When You Don't Get In

If you weren't admitted as an Early Decision (ED) applicant and, instead, have been deferred to the "regular" applicant pool, take heart! Although "elite" schools admit only a very small percentage of students the second time around, here are some action steps you can take to let know admission officers that you're still interested and a very viable candidate:

  • Write a letter to the admission rep responsible for your geographic area; the name of and email address for that person is typically found on the "Meet the Staff" page of a college's website. (Note: For Hudson Valley students, the rep's area also might be called "Upstate NY" or "NYS other than NYC and Westchester", etc.) In the letter be sure to thank the college for continuing to consider your application and reiterate why you think you're particularly well-suited for it. Include information about any recent accomplishments or activities not reflected in your application. And if the school is still your first-choice, say so!

  • Ask someone who's able to talk enthusiastically about some aspect of your personality or strengths not covered in previous recommendations to write on your behalf. For example, if you're an aspiring writer who's already secured a letter from your AP English teacher, perhaps your physics teacher would be willing to describe how your creative nature makes you a resourceful science student. Might a mentor or other adult you're working with outside of the classroom praise your dilligence or leadership?

  • Look for ways to showcase your special talents.Wannabe journalists might offer their local newspaper volunteer service as a teen correspondent. If art is your thing, contact a local libray or coffeeshop to ask about opportunities to exhibit your work. Math whizes could consider entering a regional competition. And notify the college if you win a scholarship. In other words, this is no time to be modest!

  • Visit (or revisit) the college. If you haven't had the chance to interview there and slots are still available, take advantage of that opportunity to learn more about the place and to discuss why you think you're a good match for it.

  • Do your very best in school. If you want to improve your ACT or SAT scores, you might think about taking either one of these tests one more time, being sure to submit the results to the admission office.

In any event, make sure your Plan B is fully operational: File applications to "other" colleges on time, and don't pin your hopes on the college that didn't take you ED. Whether you get in or not, remember it's what you make of your opportunities in college--rather than simply which college you attend--that ultimately matters most. Best of luck to you!

Earlier FAFSA Benefits Families

If you’re a high school senior or the parent of one, you may have heard rumblings about the changes to the 2017-2018 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is required by all colleges and universities that receive federal funding in order to determine whether a student is eligible to receive need-based financial assistance. Such assistance includes federal, state and institutional grants, which don’t have to be repaid, as well as student and parent loans and student work-study jobs.

Here’s why the changes to how this form will be processed this year and in the future may benefit you and your family:

  • You can file your 2017-2018 FAFSA as of October 1. In the past, the FAFSA wasn’t available for families to complete until January 1 of the high school senior year. But this year  you can tackle this task earlier and get it out of the way in advance of the holidays. And the earlier availability date is the same one already used by the CSS Financial Aid Profile (aka the 
    Profile), which is required by selective, mostly private institutions in addition to the FAFSA.

  • You’ll be able to use your actual income and tax information from the 2015 tax year. Previously, families were forced to estimate income and other figures because they hadn’t yet filed their tax forms prior to filling out the FAFSA. And, if you’ve, indeed, filed your taxes for 2015 by October 1, you may be able to link your FAFSA to the handy IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT), which will pre-populate your form with required figures so that you don’t have to do it manually.

  • Need-based awards to admitted ED students may be more accurate. In the past, students applying to schools via a binding Early Decision Plan typically received tentative financial aid awards when they received admission notification in the fall or early winter. Those awards could only be confirmed, officially, when financial aid offices received copies of yet-to-be-filed tax returns. With the earlier submission date and the ability of colleges to base decisions on “real” numbers, it’s likely that ED awards will be more accurate.

Remember: Even if you think you won’t qualify for need-based financial aid, apply! By filing the FAFSA, your student automatically will be considered for Federal Direct Student Loans (formerly called Stafford Loans) whether or not he or she is deemed eligible to receive federal, state or institutional grants. Federal student loans don’t require a parent co-signer, boast low, fixed interest rates and offer protections that private loans from banks or credit unions don’t. And contrary to what you may think, the federal government does limit student loan amounts. Should you choose not to accept a loan you're offered--or wish to request a smaller one--that's fine, too.

College is expensive, so be sure to take advantage of the funding opportunities that the FAFSA makes available to students and their families.

Read my College Aid blog for other useful postings.