Making Sense of the FAFSA

Let's talk about the FAFSA— or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The most important thing to remember is that the FAFSA for the 2023-2024 school year opens on October 1, 2022, which means that by the time you’re seeing this it should be up and running (and keep that date in mind— it opens on October 1st every year). 

You will be using your 2021 tax return to complete the 2023-2024 FAFSA— and make sure that you have your spouse’s returns handy too, as well as your child’s if they had a job in the last year. 

What does the FAFSA do?

The FAFSA will determine your need for financial aid based on your previous years’ tax returns. 

The need based barrier is much higher than families expect. Last year, a family of four with a total family income of around $60,000 only received $448 for need based money. In addition to that, their child did qualify for the $5,500 in student loans, and $3,500 of it was subsidized, meaning...

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Two Things That Can Set You Apart When Applying To College!

College application season is upon us! The fact is that the more selective the school, the more likely you are to meet all of the requirements and STILL be denied. So you may be wondering: how can I set myself apart from everyone else? 

I have interviewed dozens of college admissions reps from schools all over, and their recommendations allow us to better help YOUR child gain admission to their first choice school.

Essays make a difference!

To provide the best opportunities, we encourage students to send their essay to ALL schools— even those that do not require an essay. 

Providing an essay shows that you are willing to do extra work and adds insight to who you are as a person. 

However, there are definitely some things that you should NOT write about— including your sports career, or your involvement in a volunteer activity that is already listed in the activities section of the CommonApp.

 Why no sports essay?

The goal of an essay is...

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GUEST BLOG: Hospitals, Banks & Colleges: 3 Places Parents Need Young Adult Power of Attorney Forms

college forms legal mama bear Jul 28, 2022

Many parents forget that once their child hits 18, they no longer have legal rights to make decisions for their young adult children. This can become a major issue when it comes to medical emergencies or financial decisions. Our partner, Mama Bear Legal Formscan shed some light on why getting your legal documents in order before the worst happens is so important!

Summer is an exciting time. For families, it’s time to take that trip they’ve been planning. For new college students, it’s a time of transition and preparation.

For parents, the summer months mean helping their students get ready for the next stage of their lives. For many, that includes living away from the home and city they were raised in for the first time.

As you take care of all the things, big and small, getting your child ready for school, don’t overlook a set of important legal documents that every parent should have in place for their young adult student – a young adult...

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How Do You Help Your Child Plan For Their Happiness?

I remember Mary walking into my office. She appeared calm and relaxed, while her son, Michael, was visibly stressed. Mary shared her goals for her son with many specific details: top three colleges to which he should apply, the major he should study, the type of career he should plan for, and the list of pressing items to be handled so everything else could fall into place. I understood her desire to ensure her son had all of the opportunities he deserved or wanted. I appreciated that she had researched schools and the college application process. But, I also felt concerned for Michael’s immediate future.

Throughout the conversation with his mother, I noticed him slump further and further in the chair, the web of his hand cradling his forehead as he gazed into his lap. I see this often, as parents wanting the best and imagining their children living a better life than they did, become the directors while children are merely actors. 

We often wish our kids showed more...

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The Portfolio Model: A Successor to the Current College Application Process

 
 
 
Often parents and students are overwhelmed with the anxiety that surrounds the college admission process. While we work with students to manage this process and make it stress free, my goal is always to help each student grow into who they want to become.
 
I emphasize the right fit over the school's name. I encourage students to discover their passion and not follow the well-meaning but often limited suggestions from teachers and parents, "you are good at math, become an engineer" "you are so smart, you should become a doctor" and similar comments that are solely based on skills but not desire, passion, or interest.  
 
I do not want students to miss out on the opportunity to find a career path that will fulfill them, consistently inspire them to succeed, and that they will enjoy. With recent reports showing that 62% of kids experience depression in college due to feeling unsure of their path, I think the following article is timely in so...
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How to Make Up For The Volunteer Gap In Your Child's Resume

Covid has had a really big impact on our children, especially when it comes to volunteer opportunities and applying to college

In the past, students were able to sign up for volunteer opportunities and resume builders with very few barriers. We now see many students who don’t know what to put on their resume for volunteer work or extracurricular activities. They never had a chance with social distancing and everything being closed over the last few years due to Covid. 

Across the board, we have heard that colleges are looking for students who will participate and add to their community. Volunteer work is crucial when applying to colleges because it shows them that you have already taken the initiative to get involved. 

So what can your child do now to fill that volunteer gap on their resume?

Here are some of the strategies we use with our students that have a big impact, in less time. 

Senior Centers / Nursing Homes/ Assisted Living...

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How to Handle Your Deferral from a University That is One of Your Top 2 Choices

Being deferred means you have met all of the school’s requirements. They liked your application. They did not have a reason to say no.

Unfortunately, schools only have a limited number of spaces available in their early application pool. Based on conversations with many Admission Directors this fall, I learned that more than 50% of most schools' applicants exceed their student profile. But they still could not accept all of the equally qualified candidates— and some got moved to the deferred pool. These candidates are not denied— they will simply  be reviewed again with the regular decision applicants.

However, as an early applicant you still have an edge: you were proactive.

Keep in mind that while you may meet all of their qualifications, schools are looking for students who look like their student body, who add to the class they are assembling. This is no easy task. They are trying to ensure that when they select an applicant, the student is likely...

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How To Help Your Child Choose The Right Career Path

One of the goals of high school is to prepare students for the “next level” of education, but the reality is that the "next level" is different for everyone. Not all careers begin with a 4-year degree. Some require a post-graduate degree (which means more than 4 years!), or maybe a 2-year degree, technical or trade school, apprenticeships, or none of the above! The question becomes, how do you decide what kind of school or training you should pursue?

You work backwards!

So many students assume that the next step for them is applying to college at a 4-year school, when they should really be thinking about what they ultimately want to do with their lives. By choosing a career end goal, a student can piece out what steps they need to take in between where they are now and where they want to be.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Your child has been asked this question since they could talk. And while their answers may have changed from the princess, dinosaur,...

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How To Start Your College Planning

Making a plan EARLY makes a difference!

When you child's senior year rolls around and they have to sit down to list out their activities and achievements, what are they going to put down? What will their grades look like? What will they write their admissions essays about? These are all questions to consider early, before the last-minute crunch time stress sets in. Knowing what information to keep track of and look for early can save heaps of stress and set your child apart from the rest. 

9th Grade College Planning Timeline

  • Get Involved. Try new things. No one is asking you to commit to something for four
    years, just try it.

    Clubs, sports, music, drama, yearbook, student council are all valuable on your college application. Don't see something that interests you? Create a club or activity! I know students that have organized a 5k fundraiser for a family that suffered a loss. Think outside the box. If you have the opportunity to take a leadership role, do it. Participation...
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Approaching College With Foresight

From the day your kids were born, you wanted to create the best possible life for them. So, what did you do?

You planned.

You planned absolutely anything you could, from the big stuff like finding the best preschool to enroll them in to the small stuff like their lunch and outfits for their first day of school. Mapping out your child’s life to set them up for maximal success was never easy, but as they grow up that map becomes much messier, harder to decipher. More avenues are opened, creating more possibilities. In the blink of an eye, the most difficult decision you have to help them make shifts from whether they want a PB & J or a turkey sandwich for lunch to what career they should pursue to ensure a lifetime of happiness and prosperity.

There are so many moving parts that take off at a break-neck speed before your child is even allowed to use the restroom at school without a teacher’s permission. There are college entrance exams to be taken, resumes to...

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