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Greetings Students and Families

WHEN, HOW AND WHERE DO I APPLY FOR FINANCIAL AID?

FAFSA and the CSS PROFILE??

The process to apply for financial aid involves at minimum – filing a FAFSA and for most private colleges, a secondary form – a CSS Profile. FAFSA is a federal and free form and the CSS Profile is sponsored by the College Board and there’s a cost to submit that form. The CSS Profile also requires separate forms for both the custodial and non-custodial parents for divorced/separated parents.
– YES YOU CAN AFFORD COLLEGE!
First, let’s get a rough idea of your eligibility for financial aid.
If you haven’t already done so – there’s an estimating tool at the link below for the FAFSA4CASTER– showing you what you can be expected to contribute towards the cost of education based on hypothetical levels of income and assets. This is a non-binding unofficial tool- you should have no fears of experimenting here.
If The FAFSA4CASTER indicates your Estimated Financial Contribution (EFC) estimates are above $60k – there is little if any aid to be received as the cost of attendance exceeds all public universities and is close to the cost of most private universities at 65 to 75k. Any assistance will go to families with more perceived need.
*** You do NOT receive money from FAFSA. This common misconception needs to be addressed straight away. The FAFSA is a federal form – linked to your IRS account. When you complete the form, your student aid report (SAR) will generate your estimated family contribution(EFC) . Colleges use that number as a guide to determining the package you receive. Some families are eligible for federal funds– Pell grants– these are no
Again, here’s the link algorithm is explained in detailed in this lengthy government publication here:
Rough guide- families at $150k in W-2 Earnings EFC $35k (unbelievable but true – see link above on the algorithm of the EFC calculation and more details follow- hang on – this is a lot to absorb.). It’s important to understand how your aid is calculated so you can engage in proper college planning.
It’s also important to avoid scamsters on social media offering to help you reduce your EFC by shady and illegal practices– I cringe every time this information crosses my FB newsfeed and wish I could send up a warning flag. There is no magic – and you shouldn’t pay anyone to help you file a free form or mess with your data- because the form is straightforward for most people. The form you file will link to an IRS data retrieval tool.
*** Any complex and unusual situations aren’t handled on the form but in direct communications with college admissions officers AFTER you are accepted and receive your award letter. That’s where I can guide you best to negotiating your aid package. Your FAFSA leaves little room for changing any variables within your control. Any service that advertises otherwise could get you into a ton of trouble.
IT’S ALSO IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND THAT WHILE THE FAFSA IS A FEDERAL FORM – ESSENTIAL TO RECEIVING ANY FEDERAL AID YOU MIGHT BE ENTITLED TO (I.E. PELL GRANTS OR SUBSIDIZED STUDENT LOANS), THE PRIMARY REASON YOU’VE FILED THIS FORM IS TO GENERATE AN EFC .
THAT VALUE IS USED BY COLLEGES TO DETERMINE WHAT IF ANY AID PACKAGE TO AWARD. IT’S THEIR MONEY AND HOW THEY DECIDE TO PROVIDE AID HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE GOVERNMENT.
LAST FALL, SOME ANGRY PERSON CALLED ME CLAIMING “I PAY A TON IN TAXES” AND SOMEHOW FELT ENTITLED TO ASK ME HOW HE COULD HIDE HIS MONEY AND RECEIVE MORE AID FROM FAFSA. FAFSA DOESN’T AWARD ANYTHING – IT’S JUST A FORM – A FORM USED TO GUIDE COLLEGES IN DETERMINING WHETHER TO GIVE YOUR STUDENT ANY MONEY THAT ALUMNI AND PRIVATE INVESTORS HAVE DONATED FOR THIS PURPOSE.
This is why it’s so important to know how much you can be expected to contribute as you get ready to determine your balanced list of colleges.
FAFSA has a “link/retrive to IRS” process- making this a fairly straightforward form for you to complete. For Seniors ’22–, the link is to your 2020 Federal 1040. If 2021 was a difficult year — we have a process to providing that information to colleges. Other data you’ll need to have on hand include the amount of money in savings, checking, college (529 or state pre-pay) , & retirement funds for both the custodial parent and student. If you have any “complex” issues that don’t fit the questions or windfalls from house sale, one time bonus, inheritance, or other oddities- let’s talk before you enter large numbers that affect your EFC
—  Unusual — that means- income going up or down widely from 2020 to 2021 – job loss, windfall gains/losses, With the pandemic, it’s very likely your family had a reduction in income or business revenues, potentially experienced high medical expenses, separation/divorce -all of this – including supporting family abroad in troubled communities- please let’s talk.
RULE OF THUMB_ divorced or separated families – the lower earning parent (and that includes the income of the remarried spouse) should be listed as the custodial parent. If necessary – update and amend the 2020 tax form and school address to align. The gains to financial aid are significant and outweigh the puny tax deduction of one child. I can walk both parents through this discussion and maintain your privacy from your ex-spouse on financials.
Please check each college’s website to determine if you also need to file a CSS Profile. These are required at most but not all private colleges and few if any public universities.
There are some “tricky” questions you’ll feel are rather personal – and the best way to get over it to be assured the information is confidential. But mostly- if you want financial aid from a private university – you must play by their rules– meaning you must answer all the questions honestly on both the FAFSA and CSS Profile.
HOW IS YOUR FINANCIAL AID AWARD LETTER DETERMINED? UNDERSTANDING FAFSA -CSS PROFILE ?
As noted, to receive financial aid, you must submit a FAFSA. FAFSA is just a form – you don’t receive money from FAFSA. It’s a form that determines how much your family is expected to contribute to the cost of your education- the link to that algorithm is below- and includes a number of things- primarily your family income as reflected on the tax return and your assets. That form will link to your IRS return – so any ads or emails you see from “scamsters” offering to help you with your FAFSA and shield assets is something to ignore..
Please don’t become that misguided gentleman I referenced earlier in this newsletter– there’s no large pot of federal aid awaiting you to cover the cost of an education. There are Pell grants for lower income families — but the primary reason you’re completely a federal form is to guide private colleges in determining your “financial need” and then it’s up to each college whether to award you grants -that likelihood is based on the desirability of the student – a college might see you as needing assistance and award a parental plus loan rather than a grant. It’s their money and they can decide how to allocate and which students are of interest. This is why early college planning matters- because it allows the student to develop clear academic interests and nurture those interests both within and outside the classroom.
Parents if you want a task – please start the process of maintaining a list of all colleges where you’ll track BOTH THE FAFSA and CSS PROFILE DUE DATEs for PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS (these are DIFFERENT FROM CURRENT STUDENTS.)
HOW IS MY FINANCIAL AID PACKAGE DETERMINED:??
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.
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).

THE DETAILS! FAFSA, EFC, CSS PROFILE?!

FAFSA does NOT GIVE YOU MONEY. Yes, I’ve said this now three times- but I need that point to sink in! It is simply an algorithm, which is further impacted by responses to college specific questions on the CSS PROFILE (submitted at the College Board ) and each university can and will do as they please. 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 and defined below.
Completing a FAFSA generates your family ESTIMATED FAMILY CONTRIBUTION – EFC
The difference between the cost of attendance and the EFC represents your UNMET NEED.
Each college can respond to meeting that need in a number of ways.
 If you want more grant award dollars over loans– 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. In contrast, you may only receive a package of loans even if you are eligible for aid. That variance is why we are careful to select colleges that are known to provide stronger packages for a student that fits your admissions profile.
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.
  Loans are what public universities offer.
As noted, seniors ‘22 enrolling as freshman in 2022-23, the 2020 tax return will be used to determine your eligibility. The EASIEST way to complete a FAFSA is to utilize the IRS Data Retrieval tool – it’s a simple click on the FAFSA form- a little blue button “link to IRS”—DONE.
Some families expect some changes in their 2021 income compared to 2020- especially those with small businesses and/or those who lost a job during the pandemic. If your family income will fluctuate by as much as 10% I can help you convey that information to reduce your EFC. Reduced income from job loss, disability, retirement, business loss etc. should be included on your financial aid application.
The FAFSA not only generates your EFC for colleges to determine whether to provide you with scholarship awards, but the FAFSA is also is used to determine your eligibility for federal grants and student loans.
There’s a ton of information on the FAFSA government webpages, and much of it is clear but so overwhelming to find what you might need to know. I provided some basic information to get you started and invite you to contact me to discuss your concerns and unusual circumstances.
Nearly all undergraduate public and private universities utilize the FAFSA financial model to determine the extent of private institutional aid awarded, if any.   The FAFSA approach seeks to estimate the “Estimated Family Contribution (EFC)” towards the “Cost of Attendance”.
The Cost of Attendance for each student is unique to each college and includes tuition, room & board, books, supplies, personal expenses, travel and applicable fees. The range across private institutions is $45 to $70k+.
Keep in mind that this is a budget of sorts, whereby the first two items are billed through the College Bursar and paid directly to the institution. These are the two largest items comprising COA. The remaining items are out-of-pocket expenses leaving quite a bit of room for a student/family to minimize costs with reasonable effort to do so.
The key piece of information we need to focus upon is your family Estimated Family Contribution (EFC).
The difference between the COA and the EFC is your family’s Unmet Financial Need.
How a college meets that difference is determined by all the factors noted at the outset of this note: size of endowment, alumni giving, etc and the strength of the student’s application.
??? TIP: Thinking of selling your home and downsizing? –
DO NOT DO THIS!
The cash proceeds from a home sale are included in determining the EFC. The proceeds of that sale end up in your savings/checking account – and those values are used in determining your EFC. In sharp contrast, the value of your primary home and retirement savings are both excluded in calculating your EFC!
Don’t sell your home until after your youngest child starts the senior year of college. A second mortgage has the desired impact on your EFC.
You might ask me if you should take savings and buy a large home – NO, because the question on the FAFSA and CSS Profile asks “year of purchase”. The senior year is too late to move savings into home assets for financial aid planning.
Most important- your home is your asset – and financial planners would clearly discourage you from handing your home to your child to pay for college!

DETERMINING YOUR EFC?

Factors that determine an EFC include parental AGI, assets in the student’s name, unusually high medical expenses, divorce/separation status and the number of children in college at the same time.
DIVORCED and FINANCIAL AID: I’ve worked with several divorced and blended families and I am able to sit down with you one-on-one to discuss your situation so we can ensure that the college choices are supported by what your family can afford and how financial aid works. Regardless of what your divorce decree indicates, the lower earning parent should claim the student as a dependent on the 1040 – thus becoming the custodial parent for FAFSA purposes. I also maintain a database of colleges that request and overlook the non-custodial parent income.
Each situation is unique and I will work on your behalf to minimize the pain of applying for and understanding financial aid.  The most important consideration for all students is to ensure you haven’t eliminated colleges on your radar given misconceptions about financial aid.
DO YOU HAVE A STRATEGIC EDUCATIONAL & COLLEGE ADMISSIONS PLAN FOR SUCCESS?
ARE YOU ON TARGET?
YOUR PERSONALIZED EDUCATIONAL AND COLLEGE ADMISSIONS PLAN RESULTS IN MOTIVATED, SELF-DIRECTED & CONFIDENT YOUNG ADULTS READY TO SUCCEED!
WITH OVER THIRTY YEARS OF EXPERIENCE AS A UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR & ADMISSIONS COMMITTEE MEMBER YOU’RE INVITED TO LEVERAGE HER EXTENSIVE KNOWLEDGE OF UNIVERSITY CURRICULA AND CAREER OPPORTUNITIES TO BUILD YOUR COLLEGE PLAN!.
I WISH ALL HIGH SCHOOL AND UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS CONTINUED SUCCESS – defined by a joyful and meaningful year both within and outside the classroom.
COLLEGE ADMISSIONS PLANNING – Define and Set Your Goals with College Advisor Bonnie Rabin, PhD
STEM, Business, Humanities, Creative Arts – Find Your Passion and Be Unique!
If you’re a Junior ’23 you should be actively engaged in research on the variety of college majors. I’d welcome the opportunity to guide you to defining your balanced short-list of colleges by June 22 – and hopefully you’ll be joining me at my June Writers Block Workshop.
If you come prepared daily and finish assigned tasks- you will finish your Common App core essay before summer!
I look forward to hearing more about your emerging academic and personal interests to help navigate a path for success and impact. Don’t be challenged by college application essay prompts that ask “How will you innovate to change the work”– begin your discovery as early as 8th grade!
Best wishes for continued joy and learning throughout the academic year!
Warm Regards!
Bonnie
Does your student have an Educational & College Admissions Plan? On Target?
Bonnie R. Rabin, Ph.D.
Personalized Educational & College Admissions Services
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College Consultant Bonnie Rabin with STEM student and College Admissions Acceptance Letters

Congrats!!! A SAMPLE of our recent College Acceptances Include:
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