Friday, February 8, 2008

Don't be Discouraged: Financial Aid can only Help

Financial aid can be a time-consuming and complicated process, but try to not get discouraged. There are a lot of forms, essays, interviews, and research involved, but try to keep focused on what the real goal is. A college education is more than a piece of paper: Its a chance to meet new people, experience new things, and take your knowledge to the next level. College graduates will typically make a lot more money than those who don't get a degree, and all the extra opportunities you'll be able to afford in your lifetime will all just be residual benefits of your college diploma.

Even if you're working hard and keeping your grades up, money issues can get in the way of this goal and the financial benefits of your education.

FAFSA is like the entry point for the financial aid process, and many consider it the most frustrating, as well. Don't let the hype get you worried: filing a FAFSA online has never been faster or easier. Check out the link to the official federal FAFSA website, and make a note of the items you'll need before finishing the application. Mostly, you'll need last year's income and tax forms so you can offer proof of your income and/or your family's income if that applies.

Go ahead and register for your unique, individual PIN number. Although they have sped up the process this year, it can still take a little while for the request to be processed and the number issued.

Once you have your annual income statements and related financial information - and your PIN - you're ready to get the application going. It won't take long if you're prepared, and you can receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) that includes your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) in just another day or two!

Remember, organize and prepare so you don't get frustrated. Don't dwell on horror stories or complaints from people who had troubles with it. Every cent of aid you get is helping you toward your goal and you can't get any aid without trying.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Ivy League Grades and Scholarships

So, you say you want to go to an ivy league college? Well, you're going to need great grades. Heck, you might need perfect grades unless you have a good excuse like advanced placement (AP) and honors courses as well as a full list of extra-curricular activities.

Some good ideas are habitat for humanity, church and religious community organizations, and other groups with a charitable focus. Not only does working with and leading within these groups provide some functional real-world experience, it shows that the student (applicant) is interested in doing good for the society. Its not like that is a requirement, but it definitely helps!

How can I afford it? College Tuition is Expensive

Many Ivy league schools have significant scholarship funds set up for bright and ambitious students. Harvard and Yale recently updated their financial aid systems to be more generous to lower-income students. Unless your parents can afford the ivy league to begin with, you'll probably find a lot of tuition assistance from these schools. That is, if you can get in!

What are the most important ivy league admission factors?

Well, all of them! No two students have the same exact application and the top variables can change. Maybe MIT is more focused on academic scores in math and science classes, and Yale is probably more interested in seeing how you've gotten experience leading people and organizing projects.

Work on your weaknesses and take your strengths to the next level.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

How Colleges Benefit from Financial Aid

Higher Ed/: Financial Aid is like Popcorn

After what looks like a small break from blogging, there's a great new post at

If you've ever wondered why higher education institutions are so willing and 'generous' with financial aid, please check out this link and review the graphs. Like any product or service, demand is highest at the lowest cost - but whoever is selling the product or service wants to maximize revenue by finding the best combination of price and demand.

Taken further, schools can apply what they know about demand and what they know about their applicants - matching the most cost-sensitive students with the best financial aid plans and by charging more to the students who are likely to be able to afford it.

I believe this post answers some questions about why colleges and universities have an incentive to provide financial aid - but it also raises more questions.

Is the net effect of financial aid to assist lower-income students, or just make a college education more expensive overall? The debate has been going on for a long time, and there's no easy answers to that one.