2018 FAFSA Filing Is Approaching, What You Need To Know

2018 FAFSA Filing

The 2018 FAFSA filing is approaching here is what you need to know. Like for the current academic year, families can file the Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as early as Oct. 1 (instead of Jan. 1 as families have done in the past) for the upcoming 2018 -19 school year.

What you need to know: Each college will have their own deadline and will vary from school to school and some deadlines can be as early as Nov. 1 and as late as of Apr. 1. The second deadline is determined by the family’s home state. Starting Oct. 1, families can check their state’s deadline here. Some states have hard deadlines and other states have suggested deadlines to make sure you get priority consideration for college money. There’s also a group of states that offer first-come, first-served financial aid.

If you would like more information on FAFSA and how to properly file your financial aid forms, please contact our office.

Do You Know Your EFC(s)

fafsa efc
The Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) is calculated by one of two formulas. The Institutional Methodology (IM) or The Consensus Methodology (CM). Each formula have their differences in what and how they assess certain information pertaining to income, assets, and other factors. Therefore, many times a family will have a different outcome in what they will receive in their initial financial aid offer from college to college that requires the CSS Profile form. For example, one of the questions on Profile will ask for the value of the parent’s total value of their 401K, 403Bs, SEPs, and IRAs. Many colleges claim that they do not assess retirement plans. Not true. Some do, some don’t. FYI, parents do not have to disclose the value of their retirement plans. Most parents don’t know this. In addition, many colleges will have their own addendum questions on the Profile which will affect the outcome of the student’s financial aid offer. Lastly, believe it or not, some colleges will not disclose their EFC. If you would more information on this topic and others, please contact our office.

Do You Know Your College Tuition Expected Family Contribution?

Do you know what your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is? Most families don’t. Did you know that there are three EFCs in the financial aid process? Most families don’t.

The EFC(s) represents the families’ ability to pay for a college education. The Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is calculated via the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) is calculated via The CSS Profile under one of two formulas. The Institutional Methodology or the Consensus Methodology depending on the college. Families need to know that the three EFCs could vary widely. Moreover, many families are not told what their EFC is under the Institutional and the Consensus Methodologies by the college(S).

If you would like our staff to calculate your true EFC(s) and learn how to increase your financial aid eligibility, please contact our office.

FAFSA Changes 2017-18

Starting with the high school graduating class of June 2017, the timetable and tax year associated with the FAFSA changes 2017-18. The high school class of 2017 will be eligible to file the FAFSA starting on October 1st, 2016, three months earlier than in previous years. They will use 2015 Federal income tax returns (known as Prior-Prior Year (PPY)).

Take special note there is some uncertainty for the high school class of 2017. For example, the deadlines for institutional aid may change at some colleges. Also, students may initially receive estimated financial aid packages because college costs for the coming year may not be finalized and/or because state grant data may not be available. If this is the case, the families will subsequently receive confirmed financial aid packages. In addition, financial aid is based in part on the family’s income, and if that changes during that two-year period, the family could either lose money or have to file an appeal and go through a lengthy process to retain it. Instead of streamlining it, for a small portion of people, it adds an extra step if their circumstances change. Many things can happen in a year.

One thing that parents need to know is that they have the option to utilize their 2016 tax information to file FAFSA and the CSS Profile and they should if there is less income reported compared to 2015.

If you would like more information on FAFSA Changes 2017-18 and information on how to increase your financial aid options, please contact our office.

12 Tips For Parents and Students On Paying Your Way Through College

12 tips parents students paying way college

These are our most basic tips for parents and students on paying your way through college. Every year we consult with many families, single parents and even students who want to make college more affordable. These are the things we believe without fail you need to do to reduce the cost of college.

  1. Students should always walk into the financial aid office the first day they are on campus and ask if there are any “in house” scholarships they can apply for. Many times there are and students are not aware that they exist.
  2. Pursue outside scholarships keeping in mind that they should never pay for a scholarship service.
  3. Set up a 529 plan.
  4. Whenever possible purchase used textbooks and sell them when they are finished with them.  You are never going to use them again.
  5. Utilize work study on campus whenever possible.
  6. Keep credit card debt at a minimum and always pay it down on time.
  7. Choose the right meal plan.
  8. Set up a student checking account. Most of them are free. Keep organized regarding their spending habits.
  9. Get the right cell phone plan.
  10. Utilize alternative transportation.
  11. Consider being a resident advisor. Many colleges will offer free or reduce room and board. If the college is close to family or relatives the student should consider living at home which is one of the most economical ways to get an education. If money is short in the beginning, the student should consider a community college. There are now many quality 2 year programs around the US that will allow a student to transfer their credits to a four year school.
  12. Retain a trained expert in the financial aid process. These people can save families thousands of dollars in their 4 year education.

If you wish to consult with one of our fine experts, please contact our office.  Just like a great accountant for 26 years we have been experts in financial aid. We would love to look at your FAFSA and CSS Profile and see if we can help reduce the out of pocket expense even more.

Why Hire A College Financial Aid Consultant?

Occasionally I am asked, why do I need to hire a college financial aid consultant when I can do it on my own or get help from the high school? My answer is always the same. Yes, you can do it on your own. However, what results do you want in your attempt to obtain more free money? Average or optimum? If the bottom line is the cost for your family, you need an expert. It is common sense here. The family is left at the mercy of two people in the process, the high school guidance person (who is not an expert about anything regarding financial aid) and the college. If would like more common sense advice regarding how to approach the financial aid process and make it work for you, contact our office.

What Do Colleges Consider When Deciding Financial Aid Award For Students?

Financial aid awards have many factors that come into play at various colleges when determining how much a student will receive.

First, what is the true need of the student based on the formula(s)? There are one or two of three formulas that will come into play. You have the Federal Methodology, Institutional Methodology, and The Consensus Methodology that will determine the true need based on the information provided on the FAFSA, CSS Profile, and or the college’s own institutional form.

Second you have the academic side. Colleges will offer scholarships based on a GPA and or the ACT and SAT results. In addition, because the admission game has changed over the years, if a college appreciates the student’s abilities, talents, and background, they will be desirous for that student to be a part of their incoming freshman class and therefor will offer more gift-aid.

Then you have the leverage component. If a student was offered a magnanimous award from another school other than their first choice, they may have the opportunity (if done right) to negotiate for a better award.

If you would like more information on how to retain a better financial aid package, please contact one of our experts.

Do Not Make Mistakes On The CSS Profile

This time of the year I have the opportunity to review many CSS Profile forms for parents who learn of our firm and are seeking valuable advice. In 99% of the Profiles I review, I will find mistakes that the parent made resulting in less financial aid and more importantly less grant money. For example, I just reviewed a Profile for a parent that completed but did not submit it and found five mistakes that would of cost them around $12,000 in financial aid eligibility. Needless to say, this family is now our client.

As I have stated many times in the past, the Profile is an institutional form. So with that in mind, the college(s) can and will ask for more personal information on Profile compared to FAFSA and some of the information requested on the Profile does not need to be disclosed. Another point here in regards to completing Profile and all other financial aid forms correctly is the correct interpretation of the question(s). If you would likeus to review your Profile or any other financial aid form that is required, please contact our team.

FAFSA Change For 2017-2018

This is just a quick reminder of a FAFSA change for 2017-2018.  Students who are college bound for 2016-2017 could only submit FAFSA today January 1st or thereafter. Any students that are college bound 2017-2018, families can submit FAFSA 3 months earlier in October 2016. The so-called experts claim that this will be beneficial for all families filing FAFSA. As I opined in the past, I don’t see a benefit here for many families.

If a family submits FAFSA early and gets an early offer from the college(s) and their financial situation changes in the upcoming months into the new year, they will have false expectations in the realities of what they can really afford in a college education at a specific school. I only see a benefit with this change for a small percentage who need to file FAFSA. Moreover, the FAFSA will not play a role for many that are seeking need-based grant money from the college if the CSS Profile is required.  To receive more information on this topic, financial aid advice how to avoid the headaches in the filing process, please contact our staff.

FAFSA Change For 2017-2018

FAFSA Deadline Is Decided By School Not January 1st 2016

FAFSA Financia Aid

Contrary to what you may hear, the FAFSA deadline for student financial aid is not January 1st 2016. I spoke with a new client earlier today and she stated that her daughter was told by the high school that the FAFSA needed to be filed on January 1st. Wrong!  

Each college will have their own specific deadline for FAFSA. More importantly, if the high school counselor wanted to share some valuable advice, he or she should have elaborated on the CSS Profile which is required for this student. For many families the FAFSA will not play a part in receiving need based gift-aid. If a college requires the CSS Profile, they will use that information to determine any grant money from the college’s endowments.

So with that in mind, the family needs to focus on the Profile deadline at each school. In addition, advice for parents and students, do not rely on the high school guidance counselor for the correct information regarding the financial aid process. They are not trained experts in this area. For more specific needed information on Profile and the FAFSA, please contact our office.  

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