Here is where we post many of the questions we are frequently asked at our presentations and in our free consultations.  Many of these questions are broad and don’t have one answer.  For answers relating to specific topics in these questions, please check out our blog.  If you would like specific answers pertaining your particular situation, please send us a message through our contact box.  You will not be added to any newsletter or sent any spam.

If you are unsure how to fill out the form, consult a licensed financial adviser.  At College Bound Strategies, our financial consultants assess your finances, and make sure that your are properly positioned to get the most out of your financial aid.  When the FAFSA is released in January, an adviser will sit down with you and fill it out with you, making sure everything is in the proper box.  Be careful of those claiming they can fill it out for you.  No one can take possession of your pin and fill it out for you without you being present as it would be violating federal law.

A common concern among parents is that they make too much to get financial aid.  Often times these families think there is no point to filling out the FAFSA.  When talking about aid that is earned through merit, the income does not determine how much aid is awarded due to the success of the student, but the FAFSA is required to even qualify for the aid.  When talking about need based aid, there are many strategies that can be implemented to improve how you are positioned to qualify for additional aid.  The FAFSA determines a family’s expected contribution through both income and assets.  There is never any way to guarantee a cheap cost regardless of income, but in many cases you can improve how you’re positioned for your expected contribution.  To see if there are any options to take advantage of that improve your EFC, send us a message to schedule a free consultation with a licensed financial professional.

There are a couple different types of applications.  The state school systems have their own applications.  In these applications, the one application can be applied to any number of the different schools within the system, although different schools my require a supplement to the application.  Many private schools use the Common App and Universal App.  The University of California, California State, Common, and Universal Applications can be found on our website under Resources and College Applications.  To find out which schools take the different apps, go to the app website and pull up the listing of the different schools that take the application.  Keep in mind that some schools may not take any of the published apps and may require their own application.  Please see our blog for more information of the applications.

There are two ways to fill out the FAFSA.  You can fill it out manually and mail it in, or you can do it online.  Filling it out online in the preferred method, as it also allows you to log in the next year to simply update your information. The FAFSA Pin is your digital signature, and has to be applied for ahead of time.  Once you apply for it, it has to be processed and will be mailed to you.  It is recommended that you do this prior to the form coming out in January so that you can apply as soon as possible.  You get your pin by applying for it on the Federal Student Aid Website.  We have provided a link below.

Status matters when applying for financial aid.  A dependent student reports parent’s assets and income to the school when applying for financial aid, while an independent student does not.  Although this strategies sounds appealing when trying to find more aid, there is a list of criteria to qualify as an independent student:

  • 24 or older
  • Married or separated
  • Active duty military
  • Veteran
  • Parents are deceased
  • A court or other organization has been presented evidence and determined you are:
    1. emancipated
    2. homeless
    3. unaccompanied youth
    4. in legal guardianship

It is never recommended to only apply to one school.  Some students say they already know where they want to go.  Even if you already know where you want to go, there is no guarantee that the school will accept you.  Therefore it is strongly recommended that there be a few other schools in the portfolio.  Another strong factor to consider here is the aspect of student aid.  When you only apply to one school, that school sees that they are your only option.  They have no competition, and therefore no incentive to award you more financial aid.  To give yourself the most leverage in the competition for financial aid, and more options should your school of choice not accept you, it is worth the time to apply to more than one school: preferably 4 to 6.

An impacted school is one that is overcrowded.  Overcrowded schools are difficult to get through in the usual four years.  Too many students creates high demand of classes, prevents students from getting all the necessary classes, and forcing them to take extra semesters.  This is why only 34% of students graduate in 4 years.  There are still students who complete in four years, but it requires significant persistence in getting classes.  This has become more common in California state schools.  Extra semesters result in extra cost.  While state schools look the cheaper option, factor in the extra time when weighing the private schools versus public in affordability.

The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  Filling out this form is what qualifies you for any financial award from the school, whether it be need based scholarships, merit scholarships, or federal subsidized and unsubsidized loans.  It is a relatively simple form that asks for incomes, and various assets.  This form is used to determine what your effective family contribution (EFC): the amount the federal government says you should be able to contribute to college education.  The form comes out during the January of the preceding school year.

There are many types of scholarships.  There are need and merit based scholarships available from the schools themselves.  Merit based scholarships are awarded based on special ability: academics, sports and so on.  Most of the scholarship money available comes from these sources.  For more on how these scholarships and financial aid work, please check out our blog, or submit your name and email to have your question answered by a licensed professional. Scholarships are also available from private groups who want to promote their specific cause or profession.  These come from trade groups, club and business organizations, and non-profit groups.  Some of these have general requirements, while others have specific eligibility requirements.  These award range from smaller amount ($200), to larger amounts of ten thousand.  Scholarships from these secondary sources only account for 4% of aid received by undergraduates. A good place to start your search for scholarships would be Fastweb or Kaarme.  We do recommend these sites as a tool to search for scholarships, but caution you to not enter your information so as to avoid any unwanted emails.  Again for more information on these secondary scholarships, please check out our blog, or submit your questions in our contact box.