I am a mentor in the first-to-college program at my children’s high school called Transitioning Together or T2. They arrange speakers to talk to our group including a representative from the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority or MEFA, a nonprofit that provides resources and tools to help students navigate the college planning process, particularly the financial aspect.
What he said was startling. Most colleges are not need-blind! Admission decisions sometimes do take financial need into consideration in which students who do not need financial aid are favored.
Most colleges have to meet a revenue goal when they make admissions decisions. At the beginning of the admissions decisions, the pot of money for financial aid is full. But as the admissions period winds down, there are still a few spots left for the new incoming class but the financial aid money from the college or university has been spent.
Therefore, here are a few tips that I have gleaned:
- Even if you need financial aid, you should still apply Early Decision (binding) assuming that this is your top choice. Often, applying Early Decision is also slighter easier in terms of getting admitted.
- You can ask for an early financial aid read to see what you might receive. You can also use the school’s financial aid calculator for a ballpark estimate.
- If your financial aid package ends up being unworkable, you can ask to be released from the binding commitment to attend that school.
- It’s always best to apply to college on the front end of the admissions window. Applying on the last day to submit will give you the worst odds of being accepted and for receiving the least amount of financial aid that the school could offer.
- The stronger the candidate you are, the more you increase your odds of getting a generous financial aid package.
- Highly competitive schools with large endowments are able to give the most generous financial aid packages.
For help with financial aid, go to MassEdCo.org,
Federal Direct Student Loans are in the student’s name and don’t need a parental guarantee. Through this program, students can borrow up to:
$5500 Freshman Year
$6500 Sophomore Year
$7500 Junior Year
$7500 Senior Year
for a maximum total of $27,000
At a fixed interest rate of 3.74% (the current rate for 2021-2022), the estimated monthly payment is $300/month for ten years to pay this amount back. The estimated total debt including interest is $32,000 to $34,000. This is the best way to get a student loan. Federal Direct Student Loans can also be reconfigured for a longer repayment period of up to 20 to 30 years.
The upshot is to apply early when the financial aid money has not been spoken for. Consider Early Decision (binding) even if you are seeking the best financial aid package possible. Finally, be sure to fill out your FAFSA and CSS as soon as the applications open up.
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