Financial Aid: Hoping for a Perfect Blend

I never imagined when I entered the financial aid profession that I’d be using the skills of a vintner.  Blending the right mix of ingredients to develop a product that pleases the palate.  Well, okay.  Not many financial aid packages taste good, but hopefully ours is easy to swallow.

See, financial aid packages are kind of like fine wine.  They take some time to put together.  And, there are a lot of components to making a good offer.

Like a nice red wine blend many pieces go into a financial aid package.  Besides your FAFSA, we need our Board of Trustees to finalize what tuition and fees, we hold competitions and interviews for select scholarships, we wait for the federal and state government to determine the amount of funding we’ll get.  We wait for Congress to approve the Pell Grant amounts and we forecast our endowed scholarship earnings.  And, of course, we need your information. All of these pieces come together to give us the landscape in which we cultivate your financial aid offer.

Once we’ve got all the pieces together we’ll craft your package and provide you the best comprehensive offer we can.  We’re pretty proud too of how we present that information to you as well.  Our award notifications get a lot of praise for being easy to understand, but we know some times we don’t get it right and we’re here to help.

Wondering what your aid package might include?  Complete your FAFSA at fafsa.ed.gov.  Have questions about your blend of financial aid resources?  Give us a call.

FAFSA Anxiety – It’ll be Okay. Really.

It’s started.

All the students who spent the fall applying to college now begin to think about how much it’s going to cost.  Well, not really.  Most students don’t give the cost much more than a cursory glance.  But, the parents?   They’re a different story.

This year there was a major change in the financial aid world – one that I personally had been waiting for literally for decades.

The application that colleges use to determine financial aid eligibility – Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) was now available on October 1.  (It used to be January 1.)  To accommodate this change, tax information from 2015 is used.  In past years families had to estimate the information or wait until they completed their tax returns in April. Now the information it ready.

But even with the information available, many parents are still anxious about completing the FAFSA.

I’ve learned in 28+ years of financial aid that FAFSA anxiety is real.  But, it doesn’t have to be.  Collect a couple documents,  grab a cup of coffee (or maybe something stronger if numbers aren’t your thing) and let’s go.

Completing the FAFSA is less daunting than doing your taxes.  And, I found even simpler than trying to request a duplicate ACT score.  Trust me.  I have a college senior. I’ve done it.  I know, you’re thinking I’m in the biz, I know the language.  But, the FAFSA has evolved to a very user friendly on-line experience.

Need some pointers?  Visit our 10 Tips page.

Maybe you’re a little more visual?  Try this video.

Most parents find that it takes about 30 minutes to complete the form.  Less than that in future years.  I completed the renewal FAFSA for my son in 8 minutes last year.  My coffee wasn’t even cold.

 

Parent to Parent – How to Cope with College Costs

You would think that after being in the financial aid field for almost 30 years that I’d be ready to send my son off to college.

Nope.

It was an eye-opening, and sometimes heart-wrenching, experience.

Luckily for me I had a few decades of experience to draw on to figure out how to pay for college. Most folks don’t. So, I thought I’d share some insights on what financial aid really is and how it works – from a parent’s perspective.  Join me for ‘Financial Fridays’ and I’ll do my best to help demystify the sometimes scary, often daunting prospect of coping with college costs.

If there are topics or questions you’d like me to address, leave a comment or shoot me an email at awhitmer@albion.edu.  I’ll do my best to help. If you have a specific question about your son or daughter, certainly reach out to my office at anytime (517.629.0440).  I have a great staff who truly love their work – which is to help student’s find the resources to make Albion affordable.