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.

Disparity In College Financial Aid Offers

Good news! Financial aid awards are starting to arrive in student’s in boxes. The bad news, unfortunately there is a lot of disparity in college financial aid offers due to the fact that the format of awards are dictated by each school so many factors and questions come into play when reviewing and comparing offers.

First the family needs to know if the initial offer(s) is a fair one. That’s tough because generally parents doing this for the first time don’t have anything to compare to.

Second, what methodology is the college is using? There are three possible formulas. There is the Federal Methodology (FAFSA), the Institutional Methodology (CSS Profile), and the Consensus Methodology (CSS Profile). If the CSS Profile is required, the college will calculate a EFC (Estimated Family Contribution) which many times will not appear on the award. So it would be difficult for a family to know how much of the true need was met. If the college requires only the FAFSA, the family will see their EFC (Expected Family Contribution) on their Student Aid Report (SAR). In this scenario, they will have a good idea if the award is fair and will be less difficult to compare with other offers.

Third, the family needs to know what is the college including or not including in their total college cost or comprehensive fee. Every college is different in what they include or don’t include which can make an offer look good on the surface when it is not.

In conclusion some good news. Our staff with 26 years of experience are here to advise you accordingly. If you would like us to confirm and clarify if your child’s award is appropriate, please contact our office.

College Financial Aid Awards Are Starting To Arrive

Financial Aid Awards Are Starting To Arrive

College financial aid awards are starting to arrive earlier this year due to the FAFSA  timeline change. Don’t worry about this because it’s a good thing!  Immediately you should be asking yourself are these award(s) fair for my college student? The answer is unless you are awarded 100% of the total college cost you wouldn’t know.  If you filled out the FAFSA and CSS Profile you might have interpreted the question incorrectly.

The reality is that many families will simply take what is originally offered therefore will spend more for college than they need to, sometimes into the thousands of dollars more.

If you are reading this you must have questions and be looking for the best answers.  Just like a good tax accountant it pays to have a professional who knows how to accurately interpret the questions and provide the best answer based on your situation to receive more financial aid. College Aid Consulting Services brings 26 years of experience, our clients are assured, in the end, that they will receive the best aid package possible. Since we have worked with the majority of 4 year state schools and private colleges in the U.S., we know what to expect from a given college. If you would like one of our staff to review your awards letters and information that was submitted, 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.

When Financial Aid Offers Doesn’t Meet Expectations

College Financial Aid Offers

Since early March our students started to receive their initial financial aid offers from various colleges. Like previous years, many of the financial aid offers are not meeting the appropriate need for the student based on one of the three formulas that colleges utilize. We review all of our student’s awards and if we feel the college can do better, we will then initiate a proven approach of communication with the college(s) to increase the amount of gift-aid originally offered. Over the last two weeks our students have been receiving their amended awards that contain more financial aid.

Families who do not utilize professional guidance are more likely not receive a magnanimous award(s). If you would like our staff to review your award letters, please contact our office. The bottom line here is, the more families know about the true aspects of the financial aid process , the less money out of their pockets for a college education.

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Parents Continue To Be Misled By High School Guidance Counselors

Tired student worried about paying for college

It continues and unfortunately will not stop. Parents are being told the wrong information regarding financial aid topics. I just talked with a new client and she stated that her daughter’s high school counselor informed her that their 2015 taxes need to be completed before they can file the FAFSA and that the deadline for FAFSA for their colleges is June 30th 2016. Not true in both cases.

First of all, parents and or students can file their FAFSA with estimated figures. Second, each college will have their own specific deadline for FAFSA and more importantly the CSS Profile if required. It is true that the Federal deadline for FAFSA is June 30th 2016 for the academic year 2016-17. However, if one goes by that deadline, the student will miss out on good aid and that is what happened to this family. The deadline for three of their colleges was in January.

Two points here. Parents need to realize that the high school guidance counselor is not a trained expert in the financial aid process and it is the parent(s) responsibility to confirm the actual deadline with the college(s) preferably by a phone call. Recently I was informed that a college had an incorrect deadline for FAFSA and the CSS Profile on their website. If you would like appropriate advice in the financial aid process, please contact our office.

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.

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