Financial Aid season is upon us. Counselors from our office have been busy traveling to local high school sharing information with families and students about the financial aid process, what information needs to be provided to the colleges and how financial aid is awarded. During these presentations I always make sure to highlight the fact that not all financial aid is free. So I wanted to write a post and break financial aid down a little bit for those of you at home.
Financial aid encompasses both gift aid and self-help aid. Gift aid is the stuff we all want to see, because it’s free and does not need to be paid back. It can come in the form of grants (based solely on a family’s finances) and scholarships (given to students for merit reasons, such as good grades, leadership roles, community service, etc.) Students can receive grants from the federal government (in the form of a Pell grant) and from the college’s themselves. Scholarships can be awarded from the colleges, and some students are able to secure scholarships from private resources.
Self-help aid is not free, but still falls under the category of financial aid. Why is that? Because it’s a fixed interest federal loan in the student’s name that does not need to be paid while the student is attending college and it’s money that the student does not need to secure from another source. Basically it’s money in the moment to help students pay for school. The Federal Direct Loan (also referred to as the Federal Stafford Loan) is solely in the student’s name. Students can receive a maximum of $5500 in a Federal Direct Loan as a freshman student. So while it does give students access to a certain amount of money without a need for a co-signer, the student may or may not need to secure additional funding to pay for their college (depending on how much the college costs and how much the student received in free money from the federal government, the college itself and outside resources).
If a student is awarded Federal Work Study from their college, it’s not free money. It’s money that the student has the potential to earn from the college by working at an approved work-study job on-campus. It’s money students typically save to pay for books and supplies for the following semester and the money they use for their incidentals (laundry, gas, pizza, day-to-day living expenses, etc.).
It’s important that students and families realize that while financial aid is a helpful resource students have when going to college, some of it does need to be earned or re-paid.
Our counselors are out on the road this month providing much more in-depth financial aid workshops at high schools throughout the state. Check our calendar here to see when we’ll be a high school near you. Can’t make one of our nights? Not a problem! You can also view our previously recorded webinar here.
Become financial aid savvy,
In the state of New Hampshire we have wonderful two-year and four-year option colleges. While many students and families are aware of the great courses and amenities at our four-year state colleges, it’s been my experience that not everyone knows about the variety of programs and benefits our community colleges provide.
Some of the “hottest” programs out there right now are nursing, baking, and veterinary technology. Did you know that all three of these programs can be studied at at least one community college within the state, sometimes more? And with the lower tuition costs at a community college compared to a four-year college, it may make financial sense to investigate these options.
Many students begin their course-work at a community college and then transfer to another college. They make this choice for a few different reasons. Some like the idea of saving money during their first two years of school by living at home and saving room and board, as well as having a lower tuition rate. Others feel that a semester or two of college-level work will help them look more appealing to another college that they may not have been admitted to the first time around. And still others want some transition between high school and living away from home, therefore choose to attend their local community college but still live at home. Whatever the reason, more students are investigating their local community college option.
A great program to explore at the community colleges is the NH Transfer program. While you get your associates degree from a community college, an academic counselor will help guide you through the community college experience guaranteeing your transfer admission to Granite State College, Keene State College, Plymouth State University, University of New Hampshire and University of New Hampshire Manchester where you can complete your bachelor’s degree. (Check with the admissions office at your local community college to learn more about NH Transfer!)
What about getting involved outside of the classroom? Attending a community college does not mean that you forfeit your right to be involved in school-sponsored activities. In fact, there are hundreds of thousands of dollars devoted each year to clubs, activities and events. If you want to get involved and partake in different activities, there truly is no reason you can’t. There are places for students to hang out and socialize in between classes, or meet for study groups, or just about anything you want. Students who attend community colleges, just like four-year colleges, have the opportunity to get involved and socialize, the responsibility falls to the student to stay around after class in order to do so.
Want to live on-campus? Did you know that NHTI – Concord’s Community College has housing? Well it does! They are our only community college in the state of NH that has on-campus housing, but if a student wants to have the on-campus college experience, NHTI does afford that option.
So my goal with this post was not to make all of you run out and decide community college is the best option for you; that’s for you to decide. But I did want to make you aware that community colleges offer much more than some folks think.
For more information about the Community College System of NH, visit www.ccsnh.edu.
The Center for College Planning wishes you and your family a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving weekend. The NHHEAF Network offices are closed on Thursday and Friday of this week to celebrate the holiday. We will re-open on Monday, December 2, 2013.
For families with high school seniors, please remember to ask your school’s school counseling office if we will be at your high school to file FAFSAs in January or February. If you cannot attend your school’s FAFSA filing day, please call us beginning Monday, December 2 at 888.7.GRADUATE, x119 to book your FAFSA filing appointment at our offices in Concord.
Have you asked those whom you want to write you a college recommendation yet? The clock is ticking and deadlines are fast approaching. Many colleges typically require between one and three recommendations as part of their application process. If you haven’t asked your school counselor and one or two teachers yet, what’s the hold-up? When I ask those students that have yet to ask for a recommendation why they are waiting, I am usually told that they have plenty of time, that their application is not due for another month or so. And while they are correct, college applications may not be due for a little while, school counselors and teachers need time to formulate a well-thought out and carefully written recommendation that fully captures you, your accomplishments and goals. A recommendation is not something that can be thrown together in 15 minutes. Recommendations take time to write, and in fairness to those writing them for you, ask upwards of a month before your applications are due. Oftentimes those writing recommendations for you are also writing them for lots of your friends and classmates. They need to fit their letter-writing time into their schedule, as they are not given extra time during the day to complete them.
How can you help your recommenders write a great letter for you? Provide them with a copy of a brag-sheet or resume. Many high schools have a form that students need to complete as part of the process to request a recommendation letter from someone. Others don’t. If your school does not have such a form, consider putting together a resume. An example of what one looks like can be found here on our website, as well as tips for what information to include.
I know it seems like the college application process is never going to end; but I promise you it will. Keep plugging away and soon enough it’ll be spring and you’ll be making your college acceptance decision.
And remember, your friends at the Center for College Planning are always here to help. If you have any college admissions or financial aid questions, call us at 888.7.GRADUATE, ext. 119.
Enjoy your weekend,
In recent years there has been a debate about whether or not college admission offices utilize social media when reviewing college applications. The NY Times published an article surrounding social media and whether or not it plays a factor in their admission’s process.
As with anything, there seems to be varying degrees to how much time and effort college admission’s offices can put into researching each candidate’s background beyond their submitted application and recommendations. Simply stated, some do and some don’t. But do students really want to take the gamble that the colleges they are applying to won’t go online to see what the student has sent into cyber-world? I know I wouldn’t.
Taking it a step further, while some college admission’s offices may not have the manpower to research each student, many employers do take the time to investigate their applicants. Maybe not for their first round of read-throughs, but before employers make job offers, many do want to delve a little deeper into a person’s background because if hired, that person represents their company. Of course they want to make sure that they are hiring upstanding individuals.
So before you tweet, post on Facebook or add anything else to another social media site, I recommend giving it the grandma test. If it’s not something you are comfortable with your grandma knowing or reading about you, it’s not something you should be sharing with the world. It’s as simple as that. And it’s not too late to clean up a less than upstanding social media presence. Start posting positive things. Eventually, those not-so-great posts and tweets will be overshadowed by the good ones.
And always feel free to follow The NHHEAF Network Organizations on Facebook and Twitter for more great tips on college planning and financial aid!
What image do others get about you from social media?
Did you know that the Thompson School of Applied School is one of the schools within the University of New Hampshire in Durham? Home to roughly 350 students, the Thompson School offers associate degree programs in various fields including Applied Business Management, Culinary Arts and Nutrition, Veterinary Technology and so much more. Students in T-School programs not only attend classes, but apply what they learn in the classroom in some pretty amazing hands-on opportunities! Students in the T-school programs live on the UNH campus, participate in UNH school activities and campus life, but get to benefit from the “feel” of a small campus as part of the T-school.
If you’re been thinking about the Thompson School, or would like more information, they have an Open House this Sunday, November 17 from 12 noon – 4 p.m. If interested, advanced registration is required by visiting http://thompsonschool.unh.edu
Seniors, remember, it’s time to start finalizing your college lists and college visits can help you do that. And remember, the Center for College Planning is here to help. Call 888.7.GRADUATE, ext. 119 with your college-related questions.
We hear it time and time again, if I choose the “perfect” or “best” major, I’ll be guaranteed a job upon graduation. Who cares if I’m actually interested in that field, all I want is a job. Well, yes, a job is important. We all need money to survive. But we also need to be happy. Students (and parents) place a whole lot of pressure on themselves to have it all figured out before heading off to college. But do we really need to know our precise career goals, or should we be able to tweak those as different opportunities and options are presented before us?
While certain professions require specific degrees (in order to be a nurse, you need a nursing degree), there are many others that are more flexible. I like to use our staff as an example of people who ended up in the same place, but took very different paths to get there. I was a criminal justice major. I studied topics like mediation, conflict resolution and managing a group of people. I have colleagues that majored in exercise kinesiology, women’s studies, marine psychobiology and business. All of us are college counselors.
How is that possible you may ask? Well, we all learned transferable skills while in college. These are the skills that regardless of your major and your profession, employees want you to be proficient in. What are these transferable skills? They include the ability to work in a team, ability to communicate verbally with people inside and outside the organization, ability to create and/or edit written reports and so much more. Click here for a list published by Forbes of the top 10 skills employers want in their 20-something employees.
Regardless of what you’re actually choosing to major in, you will learn the above skills. You have to write, you have to deliver presentations, you have to work with others, you have to be able to analyze data to make decisions. Rest assured that you are getting the skills employees desire. It is up to you to spell it out for them though. Give examples where you utilized these skills, perhaps during an internship or while participating in community service. Don’t let your chose of major define you. Instead, look at it as a starting point and know that while you may not have it all figured out now, you will.
What transferable skills are you learning?
It’s November, the month of Thanksgiving and everywhere I look, from Facebook to Twitter, people are writing what they are thankful for. So that begs the question, what are you thankful for?
During this time of year, especially for seniors bogged down with schoolwork, commitments, standardized tests and college applications, life can be pretty stressful. You may find yourself stressed with people wanting to know where you are in your college admissions process, even the ones that are trying to help you and only have your best interests at heart. Take some time to think about each person that has helped you in your college process. Parents, teachers, school counselors, and those you asked to write recommendations all have had a hand in helping you reach your goals. It may feel like you’re being nagged to write your essay, get your recommendations in order and finish your college applications already, but have patience and keep in mind that they just want you to succeed. The next time you feel yourself becoming frustrated with someone in the above mentioned groups, take a minute to regroup and then thank them for their concern. In this month of giving thanks, take those thirty seconds to personally thank them; it will help you put everything in perspective.
And who are we thankful for at the Center for College Planning? Why, you of course! We love getting to travel New Hampshire, meeting and working with so many students and families. We hope to see you and your family soon and in the meantime, if you have any questions about the admissions or financial aid process, know that we can help. Call us at 888.7.GRADUATE, ext. 119.
Yes, I know, I sound like a sound bite from a local television network, but when it comes to financial aid that phrase certainly holds true.
A survey was recently conducted through Fidelity and our colleagues at the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA) regarding college financing. In the past year, of those surveyed, 66% age 15 and older reported adjusting their plans after discussing the cost of college, their major, their job prospects, etc. Basically, once students and families are becoming informed about their options and the cost, many are choosing to alter their plans.
So, what types of discussions can you have as a family now, even if you or your student is a couple years away from college? Here are a few key points to discuss:
• Do you have similar goals?
• How much (if any) are parents able to contribute towards college?
• How much do parents expect students to contribute towards their education?
• How long will it take for the student to graduate from college?
• Are there less expensive college options available to the student?
• How much money will the student realistically make per year in their chosen field?
• How much of a loan payment can the students realistically handle given their other expenses (housing, car, food, etc.) versus their take-home salary?
And those are just some of the areas families should think about/discuss. While these topics may not be the most exciting, they are important areas to discuss before choosing a college. As one of my colleagues likes to tell people, it’s not just the four years during college that matters, but the next 10-15 years afterwards that you may be paying for it. Now is the time to become informed and make smart decisions for today and tomorrow.
For a full list of questions and more statistics from this report, click here.
If you have a college-bound student in your home, and would like to meet with a Center for College Planning counselor to start your family’s conversation about planning and paying for college, please call us at 888.7.GRADUATE, x119.
Seniors, when is the last time you had the opportunity to stand in front of over a thousand high school juniors and their families and share your advice and knowledge about the college process? Heck, when did you have an audience of over a thousand people, period? Well, here’s your chance!
If you’ve got something to say and would like to try your hand at winning a college scholarship to boot, we have the perfect contest for you! Every year the Center for College Planning hosts Destination College, a free fun-filled, college-focused packed day for high school juniors and families. Part of that day includes a keynote speech from a NH high school senior. First place is a $1000 college scholarship and the ability to give your words of wisdom to a large, captivated audience.
For more information and full contest rules, please visit www.destinationcollege.org