Monday, March 31, 2014

Financial Aid Information: Be On Top Of It!

This was written by a colleague, that is worth sharing:
Hi to all senior students and parents!

IGNORE THIS AT YOUR PERIL!!!!!!!!

I've gotten several exasperated calls or emails over the past week from
parents and students who are finding the process of getting financial
information to and from schools particularly frustrating.

Every family's circumstances are unique so I cannot give a definitive,
comprehensive, blanket 'to do' list, but let me try to summarize:

IF you have applied for financial aid (by filling out the FAFSA and, for
schools which require it, the CSS PROFILE) you can expect schools to confirm
your application and ask you to "verify" the estimates you made earlier by
supplying them with actual tax information.

This can happen in one or a combination of several ways:

1. by updating the FAFSA (called doing a "FAFSA Correction")

2. by linking your FAFSA to your filed 2013 taxes via a process called "IRS
Data Retrieval"

3. by completing a process and form called the "IDOC" (for some CSS PROFILE
Schools only)

4. by sending copies of your and your student's taxes and W-2 forms directly
to individual schools

5. by completing a form or forms called a "Verification Worksheet" sent to
you (or downloaded) directly by a college

Understand that the process, while appearing complicated, is at heart both
simple and intuitive: before a college gives you money they want assurance
that your need is what you've said it is.

Requests such as these are TIME SENSITVE and it is AGAINST YOUR INTEREST to
ignore them. Money is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis and if
you're slow about responding to a school you can miss out.

On January 26th I wrote everyone an email with the heading "BEING THOROUGH",
where I said that you're likely to get a LOT of emails and letters from
colleges where you've applied, especially after a student has been accepted,
and that it is imperative to carefully read these. Information from a
college can come in three ways: by email; by letter; or by post to a
password controlled web page.

IT IS IMPORTANT FOR STUDENTS AND PARENTS TO THOROUGHLY KEEP TABS ON
INFORMATION THEY'RE RECEIVING, AND TO COMPLY WITH REQUESTS FOR
INFORMATION/ACTION IN A TIMELY FASHION.

When in doubt, don't hesitate to CALL the financial aid office (not the
admissions office) of each school that has accepted you or your student, and
ask: "Do you have everything you need to determine our financial aid award?"

Now here's the good news: you've got the College Guy here to help you.

I've seen and heard just about everything that may be coming your way, so if
you get stuck, or confused, or frustrated, or lost, reach out to me. There's
no charge to email or talk on the phone, and I'll bet most of your issues
and questions can be resolved easily. In some cases families do decide to
use my services for a reasonable fee, which of course I'll explain to you
when we talk.

I recommend that you create a folder for every college which has accepted
you, and keep material in it which they send you. On the cover of each
folder keep track of everything you've already sent that school, and keep a
running log of requests they have made, what those requests are, and when
you've addressed them.

Keep things organized and be persistent. You're going to be dealing with
secretaries for the most part - keep notes of who you talked to and when,
and make return calls if necessary. Get access to a fax machine and fax
items if they say they don't have them. Confirm that the fax has been
received.

Once you've received three or four financial aid awards you might consider
scheduling a meeting with me to go over the numbers. I have a form and a
methodology I use to allow you to easily compare offers and compute unmet
need which I'll share with you. This process will help you determine whether
and how to appeal for additional aid. Keep in mind that there's a right way
and a wrong way to go about this: most folks do it the wrong way.

Enjoy the cessation of winter - there's smooth sailing (and exciting times!)
ahead.

Gary Canter
Owner, College Placement Services and Higher Education Consultant
Portland, Maine
www.collegeplacementservices.org

P.S. Remember that EVERY COLLEGE must give you until May 1 (or April 30)
before you have to make a final decision and submit a deposit. Realize,
however, that colleges are BUSINESSES and like any good business that smells
a sale, they're trying very hard to "close the deal" and have you choose
them. Sometimes it will appear that you have to ACT NOW to take advantage of
this or that promised reward. Remember, YOU DON'T!!!

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