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Next Steps Blog


Planning to Apply for College Financial Aid?

by Susan Lee, Director of College Counseling 

While financial aid for college is available, applying for funding can be a confusing process. And, it is different from applying for aid for high school. It is best to educate your family early to understand the process so that goals and expectations are realistic.

Below are five things to know about Financial Aid for college before Senior year:

1. The first step is to get an idea of what colleges will likely expect you to pay – your expected family contribution (EFC). Here is an EFC Calculator on Finaid, a very helpful and informative website.  

2. There is not a uniform financial aid package. Colleges will vary considerably in the amount and type of financial aid they offer a particular student. Often, financial aid is used to shape the class into a group that meets the needs of the college.  Look at some net price calculators at a few colleges to get an idea of how different packages might be.  

3. Aside from very wealthy (and often highly selective) institutions, aid packages almost always include student loans. While not part of a financial aid package, parent loans are also readily available for families with good credit. Loan calculators are available so that you can see the impact a loan might have on your financial future.

4. While colleges attempt to meet the demonstrated need of every family who applies for financial aid, most do not have the financial resources. Instead, colleges offer a package with a “gap” between the cost of attending and what the family is able to pay. The family must find the money to pay the gap if the student wants to attend the college. Often, that is met through additional loans. As an alternative to “gapping,” a college might adopt a “need aware” admissions policy. In other words, some students (usually those on the margins) are not accepted because they demonstrate need for financial aid.   

5. Most families receive reasonable financial aid that meets their needs. And, many students receive generous merit scholarships. If, however, financial aid is something you will need to cover the cost of attending college, it is important to cast the net wide when applying.  Always apply to a college that is affordable with no financial aid and always apply to a college where you are at the top of their applicant pool. Then, hope for the best at the more expensive and selective colleges. 

We will be having a Financial Aid Evening for Junior parents next Tuesday, May 20, at 7 p.m. to introduce the college financial aid process. We have a follow up, more detailed meeting for Seniors in the fall.  We also have Financial Aid information on our website. A good article to read is a recent New York TImes article, What You Don’t Know About Financial Aid (but should).

A few other good resources are The College Board Big Future,  Finaid and FAFSA

Posted by lgersick on Thursday May, 15, 2014 at 08:25AM


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Susan Lee
Co-Director of College Counseling
415 593 9511

Lauren Gersick
Co-Director of College Counseling
415 593 9512

Leslie Schaffer
College Counseling Assistant
415 593 9519

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