Estimating College Aid Eligibility Part 1

The process of applying for need-based financial aid for college begins by students and parents completing one or two financial aid forms, the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and/or the CSS Profile. Any college or university that awards federal student aid must require that students complete the FAFSA in order to determine eligibility for federal aid (it works for most state aid too). Most colleges and universities nationwide use the FAFSA as their sole application for need-based financial aid, so students applying for aid at those colleges only need to complete the FAFSA.

However, there are about 300 colleges which require that the CSS Profile also be completed in addition to the FAFSA. Those colleges use the CSS profile to assess the student’s eligibility for the college’s own institutional aid dollars. Typically, “Profile” colleges are very selective private colleges, including the Ivies, but the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are examples of flagship state universities that also require the Profile.

Calculating the Family’s Expected Contribution (EFC)
Regardless of the aid form (s) the student is required to complete and submit as part of the process of applying for financial aid, and after all of the time and information it takes to complete the form (s), it all boils down to three letters, EFC.

You provide your financial information on the aid forms (FAFSA and CSS Profile), submit the forms online to the processing centers for each respective form, and the information from the forms goes into the aid calculations (the Federal Methodology and the Institutional Methodology). The output of those need analysis calculations is the student’s expected family contribution (EFC) toward the cost of college. The student’s EFC is the minimum amount the student is expected to contribute toward the cost of college. Thus, EFC represents a dollar amount. It is the “output” of the aid forms and calculations.

Both of the EFC formulas focus primarily on the assets and income of the parents and student, family size and the number of dependent children enrolled in college in a given year to assess the family’s ability to pay for college using the income and assets that they have. And because the two formulas calculate EFC differently, it’s likely that the student’s EFC under each formula will also be different.

Using a Student’s EFC to Determine the Need for Financial Aid
EFC is used to analyze a students’ need for financial aid using a simple formula that subtracts the student’s expected family contribution (EFC) from a college’s total cost of attendance (Cost of Attendance – EFC = Financial Need). If a student’s EFC is less than a college’s cost of attendance, then the student qualifies for need-based financial aid.


Photo courtesy of:

Comments Off on Estimating College Aid Eligibility Part 1

Standardized Tests, What You Should Know

Standardized tests are a fact of life. They are not going away anytime soon. Even the so-called “SAT Optional” schools that don’t use test scores for admission still use the tests to award merit money.

The SAT is a reasoning and critical thinking skills test. The ACT is an achievement test. Students can do better on one test than the other. Because colleges accept either test, it’s a good idea to know which test your student will shine. So the question that begs to be asked: “Should I invest in a test prep course for my student”?

To help answer, a recent report by the National Association for College Admission Counseling criticizes common test-prep industry marketing practices, including promises of big score gains with no hard data to back up such claims. The report also finds fault with the frequent use of mock SAT tests. These are often much more difficult than the real tests, and so these lower scores can be used to inflate your student’s improvement when compared to the actual scores.

Jonah Varon, a straight-A student at Lowell High School in San Francisco, took a mock SAT from a test-prep company and scored 2060 out of a possible 2400. A few weeks later, he took the real test. Even though he didn’t take that company’s tutoring course, he scored 340 points higher and got a perfect 2400. If he had taken the course, his parents would have spent $1,500 with no improvement. In fact, most students who took the SAT before completing such a training course showed improvements of only 30 points.

To get higher scores on standardized tests, it’s better to learn the necessary skills and not rely on tricks to “test well”. There are tools that increase knowledge and build skills and are very affordable. One of them is the SAT Question of the DayTM. Each day a new question is emailed to your student and you can be copied, too. It’s very simple to register.

  • Go to The Official SAT Question of the DayTM website and log on in to the MY ORGANIZER section (lower left of your screen) by clicking GO.
  • Enter their user name and password and click SIGN IN.
  • To the right of the MY ORGANIZER banner, you will see Manage My Email Subscriptions.Click on it.
  • On the left at the top of the many the student emails you can get is The Official SAT Question of the Day. Check the box and click Submit at the bottom of the page.

IF YOUR STUDENT DOESN’T HAVE AN EXISTING COLLEGE BOARD ACCOUNT click: Create a College Board Account and enter the required info. That’s it! Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. The ACT has an ACT Question of the Day, but it doesn’t email the questions to your student, they have to remember to log on.

Comments Off on Standardized Tests, What You Should Know