Explore Life. It's easier than you think!
2020-2021 Gems of STEM Scholarship Application Available Now!

Get Financially Fit

weightsYou may tough it out on the football field or dive for volleyballs on your school team, but there’s far more to self-development than physical fitness.  As you channel your focus on college, there’s no better time to dive past physical fitness.  Get in shape for college by being financially fit.

1st Step: Map out your “Meal Plan”

You need to start somewhere.  Just like you would allocate your goal, including calories per day and ultimate desired weight, you need to set financial goals.  Calculate a rough estimate of how much your top colleges will cost per year, along with daily or weekly spending.  For example, you may limit yourself to $100 per week on essential expenses, and another $50 for extra items.

Even if you feel as though you won’t qualify for a grant or scholarship, apply!  Unlike a loan, you won’t be obligated to pay back either, so why not give them a shot?  Equally as important: Don’t forget about the FAFSA!  Again, it’s free money in your pocket for college!

2nd Step: Dive in Head-First & Track Your Progress

Without even the smallest inkling of understanding about your daily habitual spending, it’s difficult to know what you consider necessities versus other wants that may easily be cut out of your budget.  For the first two weeks of your college life, track your daily expenses.  Thankfully, technology will give you a hand with that.  Apps make your budgeting experience a whole lot easier.  Mint and LearnVest not only sync with your bank account, they even allow you to separate your purchases by category.

3rd Step: Treat Yourself with a Cheat Day

As you train yourself from day to day, you may end up bogged down, unmotivated because the finish line seems so far out of reach.  Every few weeks, allow yourself to let loose and purchase something a little past your budget, whether it’s a nice lunch at a restaurant or a new pair of shoes.  Think of it as a reward.  It should give you a much-needed boost to energize your spirit and feel proud of your accomplishments so far.

Westface College Planning can help navigate the financial aid process from start to finish.  To learn how we can help you call us at 650-587-1559 or sign up for one of our Tackling the Runaway Costs of College Workshops or Webinars.

Photo Credit: Louish Pixel


The Gravity of the CSS Profile: Why You Should Apply

astronautsGet ready to complete the CSS Profile!

While not as commonly used as the FAFSA, for those colleges that do use it, completing the CSS Profile boosts your qualification for more financial aid, and who doesn’t want some extra money toward their college fund?

You may not realize it, but the CSS Profile is required by over 300 colleges.  It is very likely that one or more colleges in your personal top 10 list will need of the CSS Profile as well as the FAFSA in order to be considered for all available financial aid.

Be prepared: Colleges that request the CSS Profile include those from one end of the spectrum to the other, from the well-known (Santa Clara University), lesser known (Whitmore College), large (Boston University), to small (Pomona) private colleges; even a few public colleges (University of Michigan) opt for the CSS Profile.

How is the CSS Profile Different than the FAFSA?

1)    Unlike the FAFSA which is spearheaded by the federal government, the CSS Profileis administered by the College Board.

2)    While the FAFSA is FREE, the CSS Profile requires a cost for submission ($25 for the first college and $16 for each additional college).

3)    The CSS Profile is now available online for fall 2015 admission.  Some colleges have deadlines as early as November 1, 2014 for Early Action and Early Decision applications.  The FAFSA only becomes available on January 1, 2015.

4)    Every college requires your submission of the FAFSA for consideration of anygovernment financial aid.  Colleges that ask for the CSS Profile require it to determine your eligibility for various non-government avenues of financial aid.

5)    Are you part of a two household family?  The FAFSA only asks for financial and household information for the custodial parent household.  The CSS Profile also inquires about financial and household information for the custodial parent household. In addition, many colleges request that the Noncustodial Profile be separately completed by the noncustodial parent.  For those colleges, an Expected Family Contribution will be calculated for both households.

6)    Colleges that call for the CSS Profile also will likely request copies of tax returns, W2s, plus supplemental forms for every business and farm.  Make sure you know the requirements for every college.  It’s important!.

Is it worth the time and effort to complete the CSS Profile and send in all your financial information?

YES!  Many students who do not qualify for government need based aid do qualify for college-specific financial aid.  You may be one of them!  These institutional funds lie dormant awaiting claim for many students who have income and assets that are too high to qualify for government funds.

Remember, you have to apply to even be considered.  To illustrate, here is a statement on Santa Clara University’s website: “To be considered for the full range of SCU-awarded scholarships and grants, applicants are required to complete a secondary application, the College Scholarship Service/Financial Aid PROFILE.”

Check the financial aid web page for EVERY college on your list.  Discover which explicitly require the CSS Profile and Non-Custodial CSS Profile in addition to the FAFSA.  Confirm the related deadlines and submit the application before the cut-off date.

Applying for both the FAFSA and CSS Profile (where requested) guarantees your maximum potential amount of gift aid for college funding from sources other than a student loans!

Westface College Planning can help navigate the financial aid process from start to finish.  To learn how we can help you call us at 650-587-1559 or sign up for one of our Tackling the Runaway Costs of College Workshops or Webinars.

Photo Credit: Johnson Cameraface


Financial Aid Calculators: One You’ve Heard About, Two You May Not Have

calculator3Seniors: As you search for necessary information required for the FAFSA, you most likely have ran into the idea of financial aid calculators, but what are they and how do they work?

Generally speaking, there are three calculators that colleges use: the FAFSA, Profile and Consensus, all of which abide by a set of rules:

    • Your family’s income and asset amounts are added into a calculator every year.
    • A chunk of your parent’s income (a minimal amount based on the size of the household) and a portion of their asset (typically $20,000 to $50,000 based on the age of the oldest parent) are set aside.
    • Once the entire calculation is complete, you end up with your “Expected Family Contribution” (EFC), defined as the estimated amount your family is expected to put toward your college expenses.
    • In the case that the EFC falls under the cost of college, the difference is your financial aid eligibility.
    • Keep in mind, Room + Board + Tuition + Fees = Cost for the child attending college.  Your EFC will be lower (not quite half) for each child if you have two children attending college at the same time.

So What About These Three Calculators?

As you’re probably aware, the vast majority of colleges utilize the FAFSA’s financial aid calculator.  Another formidable calculator is spearheaded by the College Scholarship Services Profile, which configures income and assets differently, aptly named “the Profile”.  While it is less common, about 300 colleges maintain it as their calculator of choice.

Finally, the third arose from a Section 568 Presidents’ Group, but only 24 elite colleges use this calculator.  It’s known as Consensus.  Considering calculator preferences vary between institutions, you will want to know which is adopted by every college on your list.

Major Differences

FAFSA      Profile Consensus
Overall Far more laid-back when compiling assets.  Stricter.  Stricter.
General Assets Excludes primary home value, along with your farm and small business. Counts businesses, farms, equity of the home, annuities and 529s. Includes the same as the Profile, but only considers home equity up to 120% of parental income.
Exemption Exempts a family from asset consideration if parents file a short-form tax return, totaling less than $50,000 of gross income (You should consult your parents about this one).  No exemptions.  No exemptions.
Separated Households Grants leniency toward divorced parents where the low-income parent holds primary custody. Grants no leniency toward divorced parents (Both incomes are judged). Grants no leniency toward divorced parents (Both incomes are judged).
Parent Assets Assessed at 5.6% (i.e. for every $100,000 in assets, your EFC is increased by $5,600). Assessed at 5% Assessed at 5%
Student Assets Assessed at 20% Assessed at 25% Assessed at 5%

 

Which One Should I Use?

That all depends upon your desired colleges.  While it’s safe to say that you’ll be crunching you and your parent’s numbers in the FAFSA, you may also need to employ the Profile or Consensus.  Make sure you know which formula (and financial aid applications) every college on your list uses.

If anything else, estimate your EFC with all three calculators (the FAFSA’s estimator is called the FAFSA4caster).  You may be surprised to find out that you may qualify for more financial aid at a college which uses one formula over another.

Westface College Planning can help navigate the financial aid process from start to finish.  To learn how we can help you call us at 650-587-1559 or sign up for one of our Tackling the Runaway Costs of College Workshops or Webinars.

Photo Credit: Lincoln Blues


5 Thoughts to Confidently Shape Your Senior Year

thoughtsSoon-to-be Seniors: While you rightfully have college on the brain, don’t unknowingly dismiss the last year of your high school career.

Visualize yourself stepping onto campus as an official senior.  Keep these thoughts in mind as you traverse classes, time alongside your friends and all the wonderful life experiences you’re about to embrace:

  1. Teachers love when you ask questions and other students will thank you.
    You aren’t the “annoying student” if you ask questions.  In fact, many classmates let their shyness get the best of them and avoid raising their hand at all, even if they are truly lost in the muddle of information.  If you’ve been one of those quiet students, now is the perfect time to break the habit, even if it means only asking one question a week. Eventually, speaking up will seem like a breeze.

    Asking questions to clarify or spark a new avenue of discussion not only will potentially help other students, but also stick in your teacher’s mind.  Who knows; it may be your path to confirming a mentor or a letter of recommendation.

  1. Every other student has the same fear: rejection.
    If you harbor the fear about not being accepted to a single college, then you’re in the same boat as all your other classmates.  Don’t fret!  Of the 4,000 colleges across the United States, you will get accepted to at least one.  Just don’t forget to send out plenty of applications!
  2. Equal measures of work and fun will level your balance.
    This is true for any stage of life.  If you’ve seen or heard of the famous line “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” (The Shining, 1980), you’ll know exactly what we’re suggesting.  Work too much and you’ll go crazy; too little will veer you off in the wrong direction.  Feel free to accept party invitations, but don’t sacrifice completing homework or projects as a replacement.  Weaving both parts into your valuable time will guarantee success.
  3. Goodbyes are definitely not the end of the relationship road.
    It’s inevitable that your closest friends will most likely attend school in another city, if not another state.  Luckily technology is on your side.  With texting, calling and even video chatting, you can easily keep in touch with your friends.  They’re just as afraid of the future as you are, and that commonality will bond your friendship across time.
  4. Step outside of your comfort zone.
    Whether you’re painfully shy in social situations or admittedly uncoordinated at a hobby you like, take this opportunity to traverse the unknown.  Compliment someone if you have a hard time beginning conversations or pursue a possible passion that seemed out of the question in the past.  We’re confident you’ll surprise yourself.

It’s easy to say “Stay positive”, but these should give you concrete ideas about how to focus your mind in the right direction.  We hope all you upcoming seniors enjoy your last year!

This blog was provided by Westface College Planning. For more tips and information, sign up for a free College Funding workshop or webinar or call us at (650) 587-1559.

Photo Credit: Sridhar Srinivasan