December 2017 Newsletter

Assisting Your Child With College Financial Aid

Dear Intrepid College Parent,

I address you as “intrepid” because you are brave enough to enter the treacherous world of financial aid. In an era of short news blurbs, I don’t think it serves our parents and prospective clients not to report exactly how the current college environment impacts college costs. Financial aid and admissions require a bit more information, and our newsletter bucks this trend and provides the most relevant and actionable information.

For those of us who assist parents with admissions and financial aid, the past few months have been incredibly challenging. This has been due to both the poor programming of the Department of Educations Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the invasive nature of the CSS/Profile. The Profile is a form that 400 institutions use to determine a student’s need for free money.

As there has been little useful guidance coming from the Dept. of Ed and the College Board, it has been up to our decades of experience to make sense of it all. Frankly, without professional assistance, I don’t know how parents without an advocate are going to get all the free money their student should get.

One of the most serious problems has been with the FAFSA and the way it imports parent and student tax information directly from the IRS. Last March, it was discovered that there was a possible security breach that could compromise a person’s sensitive information.

After yanking the Data Retrieval Tool (DRT), the IRS explained, “A malicious actor could create a Federal Student Aid ID, begin completing a FAFSA application, use the IRS DRT to obtain taxpayer information, and then use that information for illegal purposes, including filing false tax returns in hope of receiving tax return refunds.” The problem is that this never actually occurred. The IRS has been hacked but there is no proof that the above actually happened.

The actual results are that you cannot see the information that the schools will use to determine financial aid eligibility. The Department of Education cannot help you because the colleges are the only ones who can see the tax information. Also, there have been reports that a bug causes parents income to be transferred to the student’s section. The effect is inflating the expected amount of money the family will have to pay for college. And you won’t know it until it’s too late!

By not using the IRS DRT parents will have to order IRS Transcripts and send each to the colleges. Ask your high school guidance counselor what they think about all of this! If they tell you that you can just file for financial aid on your own, then they are either unaware or are thinking how things were twenty years ago. Either way, listening to them will be hazardous to your wealth! No matter how you look at it, applying for financial aid isn’t getting easier.

If You Think You Make Too Much Money To Get Aid, here Are Little-Known Reasons To File The FAFSA

Many parents think that because they make too much money or have substantial savings and investments they won’t get any financial aid. In many cases, this is not true anymore.

Some colleges won’t even look at the student’s admission application without first looking at their financial aid forms. Colleges are looking for students whose parents can afford their tuition. They call this practice “need-sensitive” or “need-aware”.

Other colleges will give students an edge if the forms are filed because they know that the student is serious about attending their institution.

And another reason is that the student can get an edge in the admissions process if the student won’t cost them too much in free money aid.

The moral of the story is to always apply.

When you get a toothache, you go to a dentist. When you feel ill, you go to the doctor. When your car makes funny noises, you take it to a mechanic.

There are very good people who, when the time comes, are ready to help you. It’s good to have relationships with these professionals, because when the time comes– and it will– you’ll know who to trust. Think about getting to know us before it’s too late.

For Your High School Junior or Sophomore

If your student took the PSAT in October, the results will be available made mid-month. Because good test scores are tied to scholarships and grants, this is the time to discuss taking a test prep course. Also, about one-third of students do better on the SAT, one third do better on the ACT, and the other third does equally well on both. There are tests that can tell you which test your student should take. Colleges accept either the ACT or SAT, so the only criteria in deciding which test to take is the one that will produce the best score.

The higher the scores, the more options your student will have. But scores aren’t enough. Good grades are still the most important thing to college admissions.

The Prodigal Child Returns

  • Expect your daily rhythm to be disrupted
  • Show him you’re happy to see them back
  • Allow her to lead the vacation life she chooses (barring blatant disregard for family members)
  • It is fair to ask about his schedule and expect to know his whereabouts
  • Remind her that the household’s longstanding courtesies are still in place
  • Ask him to save some time to do something with you (movies, breakfast, etc.)
  • Remember to be thankful that she wants to come home!

When considering the financial implications of college, there are a few things that are more important than where the student applies.

A well thought out list of colleges can mean the difference between paying thousands more in tuition than necessary. Regardless of what the financial aid formulas may show, the biggest factor for receiving a great deal is knowing which colleges will want your student enough to offer significant discounts off tuition. Ask us about Your College List and how it can introduce you to wonderful colleges that will shower your student with aid.

We provide guidance and advocacy to help you make avoid making big mistakes. Call us at 732-502-9700 or complete our brief contact form to find out how to make your and your children’s dream of going to college an affordable reality. There are more trapdoors and landmines than ever before and often we ourselves are amazed how many.

Time is of the essence. If you haven’t yet put yourself in the best position to pay the least amount of money, the clock is ticking and time is running out.

From our family to yours, we wish you a joyous holiday.

John Tillman

P.S. If you find this newsletter helpful to you please share it with other parents like yourself!