Unlocking Financial Aid: A Guide to Scholarships and Grants

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, “Unlocking Financial Aid: A Guide to Scholarships and Grants,” 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. Ashly will guide you through the intricate process, helping you discover the multitude of opportunities available to fund your education without excessive student loan debt.

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 and grants: 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 your specific questions and concerns directly with our panel of experts.

At a time when college costs continue to rise, unlocking financial aid opportunities can make a significant difference in your ability to access higher education. This webinar will equip you with the knowledge, resources, and strategies necessary to navigate the complex landscape of scholarships and grants successfully.

Don’t let financial obstacles hinder your dreams of attending college! Join us for the “Unlocking Financial Aid: A Guide to Scholarships and Grants” 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 06/07/2023
Duration 1:01:24

Webinar Transcription

2023-06-07 – Unlocking Financial Aid/ A Guide to Scholarships and Grants

Hello everyone. Welcome to “Unlocking Financial Aid: A Guide to Scholarships and Grants.” My name is Rachel D’Amato and I am your moderator today. To orient everyone with the webinar timing. We’ll start off with a presentation and then answer your questions in a live Q&A on the sidebar. You’ll be able to download your slides, our slides, which I will be uploading very shortly.

And then you could submit q start submitting your questions in the Q&A tab. Let’s start off by getting to know our presenter tonight, Ashly Cargle-Thompson. Hi everyone. I’m so glad you could join us to talk about scholarships and grants as the team lead for the financial aid milestone team at CollegeAdvisor.

It’s something that I’m extremely passionate about and something that, you know, the earlier you know about how these things work and you can figure out a good system and strategy for applying to and searching for scholarships and grants, the better because it is, it can be a bit of a long haul. So, I’m so glad you are all able to join us tonight.

And we, I think we wanna learn just a little bit more about you. Yes. So I’m going to start off with a, a poll. It is, what grade are you in? I’m clicking start polling now. So you can start answering your questions now. Of what grade are you in? Oh. Yep, it is open now. So while we are getting those in, Ashly, would you be able to explain you know, kind of what got you interested in admissions and helping high school students navigate the college admissions process?

Well, I worked at Emory University in Atlanta for eight years in admissions and financial aid. So I was on the other side of it. And one of the things that is hardest about being an admissions officer who’s making the decisions is seeing applications where you know, that the student has a lot of potential, but they just haven’t been able to put everything together.

And unfortunately, you have to, you have to assess what’s in front of you. So having an opportunity to interact with high school students and their parents to give them more clarity on what the admissions process is like, more clarity on how admissions offices work. I feel like I’m kind of doing my part to ensure that financial aid officers get fewer and fewer of those applications where they were just almost there, but not quite fantastic.

Well, thank you Ashly, for all your hard work. Awesome. So I’m going to go ahead and close the poll now. It looks like the vast majority of students in the room today are our 11th graders are rising seniors. Then we have a few 12th graders in the room some 10th grade representation and we do have a ninth grader as well in the room as well.

So really good mix of folks. I think. You know, it’s always great to start this conversation as early as you can, so everybody’s in the right spot. And with that, I’ll pass this over to you, Ashly. I’ll be back at the end for the Q&A session. Great, thank you. All right. Well, first of all, it’s true.

All of you are here at the right time because ultimately the scholarship and financial aid kind of game never stops until you are fully funded by renewable scholarships at the college of your choice. That’s when you can kind of relax, and if you’re looking at grad school, then you’ll have another round of that.

So even if you’re the ninth graders or the recently graduated seniors, there’s something that you can take away from this and. It’s a good time to think about it. 11th graders, this is a great time for you to pay attention to everything that I’m gonna cover and or rising seniors. You’re not 11th graders anymore.

Rising seniors. It’s a good time for you to pay attention, really close attention to the things that I’m going to cover and start building out your strategy. You want to start building muscle memory in terms of applying for scholarships. Understanding financial aid before senior year hits before a lot starts being asked of you all at once.

So that is my, my recommendation for how you, how you manage the information that you get here. So first and foremost we wanna talk about kind of the. The core of financial aid and that core really is the FAFSA. This is about scholarships and grants, and there’s several types of scholarships for domestic United States citizens.

The FAFSA is going to be required of you no matter what. So when we’re talking about financial aid, when we’re talking about institutional grants, when we’re talking about a lot of external scholarships you’re gonna have to do the FAFSA. And basically what it’s intended to do is help schools identify your.

Eligibility and the extent of your financial need. Now this presentation is based on the FAFSA for 23-24. The 24-25 FAFSA has not been released yet, and it will not be released until December. So we’re kind of in this in between area where we know some things about the FAFSA, but we don’t know everything about the FAFSA.

No one has seen the formula. We can’t walk you through that. So some of this stuff will still apply. Some of it might look a little bit different when the FAFSA finally comes through. But at the end of the day, the FAFSA is still intended to help the United States Federal Government the Department of Education determine your eligibility for need-based aid, federal aid loans and also be able to create some sort of.

A marker that tells schools what your financial aid, your financial need is. If you are not a US citizen you’re not eligible for federal aid and so you don’t need to worry about the FAFSA. If you are DACA or undocumented, you’re not eligible. So you’ll want to make sure when you’re choosing schools, that you’re choosing schools and choosing to stay in state if you can, because a lot of times in-state students are able, DACA students, international or DACA students and undocumented students are able to get state aid.

So that’s just something that you would want to know about that. So I’ve started to get into it a little bit. But there’s differences between financial aid, scholarships and grants. They’re not all the same thing, and they’re really not. They shouldn’t be used interchangeably. So when we talk about financial aid, that is the umbrella term that anything that has to do with how you are going to pay for college, whether that’s out of pocket, whether that’s a scholarship from the school, whether that’s your 529, whatever it is, that all falls under the umbrella of financial aid.

It’s a category. Then you have scholarships and grants. That is your free money. The other kind of the kind other category of financial aid is student loans. We’re not, we’re not gonna talk about those today, but scholarships and grants are your free money. That is the money that will be given to you that you are not expected to pay back.

There might be other eligibility criteria, but it’s free money. What you should know is that they are used interchangeably, but you should know kind of the difference between them in case they aren’t. So scholarships are traditionally merit based. That means that they are looking at, or they have a list of criteria that you need to have met in terms of your performance, your interest, your participation.

Sometimes it has a demographic requirement. Anything that’s kind of about you and how you perform and how you operate, how you show up in the world. That falls into merit-based scholarship. Grants tend to be need-based, so you’ve heard of, for instance, the Pell Grant that is a federal need-based grant.

So those are. Funds that are going to consider your family’s income and assets to determine whether or not you’re eligible. But like I said, both of them are free money. You want to it, we’ll start with talking about scholarships and specifically institutional scholarships. So those are scholarships that are funded by the school that you’re attending.

And one of the things that’s really important for you to understand is how do you even get an institutional scholarship? How, how do I know about them? How do I find out about them? And it’s not always easy to find. They can really bury that information in financial aid websites a lot of times and what we’re seeing more and more is that schools that have institutional aid are using Aren’t really telling you what scholarships they have, they’re kind of taking all of the scholarships that they have, that money and making it into a pot and then applying it at the time that you apply.

So the best ways that you can find out about what are, what’s the potential for me to get a scholarship when I’m crafting, particularly when I’m making my school list, is to look at institutional financial aid websites. You want to make sure that you understand the difference between the tuition and the cost of attendance.

Your tuition is what you pay in order to enroll as a student and attend class. That’s it. Room and board, dorms, meal plan, all of that does not fall under tuition. However, Tuition plus fees, plus room and board plus insurance, plus all of the other things that you could think of that would factor into your expenses for one academic year of enrollment at your university.

That number is called the cost of attendance. So you might see a school where their tuition is $45,000, but their cost of attendance is $65,000 because now you’re factoring in things like room and board. So know the difference between that. Do not just look at tuition. You also want to understand what their financial aid policy is, and there’s two primary ones.

There are schools that are need blind and schools that are not need blind. So what need blind means is that they are not going to consider your financial kind of profile. Before they make their admissions decision. So a lot of times it’s not even the same group of people, or once they’ve decided that you’re in, then they’ll go and look at your financial details.

But what they’re saying is that we’re gonna admit you based on whether or not you’re a good fit for this school. Your finances, whether you have, whether you have really substantial income, or whether you don’t, are not gonna factor into our decision. Schools that are not need blind are not saying that they will factor your finances into their decision, but they’re saying that they could, that they might.

And so it’s important to know how that might impact you if they do. The other phrase you want to look for is whether or not a school is meeting your full need. So if a school says that we meet a hundred percent of demonstrated financial need, we meet a student’s full demonstrated financial need.

What they’re saying is that they will create a financial aid package that bridges the gap between whatever they determine is your kind of out-of-pocket contribution, what that should be, and the cost of attendance. So if once you’ve done the FAFSA the number it’ll be called the Student Aid Index.

Say it says that your family can afford to pay $15,000 a year and the school is $85,000 a year for cost of attendance, and they say they’ll meet your full need, that means that you’ll get a financial aid package of $70,000. If you’re admitted, that is their commitment. Some schools will do that package and have a zero debt policy, meaning that they will figure out how to fill that gap without applying student loans to your package.

Others will include student loans in your package. If you want to understand how your finances are gonna be read by a school, every single school’s required to have a net price calculator. So Google the name of the school net price calculator, and you’ll be able to put in pretty basic information about your finances.

If you are a rising senior, then you’re going to use information from your 2022 taxes and you’ll put as much information as you can, and they will give you an estimate based on their institutional formula for determining need. It’s also important that, you know. Who is working in financial aid or admissions, and that you are able to ask additional questions of that, of that person if it’s not already published.

So you want to know what the average financial aid package is. You want to know what the average out-of-pocket cost per student is, because those are two different things. The average loans borrowed per student. And you also, a good one that a lot of people miss is how pervasive are private loans for your undergraduate population.

Because what private loans tell you is that whether or not that school is meeting the financial need of students or to what extent they aren’t. So if your federal loans, plus all the aid is not getting you to the cost of attendance, you’re gonna see a higher rate of private loan borrowing among students.

So, We’ve talked about merit scholarships, and so now we wanna talk about actually, when is a good time to think about merit scholarships? So if you are, and I’m gonna go from the bottom up. So if you are one of my rising seniors, then during that time, and actually you’ll want to do this, this summer, ideally, you wanna finalize your college list and your college list should consider what your college list should consider kind of what your family’s ability to pay is and understand all the financial aid policies and how those would impact you at the time that you’re applying.

You also want to be able to, if a school publishes their financial aid information during, while you’re kind of looking at schools and applying, which will start in the fall you’ll want to look at any kind of scholarship descriptions if they do publish them and try to make sure that you’re echoing their language in your essays.

So you don’t necessarily need to name drop the scholarship or say that I’m applying because I want to be considered for this scholarship. They have their own way of determining which students are eligible for it. But if you see that there’s a big scholarship that you want, and it only goes to 10 people, but it, they keep talking about philanthropy and volunteerism, you wanna make sure that your essay.

Really leans into that if you wanna be considered for that scholarship. Also, you want to make sure hopefully you’ve taken the PSATs, but you also wanna take sure, make sure you’re taking the SATs because that is your gateway into national merit opportunities. If you are a rising junior, this is a good time for you to just do a lot of research, understanding again, what eligibility criteria you have for the schools that you’re interested in.

Your, your list will be significantly longer. Making sure and kind of starting to research those things so that you can make sure that for your junior and senior year, you’ve set yourself up to highlight your skillset, to be a good candidate for some of the scholarships that you’ve seen that you might be a good fit for.

And it’s also a good time if you haven’t already, to really actively seek out mentorships with coaches, faculty. Any sort of program director for the things that you’re interested in, because those relationships and those recommendations in your senior year are gonna be important. So you want to use your junior year doing that and also take the PSAT because again, PSAT and SATs are the gateway into national merit.

And for my ninth graders, 10th graders now is just a good time to research. Just learn about what schools are out there, the differences between a liberal arts school and a state school, and understand how those things are funded differently. And if you want merit awards from those schools, highlight the schools that have strong merit award programs for the things that you’re interested in.

So I kind of went over this before. There’s different types of merit awards. The one that you’re probably most familiar with, or the two are academic, where they’re gonna have requirements that they’ll have maybe a minimum required GPA they might have eligibility criteria around your test scores for either standardized tests or AP/IB testing.

And it also might be determined by your curriculum, meaning that what major you’re interested in applying what you’re, what programs or majors you’re applying to. Athletic scholarships are also technically merit because it’s based on your athletic performance. Those are gonna be sports specific and you will be recruited for that.

So if you are an athlete and you’re younger and you’re thinking, I want to get. An athletic scholarship, then now’s a good time to talk to your coaches, make sure you’re going to the right kind of exposure camps and things like that, and have good conversations with people in your athletic bubble about how you can best be seen so that you can be recruited.

There’s also artistic merit scholarship. So if you are a musician, if you are a visual artist, if you are a filmmaker there are scholarships often for those sorts of things. But you should be prepared that if you are a performer, that you might have to do an audition to be considered for the program and to get any sort of scholarships.

And if you were a visual artist or a filmmaker, then you would wanna make sure that you’re starting to build a portfolio so that they can see your work. There’s also Scholarship types that kind of fall, like I said, that aren’t necessarily academic or based on performance. Some of them can be on more abstract concepts like leadership, community, special interests, that type of thing.

You’ll all have this in the handout, so I won’t read each one. But know that there are things that even if you don’t have the best gpa or even if you’re not thrilled with your test scores, that you have other qualities that are worthy of scholarships and there are institutional scholarships that recognize those things.

So again, look for schools that talk about these sorts of things. So there are some things, and again, we went through some of it, but all merit scholarships do not have the same eligibility criteria. But if you are trying to, especially if you’re one of my ninth, 10th, even 11th graders, if you’re trying to kind of.

Organize your college ex or your high school experience so that you are best prepared to get funding in college. Then some of the things that you should know that most scholarships are gonna look at are strong academics, but that is not the end all, be all that for a lot of schools, that is kind of the bare minimum is to have strong academics, but you also have to show that you have.

A depth and a breadth of passion. So not just I study, I learn the test, I do well on tests, I study, I learn what is your passion? What are you interested in, and how deeply have you delved in it? How much do you know about it? You also wanna make sure that you’re documenting things so that you have, when you’re creating an activities list, so that you have actual, tangible facts about things that you’ve created, that you’ve done or that you’ve achieved.

So if you got third place in a science fair, Great third place in the science fair, but they need to know the scope of that science fair. So third place in the science fair out of 2050 entries is very different than third place in a science fair with 13 entrances. So you want to know those things and document them.

Also something that CollegeAdvisor will help you with is articulating a personal mission. So really being able to talk about yourself and talk about your passions. Like I said before, other scholarships might require some extra things, also, including an interview or proof of membership to a certain organization or club.

Merit scholarships can be found in a few different places. Again, like I said, the financial aid website at school, at different universities and colleges. Also, as you start your applications, you might be able to find information on scholarships and financial aid in the prospective student portal.

That’ll be kind of your little area where you can upload documentation, where you’ll send your application, where you’ll get your decision. Sometimes schools will advertise scholarship opportunities there, and the admissions office is always going to be a good resource admissions. It’s not, it’s counterintuitive, but admissions office as a prospective student will be your best resource for learning about scholarships and funding opportunities over the financial aid office because they’re often more concerned with kind of current students.

At that point in the year you can also find external scholarships that are merit scholarships. So there are some amazing apps that help match you with scholarships based on a profile that you create yourself. My favorite is going Mary, but other strong ones are scholarly scholarship owl. There are quite a few group and AC group and program activity leaders.

If you’re an Eagle Scout or something like that, they would be able to tell you, okay, this is, yeah, we do have a scholarship. Here’s the information. So knowing that as well as your high school counselor, college counselor, college prep office, they all have different names, but whoever it is in your school who’s responsible for helping students learn and about college and prepare for college is a good resource.

The best thing that you can do with college counselors though is not to, and actually anybody, is not to ask. Are there any scholarships that you know of? Because that is a broad question that really, even by the most seasoned financial aid advisors, cannot be answered. So you want to ask direct questions about a specific thing.

So one of the tips that I give students in talking to college counselors, especially if you’re a junior or a senior, is to ask if they have any sort of list of scholarships that have been awarded to recent graduating classes. Most schools will, because most schools will have an honors night or some sort of documentation about what the student has achieved in the graduation program.

Most most schools collect that. So if anyone’s gotten a big scholarship, they usually have that information. And what that helps you do is create a list of scholarships that we’re. Successfully secured by students who went to your school, so are from the same place, had similar curricula who in a lot of ways might have had a very similar life experience to you, so you know that you’re well carved out for a scholarship from that organization.

Also, alumni networks are really good. So if your school has a strong alumni network, scholarship opportunities can be there too. In terms of assessing whether or not you’re eligible for a merit scholarship you, so you’ll, any scholarship that you have to apply to, you have to do the work of, and so I’m speaking mostly about external scholarships.

You have to do the work of identifying which scholarships are worth my time. You have to do the cost benefit analysis of. Is the likelihood that I might get this money and the amount of time it’s going to take me and the amount of money that they’re offering worth me taking the time to do that. So you want to have sort of you wanna have some sort of strategy in assessing whether or not you’re eligible and whether or not you’re a good fit so that you can easily move on.

So, but you, at the same time, you don’t wanna undersell yourself and walk by opportunities that might be good for you. So basic criteria are usually included on the application. You’ll find the list right away. But a lot of it is how you’re interpreting the list. So there are flexible criteria and inflexible criteria, so, Inflexible criteria are something like, you must be from the state of Missouri.

You must be a Missouri resident. You can’t, you, there’s, you can’t argue your way around that you either live in Missouri or you don’t. Flexible criteria though might be things like a successful applicant will have taken at least four visual arts courses during high school, so that might be something where you can say, okay, I did not take four visual arts courses.

However, I did take an art history course that talked a lot about this, and it informed a lot of the work that I did do in my visual arts courses. So I. I feel like even though I didn’t take all four, I still meet that criteria. I can make a case for myself. And that, those are the kinds of things that I usually recommend that you go for.

If you can make a case for yourself and you can show that you’re thinking creatively and that you understand the spirit of the award then go for it. Do not just pass that one by because you’re not a perfect fit. So that’s, those are some of the things that you can do. And with that, once you submit your application you should know that one of the frustrating things about external scholarships particularly is that a lot of times you’re gonna put a lot out there and you’re not gonna get anything back.

You won’t hear. Anything you won’t hear that, you know, you’ve moved to the next round. You won’t, if you didn’t get it, it will be radio silence. So you should be prepared for that and prepared to know that if I haven’t heard anything, then I didn’t get it and move on. In terms of when you should be expecting to hear that most, most scholarships will publish a date by which they will inform recipients of that award.

If they don’t, then my rule of thumb is don’t start to check in and ask about ETS for decisions until at least six to eight weeks after the deadline. That’s usually about how long the application or the applications need to be processed and for decisions to be made. And you want to follow up, but you don’t want to follow up to the point of frustrating whoever’s administrating that award.

Being organized is gonna be a huge part of kind of also keeping your sanity. So this is an example of a scholarship matrix that we actually have. So if you’re a CollegeAdvisor student and you want that then you can ask your advisor and we’ll make sure that you have access to the scholarship matrix.

A lot of the platforms, the apps that I mentioned, kind of do this for you. This is a word of an old school way of doing it, but if you’re pulling scholarships from a lot of different places, it can be helpful to do this. The other reason that it’s helpful is because it will allow you to separate the research and Yeah, like the scholarship search and research work from the application work, and there’s a reason that.

I recommend that, first of all, it’s really inefficient to scroll through scholarships, say, okay, that one will work. Let me do an application. Okay, now I have to search for another one. Let me do an application. I much rather students do something like this. Either go through an app and favor the scholarships that they think are a good fit, or have some sort of document where they’re listing the scholarship and all the pertinent information next to it so that you can then come back during a time that you’ve blocked time out to knock some applications out and actually start the application process.

What that also helps you do is sort of streamline your work. So if you’re applying in chunks, then you can say, okay, I’m going to apply for all of the scholarships that are about STEM today. I’m gonna work on all of my materials for that. One, you can look at all of those things now together and see how much overlap there is in the criteria in any kind of writing prompts you have.

And then you can start to write a document or write a personal statement or short answers that could potentially work for multiple scholarships. So you’re not reinventing the wheel every single time. It also just allows you to work more fluidly. That way you’re not going from searching and kind of weeding things out to now let me plumb the depths of my interests and abilities to talk about myself and then going back and forth.

So having some way of organizing so that you can search sometimes and apply other times is really helpful. In terms of final advice for applying for scholarships, like I said at the very beginning, play the long game. It’s. It, it’s going to take a while. I recommend that students start applying, start looking for scholarships around now.

Definitely not. You don’t want to wait until, you know, mid, late August. So start around now. You won’t find a ton, but again, we, if you start small and kind of get your legs under you, it’s easier when the bigger scholarships with the hardier applications come up, and that will usually be in August. But know that you’re going to be doing this for the entirety of your senior year.

At the very least. You should expect to submit two to three applications a week. So we’re looking at eight to. Eight to 12 scholarship applications a month. And again, you’re doing that for the entirety of your year. Again, remember to document your achievements as they’re coming through. Have a little document that allows you to track all of that.

And if you are worried that you don’t have enough sort of on your resume, then start entering the contests. Start running for leadership roles. Start thinking about what a passion project might look for you. Curate to the criteria. So again, while you do want to be able to work efficiently and maybe off of some standard documents, you also want to make sure that your application shows that you understand the spirit of that award.

And again, apply, apply, apply. The more applications you submit. The better your shot is at securing funding. I usually tell families that for every 20 applications you submit, you can expect that you’ll secure maybe one scholarship for every 20. So that’s the kind of volume that we’re talking about.

And that can sound discouraging, but at the end of the day, the students who are really successful are the ones who are prepared for that long game. So CollegeAdvisor, we have a financial aid team that can help you. So if you’re already one of our students or thinking about becoming a CollegeAdvisor family we will help in one-on-one situations.

We’ll help our students develop those search strategies. So it’s not just search, we’ll actually help you and show you how to search. How to filter, that type of thing. Helping you define your narrative, defining your narrative, and your fit for scholarships in schools. Your advisor would help with that largely.

We can also help you prepare for scholarship interviews and as well as reviewing and advising on FAFSA/CSS profile, helping you figure out a strategy so that you can meet deadlines and again, scholarships. Also after the fact, we can help you with the appeals process, so there is additional support beyond kind of webinars in general information.

And now I think we’re at questions and answers. Fantastic. Thank you so much, Ashly. You packed in so much awesome information in such a compact amount of time, and so I give you kudos. That was fantastic. So that is, as Ashly said, the end of the presentation, part of tonight’s webinar. Just remember you can download the slides from the link in the handouts tab if you like, having a visual representation of all that Ashly went through.

So we’re gonna move on to the live Q&A part of tonight’s webinar. During that time, I’ll read through the questions you submit via the Q&A tab and then read them out loud before having Ashly give you an answer. As a heads up, if your Q&A tab isn’t letting you submit questions, I would recommend just double checking that you join the link through the custom.

Join the webinar through the custom link in your email and not from the webinar landing page. So before we dive into co the Q&A part, I do just wanna give a little more color commentary on what CollegeAdvisor.com can do for you. And so, you know, if you aren’t already working with us, you know, we understand just how overwhelming the admissions process can be.

I mean, students have to think through essays, scholarships grades, all while managing their extracurriculars and just overall wellbeing. And so, you know, here at CollegeAdvisor, we really want to help students and their families navigate it all as As stress free as possible. And so we have a team of over 300 former admissions officers and admissions experts who are really ready to help you and your family navigate the college admissions process in one-on-one advising sessions.

You can take the next step in your journey by signing up for a free 45 to 60 minute strategy sessions with an admission specialist like Ashly on our team using the QR code on the screen. During that meeting, the specialist will really can go over your current extracurricular list and application strategy, discuss how that lines up with your college list, as well as outline all the tools you need to stand out in the competitive.

Admissions world as well as kind of go over what CollegeAdvisor.com offers in our one-on-one packages. As well as talk a little bit more about the specialty teams, like Ashly mentioned, our financial aid specialty team, among others. So there’s really a lot of great resources that we can help you all with.

And if you’re interested, feel free again to scan the QR code to sign up for that one-on-one free session. So that QR code’s gonna stay up for the rest of the session. And now we’ll dive into our Q&A. So first question we have on the list, Ashly, is, is FAFSA alone or a scholarship? Do I need to pay it back?

Can you give a little more information about what FAFSA is? Sure. So the FAFSA actually stands for financial aid free, free. Free application for financial student aid. And so it is an application that is all the FAFSA is. It’s not a commitment. It’s literally just asking you for information so that they can kind of categorize you financially.

The FAFSA then determines your eligibility for different kinds of funding. So the FAFSA, depending on your results, can determine whether or not you’re eligible for federal student aid. And that includes loans but it also includes grants. So you will have to pay your student loans back. So once you submit the FAFSA, once you get into a school get your financial aid package back, it’ll show that, okay, you’re eligible for $5,500 in student loans and you have a $3,000 Pell grant.

The Pell Grant is a grant. You don’t have to pay that back. The loan should you choose to accept it, and you don’t accept it until you’re already enrolled, have already accepted an admissions offer at a school. If you choose to accept it, then you will need to pay it back, but you don’t pay it. Start paying loans back until six months after you graduate or after you choose to leave a higher ed institution.

And that doesn’t count. That doesn’t include transferring. It means like leaving college, like taking a gap year or something. Fantastic. And on that same line, can you talk a little bit more about the c s s profile and how that’s used? Sure. So the c s s profile is another financial aid application that not all of you will have to deal with.

There are about three or 400 schools, largely private schools liberal arts schools that are CSS profile member schools. And what that is, is sort of a common app financial aid application for schools to, again, determine your financial need, but also determine your eligibility for institutional scholarships.

So the FAFSA is gonna just ask you about money. They’re just gonna really ask you about your 2022 taxes if you are arising a senior and. A little bit about your family. The CSS profile will ask you for all of that, plus some information about your money now, plus some information about your money in the future, plus a lot of information about who you are, what you’re interested in, and what you want to do in the event that they have a scholarship where you meet those criteria.

So FAFSA is about federal aid. CSS profile is institutional aid. Fantastic. Thank you for that. Making that kind of clear for everyone. So another FASA related question is the FAFSA performed every year, financial status may change. How do schools take that into consideration? Yes. So you do have to file your FAFSA every year.

It’s not the same process. Once you’re kind of renewing your FAFSA, it’s not quite as stressful as it is the first time around. And it can be a little bit more direct, but you will have to submit it. And if you have need-based aid, particularly, they’re going to use the information that they pull off of your refiled FAFSA in your renewals to continue to determine what your eligibility is and whether or not you’re meeting the criteria for the level of need-based aid you have.

So if you had a rough year and the next year, then you might actually see your need-based aid go up. If your income for whatever reason shot up, you might see your need-based aid come down. So it’s important to know that as you’re applying for schools and to know that if you have a. Income that’s not really stable and tends to kind of have big years and then low years that that could impact you long term if you are at a school that is a hundred percent need based.

Great. So another question I’m curious to hear the answer to this as a a former work study student at Northwestern someone asked Ashly, I heard there’s a trend for colleges to drop work study in the financial aid package. Is this true? And for those in the room who don’t know what work study is, can you give a little more insight into what that is?

Sure. So work study is actually part of, is one of the things that the FAFSA determines your eligibility for. So work, federal Work Study is a federally funded or subsidized program that allows students to have on-campus jobs and it’s tied directly to their financial aid package. You are correct that most schools will include your work study as part of your financial aid package.

That, for me, as kind of a financial aid advocate for students, drives me up the wall because your work study is not a guaranteed amount of money. It’s not the same thing as a scholarship, it’s not the same thing. Even as a loan, it basically represents your earning potential in a, in a student campus job that is classified as a work study job or as a federal work study job.

So that means that. If you look at your financial aid package, and this is a school that says, we will meet a hundred percent of your demonstrated need, and your demonstrated need is a hundred percent of the cost of attendance. So like, say like you’ll get a full ride because they’ve determined you can’t afford to pay anything and they drop your federal work study in there.

That money is not money yet. That’s earning potential. So you would have to find a job, find a job that pays you a high enough rate and gives you enough hours to fully exhaust your federal work study allocation. It happens. It does happen. It’s not like it, it won’t happen, but sometimes that’s difficult and you earn the money piecemeal, you earn it like you would a paycheck.

So if you’re expecting to be able to make a big purchase or to make Like if you’re not fully covered. And some of that would help pay for your tuition. And you’re expecting like, okay, I can use this every semester to help, you know, pay my tuition. It doesn’t get paid out like that. And so I really wish they wouldn’t include it on financial aid, application, or packages because it, it doesn’t function like anything else that you’ll see on it.

Thank you for that clarity. We had a question from a individual who expressed how an apologies to all in the room. I have two dogs and they like to be vocal and share themselves in this space as well. So apologies if you hear any noise in the background. But the, the par the individual asks, you know, you know, The college application process is already really overwhelming.

You know, adding scholarships on top can be really a lot. And so they wanna be really focused in their scholarship search and make sure that they’re not, you know, wasting their time in applying for a lot of, you know you know, a lot of opportunities, but really being really specific. And how, how, how would you recommend kind of identifying what scholarships are most worth someone’s time?

Mm-hmm. So the first thing that’s good news is that there are a lot of tools that are developed for that to kind of prioritize efficiency and efficacy in the scholarship search. When I was looking at schools, they were just endless links at lists of links. That was it. That was all you got. And you had to go through and read each one and determine for yourself whether or not it was a good fit.

Apps like Scholarship Owl, like Going, Mary actually, like I said, are more of their scholarship matching tools. So you create. A really detailed personal profile, student profile, and then they create an algorithm that will then match you with scholarships that they think will be a good fit. And they even will, they’ll even figure out ways to kind of quantify that fit.

So going, Mary, for instance, once you get to your scholarship list, every in, every single scholarship has a little percentage tab at the top and it tells you how well suited you are for that scholarship. So using tools like that, and again, don’t take those things as the absolute truth, but using tools like that is the first way to kind of cut through the noise and make sure that you’re being really focused and not wasting your time on things.

The other thing that’s go good about those tools is that they don’t put anything that’s past the deadline on your scholarship. List on your personalized ones so you’re not wasting time looking at things and then finding out the deadline has passed. So those, that, that is a good starting place. Second to that, you know, yes, you want to be focused, but the things that you have to look at, like I said before, is how much money is this?

You know, if you have a big gap to cover, I would say, you know, focusing, even if you think you have a good shot at a $200 scholarship, if it’s gonna take an hour for you to do that 200, that application for that $200 scholarship, and there’s one for $7,000, that’s gonna take you that same hour. I would say either find an extra hour so that you can do both or go for the one that’s gonna get you closest to your goal.

So doing, again, it’s a cost benefit analysis. Is this enough money to get me to kind of, my funding goal? Is the length of the application worth the amount of money that they’re, that they’re offering? Is the deadline, does it work with, you know, can I get this done in time and do it in a way that’s, that’s strong enough and worth my time?

You know? So that’s one thing. And then the other thing is creating systems and strategies to make sure that you’re still able to move through the actual application process quickly. So, for instance, one of the things that. I recommend that students do to kind of streamline the writing process is as you’re starting to write, especially as the admissions process opens up, you start to write your personal essays and your supplemental questions and short answers and that type of thing.

As you start to kind of build this cash of writing where you’re talking about yourself and your achievements and your interests and all of that, put that on one big document. Identify four or five categories that keep coming up, color code them, and then use that document as kind of a, like a trigger document.

So if you’re looking at an application for, if you’re saying, today I’m gonna do my STEM applications, and you know that on your big long document of everything you’ve ever written about yourself. Your STEM, anything that has to do with STEM is highlighted in blue. Now you can visually very quickly go to the chunks that you’ve written about STEM and you can even pull it over into a new application, into a new document and start to edit it there.

Or at the very least, it’s gonna trick trick trigger some memories about things that you’ve written so that you’re not reinventing the wheel every single time and you’re able to get into a flow state much more quickly.

Fantastic. Thank you. Thank you. And whenever you have a moment, Ashly, if you can put in the chat, someone asked if you could list those scholarship matching tools again. So if you could add that to the chat, that would be fantastic. Mm-hmm. Let me pull up another question.

Okay. Are you ready for another question, Ashly? I know I’m asking you to multitask. If you receive an outside scholarship in June, say after the student has accepted an admissions office offer already will the university typically reduce the aid package by the amount of the outside scholarship?

And if yes, what part of that package is reduced? That’s a good question. So, The only time that, I won’t say the only time, that’s one of the things that you want to understand about a school’s financial aid policy is whether or not they have sort of a zero sum financial aid policy where they’re gonna limit the amount of funding that you can get.

And if you get a scholarship, they’re gonna put less in. That doesn’t happen often. Like that’s, that’s kind of a, a horrible way to make sure people are able to pay their bills. But if that does happen you want to know about that. But traditionally, the only time that a school is going to reduce their, their kind of commitment, financial commitment or their scholarships to you is if the external scholarship that you got pushes you to or above the cost of attendance.

So the cost of attendance is not only just kind of a flat number that tells you how much it is gonna cost for you to go and do everything you need to do as a student for a year, but it’s also your threshold, your financial aid threshold, where you cannot, at that school have a financial aid package that exceeds the cost of attendance.

And that’s to make sure that people aren’t, you know, fraudulently over applying for scholarships and, and basically profiting from scholarships. So it’s really, they’re gonna say it only costs this much to go here. So this is all you need. So if you have if the cost of attendance at a school is $80,000 and you got a full ride at that school, then you get an external scholarship worth $50,000, then the school will reduce.

Their portion by $50,000 so that there’s space for them to add your external scholarship on. Now, that doesn’t mean that they’ve reduced their commitment to that amount of money. So if that’s a renewable scholarship, if you don’t get your external scholarship the next year, they’re not gonna say you only need a 30,000 last year.

So that’s all you get this year. They have made a commitment to full ride within the cost of attendance. So in terms of what part will they reduce they’ll always reduce the loans first. So they’ll take your loans off first and work study, and then they will reduce federal. So Pell Grant, anything like that.

If there’s state grants, they’ll reduce anything like that first. And then they’ll reduce, or actually, no, they’ll leave Pell grants and state funding on there. And then they’ll reduce theirs. But they’re gonna take your loans first, then they’ll take theirs. Then they’ll take any kind of other federal or state funded grants, need-based grants that you might have.

So they, you should not be left out in the cold because you successfully secured scholarship dollars. That, that’s, that should not happen. Thank you, Ashly. We have three more minutes, so we probably only have time for one or two more. So just for those who haven’t, whose questions aren’t getting answered we apologize, but do please, you know, sign up for the free one-on-one strategy session.

It’s a great opportunity to get those questions answered and in really personalized way as well. So quick question, Ashly. Once you’re in college, can you still apply to scholarships and how does that process look? Absolutely. You can. Absolutely continue to apply for external scholarships. And most of those I put the link for scholarship o and going Mary in the chat.

Both of those allow you to search and to identify yourself as a continuing college student, and they’ll still match you with any scholarships that might be available for continuing college students. But then the other thing that you want to look at, and the other opportunities that come up are institutional opportunities for continuing students.

So there’s a limit to what they will offer incoming students, but usually schools will put some money aside, whether departmental money whether it’s just additional scholarship money, so that. Continuing students can receive merit awards based on their performance from prior years. So knowing what those opportunities are, knowing what they’re tied to, because it might not be a general opportunity, it might again be tied to a department or something like that is important before you do it.

But that’s one of the ways. And then the other thing that becomes available to you are internships, summer internships, and a lot of summer internships. Come and knowing that, okay, as a continuing student, this is my, you know, or this was my financial aid package, but I just got the summer internship on your next on your.

Student account for the

Thank you Ashly. So last question. Thank you. It’s a big one. So apologies on having to having, those are two additional, answer this as succinctly as possible, but can you talk a bit about early decision and early action? If someone is definitely needing financial aid, would you then advise against early decision

to understand apply so early action? So if you wanna go, go early. Action. Go for it. If you just wanna get it in there and have your your decision, then, then go for it. Cool. Early decision. What I usually is if you apply decision, be prepared to pay full freight. If you’re comfortable with figuring out how, how you can pay the full amount outta pocket, it’s not likely that, that you will have to pay the full amount out of pocket, but you could still have a very hefty bill if you’re comfortable paying the full.

So ask yourself really, really,

again, going to my chances of funding. Or getting in

significantly. And I know from my backend experience, early decision is actually more helpful for us than it is for the students. It’s for us to figure out and aid will have left. It doesn’t benefit the student’s. Not less competitive, actually a lot, A lot of times it’s more competitive because we’re not, not saying

with early decision, our decision, we, we would get regular decision. So doing the cost benefit analysis and making that decision. Awesome. Ashly, thank you. Thank you so much. What a fantastic presentation. So that is unfortunately the end of tonight’s webinar. I had a wonderful time getting to connect with you all and I know that Ashly also appreciated the opportunity to talk more about financial aid and how to unlock, unlock the secrets of getting the most aid possible.

So Ashly, thank you again for your time. And for those in the room who are interested in more webinars here is the rest of our June series. You can register now at our website app.CollegeAdvisor.com/webinars. Once again, thank you all for joining tonight and we hope you have a good rest of your evening.

Goodbye all.