Greetings Students and Families,

Whether you’re contemplating next year’s courses Selecting  High School Courses, Electives, AICE vs AP vs IB  as you begin high school, or you’re a Rising Senior (2022) starting the college application process, all families have many questions about financial aid and paying for college.  Many questions surface including:

  • Is our family eligible for financial aid?
  • When and how do we apply for financial aid and what’s a FAFSA or CSS Profile?
  • What Scholarships are available?
  • Under what circumstances should we consider a private college in lieu of  our state’s public universities-?(especially if you’ve participated in your state’s college planning 529 plan such as the Florida’s Pre-Pay program.)

    In this four-part series on Financial Aid and Scholarships-

    I’ll answer all these questions and also how financial aid is an essential part of forming your balanced list of colleges.  Early academic planning can be invaluable to positioning each student to realize educational goals that are affordable. If you’re short on time, my video is an overview and you can return to the blog series when you’re ready.

Twice a year I write about Financial Aid and Scholarships. During late spring, I inform families of all that is needed to understand the process as many Rising Seniors are shaping/finalizing their final “balanced” list of colleges as we head into the Common App 2021-22 College Application cycle. I also write about this topic during fall when juniors are beginning to visit colleges and our seniors are getting ready to submit their financial aid and scholarship applications. There’s been a number or changes the past year and this very very very detailed newsletter is a must-read for any middle or high school family.
Early planning will help you shape your balanced college lists, avoid disappointment and underscore for all students what is involved in securing scholarships (vs financial aid). It is absolutely never too earn to build a college plan – preparing for undergraduate study, college applications and increasing your opportunities for scholarships.
I want to get you up to speed on all of this! This note provides the details you need to understand EVERYTHING you need to know about financial aid and scholarships. Please reach out to schedule your College Admissions Planning Assessment.
Whether you are a parent of a high school senior or freshman, you’ll find all of the information provided today invaluable. I invite families to schedule a conversation if you have any questions about the process of applying for financial aid and particularly if your potentially unique/odd etc. circumstances require some guidance in the navigation of the standard FAFSA and CSS Profiles (I’ll tell you all about those two forms below in more detail). Please ignore misguided information and I want to assure you there is absolutely no increase in your aid package for filing your financial aid forms tomorrow. The size of your aid package is completely unrelated to the date you submit your FAFSA. Get it right – don’t rush.  Financial aid and Merit Scholarships are two different beasts- I’ll explain all of this and more in this newsletters.
*** There’s plenty of money– ignore the sticker price!
YES YOU CAN AFFORD COLLEGE. As you’ll learn today, there are colleges that will cost you less than your state public institution.
The “fit” between a student and a university is based upon three pillars, including “Academics”,  “Social” and “Financial”.


Every family faces unique financial circumstances and we factor those into the choices of where to apply and enroll.If you’re ineligible for financial.  Given the economic uncertainty many are facing in these challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s often difficult to imaging how to commit to the cost of higher education.  Universities are adapting and adjusting.  If you’re a rising senior ’21– you’ll be applying for financial aid during the late fall of 2020 based on your 2019 tax return and the income earned during that year.  If your financial circumstances changed, please reach out to discuss how to alert colleges of the change during NOT AFTER the financial aid application process.  Whether your family is financial secure or facing serious challenges– the cost of a four-year undergraduate degree is a significant investment.  You do get what you pay for-but the sad part– more selective universities with stronger educational programs are the same price as less selective programs.  The cost of running a university is the same – and it’s not reflected in the price tag.  That said, this blog informs you about how to understand that the price tag isn’t always what you are going to pay. Today, I’ll help you to understand how to access scholarships and financial aid will reduce the stress that results from mis-information and yes, being an easy target for “scholarship and financial aid scamsters!”
THERE ARE MANY CAMPUSES PROVIDING an EXCELLENT EDUCATION offering deep discounts on tuition given your “admissions profile”.  Please do NOT navigate to lists such as those published by various publications since these do not incorporate information about your student’s particular college admissions profile and mislead your family.

The past few weeks I’ve been speaking with parents of rising seniors as we hone in on their list of colleges for the 2021-22  college application season.  One of the questions most often raised is whether a student should be applying to private colleges if a family has participated in their state’s pre-paid tuition plan?   The short answer to the question is that there are many outstanding universities offering both financial need-based and merit based assistance.  Colleges want you!  Universities provide inviting “discounts” on tuition.

Click to schedule an informative College Admissions Planning Session with Online College Advisor Bonnie Rabin, PhD

Knowing how evaluate your financial situation and how to plan your high school student’s academic path in a way that creates scholarship opportunities is essential.  

As regular readers of my newsletters know, each school year is an opportunity for further exploration into academic areas of interest and strength, as well as enhancing existing learning and time management strategies.  Please  CONTACT ME to schedule your Educational and College Admissions Planning Assessment.

Yes you can afford college!

Little known facts about financial aid and scholarships….

As an experienced university faculty and admissions committee member, let’s begin with a discussion of how colleges determine your financial aid award and some tips to increase your chances of receiving financial aid and scholarships.

collage advisor Bonnie R. Rabin with a client

Need Blind Admissions
Nearly all colleges practice “need blind admissions” meaning admissions decisions are unrelated to your request to be considered for financial aid.  That said, university budgets and financial aid awards are built around “discounting” – a practice of offsetting a college’s annual financial aid budget with the dollars received from full paying students to minimize the impact on the institution’s endowment.   As a full-paying family, you may be surprised to know that as much as a quarter to a third of your tuition dollars are used to award financial aid to another deserving student.   We know for certain that many colleges are seeing some budget shortfalls at the moment as families hedge their bets on enrollment for Fall given the uncertainty of whether classes will be offered in-person or online. We also know that international students in many universities are a significant component of full pay tuition revenue– yet, borders are closed to travel for many countries. This is a fluid situation impacting financial aid and university operating budgets in the short-term.

Here’s some really great news– ! Click to read:

Discount Rates Hit Record Highs

and   Private Colleges Set New Record on Tuition Discounts

What is the real cost of a four-year undergraduate degree?  The short answer is to avoid sticker price misconceptions. 

As noted, College Admissions is “need-blind”.  There is no adverse impact on admissions if you apply for financial aid. Likewise, you don’t increase your chances of admission being a full-pay student.
There are two sources of funds:
Need based financial aid
     Merit based Scholarships.
Financial assistance can originate with the college or from a third party (federal/state governments or private scholarships).
Need Based Aid – Financial aid is awarded directly from the college based on your demonstrated financial need as determined by your FAFSA Estimated Family Contribution (EFC).   Details follow below.

A number of privately funded merit-based scholarships are also need-based, including the prestigious QUESTBRIDGE  full scholarship for students with demonstrated financial need and outstanding academic achievements.

Low income families are encouraged to explore Questbridge. Applications begin during the Junior year!!
Merit Based Aid – These awards are based on a competitive review of the student’s academics, athletics, community service, etc. The awards are unrelated to financial need (or lack thereof).  Merit aid is awarded by colleges and also by private scholarship funds.
  • There are scholarships for a variety of majors and these are VERY competitive.
    Ron Brown Scholarship is an example of a private scholarship.
    Some competitive colleges offering  full-rides include Penn State, Miami, Boston, Washington University, Emory, Vanderbilt
  • The chances of receiving a lucrative scholarship increase with higher GPA and demonstrated research/competition in your intended field of study.
    This is just one of the reasons why I encourage students in 8th-10th grades to focus on setting their educational goals early and taking steps to realize these goals. 
    Earning a 4.0 GPA is impressive but insufficient to earn  prestigious merit based awards!  Scholarships are given to students with impressive accomplishments both within and outside the classroom.  DO YOU HAVE A COLLEGE ADMISSIONS PLAN?
  • Private colleges will offset  and reduce some or all of any grants awarded by the amount of external scholarships received.
As noted above in two recent links confirming that tuition discounting is at an all time high.  I can tell you that nearly all of my recent graduates have sufficient tuition discounts at many of the colleges they’ve been accepted to- this independent of financial need.
Let’s be crystal clear.  While admissions is need-blind, once admitted, if you are eligible for financial aid (COA-EFC= Unmet Need),  institutional financial aid can be in the form of grants, work-study, student loans and parent loans.  The mix of that aid is subject to negotiation which will be discussed in a subsequent newsletter/blog.
I’ve seen financial aid award letters including $60k of grants where  the same student receives a package of $50k in parent and student loans at another university!!  What does this tell you about how attractive a college finds your student? What does this tell you about how to target and select colleges?  If you want more money– your admissions strategy is to be the top end of the applicant pool.  e.g. If your student has a 3.6 GPA, you’ll receive more grant money at colleges that seek out students with a 3.3 GPA.


Your unmet need is certainly subject to negotiation depending on a number of factors that relate relate to the strength of the student’s profile, gender, selected major, location to name a few.  
The stronger your admissions portfolio and in particular your common application essay(s) where you clearly demonstrate how you will contribute to the institution and show “informed interest”, if you’re eligible for aid, the greater are your chances of receiving an award letter with more grants and less of an amount in loans. 

It is heartbreaking to receive a well-earned acceptance letter only to open the financial award letter and see LOANS rather than grants.  

Loans are what public universities offer.
KEY POINT!!   Please begin your Educational and College Admissions Planning EARLY in High School.  Setting goals and building your strategic plan to allow each young adult to explore emerging academic interests and leverage personal interests will set you apart from tens of thousands of equally qualified and seamingly identical applicants.   Please,    College Planning- Don’t Leave It to “CHANCE” ,but begin your planning early.


college band marching

Confidence Creates Success!

Every academic year is an opportunity for transformative experiences both within and outside the classroom.

Success is not only measured by college admission acceptances, but is evidenced by learning, motivation, personal character and the impactful connections young adults assume within “communities”.

Likewise, no middle or high school student should become so lost in an overloaded calendar of courses and activities as to have overlooked the joy of the actual learning taking place in coursework and carefully selected extracurricular pursuits.

Experiences both within and outside the classroom greatly impact the likelihood of a academic and college admissions success and a  seamless transition to the undergraduate experience.


My approach guides each young adult through a process of self-discovery to learn more about their academic and personal strengths and assume responsibility for their path ahead. Academic “advising” begins way before high school. Yes, all students need to reach their highest academic potential but, if the entirety of the message they hear focuses solely on maximizing their GPA, we miss an opportunity to help each student have experiences that prepare them for personal and academic success.

Young adults have long days and they work hard at school. There should be opportunities for them to find joy and direction in their personal lives. It is my hope that your student’s passion for learning and involvement in activities outside the classroom continues throughout the school year and prepares them for a seamless transition from high school to their undergraduate community. Independence and intrinsic-motivation are achieved over many years; they aren’t provided in the freshman dorm welcome package!

Bonnie with 4 students seeking college admissions assistance

Experience gives each young adult the power and confidence to be themselves!



There’s no magic formula for being accepted into a selective university, but I can guide each family through the college application process as well as increase the likelihood that your student will be successful throughout high school, and have a seamless transition to their undergraduate community.


Motivated, Self-Directed & Confident Young Adults
Ready to Succeed as High School and Undergraduate Students!


In our June and fall WRITERS’ BLOCK WORKSHOP SERIES  you will dedicate time to completing your college essays within a supportive small group setting guided by College Admissions Counselor Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D. and her team of educators.