Hello fellow parents, and welcome!
For seniors, ’tis the season for early decision notifications and the scramble to get those regular decision applications submitted. For juniors, the reality is hitting that it’s go-time for real on their journey toward college admission. For every parent–whether just getting started, or midway through, or anxious for a preview of what’s to come–my book College Admissions Cracked makes a great holiday gift!
Lots of tips appear in the book for seniors who are admitted or denied, and I’ve included a Student Checklist For What to do Besides Wait When Waitlisted (or Deferred) as a free resource you can easily reference on my website. But a big part of your decision involves deciphering the often totally confusing Financial Aid Awards that arrive with acceptances. Here’s a key to help you read them:
Financial Aid “Award” Primer
Money you never have to pay back…
Grant: the free money you were hoping for.
Merit Scholarship: money the college has decided to gift your student, maybe as a reward for academic excellence, maybe to lure your kid to enroll (regardless, it’s legit to feel proud and grateful). Double-check if it’s an annual or a one-time offer.
Need-Based Scholarship: money gifted to you based on the $#%!! FAFSA and CSS Profile forms you filled out. Even if a college says they will cover “full demonstrated need,” sometimes the college’s version of covering your need includes loans (do you see why I put the word “award” in quotations?).
Money you’ll pay for…
Loans:Subsidized loans (interest doesn’t begin accruing until after college graduation) have a lower interest rate over the life of the loan than unsubsidized loans (interest begins accruing the minute you take out the loan), but eventually you have to pay any borrowed money back, plus lots of interest.
Student Employment/Work-Study: The only “award” about this is that your kid can get first dibs on campus jobs. Otherwise, your kid needs to pay with time and work for monetary compensation.
Total Family Contribution (TFC):This is the amount the college has decided you can afford to pay (ha!) through some secret calculations.
Definitions you won’t find on the award offer from colleges…
Gapping: The difference between the financial aid the college offers you and your actual financial need.
Appeal:Speak up and ask for more money if the TFC requested is lame. I know it may feel awkward (I’ve included a telephone script in College Admissions Cracked to prop you up), but the worst a college can say is no!
Sanity saving mantras…
If you’re watching your kid scramble to get applications done at the last possible minute: Done is better than perfect.
If everyone you know is asking you where your kid is applying to college:
Inhale. Exhale. Repeat.
If your kid is denied from their first-choice college:
Okay, that happened (or didn’t happen). What’s next?
Suitable for all occasions, college-admission related or otherwise:
The Rule of Five: If it won’t matter in five years, don’t waste 5 second stressing about it.
I wish you a blissful, tranquil holiday! Until next year,