  If you haven’t already heard back from all your schools, the wait is almost over.  Most colleges aim to have final decisions to everyone who applied before April 1.  But what if your “final” decision isn’t so final?…  What does it mean to be on the waitlist? 

    Why do colleges have waitlists?  Can’t they just say yes or no?  
    With students applying to more and more schools, it’s become more difficult for colleges to predict how many of their admitted students will actually enroll.  Students are being accepted to many colleges – but you can only enroll at one.  That means many students who have been admitted to the college are not going to attend.   

    Enrollment targets are a serious issue for colleges – too many students result in overcrowded dorms and classroom, but not enough can mean funding shortages.  If a college realizes they may fall short of their enrollment target, they can accept students from their waitlist to fill the gap.   

    So – I’m on the waitlist.  What should I do? 
    Essentially, you can reply to the waitlist offer one of two ways: 

    1. “No, thanks!”  Although the college offered you a spot on their waitlist, you are not obligated to accept that offer.  Maybe the school that waitlisted you is not your first choice – if so, no big deal.  You can let the college know that you do not plan to remain on their waitlist.   
    2. “Yes, I’m willing to wait.”  If you think this school might really be the one, let them know that you are interested in waiting.  Follow the reply directions in your decision to confirm you intend to remain on the waitlist.  It’s also a great idea to follow up with a personal email to tell the school – if they accept you from the waitlist you intend to enroll (only do this if it’s true).  You can also reiterate why you think this college is such a good fit and ask if any additional information like new SAT/ACT scores, senior year final grades, etc. could help to improve your chances of admission from the waitlist.       

    You should seriously consider all of the admission offers you receive.  Schedule visits, compare financial aid packages, talk with your parents and your counselor, make a pro/con list, etc.  You have to confirm your enrollment with a college by May 1 (that’s the National Candidates Reply Date).  Most schools won’t make decisions about their waitlist until after May 1.   

    In addition, there are typically only a small number of students admitted from the waitlist (sometimes not any).  You should confirm your enrollment with one of the colleges that has admitted you (even if you stay on the waitlist at another college).  It’s hard to hear that you are on the waitlist (especially if it was your first choice), but maybe it’s an opportunity to get excited about a school that really wants you (and hopefully they offered you great financial aid to prove it).  Many colleges can be a good fit if you have the right mindset.   

    Take Action
    Record your decisions and financial aid awards in GuidedPath so that you can make comparison before deciding where to enroll.  

     

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  • Comparing Financial Aid Awards

     

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    You got into the top schools on your list.  Each has sent you a financial aid award.  One offer looks better than the other two, but is it really?  It’s important to compare apples to apples when looking at financial aid offers.  Here are 6 questions to ask: 

    1. What is the Student Budget?  Does the college list all the costs for going to college: 1) Tuition & Fees; 2) Room & Board; 3) Books & Supplies; 4) Personal Expenses, 5) Transportation (getting to and from the campus).  If the award does not include these items, search the website for the information or call the college. 
       
    2. What is your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) on your Student Aid Report?  The amount your family is expected to pay toward college is on the student aid report generated when you filed the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).  This number is needed for comparing financial aid awards.  If your family contribution is close to or more than the student budget, then your awards from the college are going to be based on merit, and not on the financial need you have. 

    3. Is there a gap?  You should know your EFC from filing your FAFSA.  To calculate how much financial aid you should be receiving, subtract your expected family contribution from the total student budget (all five items from question 1).  The remainder is your estimated financial need at the college.  Is the college meeting your full need, or only a portion of it?

      Total Cost of Attendance – Expected Family Contribution = Need 

    4. How much of your award is grants or scholarships?  Grants and scholarships are money that you will not have to repay later.  You want to maximize the amount of grants and scholarships you receive and minimize the amount of loan money you must take out.  Are the grants or scholarships renewable for four years?  What conditions exist for the renewable awards (a minimum GPA, number of credits completed, etc.)?  

    5. How much is in student or parent loans?  How much of the offer is parent loan?  A financial aid award of $20,000 parent loan – but no grants or scholarships – is not a good offer.  The parent loans (when necessary) should ideally be used to help pay for the expected family contribution not meet your financial need. 

    6. Is there a good mix?  Is there something missing?  Are you being offered grants, scholarships, loans and work?  Look for a good mix.  If you are not offered “work study” ask about it.  It is especially helpful for you to have a campus job to earn your personal expenses while in college.   

    Take Action 

    Use the EFC Calculator GuidedPath to determine your Expected Family Contribution.  Add in all financial aid awards into Decisions in GuidedPath.  Use the Cost Comparisons Tool to view and compare all your financial aid awards. 

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  • Top Tips for Admitted Student College Visits

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    Receiving your letter or email of admission is a time for celebration!  What’s your next step? Many colleges will be inviting you to visit the campus as an admitted student. 

    These visits can be: 

    • A designated day event on campus 
    • A designated weekend or overnight event on campus 
    • A designated window of time in which to visit  
    • A scholarship competition 
    • An orientation 

    We have tips for making the most of these visits. 

    Preparing for the visit 

    • Review your priorities for a good college fit.  As discussed in the blog What is College Fit, fit includes 4 components; academic, social, emotional and physical.  
    • Brush up on the details.  Refresh your knowledge about the school’s size, academic options, and other details that interest you.  Your visit will be more meaningful if you have the basics down. 
    • Explore advising options for your major.  When do you start advising? 
    • Review housing options.  Where would you live? 
    • Explore activities offered.  What appeals to you? 

    On Campus 

    Prepare a list of questions to ask during your admitted student visit.  Plan a visit when the college is in session.  You need to see the college from the perspective of a student.  As a part of the visit, see if you can make the following appointments: 

    1. Academic Advising.  If possible, meet with an academic advisor in your area of study.  Learn more about the courses and professors in your selected field of study. 
    2. Tour housing/dorm options.  Where will you live as a freshman? 
    3. Meet with a financial aid advisor.  What is your financial aid package?  Do your parents have questions that need answered? 

     

    As you visit the campus, ask yourself these questions: 

    • Would I fit in academically here? 
    • Would I fit in socially here? 
    • Do I feel comfortable with the physical location? 

     

    Learn from Kaetlyn 

    Kaetlyn writes about her college visits and shares her tips for creating the best visit experience. 

     

    After Your Visit 

    • Send a thank you for the visit. 
    • Record your thoughts as soon as possible.   

    Take Action
    Make plans now to visit colleges before May 1.  Use 3-day weekends, breaks, or anytime you have available to visit the colleges to which you have been admitted. 

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  • Finding money for college

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    You may have thought you were done with writing essays and sending applications, but not quite yet.  Now is the time to look for scholarships.  And don’t get discouraged.  In this case, one more essay or scholarship application could mean a big pay-off for you.  A few more hours of your time could turn into hundreds or even thousands of dollars!   

     

    College scholarships typically come from three sources: 

    1. The colleges to which you have been accepted. 
    2. Local community organizations 
    3. National or larger regional organizations 

     

    At your College 

    Most scholarships come from the schools that have admitted you.    See the scholarship tab in GuidedPath for your schools.  It lists academic scholarships offered to 8 or more students. 

     

    Start Locally  

    Local organizations are the hidden gems of scholarship money.  Although the awards are typically smaller in dollar amount, you also don’t have as much competition.  Many local scholarships are actually looking for applicants!  Churches, service organizations (like the VFW, or the Junior League), local charitable funds, even your parent’s employer may have scholarship opportunities.  The key is finding the information – who, what, when, where, why and how to apply!    

     

    Check with: 

    • Your high school counseling office 
    • Parent organizations (PTA, Booster clubs, etc.) 
    • Your local library 

     

    Expand Regionally 

    Use your residence as a means to get more money for college.  Many states offer scholarships to top students.  Check to see what is offered through your state.  Check deadlines for any state scholarships you qualify for. 

     

    Compete Nationally 

    There are dozens of national scholarship search engines available.  Many are nothing more than a way to market credit cards or other products to you.   These are our recommended scholarship search engines.   

     

    Take Action 

    Add your college scholarship deadlines to your application plan.   

    Review the scholarship tab for all colleges on your list and determine your eligibility for specific awards.  Add milestones or notes for the scholarships you are planning to apply for.

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  • Check Your State Scholarship Deadlines

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    Many states have connected their scholarship programs to the FAFSA. It makes it easy to apply for a state scholarship through the FAFSA, as long as you make the deadline.  Check with your counselor to see what the deadlines are for your state or region.  

    Finding the Due Dates 

    Some programs direct you to check with the state agency. Check your state for deadlines and steps you need to take to be considered for any state scholarship  

    Take Action 

    Use GuidedPath application plans to create a milestone/due date for state scholarships in an assignment. Don’t miss out because you missed a deadline.  

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