5 Myths about Paying for College

myth debunked

Here are 5 myths about paying for college that counselors often hear.  Don’t fall victim to these myths! 

1. My family maketoo much money to qualify for financial aid.
This is one of the biggest myths out there. You may not qualify for aid at one school, and qualify for lots of money at another school (see blog How Do You Get Money for College?)

2. It costs more to go out-of-state than to stay in-state. 
Not so. With increased tuition rates in many states, it is not always cheaper to stay in-state.  There are out of state tuition waivers available for many students. Also, colleges offer scholarships to students for athletes, scholars, certain majors, leadership, and other categories. Don’t narrow your list of colleges to just in-state schools.

3. It cost more to go to a private school than a public school.
Not necessarily.  Each family situation is unique and you may find it will cost less for your family if you attend a private school.  See blog: Can you Pay Less to Go To A More Expensive College? for Jack’s story of paying less at Dartmouth than CSU Los Angeles.

4. Outside scholarships help reduce what you pay out of pocket for college.
Not true. Scholarships don’t necessarily reduce your family’s out of pocket expense unless you pay the full cost of college out of pocket. Scholarships are part of your financial aid package. Colleges may subtract outside scholarships from their own merit awards, or from your student loan/work study allocation.  Ask colleges for their policies. This is why it is in your best interest to explore your choices for college.  Find one that best fits your situation and needs.  

5. Financial aid only helps with tuition.
Financial aid is available to pay for ALL college expenses: tuition, room and board, books, transportation, and personal expenses. Colleges realize you need to buy toothpaste and have a pizza now and then. Financial aid can apply to all of these costs. 

Take Action
GuidedPath offers lots of resources to help you plan for college costs. 

  • Take the EFC Calculator survey to determine your EFC and generate a strategy for reducing college costs. 
  • Read how the College Information Financial Aid Graphs provide insight into the financial aid packages offered to students. 
  • Utilize the Financial Aid Form Report in GuidedPath – it summarizes all the financial aid requirements for each of the schools on your list.   
  • Take a look at these financial aid documents prepared for GuidedPath Families including “Tackling the Basics of Financial Aid” and “How to Compare Financial Aid Offers.” 

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Are you done with college applications?  Check your list twice!

First semester of senior year is winding down.  The holiday break and the new year are almost here.  Are you finished with your college applications?  There are multiple steps to getting a COMPLETE application into the college of your choice.  Use the following checklist to see where you are in the process.  All of these steps are detailed in your GuidedPath account. 

College Applications 

Filling out the college application is only the first part of the process.  

  • Common Application 
  • Coalition Application 
  • State Colleges/Universities Application (like Apply Texas, or the UC System) 
  • Individual College/University Applications 


Check transcript requirements for each college you are applying to.  Are you required to send your transcript at the time you apply, after you’ve been admitted, or at the time of enrollment (or all of the above)?   

You may need to send another transcript in January.  This is known as the “seventh semester transcript.”  It shows your grades from your first semester in senior year. 

Test Scores 

Be sure to request the following test scores to be sent to all your colleges.  Be sure to include both past and future test scores for ACT, SAT, and/or SAT Subject tests.   

Submit your AP test scores after you graduate, unless requested otherwise. 


Check to be sure your counselor and teachers have completed any recommendations you have requested. 

Financial Aid forms 

College is expensive.  Work together with your parents to get your financial aid forms completed.  

  • FAFSA – ALL colleges use the FAFSA 
  • CollegeBoard CSS Profile – some private colleges and other programs use an extra financial aid form.  It is quite involved and takes a lot of time to complete.  Watch for deadlines. 

Special applications 

Some special programs (such as honors programs) or scholarships require additional applications.  Check college website for additional applications and deadlines.  

Take Action 

Check your GuidedPath account and take a look at your application plans Have you submitted all the requirements for each application?  Make a note of any outstanding requirements and get those to the college as soon as possible 

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Common FAFSA mistakes to avoid

Up to this point, the college application process has been all about you.  However, if you are considered a dependent student, then completing the FAFSA application will be a team effort.  Before you dive in to filling out the form, be sure that everyone involved has gathered the information they need (social security numbers, tax information, FSA IDs, etc.).  In addition, avoid the following common mistakes when completing the FAFSA form.   

  1.  Not completing the FAFSA.  Students and families don’t complete the FAFSA form for a variety of reasons.  They think “We make too much money for financial aid” or “the form is too much work”.  This is a big mistake!  Even if you don’t qualify for federal grants, the FAFSA is also the application for federal work-study (your ticket to a campus job), or federal student loans (unsubsidized federal loans do not require demonstrated need).  If you don’t complete the FAFSA you will lose out on financial aid options.   
  2. Not completing the FAFSA on-time.  Most schools have a preferred filing deadline for the FAFSA form.  Students who submit their FAFSA information to the school by the deadline will receive the best consideration for financial aid.  Fill out the FAFSA form as soon as possible as it typically takes 3-5 days for a school to receive your FAFSA data (sometimes longer).  Start now!   
  3. Not getting an FSA ID.  An FSA ID is the username and password you will use to sign in and complete the FAFSA form.  This ID will also allow you to sign and submit the form electronically.  You and your parents will each need a unique FSA ID.  It can take up to 3 days for your FSA ID to be activated so that you can begin completing the FAFSA.  Apply for your FSA ID now!     
  4. Not following directions.  This may sound simple but read the directions and complete the FAFSA form carefully.  Inputting incorrect information could cost you thousands of dollars.  If you are confused about a question, there is help text and online resources that will guide you through completing the form.   
  5. Not listing all the colleges you are considering.  Each school will receive their own copy of your FAFSA data.  You should list every college that you are considering (even if you aren’t sure if you will apply or be accepted).  You can list up to 10 colleges initially and there is an option for you to list even more.  Don’t worry – the colleges can’t see what other schools you have on your list.   

Take Action 

Check out more detail on tips above and other mistakes to avoid on the US Department of Education blog “Homeroom”.  The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) also has a detailed list of FAFSA tips and mistakes to avoid.  Make it a priority to get your FAFSA done as soon as possible!   

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How much I will pay for college?

How much will I pay for college? 

Paying for college is often compared to paying for airline tickets.  No two people pay the same price.  So how much will you pay That depends on many factors.  Knowing what those factors are, and how each college will look at your family’s financial situation, will help you determine what your cost of attendance will be.   

Am I eligible for financial aid? 

Whether you are eligible for financial aid from a college depends on how much money your family can afford to contribute to your education.  The FAFSA or the CSS Profile (a financial aid application by the College Board) forms are used to determine your expected family contribution.  The forms include questions about: 

  • Your parents’ income 
  • Your income (if any) – even babysitting counts 
  • Your parents’ savings or investments 
  • Savings or investments in your name 

What is an “Expected Family Contribution”? 

The data from your FAFSA is used to calculate your “Expected Family Contribution” (EFC).  This is the number is the amount (according to the federal government) that your family should be able to afford to pay for one year of college.  Colleges use this number to determine how much (if any) need-based financial aid you will receive.  

What else is considered? 

Besides income and assets, these factors are also considered: 

  • Your parents’ age. The older they are, the more savings they should set aside to retire. 
  • Size of your family.  Large families need more money to live than small families. 
  • The number of children in college at one time.  If more than one child is enrolled in college simultaneously, the EFC for each child will be less.  Unfortunately, parents enrolled in college don’t count.  

When do I file my financial aid forms? 

Timing is everything when it comes to financial aid.  You can complete your FAFSA and CSS Profile now.  Plan to file the FAFSA as early as possible.  This is the form needed to qualify for financial grants, work-study or student loans from the federal government.  The CSS Profile may also be required by the college (or scholarship program).  This is the form colleges use to help know who needs money from the college itself.  It is their way of distributing their own funds to the students with the most need.  Colleges may have priority deadlines for both FAFSA and the CSS Profile.  Be sure to meet the early deadlines to have the best eligibility for scholarships and financial aid.  Check college websites for deadlines. 

Take Action   

Financial Aid Updates 

The formula for calculating financial aid is updated every year.  GuidedPath uses the latest tables available in the EFC Calculator.  Use the EFC Calculator to get an estimate of your financial aid eligibility.  Your parents will be glad to know ahead of time what to expect.

Next week – mistakes to avoid when completing your FAFSA!

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It’s Financial Aid Time

You can apply for financial aid now! 

The first step to getting financial aid is to apply.  And although you may still be completing your college application, you can already start filling out the applications for financial aid.  The two most used forms are available to be completed now.   

What is the FAFSA? FAFSA stands for FREE Application for Federal Student Aid – it is the free government application to apply for federal grants, loans, and work-study for college.  All US citizens and students with legal status in the US should complete the FAFSA regardless of whether you think your family’s income and assets will put you out of range for need-based financial aid.  Many colleges, state scholarship agencies, and foundations also use the FAFSA in deciding who gets their scholarship money.   

What is the CSS Profile?  The  College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile is an online application developed by the College Board and used by many private colleges (and some public universities) and scholarship programs to award financial aid and/or scholarships.  There is a fee to submit the CSS Profile so check the list of colleges and programs to know if you need to complete this application.   


  • Check Requirements 
    • Find the FAFSA codes for colleges on your list  
    • Determine if extra forms such as the CSS Profile or a college specific form is required 
    • Does your state require additional forms for residents applying to state colleges 
  • Gather ALL the information needed. Be sure you have: 
    • Your social security number 
    • Parents’ social security numbers 
    • Your income statement (if you had any) for the past year 
    • Amount in savings, checking or other types of assets 
    • Copy of latest tax return
  • File Early 
    • File your financial aid forms as early as possible 
    • Check all deadlines at colleges you are applying to and mark them on your calendar
  • Inform Colleges of Special Circumstances. Let the college know in a separate letter if: 
    • A parent lost a job or had a decrease in income 
    • Parents divorced recently  
    • There is a family member with special medical costs 
    • There are other financial circumstances in your family the college should know about 


  • Report more information than requested. 
    • Don’t include assets from parent retirement 
    • Don’t include a farm your family lives on 
    • Don’t include a small business income or assets 
    • Don’t include your family home as an asset 

Take Action 

  • Create a Financial Aid Form report to use when completing your FAFSA. It summarizes all the financial aid requirements for each of the schools on your list and has the FAFSA codes for all your colleges. 
  • Complete the EFC Calculator Survey in Surveys section. 
  • Watch for milestone reminder emails about upcoming financial aid deadlines. 
  • Check financial aid statistics in GuidedPath on each college on your list. 
  • Mark off each financial aid milestone as you complete it.

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How do you get money for college? (FAFSA!)

Your eligibility for financial aid will be based on the calendar year starting in January of your junior year.  Now is the time to learn what information you and your parents will need in order to file a FAFSA.  

What is the FAFSA? 

The Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a form students and parents must complete and submit to the federal government to determine their eligibility for financial aid and scholarship opportunities. 

Who files the FAFSA? 

Since this is a federal application, it is for US citizens or students with a legal status in the United States.  International students are not eligible for federal student aid. 

What kind of aid does the federal government offer? 

There are three types of aid offered by the US government: 1) Grants, 2) Student Loans, 3) Work-study.  Colleges will also often use the FAFSA to award their own need-based financial aid.    

Take Action 

  1. Complete the EFC Calculator in GuidedPath.  Review the results with your parents. 
  2. Read Tackling the Basics of College Affordability to learn how colleges award financial aid. 

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