Plan For College

Monday, October 3, 2016

Changes to the FAFSA-- Part 3---Common Questions

A Few Common Questions We Are Asked Each Year

When will the federal government distribute my financial aid for the upcoming school year?
ANSWER: Your college is the one that disburse (pay out), your financial aid, not the federal government. Since each school has a different timeline for awarding aid, you’ll have to call your school’s financial aid office to find out the specific date.

What can I do to get more financial aid?
ANSWER: A lot of students get disappointed when they see their financial aid offer and don’t receive the amount or type of aid they were hoping for. Your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), is calculated using the information that you provided on the FAFSA. The amount of federal student aid you qualify for uses a formula that calculates your need and was established by law.  Of course, that amount can change every year, depending on a number of factors. Also, some states and schools offer financial aid of their own, called institutional aid. Some of that aid is need-based, other types are merit-based, and some of that aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. We recommend you talk to a competent college consultant to find out how you can increase your chances of getting the most aid possible or talk to your school directly, but don’t expect much help from the colleges

I want free money -  Not more loans
ANSWER: Everyone wants free money!  There are several grants offered by the Federal government, includes the Federal Pell Grant, which are “need-based”, meaning you must have certain level of financial need to qualify. Your school will use your FAFSA information to determine whether you qualify for these grants.  Colleges and universities will also distribute scholarships out based off of merit (high ACT/SAT test scores and GPA), or special talents. If you do not qualify for federal need-based aid or merit or special talent scholarships you’re just out of luck.

Why am I considered "dependent" when I'm 21, don't live at home, and my parents don't pay for my bills/living expenses?

ANSWER:  Living on your own doesn’t make you an independent student for purposes of the FAFSA.  FAFSA dependency guidelines are set by Congress and are different from those of the IRS. This is why even if your parent’s don’t claim you on their taxes, you still won’t be considered independent unless you can meet one of the 13 questions in Step Three of the FAFSA form.

Why should I complete the FAFSA when I know my family’s income is too high to qualify for need-based financial aid?

ANSWER:  This is a common mistake many families make. There are many colleges and universities will refrain from giving out merit-based and special talent scholarships to individual students without first completing the FAFSA form. Even though you may not qualify for need-based aid you could qualify for merit-based aid. Therefore, everyone should complete the FAFSA.

If I want to discuss the potential of receiving merit-based scholarships do I talked to financial aid or the admissions department?

ANSWER:  The Financial Aid Office of a college handles need-based financial aid, but the Admissions Office administers all merit-based financial aid.

Is our EFC really what the college expects us to pay?

ANSWER:  Families often confuse the meaning of their EFC (Expected Family Contribution) calculation as derived from the FAFSA form. The federal government as well as the colleges are NOT saying that your EFC represents what you can comfortably afford/write the check for.
They’re saying that based on the federal formula (called the Federal Methodology), it’s what they expect you to pay (minimally), notwithstanding merit scholarships. Realize that they have defined the phrase to be EXPECTED Family Contribution, not AFFORDABLE Family Contribution.
Adding to the confusion of this term (EFC) is the fact that very few colleges limit a family’s out-of-pocket costs to the EFC calculation! We see many cases where a family has an EFC in the $15K-ish range, yet their “Financial Aid Award” package consists of nothing but loans in excess of $30K, even $40K in some instances.



Monday, September 26, 2016

Changes to the FAFSA- PART 2- More Questions You Might Have...

If we completed the FAFSA in 2016-17 will this information automatically carry over to my new 2017-18 renewal FAFSA?

According to the Federal FAFSA processing center
“No. Too much could have changed since you filed your last FAFSA, and there’s no way to predict what might be different, so you’ll need to enter the information again. However, keep in mind that many people are eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to automatically import their 2015 tax information into the FAFSA, making the process of reporting tax info quick and easy.”

Do I have to update my 2017–18 FAFSA with my 2016 tax information after I file my 2016 taxes?

According to the Federal FAFSA processing centerNo. The 2017–18 FAFSA asks for 2015 tax info, and only 2015. Beginning October 1, you can fully submit the FAFSA in one sitting using your 2015 tax info. No updating necessary.”

But what if my family’s financial situation has changed since our 2015 taxes were filed? Can we report our 2016 tax information instead?

According to the Federal FAFSA processing center – No. You must report your 2015 tax info on the 2017–18 FAFSA. You do not have the option to report your 2016 tax info. If your family has experienced a loss of income since the 2015 tax year, talk to the financial aid office at your school. They have the ability to assess your situation and make adjustments.
Note: The FAFSA asks for marital status as of the day you fill it out. So if you’re married now but weren’t in 2015 (and therefore didn’t file taxes as married), you’ll need to add your spouse’s income to your FAFSA.
Similarly, if you filed your 2015 taxes as married but you’re no longer married when you fill out the FAFSA, you’ll need to subtract your spouse’s income.”

Will FAFSA deadlines be earlier since the application is launching earlier?

According to the Federal FAFSA processing center – “We expect that most state and school deadlines will remain approximately the same as in 2016–17. However, several states that offer first come, first served financial aid will change their deadlines from “as soon as possible after January 1” to “as soon as possible after October 1. So, as always, it’s important that you check your state and school deadlines so that you don’t miss out on any aid. State deadlines are on fafsa.gov; school deadlines are on schools’ websites.”

Will I receive aid offers earlier if I apply earlier?

According to the Federal FAFSA processing center – “Not necessarily; some schools will make offers earlier while others won’t. If you’re applying to multiple schools or thinking of transferring to another school, you might want to look at the College Scorecard to compare costs at different schools while you wait for your aid offers to arrive. Note: You should be aware that the maximum Federal Pell Grant for 2017–18 might not be known until early 2017, so keep in mind that even if you do receive an aid offer early, it could change due to various factors.”


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Changes to the FAFSA for the 2017 school year; PART 1

Changes To The FAFSA For The School Year 2017–18.

There are few changes for the new Free Application for Federal Student Aid that everyone should be aware of. In this publication we will go over these changes as well as give you some insight on some of the most common questions we are asked when completing the FAFSA form.

·      The first major change is you can now complete the FAFSA earlier than in the past. For the school year 2017-18 you can complete the FAFSA as early as October 1, 2016.

·      You’ll use earlier income and tax information. The new 2017-18 FAFSA will let you use earlier tax year to complete this form. This is called prior-prior year completion. For the 2017 18 school year you will use 2015 income tax information, rather than your 2016 income and tax information.

Using 2015 income tax information could cause some problems for a few families. For example, the family could have a higher income in 2015 tax year then they have in 2016. If this is the case for you, you must complete the FAFSA with the info it asks for (2015). Then, after filing your FAFSA, contact the financial aid office at your school to explain your situation. The school has the ability to assess your situation and make adjustments to your FAFSA.

Will these changes benefit me?

According to the Federal FAFSA processing center:
·      Completing the FAFSA could be easier. The FAFSA will ask for older income and tax information that you will already have. This change means you won’t have to use estimates anymore, or log in later to update your FAFSA after you file taxes!
  • Because you’ll already have done your 2015 taxes by the time you fill out your 2017–18 FAFSA, you may be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) to automatically import your tax information into your FAFSA.

  • Having the FAFSA available three months earlier will give you more time to meet most deadlines (although some will be early, so fill out the FAFSA right away just in case) and to explore and understand your financial aid options.


Monday, August 22, 2016

Are you ready for college? Tips from the experts on college planning and individual learning needs


Written by Stan Ezekiel and Rachel Buday


There is no need to stress about preparing for college. Your junior and senior years in high school are demanding enough without losing your cool while getting ready for some serious college planning. In this article, Stan Ezekiel of College Planning Group, and Boston-area Learning Specialist, Rachel Buday, will share insider college preparedness expertise for high school students, including those that used IEP’s and 504 plans.

Here is a checklist of 6 tips to keep you on track as you start planning…

1.     Prepare for filing your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). You will be able to file the 2017-2018 FAFSA as early as October 1, 2016. If you have already looked into this, have complicated financial records, or are not sure how to start, we can lead you through the process.

2.     Get your resume together. If you do not feel like you have anything to include in a resume of if you have never written a resume fear not! It's easier than you think, and you probably have more experience than you realize. Having your resume handy will also make filling out the college application easier. Include extra-curricular activities, volunteer work, and part time jobs. Brag a little! This is a document meant to showcase your amazing talents, goals and accomplishments.

3.     Work on your essay. Not sure what to write about? The essay prompts can be found on the Common Application for College website (commonapp.org).  Write it, read it and write it again. Let others read it and get their feedback. If you'd like professional assistance with your essay, send us a copy.  We will help to make it college-ready.

Have you used an IEP or 504 Plan in high school for learning or medical needs? Do you have an interest in keeping some of these accommodations in college? The process, laws and supports are extremely different!

4.     Make sure you have copies of the testing that was done to create the IEP. Often, IEP’s are not sufficient forms of documentation for colleges.

5.     Be prepared to realize that an 18-year-old student is the only person that can initiate accommodations in college! Parents are no longer part of the process unless the student signs a release form. Our experts can help students develop self-advocacy skills.

6.     There will no longer be a team of school staff and teachers to take care of all issues related to learning and medical accommodations. The student must initiate the process. They must identify the appropriate office, schedule appointments, and follow protocol. Again, parents may not call the college to inquire about what a student has or has not disclosed, or make appointments for them. If you are a student, or parent of a student, that would be interested in having a Learning Specialist meet the student for coaching, strategies, and college prep, please don't hesitate to reach out.

Stan Ezekiel, CCPS
College Planning Group
Ph:  781-828-1114

Rachel Buday, MAT
Rachel Buday Coaching
Ph: 617-306-5517

Friday, August 5, 2016

Do Employers Really Care Where You Got Your Degree?

Do Employers Really Care Where
You Get Your Degree?

Many parents today feel if their student were to receive a degree from a prestigious college or university it will assure the student will be able to get a high paying job. In the past, this way of thinking might have been true however graduating from an elite college or university has changed.

A new Gallup survey has found business leaders who make hiring decisions are far less concerned about what college the student attends or what major the student pursued. According to the survey, business leaders are more concerned about the skill level of the student and the knowledge a potential employee has in their field.  

The chart below outlines what employers find important when looking at hiring new employees.

As you will notice in the chart above the knowledge of the candidate and the applied skills the candidate has in the business are the two most important factors of business leaders when hiring new employees. Also, you will notice the two lowest concerns of potential employers are what college the student attended and what degree the student obtained.
According to the Gallup survey, about eight in 10 adults that are working in a business environment agree that knowledge and applied skills in a particular field is very
important to managers making hiring decisions for their company.

However, the survey found the average American believes a college major and where a potential employee received their degree was the most important when it comes to employment. The survey found nearly half (47%) of future employees believed their degree was most important to business leaders and 30% believed where they
attended college was very important as well.

The survey found business leaders are not downplaying the value of obtaining a
college degree. However, business leaders are downplaying where a future employee received their degree as well as what major they obtained. Business leaders are
saying a college degree alone is not enough to obtain employment.

The Gallup survey found, “Getting a job and achieving long-term success in one's
career may increasingly depend on demonstrating real value to employers through
experience and targeted learning -- and increasingly less on degrees, even if they are from prestigious universities. Higher education institutions have a tremendous
opportunity to partner with businesses to bring relevant, responsive, and timely
learning opportunities to workplaces in this country and worldwide.

It’s clear from the Gallup survey, business leaders are placing more emphasis on what potential employees know and their style of working, rather than on the candidate's
degree or where they went to college.

Understanding financial literacy issues and how to pay for college expenses
correctly could save your family thousands of dollars.  If you are interested in learning more, go to our website
www.thecollegeplanninggroup.com or send us an e-mail (stan@thecollegeplanninggroup.com  for more
information.













Sunday, July 31, 2016

Planning for College: 5 Things to do if you are a Junior in September

If you're reading this article, you're on the right track (or maybe you're a parent of a high school junior which means you're ahead of the game). The college planning process is a daunting task. That's why today, we're only focusing on your next month and a few of the most important tasks. If you (or your son or daughter) can get these done in September, you'll be in a great spot for the upcoming school year. Here are five tasks to complete during September of your high school junior year:

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Springtime is Full of Opportunities for High School Juniors

Your junior year in high school plays a crucial role in your college search. Possibilities are wide open during your junior hear. There are so many colleges to consider and there are still many opportunities for college scholarships.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

High School Juniors: Start Planning for College NOW!


If you are a high school junior and planning on going to college, it's time to get started. Here are five things to do now.
  1. Update your email address. Colleges will communicate with you by email and you want to be sure that your email address clearly identifies you and gives a good first impression. This email address should be professional and separate from your personal email address. (Don't use nicknames or names of your favorite sports teams.) Once you begin applying to colleges, make sure to check this email address often.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Best Times for College Tours

Think spring!  Although time is more plentiful in the summer for a high school student to plan college visits, it may not be the best time for college tours.  The summer is not a good representation of what your campus life will look like during the actual school year. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Divorced or Separated: Who Files the FAFSA?

We often get asked who should file the FAFSA when the parents are divorced or separated.

If a student’s parents are divorced or separated and not living together, only the custodial parent's income and assets are used for filing the FAFSA.

The custodial parent is the parent with whom the student lived with the most during the 12 months prior to filing the FAFSA. 

If the parents have joint custody, then count the days and nights. 

Another important factor to consider is cash support. Determine which parent spent the most money on support and expenses on the student’s behalf. This includes food, clothing, housing, car payments, medical care, dental care, and educational expenses.

If parents cannot agree upon who is the custodial parent, the college may decide for you!

Need help establishing who should file the FAFSA? Call (781-828-1114) or email College Planning Group (stan@thecollegeplanninggroup.com) for a free consultation.

www.thecollegeplanninggroup.com