Navigating Financial Aid and Scholarships for College

Are you worried about the rising cost of college education and wondering how you’ll be able to afford it? Don’t let financial barriers hinder your dreams of pursuing higher education! Our webinar, “Navigating Financial Aid and Scholarships for College,” is here to provide you with essential insights and strategies to navigate the world of financial assistance successfully.

Join admissions expert Ashly Cargle-Thompson for an informative and empowering webinar designed to assist high school students and their families in unlocking the potential of scholarships and grants.

During this webinar, you will:

  1. Understand the importance of scholarships and grants: Learn how these forms of financial aid can significantly reduce your college expenses and ease the burden of student loans.
  2. Discover the different types of scholarships and grants: Explore merit-based scholarships, need-based grants, athletic scholarships, specialized scholarships, and more. Gain insights into eligibility criteria and application requirements.
  3. Learn effective strategies for finding scholarships: Uncover valuable resources, scholarship search engines, and tips for maximizing your chances of success.
  4. Get insider tips on avoiding scholarship scams and identifying legitimate opportunities.
  5. Understand the financial aid process: Learn about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  6. Engage in a live Q&A session to address questions and concerns directly with our expert.

Don’t let financial obstacles hinder your dreams of attending college! Join us for the “Navigating Financial Aid and Scholarships for College” webinar and gain the tools you need to make your education affordable. Register now and take a crucial step towards unlocking the doors to your future!

Date 02/22/2024
Duration 1:00:41

Webinar Transcription

2024-02-22 – Navigating Financial Aid and Scholarships for College

Hello everyone. Welcome to “Navigating Financial Aid and Scholarships for College.” My name is Anna Vande Velde, and I’m your moderator today. I’m also a senior advisor here at CollegeAdvisor. I’ve been with the company for about two and a half years. Um, just to give you a bit of background about me, I studied psychology at Carnegie Mellon thinking I wanted to be a clinical psychologist, but ended up at Harvard Law School.

Where I graduated a couple years ago. So in addition to the work that I love with CollegeAdvisor, I’m also a not profit attorney in the Pittsburgh area more than enough about me to orient everyone with the webinar timing. We’ll start off with a presentation and answer your questions in a live Q&A.

On the sidebar under handouts, you can download our slides and please start submitting questions in the Q&A tab. Now, and throughout the presentation, we’ll get to as many as we can at the end. Now, without further ado, I’m excited to introduce our panelist. I’m going to let her introduce herself, but Ashly.

Thanks, Anna. Hi, everyone. My name is Ashly Cargle-Thompson. I am a former admissions officer here at CollegeAdvisor, but also the team lead for our financial aid milestone team. Uh, as you see, I got my BA, uh, in religious studies. studies from Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, and then went, went on to get my master’s in the sociology of religion and Islamic studies from the University of Chicago.

Uh, after finishing grad school, I actually got just bit by the higher ed administration bug. And so I’ve actually been in higher ed administration for the past 12 years. Uh, nine of those. spent as the Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at, uh, Candler School of Theology at Emory University here in Atlanta.

So I’m happy to be with everyone. Please do keep the questions coming. They’re my favorite part of these sessions. Awesome. Thank you, Ashly. We’re so lucky to have you here tonight. Before we get into the meat of your presentation, I thought we’d read the room, see what grade folks are in. So I’m going to launch a poll.

If you are here as a support person, educator, parent, whoever, please just select other, just gives us a sense of who’s here with us. And while you do that, Ashly, I was wondering if I could put you on the spot. Um, I think financial aid is a topic that can be pretty stressful for a lot of folks. So I’m curious.

What, what drew you? Um, I think part of it is that it’s so stressful and it’s, um, a really inaccessible part of the admissions journey. It’s the place where you’re getting the least amount of clarity, clarity from the institutions, uh, the, FAFSA process can be stressful. There’s just a lot that I think families need to be, to have demystified in order to feel like they have some sort of control in the process and can implement some sort of strategy.

So, uh, just making, uh, Part of CollegeAdvisors mission general is making higher education accessible to more people. Um, and I, I allied with that mission. Absolutely. As do I. Thank you for that response. Um, it looks like we have a good balance of students and support people here, which makes sense. Um, so I’m about 40 percent who responded other.

45 percent are in 11th grade and then a couple 10th graders and a maybe like one senior. Perfect. Perfect. That’s a good mix and that’s a good mix for this presentation. So today we’re going to talk about a lot of the general aspects of financial aid and just getting you acquainted with some basic terminology.

Uh, and I’ll, uh, also do a deeper dive into scholarships, but to start this, I really want to make sure that we’re framing this conversation, uh, in a way that allows you to think broadly about the financial aid journey. Sometimes I see that families will think about that as the afterthought to the college list when we’re searching for colleges, We’re thinking about the curriculum, the major, uh, the campus, the student body, all of these things that are really important.

And then the mindset is sometimes, okay, we’ll figure out the schools and then depending on where you go, we’ll figure out the money. Um, That’s absolutely one way that you could do it, but sometimes it’s also better to understand the entire picture before you even start the college list. So I’m glad to see that we have some juniors here who are probably working on their college lists, uh, and some support, uh, people who might be able to help guide other people to look.

more holistically at the process and to keep financial aid top of mind throughout. Uh, so to get you acquainted first, I just want to talk about the costs before we can get into how do you pay for it. It’s important to know what the costs are and how we talk about costs in higher ed. So, So you’ll hear some terminology as you get deeper into the admissions process, and we’re going to go through some of that right now.

So you’re going to hear two different of two different categories, direct costs and indirect costs. Direct costs are the monies that you pay directly to the university. Indirect costs in terms of the cost of attending college are costs that you, are expenses that you’re going to want to consider because they’re things that you’re going to have to pay for, but you’re going to pay for them out of pocket.

You will have control over whether you pay for them, how you pay for them, when you pay for them, all of that. So direct costs are tuition and fees. So that is just the cost associated with enrolling in courses and enrolling in your degree program. That is just what it costs to go to classes and get credit for those classes.

And then you have room and board, and that’s generally housing, meal plans, um, and between. Tuition and fees and room and board, you’ll have some additional fees that cover activities, access to the student recreation areas, uh, student government, that type of thing. But those are the things that you’re going to pay directly to the university.

Indirect costs consist of books and supplies, travel to and from school, uh, you know, for, for holidays, incidentals. Um, sometimes they’ll include insurance as a, as an. indirect cost because not everybody needs to buy it or you have options, you don’t have to necessarily get it from the school. And the term that you’re going to hear most often though is cost of attendance.

So the cost of attendance of a school are the direct costs plus the indirect costs. So if you’ve been doing some research and you’re looking and you’re seeing, Oh, this school, their tuition is, you know, 40,000. Their room and board is 15,000. So their cost of attendance should be 55,000. But why is it saying that it’s actually 68,000?

That’s because they also factor in. Those indirect costs. Uh, the cost of attendance also represents the cap for financial aid. So that’s the most that you can collect in financial aid dollars while you’re at that school in any given year. You cannot exceed financial aid packages. Your financial aid packages can’t exceed that.

So that’s what those terms mean, and you want to keep those in mind as you’re doing your research. I also want to talk about something a little bit more abstract, which is cost versus value. So we are always thinking about, obviously, how much money will this cost me? But a lot of times I really try to coach families to also think about The value.

Uh, what is the payoff for going to the school? What is the payoff for the sacrifices you’re going to make to go to this school? Uh, and so some of the questions and things you want to keep in mind to determine whether or not a school is worth it, whether or not a particular institution is of great value to you specifically, because value is relative, cost is static.

are these things. So first of all, financial sustainability, how easily will you be able to pay whatever it is that you need to pay in order to attend the school so that has minimal impact on your family’s life. Um, and also, if you decide to attend a school that’s outside of your budget, what is the impact going to be to your experience and to your family’s quality of life?

Sometimes we underestimate how going to a school that puts us in some financial stress can impact our overall experience. And so that’s something to consider when you’re looking at whether a school is worth it, whether there’s value. The other thing is to ask yourself whether this school is a good fit or whether the school is prestigious.

Of course, you can have prestigious schools that are good fits. So I’m not saying that they are dynamically opposed. However, a lot of times families feel drawn to schools because They’re prestigious. And that’s that’s the whole point of prestige. It’s a very powerful marketing tool. Is it actually what you need?

Again, is it worth, is it valuable to you in that way? Would it pass a blind taste test? Meaning that if you were to write a descriptor of the school, but leave out that it’s prestigious, leave out that it’s top 25 or Ivy League, um, leave out the kind of factors that would make it, um, pretty evident what school it is and put that description up against other schools that might not be as prestigious.

Does that school still stick out as the one that is a place where you might thrive? And if it isn’t, then you know, okay, maybe I’m just chasing prestige as opposed to the place that’s the best fit for me. Um, Finally, look at the big picture. Um, what are your big, what are your goals beyond undergrad?

Undergrad is the first investment in higher ed and more and more, uh, students who are going to undergrad also have their sights on graduate or professional school. As you saw, Anna and I both have, well, she has a professional degree. I have a graduate degree. Um, so it’s no longer your terminal degree to get your BA.

So how will the school that you’re choosing to go, uh, to an undergrad impact your ability to choose freely where you go to grad school beyond just preparing you academically? What will your financial situation look like when it’s time to start going to graduate schools? Also think about what other goals are there for the family.

Uh, so beyond the student attending, uh, being able to attend school after undergrad, um, How are, are there other siblings that need to go to school? Are parents wanting to retire early? Um, is, are we in a good place to help the student who just graduated from college, get on their feet and figure out their living expenses post grad?

Those are all things that you should be thinking about before you commit to a school. And before you decide to stretch your dollars, uh, beyond what might be comfortable. So how can we figure out? what may or may not be comfortable. There are a few tools that you can use right now to determine based on your income, based on, um, your current, uh, kind of academic performance, what sort of financial aid package you might get, or what sort of out of pocket responsibility you might have.

The first thing that I always recommend is net cost calculators. Every university in the United States is required to have a net cost calculator that allows you to put your information in, usually tax information, some other basic data, um, and it will run that data through its proprietary formula that determines, um, scholarship eligibility, uh, eligibility for any need based aid.

And it will give you at the very least a ballpark estimate of what your out of pocket responsibility would be at that school. Uh, it’s something that I recommend that you do early. It’s something that I recommend that you do while you’re building the college list so that you’re not getting your hopes up and then seeing how expensive this thing is.

And now you’re feeling commitment. Um, knowing how much something costs before you allow yourself to get excited for it and to feel like to already see yourself there is really important. Um, you should also be able, you would also want to know what the financial aid program is in at each school that’s going to go on your college list.

So do they say that they’re going to meet 100 percent of demonstrated need? Do they say that they’re going to meet 100 percent of demonstrated need without debt, meaning that they will not package student loans into your financial aid package. So it’s all going to be covered by the school. Um, and, and whatever amount, uh, you might have to pay out of pocket, understand how that works and what they’re committing to.

Uh, finally, the best and easiest way to estimate your costs, the places where you’re going to be able to get, The most realistic estimates are your state schools, your in state state schools. Um, private institutions have very clear information about what the kind of terms of their financial aid program is.

programs are, but they do not give you a whole lot of information in terms of how they make the decisions about who gets what. They don’t traditionally, uh, publish their, their formulas. They don’t traditionally, um, publish, you know, any kind of rubric that tells you exactly what you need to have in order to get this much in, in merit aid.

Some give you something like that, but not a lot. State schools are the most transparent pricing in the college market. They tell you exactly what you’re going to get as an, what your out of pocket will be as an in state student for tuition and board. Both are deeply discounted. And so you at the very least know the worst case scenario, the most expensive case scenario.

defensive possibility for those schools. So if you have a junior, if you have anyone who is still looking at schools, um, and building their list, who isn’t excited about state schools, because it’s not the You know, uh, again, most prestigious place to go start visiting some state schools, start trying to fall in love with some state schools because there are a lot of hidden gems that are out there, um, that you might be kind of glazing over because you’re looking beyond your home state.

So let’s talk about the different types of financial aid. Uh, generally financial aid as a term is an umbrella for all of the processes by which you’re going to pay for your education. So that’s inclusive of scholarships, grants, work study, loans, family contributions, all of that. Scholarships and grants are the free money.

That is the money that you’re getting from some other source that you do not have to pay back upon graduation or leaving the institution for any reason. They’re often used interchangeably, but technically scholarships tend to be merit based. Grants tend to be need based, but like I said, either way, both are free money.

Uh, the other, another way that we’ll pay for, um, college that I’m sure you’re familiar with are our loans, student loans. And there’s three main categories of loans that you’ll One is federal Stafford loans. These are student loans that are offered to the student that will be taken out in the student’s name.

Um, the Stafford loans are not, uh, credit dependent. Um, and for the most part, student, every undergraduate gets offered a federal Stafford loan, uh, if they were eligible to complete the FAFSA. For freshmen, uh, the standard federal Stafford loan for their freshman year is 5, 500 and it goes up 1, 000 each year you’re in school.

So by the time you are a senior, you’ll be at 2,000. 8,500 for the year. So it doesn’t take a huge chunk out of the cost of, out of the cost of attendance. Uh, so what a lot of families will then do is apply for parent plus loans. These are credit dependent, uh, loans for parents. But that are administrative administered by federal student aid.

So they’re also federal loans. Um, there are some benefits with that they do. That doesn’t mean that there are some repayment programs, some flexibility, forbearance is and deferrals that can be. that you might not always find with private loans. Uh, do know that Parent PLUS loans are also usually a higher interest rate than the federal Stafford loans.

Stafford loans have the lowest interest rate of any federal loans that are being offered. And then finally, you have private loans Which, um, there is a huge universe of private loans. And my only advice around private loans is to just understand how that loan, yes, operates at the time that you borrow it, but how does it operate over time, uh, just make sure that it doesn’t have.

Creeping interest rates, uh, that it doesn’t have an off date by which if you’ve been making minimum payments and your balance is this, by this date that you just have to make a big payment. Um, there are all the little traps that can sometimes be in private loan. You want to make sure that you understand all the terms if you decide to do that route.

So you can also, um, divide heights.

Based on kind of their origin, where are they coming from? Um, institutional aid is aid that’s coming directly from the universities, meaning the college that you’re up to are funding these scholarships for you. Uh, know about institutional aid and they find it, uh, financial aid whites very closely.

They’re going to tell you most of what you need to know. Uh, you want to make sure you know the, uh, tuition, the cost of tuition, the tuition and cost of attendance. Um, you want to know whether or not the school’s financial aid program is need blind, full need, zero debt. Need blind means that, uh, you will be admitted regardless as to what your financial aid application.

our financial aid situation is. So need blindness is more of an admissions policy. Meeting full demonstrated need means that based on their calculations, they will give you a financial aid package that covers The entirety of the cost of attendance and a zero debt full need means again, they will not package loans into that.

Um, make sure you’re using those net cost calculators. That’s the best way to have a good idea, especially for private schools, what you’re going to pay. Uh, you also want to see if you can answer a few questions and if it’s not published, uh, the admissions office or financial aid office at school should be able to give you this information.

They do have this information. So one, what is the average financial aid package for an incoming student? What is the average out of pocket cost per student? What is, what are the average loans borrowed per student? And then what’s the pervasiveness of private loans among the undergraduate population? All of these things together will tell you generally how well they’re funding their students.

If there are, if there’s a big amount of loans that are being borrowed, if there’s a high pervasiveness of private loans being borrowed with undergrads. Something fishy is going on in terms of the way that they’re funding students or with the students who they’re admitting like There shouldn’t be Super super high incidence of that.

Um, and definitely not Any spikes relative to the other schools that you’re looking at

the other type of aid is external aid So this is these are this is financial aid that’s given to you Um By an outside organization or third party payer. So outside organizations can include, um, charities, corporations, you know, Coca Cola has a big, uh, scholarship. Um, Boy Scouts of America has a big scholarship.

So anything across that all the way down to, you know, your local church, those are all outside organizations and then third party payers, which are largely things like AmeriCorps. Uh, VA benefits, that type of thing, all of that falls under external aid. Um, the big things to know when you’re getting external aid is are these funds direct pay or are they paid directly to the school?

So are they going to send funds to me that I then pay to the school or are they going to send a check directly to the school and the school will apply it to my account? Uh, it’s also important to know whether they’re renewable or just single year scholarships. Oops. So renewable would either mean that you automatically receive it the next year, or at the very least you are, um, encouraged to reapply for those funds.

year over year. Single year means that we’re gonna, you can apply once, you will get the award once, and then you will not be eligible to receive it again. You also want to know if that aid is tuition restricted or unrestricted. So some scholarships say, We are tuition restricted, which means that we will only put scholarship monies toward your tuition and fees.

We will not put it toward room and board. So if you get a tuition restricted external scholarship and you have a full tuition ride from the school, then you won’t be able to accept both of them because both of them are only for your tuition. Um, and then. I also want to address this kind of myth about external aid that people think that if they get external aid that it means that the school will withdraw funds or that they’ll lose their scholarships, their institutional scholarships.

Uh, and I understand how people get to that, that understanding. Like I said, schools can only package you up to the cost of attendance. So if the cost of attendance for a school is 70, 000. Uh, you can only collect 70,000 in financial aid in that academic year for that school. So let’s say that the school gives you 50, 000.

Then you go and you collect 25,000 in external scholarships. Well, we know that you can only take 70. So you’re going to have to decline at least 5,000 of the external scholarships that you got. Now you’re bringing this other 25,000. 20,000 or no, actually, let’s say you keep all 25,000 and you say, I got all 25,000.

I got a 25,000 scholarship. Y’all are giving me 50. The school will reduce that 50,000. They’re giving you down to 45 so that they can make room for the external scholarship. So, yes, they’re going to bring it down, but they’re not going to bring it down. So it. leaves a gap. They’re going to reduce their contribution so that they can accept all of the external money.

That also doesn’t mean that should you not get those funds next year, now you’re stuck at 45 from the school. The school has made a commitment. If they made a commitment for renewable scholarships, you’re going to get that offered that 50 every year and they will only adjust it if your external scholarships require them to.

There’s also need based aid, which is can come from the institution. It can come from state or federal, um, funds, or it could be again from an external organization. Uh, need based aid is always going to require proof of financial needs. So you get that information from completing the FAFSA and getting your SAI.

Uh, they might just ask you for tax forms. Uh, it might be dependent upon you proving that you have eligibility for certain government programs for low income families. Uh, but you’re going to have to prove your financial needs. Um, it also is eligibility is also hinging on, um, whether or not a school is participating in that particular program.

Um, and sometimes need based, they can also be demographic based, so they might be looking for 1st generation students, for instance, that would be, um. Demographic based kind of need based aid eligibility criteria. And finally, there’s merit scholarships. So merit scholarships can either be institutional or external.

Merit scholarships should be need blind, meaning they are not looking at your financials in order to determine your eligibility for these funds. Uh, a lot of times, most times it’s, um, they’re looking for excellence and achievement in a specific area. And sometimes it can be demographic based. So you might find that there are schools that are set, that have scholarships, for instance, excellent students from a certain county or a certain school district or, uh, who are interested in, um, or from a certain state or a part of an organization.

So there are sometimes some demographic based, uh, scholarships. Also, if you go to a religious, uh, university, um, a religiously affiliated, there might be some, uh, additional funds for you if you are also, uh, a part of that, that faith base. So how do we find all of these merit scholarships? So institutional scholarships are, you, you can find them on the university’s website if they do, um, advertise them.

So the financial aid website is a good place. Sometimes, uh, you’ll find out and you’ll get more information. You’ll get access to A scholarship portal. Um, once you’ve submitted your application or once you’ve been admitted, they’ll give you access to a financial aid portal where you can look and apply for scholarships.

Uh, and you can also always call the admissions office. Do know that not every university Recruit will, um, that has merit scholarships will advertise what those scholarships are. And most universities have moved to a model where you don’t have to submit additional applications. They know what their scholarships are.

They know how much money they have. They know what the criteria are. And so they just. award the scholarships at the time that they’re making their admissions decision. So after or after they’ve admitted you, they’ll go back and look at what they have and award you that way. So there’s not much more that you have to do.

Um, external merit scholarships, you can find them on, there’s tons of apps now. Uh, Going Merry is my favorite, but Scholly, ScholarshipOwl, I really recommend any sort of matching app to get you started. Um, you can also get information from group or activity leaders. So, again, if you are part of a robotics club, whoever the, the faculty leader is for that club, Might be able to tell you about scholarships that seniors from past years were able to secure because of their interest in robotics.

A lot of it is networking your high school college counselor is always a great resource. A lot of times they’ll either have a newsletter or in my day. It was just a file cabinet, but. Something like that, uh, to help you, uh, find additional external scholarships and then alumni networks, both for the college and for your high school.

If you have a strong high school alumni network are good places to look too, because again, alums will, alums sometimes will, uh, create a scholarship endowment for students. from their high school or students from their state or county. In order to secure a merit scholarship, um, there’s a couple of things that you want to be making sure that you’re, you’re sort of adding to your resume.

So most merit scholarships are going to reward strong academics. Keep up hard work in the classroom. Do the best that you can, uh, with testing and, and know that that is going to be kind of your entry point into being considered for a lot of awards. Uh, a lot of them also want to see both a depth and a breadth of passions.

So, um, you don’t want to get too siloed into one thing. You want to be able to show that you have a little bit of range, but you also don’t want to go for so much range that you’re not showing that you have any real commitment to, uh, your extracurriculars or, you know, particular academic interests. And then also they reward articulation of a personal mission that aligns with their values and their mission.

Uh, so. Knowing all of those things before you submit your application, especially for a school, um, for, uh, institutional funds is important so that your essay can speak to all of those things. Um, some merit scholarships are not purely academic, and so they might require some additional, some additional engagement from you.

Um, they may require tryouts or auditions. Obviously, there’s, there’s, um, athletic scholarships. Uh, if you’re going to a Division 1, NCAA Division 1 or 2 school, or if you’re going to an NAIA school. Uh, they don’t usually have tryouts, but they might want to see film. Uh, they’ll contact you about that though.

If you’re fine arts, um, then they might want to see film. an audition. If you are a filmmaker or photographer, they might want a portfolio or a film portfolio. Interviews can be a part of it, or again, proof of membership if it’s an organizational or religious scholarship fund. And a few tips for applying for these scholarships.

One is to search and apply separately. When you’re looking at scholarships, the big thing is using your time as efficiently as possible because that second point, you want to be aiming to submit four to five applications every week. From the, I would say, You want to work your way up from that up to that starting no later than May of your junior year so that you can really start to get in the swing of it over the summer.

And I usually recommend that you continue to try and keep that pace until your entire out of pocket responsibility is covered by renewable scholarships. Once it’s written, once you have everything covered by renewable scholarships and you’re not paying anything out of pocket and you’re not borrowing anything, then you have successfully completed the scholarship search.

Otherwise, there’s always more money that you could be leaving on the table when it comes to the actual scholars, the actual essays in the actual applications and and. I guess trying to interpret eligibility criteria, make sure you’re using framing techniques. Um, and what I mean by that is when we’re searching for scholarships, a lot of times, if we don’t meet every single criteria explicitly, we’ll just move on to the next.

Sometimes, and I’m saying this as someone who’s been on the other end of reading, uh, scholarship applications, sometimes it’s the people who interpret the criteria. Um, most creatively that really stick out, uh, and kind of open the committee’s minds to Oh, wow. We never thought about, you know, our discipline functioning that way.

Or that’s a, that’s a really interesting way to look at that. And you, you end up wanting to reward that creativity. So know the difference between flexible and inflexible criteria. So inflexible criteria are things like state of residence. Um, if there’s, if there’s a, um, Like a gender component. If there is a, um, anything that you cannot change anything that it’s like, well, this is who I am.

There’s no way I can argue my way out of that. Right. Flexible criteria are things that You know, it depends on how you’re looking at it, right? So if you see a scholarship applicant, a scholarship application that, for instance, says, um, you know, ideal candidates will have completed six to nine credits in.

in photography, right? Um, but maybe you’re not a photographer, but you actually took a painting class in, um, realistic photo like, uh, oil painting. And so you had to learn some of the theory behind photography in order to do this visual art, then I would say, maybe make an argument for that. No, you’re not using a camera, but you have to understand how a camera works.

You have to understand how lighting works. You have to understand what a camera produces in order to create these realistic, photorealistic images. And those are the kinds of criteria that if you play with it a little bit, and you can make a really good case, you extend your chances of getting, um, of being able to secure some money exponentially.

Uh, and then finally, don’t reinvent the wheel. Find ways to work efficiently. If you have an essay that you’ve already written that can be primary, like can be mostly repurposed, do that. Um, Make sure that you’re not burning yourself out, um, or submitting subpar work because it’s too much when you have something that’s really good that you’ve already done.

And finally, before we get to questions, um, my kind of parting words of wisdom. So, As you start on this college journey or continue on this college journey and you’re starting to look at financial aid, um, and scholarships, just know, just keep top of mind what your priorities are. What are your goals? What are your non negotiables?

What’s important? What are the important outcomes of your college experience? Um, under and understand why those are important to you so that you don’t lose sight of it and you don’t make a huge investment into something that doesn’t actually work. quite fit. Um, remember that prestige doesn’t necessarily guarantee satisfaction.

So if you’re choosing, and I push it this from the perspective of an admissions administrator who would see people who were such a wonderful fit for our program, go to more, go for the more prestigious programs and not fit and end up right back with us. And while they ended up ultimately someplace that was really comfortable for them and that was always a good fit, they had to go out and figure that out and kind of lose a year of feeling unmoored.

So know your why. know that, you know, prestige isn’t a guarantee of a great experience. And so if your priorities don’t align with a university, despite its prestige, it’s probably not going to be a great fit. And you have to really ask whether it’s worth the, um, whether it’s worth the investment, um, build an aid aware college list.

As much as you’re thinking about location, campus life, um, academic offerings, you should be thinking about aid and how affordable is it for the family? How well, how well are we set up for the financial aid program that they have? If your family earns a high income, then going to a school that meets a hundred percent need based, you have to be prepared to pay the vast majority of that bill out of pocket.

Or to be, or to borrow loans. So those are all factors that should go into deciding whether or not a school stays on your college list. And then finally with applications for scholarships, research, research, research, then apply, apply, apply. The more you apply, the more likely you are to secure funding. So that.

Oops. Oh, yes. And how can CollegeAdvisor help with identifying and applying to scholarships or any part of the financial aid process? We have a team of financial aid administrators who are either current or former financial aid administrators at the university level available for our Families who are already with CollegeAdvisor and have packages with CollegeAdvisor who can do individual one on one consultations about basically anything that you might have questions about with financial aid, including FAFSA walkthroughs, CSS walkthroughs, where we will sit with you.

and actually complete applications and answer questions as we go all the way down to helping you through, um, the appeals process. So, uh, we have all of that in terms of scholarship assistance. We can help you develop, uh, scholarship searching strategies. We can help you define your narrative. Um, and fit for certain scholarships or schools, um, interview prep and also reviewing and advising on any sort of forums, deadlines, or scholarships.

So, uh, plenty of robust, uh, resources here at CollegeAdvisor.

Thank you so much, Ashly. So much wisdom and all of that, that is the end of our formal presentation. I hope you found all that information helpful. Remember, you can download all the slides you saw from the link in the handouts tab on the side of your screen. We’re now going to move into the questions and answers section.

So I’ve been reading through the questions you submitted. Thank you for them. Keep them coming. Um, I will read them out loud and paste them publicly so you can all see them. And then Ashly will give us her answer. As a heads up, if your Q& A tab isn’t working, if it’s not letting you submit questions, just double check that you joined the webinar through the custom link in your email and not from the webinar landing page.

All right, that said, Ashly, our first question, you named a couple resources where folks could search for scholarships. I think this is maybe the golden question everyone wants to know. Is there just one place to find all scholarships out there? Or is it really that they got to just like search around and check different things?

Yeah, there are no, there’s not just one place. No, that would, that would be, uh, that would make too much sense. No, there are. multiple places and in those multiple places, you’ll find a lot of overlap. So there are a couple and we done webinars on this, uh, more in depth webinars. So I invite you to check out our webinar library.

Um, there are multiple, uh, sort of platforms that you can go to where you can either use filters and go through long lists of potential scholarships. Or things like going merry that really try to make it a more efficient process by matching you. With scholarships, uh, that meet sort of your your criteria that you set when you completed your profile Uh, I prefer that just because it makes it it takes another step out of it But I also say that when you’re looking for scholarship uh, resources.

Don’t just stick to one. It’s good to start with one and to really, you know, kind of perfect your approach with one. But there are definitely going to be some things that you miss. It’s like when people are studying for the SATs, I don’t know if they do this with SATs, but when you’re studying for MCATs, LSATs, things like that, one of the pieces of advice that you’ll get is don’t just get one manual, get a couple from different publishers, because one might be great at helping you understand this concept, one might be great at helping you understand this concept, and it’s worth it to see how different, um, how different sort of platforms operate.

So, There are multiple programs like the ones that I mentioned. Um, we also have a webinar though on, um, how to find kind of the hidden money using sort of specific Google searches. So not every scholarship that’s out there, especially local scholarships are going to just show up when you Google certain things.

And they’re definitely not going to be on some of those matching platforms because for a lot of scholarships, there’s a fee to get there. Visibility up that high. Um, and so there’s certain search, uh, tools that you can use to find the smaller scholarships, uh, meaning from smaller organizations that that might not have as large of a platform to advertise.

So both of those are covered. Both of those things are covered in our, uh, in different webinars on our webinar library. Thanks, Ashly, because we have so many questions, I’m going to try and combine 2 here. Um, so there’s a question about financial aid options for non citizens or non green card holders. I imagine this question is about folks who are in located in the US and then also a question about financially for international students.

So located outside of Sure. So for non-US citizens and non green card holders that are located in the us, um, there are not every school has accommodation, financial aid, accommodations for you. So I will be honest about that. But more and more schools. are building accommodations for DACA students, for DREAMers, um, for people in other, um, situations who might not have U.

S. citizenship but are here. Uh, the best way to find that, uh, is on some level Google, um, but also, um, Some of these platforms have that filter. If you’re a non citizen, if you’re DACA, if you’re Dreamer, I also believe that, um, the Department of Education has some resources on how to find aid, uh, if you aren’t a U.

S. citizen, but you are, uh, Um, residing in the United States, so you might have to dig a little bit further, but the good news is, is that there’s more and more. You also want to look into what you have, what programs are available through your state. So there is state funding. For instance, I know California and Texas both have pretty robust programs for state residents, who, undocumented state residents.

So just make sure you’re kind of checking those big things. Check federal student, federal aid for resources for undocumented students and check state resources. And that’s a good place to start. And usually then it kind of tendrils out, they’ll keep sending you to other places that have resources in terms of international students.

My favorite resource to start with is international students. com. It’s one of the most. thorough financial aid, or actually sort of college higher ed admissions and financial aid resources that that are out there, particularly for people who are wanting to study in the U. S. You’re probably have seen plenty of stuff for things for international students to study elsewhere or Americans to study elsewhere, but not for international students to come over here.

That’s a good place to start. The other little hack that I like to tell international students just to get a sense of what schools are out there and are kind of trying to keep an eye out for international students and trying to the very least consider them for aid is to go to the CSS profile member school list and they have a column that says whether or not they have whether or not they accept the CSS profile from international students.

If a school says no, they don’t, but they require it for domestic students, that’s a bit of a red flag. That means that they’re, they might not be interested in your financial profile or anything, and that they expect international students to pay full freight, which isn’t uncommon. The schools that are accepting international student, um, documents.

means that they’re going to, at the very least, consider you. So it’s not so much about finding opportunities that will absolutely give you stuff, but maybe sometimes it’s easier to rule out the schools that just aren’t super, um, don’t have a lot of funding for international students. Also, if you know anyone who was an international student, that’s another great network that you can tap into to see what their experience was and how they were able to get scholarships or additional funding.

Thank you. We also do have recorded webinars on our site specific to international students. So check those out. Speaking of, I’m going to take a quick pause here, give Ashly a little water break just to talk a bit about CollegeAdvisor. So for those in the room with us who Are not already working with CollegeAdvisor.

We know how overwhelming the admissions process can be. Uh, our team of over 300 former admissions officers and admissions experts is ready. We’re here. We’re ready to help you navigate this admissions process in one on one advising sessions. We’ve already helped over 6, 000 clients and that number keeps growing.

It’s very exciting. Um, we recently took a look at our data. Um, and from 2021 and 2023, we found that our students are 3. 6 times more likely to get into Stanford, 4. 1 times more likely to get into Vanderbilt, and 2. 7 more, 2. 7 times more likely to get into Harvard. So, increase your odds, take the next step in your admissions journey by signing up.

The first session is free. It’s 45 to 60 minutes. It’s a strategy session with an admissions specialist. So if you use the QR code on the screen, you can take a, um, photo of it with your camera that should link you to the site. Uh, you can schedule a meeting there. In that meeting, you’ll get a preliminary assessment of your academic profile and some initial recommendations.

At the end, you’ll also learn more about the premium packages we offer that pair you with an expert who can support you in building your college list, editing, editing your essays, exploring financial aid, and much more. Every step of the process, we Are here for you, so we’re going to go back to the Q&A until the end of our time together.

But that QR code is going to stay on the screen. And remember, it’s also in the slides that you can download. And so you can scan that at any time. All right, Ashly, we had a question about how can families calculate. That’s the native family contribution. ahead of submitting the FAFSA, just to get a sense of what it will be, especially if it varies for each college.

Is there a way they can do that? So we’ve moved away from that language, uh, about your, the EFC, the Estimated Family Contribution and the new FAFSA uses a different term that doesn’t really, it doesn’t operate much differently called the Student Aid Index. Uh, typically you would be able to find, um, like before they, the change to the FAFSA.

It was pretty easy to find EFC calculators, uh, that would allow you to basically do a quick FAFSA, uh, and they would run it through that. I do not believe that they have an SAI calculator out yet, uh, because They’ve got other things. Um, they should be fixing so but if you I do believe that you can find the pen and paper Formula guide to it.

So if you just google 2425 FAFSA SAI formula workbook or something like that or worksheet, then you will be able to find a PDF of all of the questions that they ask, and you can fill it out manually and calculate it that way. What I will say is that the SAI ultimately Uh, and the EFC are not the number you want to rely on because that’s going to be one number, and the schools are going to take that number and put it into their own formulas.

So, even if the government says, according to our formula, your family can afford to pay about this amount of money, the school is going to take that information plus other information that they get, uh, plus information about their own student body. and weight those things differently. So one school might weight the SAI much more differently than another school would.

So the net price calculator is really The thing to do, unless you’re just trying to get an understanding of just generally, we have no colleges in mind, just generally, what is our out of pocket, then you can do that workshop worksheet if you want the most recent. Uh, formula, but also know that the formulas that are out there and some of the ways that things are weighted in that formula and the deductions are also outdated.

So, ah, this is just a tough. moment. I’m so sorry. This is just a tough moment to try and find that. Typically, there would be something out there, but the Department of Education is still tweaking a lot of things about the FAFSA. Um, and I don’t want to alarm you with a number that ends up coming down significantly once they fix things.

Thank you. Yeah, it’s complicated. Um, I think we have a lot of students here thinking internationally, which is very exciting. Can FAFSA be used, so if there’s a U. S. citizen student and they want to attend

So, I think the question is, can you use federal funds to pay for a degree internationally? It depends, but yes. Uh, I personally, lived in Australia for a couple of years, played basketball, but still wanted to have something else to do and got my teaching certificate. And I was able to take out federal student loans for that.

But there are obviously criteria that the, that the degree program that you’re pursuing need to meet. Um, And yeah, you have to have a certain number of transferable hours. There’s, there’s some requirements there, but ultimately you can, um, you would need to complete the FAFSA, and then there would be some additional paperwork that you would have to do in order to get those funds ported to, um, an international institution.

So work with the institution. Um, on on being able to do that. It will be the International Institution’s financial aid office that guides you through that process. Thank you. Someone’s asking about what percentage of schools there are other schools that will award both institutional need based aid and institutional merit based aid.

Yeah, absolutely. There are usually merit based schools that have a merit based program will have some funds that have an intern that have a need based a financial need based component, not all of them, but they will there will be funds in their endowment that have. a requirement of financial need. You might not know that, but on the back end, that is usually the case.

The schools that say that they meet 100 percent of demonstrated need, and that is it, are only going to look at need. That is, that is all they’ll look at. You can’t appeal based on merit. It is, they just are going to look at your financial profile. Um, so if you’re looking for the most flexibility and the most possibility, then schools that have merit based programs.

tend to be the ones that, um, that have the most available funds, whatever your, your situation is.

Thank you. We have time for one or two more questions. For students with divorced or separated parents, whose information needs to be reported? Um, I’m assuming that you mean on the FAFSA. And both parents will need to report their financial information. So in the FAFSA, they will ask how you filed, um, your taxes.

They’ll, they’ll ask your, your, uh, relationship status, your marriage status, status, um, If you say divorced, then it will automatically ask for the other parents. Um, it’ll automatically kind of trigger. Please give the information to of the other parent and get the other parent to fill out this portion. Um, if that other parent is not available or unwilling to participate in the process, the FAFSA does now allow you to submit without the information for both parents, but you will not get an essay.

I. Um, and you will have to go through sort of an appeals process with each school that you are applying to with their financial aid office to sort of explain the situation that there is an estranged parent that cannot be contacted, um, and asking them to package you, um, themselves without an SAI. So it does make things a little bit longer.

So if it is possible for both of you to kind of collaborate to get that FAFSA done and get that information in, um, then, then that is the most ideal thing for everyone. Thank you so much, Ashly, for answering all these questions, sharing all your insight with us. This is the end of our webinar. We had a really great time talking with you about navigating financial aid and scholarships.

Please do take a look. We do have 2 more webinars next week, and I can tell you, we’ll have more in March, but next week, we’ll be talking about diversity and inclusion in college admissions and recommendation letter. So, check this out. Remember that QR code you can scan to schedule a free meeting with our team and thank you.

Everyone have a great night.