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The ins and outs of applying for need-based financial aid

September 28th, 2022

October 1st marks the beginning of a new financial aid cycle as the 2023-2024 FAFSA and CSS Profile go live. The volume of documents to complete during the college application process can be exhausting and now that financial aid forms are added, it might seem like a daunting task. We hope to simplify a few things to make this task more manageable.

FAFSA determines your eligibility for federal aid programs like the Pell Grant and federal student loans. All families applying for need-based financial aid must complete the FAFSA.

The CSS Profile is also required by a small subset of colleges as part of their financial aid process, to determine eligibility for grants and scholarships. The list of schools that require the CSS Profile can be found on the Collegeboard website.

Does the early bird get the worm? Some would argue that submitting these documents early, particularly for public universities, can maximize your potential to be considered for all available aid.

In the article referenced below from Grown and Flown, my IECA colleague Jeff Levy has identified 21 points every family should consider when completing financial aid applications. His advice is highly relevant for families considering applying for need-based aid.

Article linked below from Grown and Flown, published on August 29, 2022 written by Jeff Levy

FAFSA and CSS Profile: Tips, Resources, and Mistakes to Avoid

October 1, 2022, is the first-day families can access, complete, and submit the 2023-2024 FAFSA and CSS Profile. Anyone logging in sooner will find themselves completing forms for the wrong school year. But September is the month to consider the pros and cons of applying for need-based aid.

If you decide to go ahead, here is a useful tip sheet from Big J Educational Consulting. It includes the 21 most important things your family needs to know to manage the financial aid application process successfully.

Read more at Grown and Flown>>

Setting boundaries during the college application process

September 13th, 2022

“If I were to go back and change something about my application process I would be less forthcoming with friends about where I was applying. I think it may help future college applicants to keep that in mind as well.”2022 advisee

How can you maintain boundaries with friends and family so the college process doesn’t drive you crazy?  It’s natural for those close to you to wonder which colleges you’re considering, but sometimes information-sharing among classmates can reach a level of toxicity.  Students measure their own achievements against others’, trying to figure out who’s most likely to receive good news.

Image via Grown and Flown

I knew a school counselor years ago, long since retired, who would hear students’ high-flying college aspirations and ask gruffly, “How do you feel about being told NO?”  He didn’t spare students’ feelings.  For those applying to the nation’s most heavily sought-after colleges – now with single-digit admission rates – it may seem as though nobody gets the nod at all. 

Barring distinction at a national or international level in some sphere, accomplishing things most adults won’t in their own lives, being a recruited athlete or falling into another category receiving favorable consideration, we must assume that in applying to schools at the “lottery” level the final answer could very well be no.   That school counselor was right, even more so today than in his heyday. 

Maintaining boundaries with friends where your college list is concerned could be helpful in the long run.  That way, if you choose to apply to colleges that are truly long shots, you have control of when, how and with whom you share news of final decisions.  

Crucial takeaway:  if you build your college application list thoughtfully and rationally, focusing on best fit rather than simply renown, you will have choices you can take pride in.  The student quoted above, outstanding in every respect, received both exciting and disappointing admission decisions as did exceptional students throughout the world.  She has a brilliant four years ahead.

Here’s an article on the topic that dates back to 2011, yet the advice given is timeless. Article linked below from The New York Times, written by Susannah L. Griffee, published December 5, 2011.

Protecting Friendships During the College Admissions Process

Susannah Griffee, a sophomore at New York University pursuing a double major in journalism and politics, is an intern this fall on The Choice blog and The New York Times Learning Network.

As high school seniors across the country wrestle with college applications, they should also gird themselves for this scenario: When a close friend gets rejected from a college that they are accepted to (or the other way around).

Rachel Simmons, a speaker on high school bullying and the author of “Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls,” says this scenario can cause high schools to become a fertile environment for aggression and paranoia during senior year. 

“The terms of applications to college inherently pit kids against each other,” she said in an interview.

Read more at New York Times>>

First-year files: Orientation eases the transition

August 30th, 2022

Transitioning from high school to college, or middle school to boarding school, is a big adjustment. Students move from the familiar routine of living at home and attending school nearby to a completely new and unfamiliar world, often pushing them out of their comfort zone. Luckily, nearly all new college and boarding school students are in the same boat.

In today’s blog post, Lilly, a previous Shrop Ed advisee, shares her experience as an incoming first-year at Boston College. Lilly’s reflection on BC’s summer orientation program reminds us to keep an open mind, seek connections with others and participate in campus activities. This will certainly help students navigate challenges ahead.

Boston, USA – December 23, 2021: View of Gasson Hall at Boston College, in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. Image via Istock

Lilly’s first-year orientation experience from Boston College is shared below … and we’re grateful for her willingness to write for our blog. We wish Lilly and all of our advisees a great academic year ahead!

After my high school graduation in early June, I had only 11 days until my College Orientation. Not much travel was required since my college happens to be less than a mile from my house. Nonetheless, college is still an entirely new and unfamiliar world into which I am entering. 

Upon arrival at the Thomas Moore Apartments (the sophomore dorms in which we stayed), I was instantly greeted by numerous kind Orientation Leaders. They are current students at Boston College who were there to answer any questions anyone might have. The lobby was crowded, as dozens of rising freshmen and their parents buzzed around, getting room cards and information pamphlets. Some formed small groups and talked amongst themselves, while others nervously clung to their parents as they did in elementary school. 

Despite being a social person who doesn’t usually struggle with meeting new people, I was still nervous entering this situation, and wondered if others felt the same way. I stayed in a 6-person suite with 5 very nice girls. The girl I shared a room with and I instantly ‘clicked,’ and she introduced me to her roommate for next year who is a nursing student like me. Right off the bat, I felt lucky and relaxed to have made new friends so quickly – it set a positive tone for the rest of the orientation. On the evening of our first day, we divided into groups of ten, which would be our “Small Groups” for the rest of the orientation. In our small groups we participated in ice breakers, shared where we were from and what our majors were. Just among our group of ten, we were from as close as a few towns over, and as far as Los Angeles, California. Also everywhere in between, such as Atlanta, Baltimore, Kansas City, and Philadelphia. Our career paths varied just as much, with majors such as nursing, finance, psychology, biochemistry, and marketing. We shared our nervousness and excitement, reassured about the fact that we were feeling similar emotions.

Throughout the orientation, our Small Group leaders introduced us to numerous resources we could access as students such as tutoring services, writing centers, and advisors to answer all of our questions. Over the course of the next few days, our small group interacted with other groups, and thus I met a lot of new people. There were large seminars as well, where we met some teachers and learned about the ‘Core Curriculum.’  We also learned more about the values of Boston College, such as leadership, sense of possibility, and student centered approach. The goal is for each individual to choose a career path of meaning and impact. 

There was a concurrent parent orientation program. For my parents, this orientation was very different from their experience with my older sister. She started at BC in 2020 during the height of the pandemic. Nothing was in-person. Even her move-in was limited to a solitary 15 minute window. I could immediately sense how much they enjoyed being part of an in-person orientation. They enjoyed meeting other parents and especially the communal mass to celebrate the start of our BC journey.

In one of my favorite seminars, the story of ‘The Man with the Red Bandana’ was told. I have known about Welles Crowther’s heroics since a young age, but hearing it told in this setting was very moving. If you have not heard this story, I strongly recommend you look it up, because it is an incredibly powerful, real-life story of a BC alumnus who truly represents BC’s core value: service to others. Hearing it again reminded me, yet again, why I chose to attend BC.

We also registered for classes. First, we were divided into groups based on our majors, so I was in a “nursing” group of about 20 students. Several nursing professors presented a slideshow about our courses, explained the registration process, and then circulated the room as we worked on our schedule drafts. The next day those draft schedules were made official as we actually registered for our classes. The process was organized and help was there if needed. 

In between seminars, group meetings, and games, we walked around and familiarized ourselves with the lay-out of campus. When school begins in the fall, I will recognize many familiar faces and feel more comfortable making the transition knowing that I’m not alone and I have many resources to help me along the way. I am most excited to continue to meet new people as I explore this new chapter of my life.

The beginning of school and the importance of a mental health check

August 16th, 2022

Starting the school year can come with great excitement while also leaving some students overwhelmed or anxious. Navigating through these complicated feelings can be challenging, but it’s oh so important to keep your mental health in check. Practicing self-care and keeping the lines of communication open are just the tip of the iceberg for a healthy state of mind.

Image via New York Times

The article linked below from The New York Times provides a mental health checklist for students. This article is especially helpful for those going away to college. Locating the appropriate resources now is a proactive way to plan in case there is a need in the future. Although this article is written specifically for college students, it is a reminder to us all that it is okay to ask for support and make sure we are making healthy choices to keep our emotional well-being balanced.

Article linked below from The New York Times, published July 8, 2022 written by Christina Caron

Before Heading to College, Make a Mental Health Checklist

As fall approaches, new students will arrive on college campuses toting all kinds of things: luggage and school supplies, mini fridges and sports equipment. But in the midst of the preparation for move-in day, many have not considered what tools they will need to support themselves emotionally.

In other words, what can they do to protect their mental health?

In a 2017 survey of more than 700 parents and guardians, over 40 percent said they did not discuss the potential for either anxiety or depression when helping their teenagers prepare for college or postsecondary school. In addition, most of the caregivers said mental health services on campus were not a priority when choosing a school.

Read more at New York Times>>