All posts by Kenneth McGhee

‘It Depends’: Responding to Common Financial Aid Questions

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Students, parents, and guardians regularly ask questions about the financial aid process. Those questions begin as families work to complete the FAFSA for the first time and continue for the entire time a student is enrolled in college. Then, after graduation, students routinely seek advice as they check on upcoming student loan payments and may have new questions about graduate or professional school funding.

Although each student’s situation is unique, knowing how to respond to common financial aid questions can help you effectively advise the students you serve. Questions involving application status and refund status are very common, and the answers are rarely cut-and-dry. But even if you can’t offer students a firm “yes” or “no” — providing information specific to their situation can help ease confusion, as illustrated in the examples below.  

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Plan Ahead to Make College Affordable

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It took a lot of work to become a high-achieving high school senior.

You studied hard, got involved outside the classroom, and took pride in your accomplishments.

You are now in the middle of applying to numerous colleges and universities, completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and having staff at your school talk to you about scholarship opportunities. You are being congratulated and celebrated by family, teachers, and community members for your hard work and good grades—and you might have been told that a college is sure to award you a large or full-ride scholarship due to your GPA and achievements.

As a financial aid administrator for 26 years, this is when I get concerned. The false presumption among many students that their top-choice college will surely offer them an attractive financial aid package too often leads to students spending little or no time applying for local scholarships.

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Is a Financial Aid Refund Check Really ‘Extra’ Money?

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You completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and submitted all the needed paperwork.

Now you are enrolled in school and your friends are talking about getting a refund check. An email sent from your college says the funds will be available soon. Spring break is coming up and some of your friends are talking about going to the beach. Then you get another email from the campus housing office. They are asking you to save a few hundred dollars for the housing deposit for the upcoming fall semester.

Now you are curious. Is a refund going to be in your bank account? You may be wondering: “Is this extra money for me to spend?”

Let’s review how this works.

Continue reading Is a Financial Aid Refund Check Really ‘Extra’ Money?

The College Transition: Tips for Students with Disabilities

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Preparation is key for all college-bound students, but thinking through what you’ll need to be successful is especially important for students with disabilities.

Here are some ideas and insights to help you settle into college.

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7 Considerations to Make When Transferring Schools

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Numerous students transfer to another college and complete their degree program each year. Wanting to be closer to home, changing your major, not seeing the current school as good fit, and financial issues often factor into a transfer decision.

Before making a final decision, students should consider the following:

Continue reading 7 Considerations to Make When Transferring Schools

Do Your Research on Financial Aid

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Many college fairs are held during the fall. They provide a great opportunity for high school students and their parents or guardians to talk with college admission representatives. At two annual college fairs I am familiar with, financial aid representatives have a booth and talk about local scholarship options. Unfortunately, their booths are not very busy while admission representatives have many students waiting to discuss admission requirements. Usually the reps whose colleges are the most competitive and have the most well-known names have the longest lines.

In many instances, top students wait in long lines for well-known colleges because they have been encouraged to apply. Student GPAs and test scores can assist with the admission process, but there is a catch. Because most of the students applying to these colleges will also have impressive academic backgrounds, the colleges may not offer a generous financial award package to each student. Every college does things differently.

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Completing a Dependency Appeal for Financial Aid

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Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Admitted in November 2016. It’s being republished as part of NACAC’s Best of the Blog series.

You may be advising a student who lives with their grandmother or aunt, but was never legally adopted. In other instances, an older brother, sister, or family friend is raising a child but no official adoption took place.

For some families, this approach may have offered a way to handle conflicts and crises without involving the court system. However, complications can arise when it comes time to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

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6 Ways Colleges and Universities Award Financial Aid

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Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Admitted in November 2016. It’s being republished as part of NACAC’s Best of the Blog series.

When parents and students complete financial aid and scholarship applications they hope the end result provides a significant amount of funding.

Net price calculators and other tools can help predict a student’s projected cost of attendance. But too often, families wait until the initial financial aid award letters arrive from colleges and then wonder how to finance the gap between what was offered and their own resources.

Help the families you serve by familiarizing yourself with the most common methods used by colleges to award financial aid. By reviewing a college’s website, talking to a school representative, or even taking a campus tour, you can gain knowledge about the institution’s approach to helping families fund a college education.

Continue reading 6 Ways Colleges and Universities Award Financial Aid