Now you've got your aid report, but what does it mean? Let's break down some common, and commonly misunderstood, financial aid terms. Visit Part 1 for definitions of financial aid acronyms.
Grant: A grant is money that you receive from the government or from the school that you do not have to pay back. Most often, grant money just appears as a credit on your tuition bill. You will probably not receive a check. (Exceptions to this are programs like the GI Bill, which grant money for off-campus housing and incidentals.)
Pell Grant: The Pell Grant is a federal grant you receive based on your EFC and financial need. For the 2014-2015 school year, the full amount of the Pell Grant is $5,730, although you may be awarded a smaller amount, based on your individual circumstances.
Scholarship: You may receive scholarships from your college or from outside sources. Scholarship money is usually not given as a check to the student but rather sent from the source to the financial aid office and credited against your tuition. Some scholarships do pay the student directly, but most do not. It’s a good idea to write a thank you note to any organization that provides you a scholarship, especially if the scholarship is renewable.
Subsidized loan: A subsidized loan is a loan either given by or underwritten by the federal government. Unlike regular, unsubsidized loans, the government pays the interest that would accrue while the recipient is either in school, in a grace period or in deferment.
Unsubsidized loan: Like a car loan or mortgage, an unsubsidized student loan accrues interest immediately, even though they often don’t require payment to begin immediately.
Work-study: The federal government subsidized the work-study program by giving money to the college to help pay campus employees who are eligible for work-study. Even if you are awarded a certain amount of work-study money in your financial aid package, it is the student’s responsibility to find a work-study-eligible job and get hired. The job is not assigned to you. You will be paid an hourly wage, either weekly or monthly, and be able to use that money for incidental expenses (i.e. cash).
You can find additional information on the types of federal aid available on this video from StudentAid.gov.
It's financial aid time! As financial aid expert Mark Kantrowitz points out: “Students who file the FAFSA in January, February or March receive more than twice as much grant funding, on average, as students who file the FAFSA later in the aid application cycle.” Thus it's important that you start planning to fill out the FAFSA asap. Unfortunately, the financial aid process is riddled with acronyms. This is an attempt to help you sort through them.
CSS PROFILE: The PROFILE is a service of the College Board and is used to college family financial information in addition to the FAFSA.
DRT: The Data Retrieval Tool, or DRT, is a web-based tool that allows you to retrieve your tax information from your current income tax statement, rather than working from hard copies of your tax return. The DRT comes online February 1 and is available to be used to file or correct your FAFSA about two weeks after you have filed your taxes. Watch the “IRS Data Retrieval Tool” video for more info.
EFC: The Expected Family Contribution, or EFC, is a number you receive based on the information you reported on the FAFSA. This number is a score, not a dollar amount, although, like a dollar amount, the smaller the number the more aid you are likely to receive.
FAFSA: The Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA is available in hard-copy or in an interactive application on the web. It is free to file; don’t let anyone try to charge you to file FAFSA.
SAR: The SAR (“Sar”) is the Student Aid Report. You should receive your SAR a week or two after filing the FAFSA electronically. It will recap all the info you filed and will list your EFC, or expected family contribution.
See part 2 for definitions of various kinds of financial aid.
Nevertheless, some of the rules of podcasting also apply to video production.
I have to admit they’re not my favorite. I’m a visual thinker and a haptic (or tactile) learner, so I find most sorts of audio-only media to be excruciating. I can tolerate it for short periods, if the topic is of high interest, but for the most part, talk radio, audiobooks, podcasts—they make me shudder.
I have seen them done well. There is a podcast listed on iTunes from the Admissions Office of Reed College. It has a video slideshow attached to it, so there is something for the eyes and the ears. Recently, I’ve also seen video podcasts, but it seems as though podcasting is being superseded by YouTube videos, much the way radio was superseded by television. Thus, I think it is more in a counselor’s best interest to have a YouTube channel, rather than podcasting.
Nevertheless, some of the rules of podcasting also apply to video production. Each episode should be limited in scope, to better fit the busy lives and short attention spans of teens and parents. Trying to pack in too much content will cause your audience’s eyes to glaze over and they will quickly move on to the next thing. If you’re interviewing someone, be sure to research your guest and prep your questions in advance. The conversation flows more naturally when you both know what to expect.
Use a natural voice and demeanor. You don’t need the measured cadence of an NPR anchor, but practice your presentation so you don’t sound like you’re reading a script, even if you are. Be aware of distractions in the background, either auditory or visual. A computer in a relatively empty room will sound like you’re broadcasting from the bottom of a well. Other ambient noise that you may no longer notice, such as the hum of a ceiling fan or talking in the next room, can be picked up by your mic and make listening to your presentation uncomfortable.
In addition to these rules, videos have their own pitfalls. A super busy background, such as a bookshelf, becomes even more of a distraction if you are sitting very close to it. Your camera should be approximately half the distance to you that someone sitting in the room with you would be, to give the illusion that your audience is part of the conversation. Wear something comfortable and brightly colored, but not a riot of color. A black top and a pretty scarf or tie will make you look professional and not distract from your message.
Whether you choose to share your message through podcasts or a YouTube channel, the multimedia approach will benefit both you and your clients.
Technology is indispensable for the modern college student. Not only do phones and computers make their lives as students easier and more interesting, but they also provide a wealth of information related to the college admissions process. Databases like Big Future (searchable college information), Fastweb (scholarships and financial aid), and Niche (campus ratings and reviews) provide many different ways to get good information on your college choices. (See Resources for more links to great sites.)
Because today’s college-going students spend so much of their lives online, universities, high schools and independent counselors have bought into social media in a big way. Email campaigns can reach 100,000 prospective students for only the cost of the address list but are increasingly seeming old-fashioned. Websites like YouVisit offer virtual tours by slideshow or, increasingly, video. Students can research a school, estimate costs with a net price calculator and then send in an application (either through the school's website, the Common App or Universal App) without touching a single piece of paper. In addition to their websites, prospective students can make contact with colleges through online or Twitter “office hours,” blogs, Facebook groups, Youtube and Instagram.
Social media also offers a tidal wave of college admissions advice. Putting “college admissions process” into Google yields 13 million hits from both knowledgeable and not-so-knowledgeable sources. There are 111 million hits for just "college admissions." Youtube shows 233,000 videos tagged as “college admissions.” These videos include news media video, information from college admissions offices, and advice from college counselors. There are an additional 16.4 million “how to college” videos from college students themselves. It is easy for students to get overwhelmed or sent down the wrong path.
In this environment, it is crucial that we as college counselors and parents help our student(s) sort through this deluge of media and online information. Just because our kids are “digital natives,” that doesn’t mean they can critically evaluate the advice coming to them from random directions. The existence of Fafsa.edu and Fafsa.com—both spoof sites that charge you to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)(emphasis mine)—proves that attention to detail and double-checking sources is critical for all information found on the web. The internet has given us a multitude of ways to find all sorts of information about the college admissions process. It’s up to us to critically evaluate the information we find and to teach our students how to do the same.
Lessa Scherrer is an college admissions consultant who has worked with college-bound students for many years. She is a member of NACAC and WACAC and also teaches ACT Prep, speed-reading, college study skills and college-level writing.
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