Tag Education

College Budget

Admission offers received – check! 

Enrollment decision made – check! 

What’s next?  You’ll be getting a lot of information about next steps from your college for registration and orientation.  Meanwhile, you might want to start a conversation with your parents about a spending money budget for college.

Here are 6 money management tips for you to consider.

  1. Open a bank account and get an ATM card (if you don’t already have one).  You may want to research the local banking options at the school you will attend.  Many colleges have a bank or credit union on campus.  Make it a joint account (you and a parent).  That way you can access your money when away from home (in college). 
  2. Learn how to check your bank balance from your phone It’s a good practice to check your bank balance before you get gas or stop by Starbucks to be sure you have money in your account for the purchase. 
  3. Learn how to deposit checks.  Most bank mobile apps will allow you to deposit checks right from your phone.  Great for those graduation checks you will receive. 
  4. Create a budget.  A spending plan is essential.  Know how much money you will have each month from your financial aid, a campus job, or from your family.  With your parents, create a realistic monthly budget.  Then, your biggest task will be to stick to your budget. 
  5. Learn how to schedule & pay bills from your account.  You might have a phone bill or other bills you are responsible for.  Learn how to pay on time and keep within a budget. 
  6. Decide with your parents and if you choose, open a credit card account BEFORE leaving for college Credit card companies will offer many promotions for new students on campus – free shirts, new tech gear, etc.  Don’t be tempted by free stuff!  Open ONLY oncredit card and use this card as a “backup” (if you don’t have cash) to help establish good credit.  

Start practicing good money management skills now so that you have one less thing to worry about freshman year. 

Take Action 

Use the Cost of Attendance in GuidedPath to calculate your college budget.  Here you can find the amount listed as “Personal Expenses”.  Use this to calculate your college budget.  Divide the number by 9 months to determine your monthly budget. 

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Making a decision without making a visit

Although many schools have postponed their enrollment deadlines, some are sticking to May 1 which is right around the corner.  You may still be weighing your enrollment options.  With college visits off the table, the choice may seem more difficult than ever.    How do you make a final decision without making a visit?     

What’s in a visit
College visits let you “see yourself on the campus.”  But what does this mean?   Usually this is code for “how do you feel about the school?”  or “what does your gut tell you?”.  Walking around campus on a sunny day elicits a feeling.  But feelings are more often about people rather than places.  That’s why counselors tell you not to visit on a holiday or a Sunday when there are often less people around.  The campus doesn’t “feel” right without people.   

So – can you still evoke that same feeling without walking around?  Absolutely!  The campus may be closed but you can still connect with the same people.  Contact the admissions office to ask about your options – ask if you can talk with a student ambassador.  If possible, also talk with an advisor or professor in the academic area that interests you.  Check with your college counselor to find out if they know current students or alums from your high school or local community.  Talking with people – hearing their enthusiasm for the campus (or lack of) – will develop your intuition about a school.      

Other things to consider 
Going to college is a family affair.  Involve your parents and take their opinions to heart.  Together as a family, think back to what was most important when making your original list of colleges (things like – academics, location, size, activities).    

Four aspects of “best fit”

  1. Academic: Does the college offer your major or field of study?  Are there a variety of options if you are undecided?  What will your class sizes be?  What academic support systems are in place if you need help?   
  2. Financial: Is it affordable, both for you and your family?  Have you been offered scholarships or grants, or will you need loans to cover the cost?  Do a cost comparison to see which colleges offer you the best financial aid.   
  3. Social: Harlan Cohen, author of “The Naked Roommate” talks about the importance of identifying PEOPLE and PLACES you will feel comfortable with on campus (see Harlan’s webinar, 7 Big Mistakes HS Seniors Make When Picking a College).  Who will your people and places be?   
  4. Physical: Take an online tour.  Review the campus website for other virtual options – 3D or VR experiences can give you a great perspective of the physical campus.  And don’t forget to ask about the weather and the surrounding area.    

Take Action 
Review your pro and con lists but give credence to your gut feeling as well.  As with any big choice, it should be made with your brain and your heart.  And once you make your enrollment decision, look forward with enthusiasm – don’t second guess yourself.  The college experience is what you make it.  Your attitude and ambition will determine your success as much as the college you select.   


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Decision Time – or is it?

May 1 is traditionally National College Decision Day.  Typically, schools require that students choose where they will enroll by submitting an enrollment deposit on or before May 1.  That makes April – decision time.  Of course, this year things are feeling very different.  A large number of colleges have already extended their enrollment deadlines to June 1.  Making a college choice right now may feel difficult (or easy depending on where you were in the process).  Regardless, you might be asking yourself some of the questions below.     

Can I ask for an extension?  

Of course!  It doesn’t hurt to ask.  Although the college may still have a May 1 deadline, many have said they will make extensions on a case by case basis.  You could be waiting on a financial aid appeal, or for more information from one college that would affect your decision at another.  Make your case requesting an enrollment deadline extension in writing to the admissions office.   

What if I’m on the waitlist?  

Unfortunately for many students, it seems like colleges are sending lots of waitlist offers this year.  Forgive the sports metaphor – colleges want a deep bench in case their freshman enrollment numbers don’t play out the way they typically do.  Waitlist updates could continue throughout the summer.  As with every year, it’s best to send an enrollment deposit to a second-choice college that has admitted you even if you are on the waitlist at your first-choice.  There is no way to know if you will get accepted from the waitlist.   

Maybe I should do a gap year?  

It’s possible – if you truly feel that’s in your best interest and you have a plan.  However, this may not be the best choice if you weren’t already considering this before the pandemic.  Most colleges defer enrollment for only a small number of students and they usually consider those requests on a case by case basis.  You should have solid answers for these three questions:  1) why do you want to take a gap year; 2) how will you spend your time; and 3) what will you learn from your experience?   

My school is not open, I haven’t talked to my counselor, what about my final transcript? 

Colleges understand that these are exceptional circumstances.  No one in education has ever experienced a disruption of quite this level.  Although colleges require your final high school transcript as a proof of graduation (and most also review your final high school grades), allowances will surely be made to get those transcripts submitted.   

We are doing online learning – they say our grades will be pass/fail.   

Again, colleges are going to be making way for a lot of exceptions.  Don’t panic about final grades not looking like they normally would.  High schools across the country are doing their best in this unprecedented situation.  Colleges understand that.  Whether it’s sending unofficial documents via email, or extending the deadline, or waiving final grade requirements – submitting final enrollment paperwork may look differently this year.  The same will likely be true for orientation, housing contracts, and registration.    

Take Action 

The best advice for now is to stay informed.  Visit the admitted student websites (often) for the colleges you are considering, attend any online enrollment events, and read all of the email communication you receive from colleges!  Be in touch with your advisor (and your high school counselor) as they may have updates about changes to deadlines or policies.  And finally, NACAC is providing this online resource to students and families as a centralized place where you can check for updates on all your schools.   

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Financial Aid in the time of COVID-19

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has caused some schools to push back their enrollment deadlines, some colleges are still asking students to deposit by May 1.  Financial aid awards likely play a big part in your final decision.  But interpreting those awards might seem a bit like reading a foreign language.  Below are six common terms that you will see on a financial aid award and some ideas on how to assess your offers.   

In addition, it’s possible that your family’s financial circumstances have changed since you applied.  Whether that is related to the current coronavirus pandemic or other reasons, colleges have a process for reconsidering your financial aid award. This process is often called Professional Judgement.  We’ve included information at the end of this post on how to appeal your financial aid award.   

  1. Cost of Attendance – The Cost of Attendance is more than just tuition; it is an estimate of the total expense for one year of attendance.  It should include – 1) Tuition & Fees; 2) Room & Board; 3) Books & Supplies; 4) Personal Expenses, 5) Transportation (getting to and from the campus).  If the financial aid award does not include these items, search the website for the information or call the college.

  2. Expected Family Contribution (EFC) – The amount your family is expected to pay toward college (your EFC) is calculated by the FAFSA (Free Application for Student Aid).  You can find your EFC on the confirmation page you received when you submitted your FAFSA form.  This number should be listed on all your awards.  If it’s not there, ask the college why.

    Cost of Attendance – Expected Family Contribution = Need

  3. Student Financial Need – Use the financial aid equation above to determine your “financial need” for each school.  Then check the college’s award letter.  If the school’s total financial aid award is less than your financial need, you have a “financial aid gap.”  You must pay this gap (in addition to paying your EFC amount) with other sources of funding not provided by the school.  Scholarships from community groups or other sources, personal savings, or private loans are examples of how students pay their EFC plus any financial gap.  
     
  4. Grants and Scholarships – Grants and scholarships are awards that do not need to be repaid.  Are these grants or scholarships renewable (will you received them for just freshman year or every year)?  What are the eligibility requirements that you must meet to receive the scholarship for additional years (a minimum GPA, a certain number of course credits, etc.)? 
     
  5. Loans – Has the college included student or parent loans in your award?  This money must be repaid by you or your parents.  A financial aid offer with only loans may not be the best choice for you.  
     
  6. Work-study – A work-study award is potential income that you may earn by working part-time in a work-study position.  Most work-study jobs are on-campus which can make them convenient, but a work-study award does not guarantee you a work-study job.  You must apply for work-study positions like any other part-time job.  And just like other part-time jobs, you will receive a paycheck for your work-study earnings.  It is not automatically applied toward your cost of attendance.  Contact the university financial aid office to learn about the availability and application process for work-study positions.     

Are you being offered a mix of grants, scholarships, loans and work-study?  The more money you don’t have to pay back, or earn by working, (ideally – more scholarships and grants, less loans and work-study) the better.     

Take Action 

Enter all your admission decisions and financial aid awards into GuidedPath.  This gives you a list of all the awards colleges are offering you. 

To enter college awards: 

  1. Log into your GuidedPath account. 
  2. From your dashboard, click on the blue Decisions box. 
  3. Click on each college Decision Details. 
  4. Click on Responses: Admitted? Waitlisted? Not Admitted? 
  5. Click on Awards. Add each award from your award letters in this section. 

Enter Award type | Name of the award | Annual Amount | Total Amount (4 year amount) | Additional Information (if any) 

Repeat this process for EVERY college. Get all your numbers entered to prepare for the next step: Comparing Financial Aid Awards 

Appealing for Additional Financial Aid 

Especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, many families find themselves facing a very different financial reality than a few months ago.  If a parent has lost their job, has become ill which has caused them to stop work, has lost wages due to a quarantine or “stay at home” order, or even lost a substantial amount of savings/assets due to stock market changes, you may have good cause to appeal your financial aid award.  This Tip Sheet by Mark Krankowitz, author of How to Appeal for More College Financial Aid is a simple guide on how to start the process.     

In addition, Lynn O’Shaughnessy, author and higher ed/financial journalist, has tips on her blog The College Solution.   

You’ll need to contact the admissions or financial aid office at the college directly, but these two lists can help you get the process started.  

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Testing Updates

Coronavirus cancelations seem to be coming in from all directions – schools, weddings, concerts, even the Olympics have either been canceled or rescheduled.  The SAT and ACT are no exception.  It’s likely that your spring test schedule (along with your other schedules) looks very different now than it did a week ago.  With updates coming in on a rolling basis from testing organizations and colleges, it’s important to stay informed.  Check your email regularly, create a system for organizing important information, and stay in touch with your counselor.     

SAT Updates  

  • The May 2, 2020 SAT and SAT Subject Test administration has been canceled.  
  • The June 6, 2020 SAT and SAT Subject Test administration is still scheduled.  However, CollegeBoard will continue to assess health and safety recommendations and provide updates to registered students as soon as possible in case of changes.   
  • Refunds will be issued to students who are registered for canceled test dates. 
  • College Board will provide future additional SAT testing opportunities for students as soon as possible in place of canceled administrations.

ACT Updates 

  • ACT has rescheduled its April 4 national test date to June 13 across the U.S.  All students registered for the April 4 test date will receive an email from ACT in the next few days informing them of the postponement and instructions for free rescheduling to June 13 or a future national test date. 

AP Exam Updates 

  • Traditional face-to-face exam administrations will not take place. Students will take a 45-minute online free-response exam at home.  
  • Some students may want to take the exam sooner rather than later, while the content is still fresh. Other students may want more time to practice. For each AP subject, there will be 2 different testing dates. 
  • The full exam schedule, specific free-response question types that will be on each AP Exam, and additional testing details will be available by April 3. We’ll also unlock any relevant free-response questions in AP Classroom for digital use so students can access all practice questions of the type that will appear on the exam. 

IB Exam Updates 

  • The May 2020 examinations scheduled between April 30 and May 22 for Diploma Programme and Career-related Programme candidates have been canceled and will not be rescheduled. 
  • Depending on what they registered for, students will be awarded a Diploma or a Course Certificate which reflects their standard of work. This is based on student’s coursework and the established assessment expertise, rigor and quality control already built into the programmes. 

Take Action 

The good news is you will have time to take the SAT or ACT before college deadlines.  We may also see more colleges becoming test optional as a result of this spring.  The full impact of these cancelations and other changes on college admission won’t be known for some time.  Meanwhile, stay healthy and stay safe and stay connected (virtually) with your school and friends.  You – Generation Z, more than any generation – have the tools, ability, and creativity to make something extraordinary out of these strange circumstances. 

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Testing Updates

As a senior, it’s unlikely that you were planning to take the SAT or the ACT but coronavirus cancelations may still impact your spring test schedule.  You may have AP or IB exams, or possibly SAT Subject tests on your calendar however, testing organizations are working swiftly to reschedule or revise most of these exams.  With updates coming in on a rolling basis from testing organizations and colleges, it’s important to stay informed.  Check your email regularly, create a system for organizing important information, and stay in touch with your counselor.    

SAT Updates  

  • The May 2, 2020 SAT and SAT Subject Test administration has been canceled.   
  • The June 6, 2020 SAT and SAT Subject Test administration is still scheduled.  However, CollegeBoard will continue to assess health and safety recommendations and provide updates to registered students as soon as possible in case of changes.   
  • Refunds will be issued to students who are registered for canceled test dates.  
  • College Board will provide future additional SAT testing opportunities for students as soon as possible in place of canceled administrations. 

AP Exam Updates 

  • Traditional face-to-face exam administrations will not take place. Students will take a 45-minute online free-response exam at home.  
  • Some students may want to take the exam sooner rather than later, while the content is still fresh. Other students may want more time to practice. For each AP subject, there will be 2 different testing dates. 
  • The full exam schedule, specific free-response question types that will be on each AP Exam, and additional testing details will be available by April 3. We’ll also unlock any relevant free-response questions in AP Classroom for digital use so students can access all practice questions of the type that will appear on the exam. 

IB Exam Updates 

  • The May 2020 examinations scheduled between April 30 and May 22 for Diploma Programme and Career-related Programme candidates have been canceled and will not be rescheduled. 
  • Depending on what they registered for, students will be awarded a Diploma or a Course Certificate which reflects their standard of work. This is based on student’s coursework and the established assessment expertise, rigor and quality control already built into the programmes. 

ACT Updates 

  • ACT has rescheduled its April 4 national test date to June 13 across the U.S.  All students registered for the April 4 test date will receive an email from ACT in the next few days informing them of the postponement and instructions for free rescheduling to June 13 or a future national test date. 

Special Note for Seniors 

The coronavirus pandemic has been hard on students everywhere but it can feel especially egregious for seniors.  This was your year!  Suddenly things like senior trips, senior prom, graduation, the “last time I get to…” are being snatched away.  We are heartbroken with you that your high school experience is ending this way.  

But this is still your year and there’s a lot of it left!  Communities around the world have come together in the midst of unprecedented circumstances.  You – Generation Z, more than any generation – have the tools, ability, and creativity to make something extraordinary out of these strange circumstances.  We hear you and we feel your hurt – but we are also excited to see you soar!  You were made for this!     

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