College Application Timeline - February 2019

February is the month to focus on the financial end of the college application process. Federal, state and college aid deadlines will vary, with some may be as early as this month. Last month’s government shutdown impacted the calculating of financial aid packages for many students, but especially current applicants and transfer students. Fortunately, sympathetic administrators made sure that the necessary information was sent insuring that students could be admitted in a timely manner.

Schools have begun to determine how much aid to award prospective students based on the information found on the FAFSA, other information they might have already received, and it is very much a first-come first-served process. So, it goes without saying that it is in the student's best interest to have completed and submitted all financial aid documents sooner versus later. This priority date can be found on College Board under the college's listing (Paying > How To Apply For Financial Aid > Deadlines), or in the Financial Aid section on the school's website. Every school has it's own priority financial aid deadline that shouldn’t be missed.

The 2019-2020 Free Application For Student Aid, a.k.a. FAFSAhas been available online since October 1, 2018. The FAFSA can be intimidating, but check here to find the answer to the most common questions, and save time by having all the necessary documents ready before you begin.

All college-bound students needing financial aid to pay their college tuition MUST fill out and submit the FAFSA. The FAFSA now requires approximately 30 minutes to complete and the most common mistakes made tend to be not reading the questions carefully, inputting the wrong SSN, and misspelling names. So make sure to proof everything carefully. and that you have these 7 things on hand when you begin.

Note: There is no income cut off for financial aid. Eligibility is calculated by a mathematical formula - not solely income - and many schools use the FAFSA to award college funded financial packages and scholarships. Everyone should fill out and submit the FAFSA. 

•  CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE® is another application used by many colleges for more detailed financial information. The CSS is utilized by both colleges and scholarship programs to award additional financial aid from areas other than the government. Check here to see if the schools on your college list require the CSS. 

The cost is the same as last year's: $25 to send your Profile to a college or scholarship program with additional reports costing $16 per. Students eligible for SAT fee waivers are also qualified to receive CSS Profile waivers for up to eight reports. Students whose family income is below $40,000 will also be eligible for fee waivers.

•  Status of applications -  Still waiting to hear from some colleges? Applications missing documents could also be the issue and incomplete applications will not be evaluated, delaying a decision. It is the student's responsibility to check if the schools have received all the necessary documents. Colleges will notify you by email if there is something missing or students can check directly on the college's website.

•  Deferred or waitlisted - Have you been deferred or wait listed?? Understand the differences between these two and what your options are.

• Scholarships - College Apps Made Easy understands that most seniors just cannot write another essay, but if you would like help paying for your tuition, you just might have to. Colleges offer their own scholarships and admitted students are frequently automatically considered by default, but its always best to confirm that directly with the school.

Scholarships can be found in many different places, but it does require a bit of effort on the part of the student.  There are still a few scholarships with due dates later this month, otherwise be sure to check out those with March deadlines. 

• Campus visits -  Before making that big decision in April, consider revisiting the campuses of the schools where you've been admitted. As an accepted student your perspective will be different and so should your questions. This campus will be your home for the next four years, so make sure it has everything you want and need. If you've already chosen which college you will attend in the Fall, make sure to send in the necessary documents to secure your spot. 

• Haven’t applied yet? Fortunately, there are still many good schools with late application deadlines. It’s never too late to start your college education.

College Applications & the Government Shutdown

At 29 days and counting, the US government shutdown is now affecting students both applying to college, trying to transfer because they are unable to access the necessary documents from the IRS in order to apply for financial aid, or needing to pay their tuition payment. Students who had not yet filed their FAFSA are encountering delays, making them miss financial aid deadlines.

To get around this some colleges are accepting signed copies of submitted tax returns for the time being, others have instituted flexible deadlines, and schools are reaching out to each other to share the necessary information. Deferred payment plans for students whose parents are furloughed federal employees and unable to pay their child’s tuition payments is another method being used to assist this group of students, while a few schools are waiving the application fees for applicants affected by the shutdown.

Community college are often incorrectly snubbed as a viable college option, yet their tuition has become very attractive for students financially strapped due to this shutdown as a means of at least beginning their college education. Unfortunately, some students’ only option is to drop out of college this semester.

The ripple effect of the shutdown has also reached the graduate level where swearing in ceremonies for the DC bar, originally scheduled for January 25th, have been postponed. The New Jersey Board of Bar Examiners is allowing eligible DC law students to take their bar exam.

If you are a student facing financial difficulties due to this shutdown, please reach out to the Financial Aid Department of your school for assistance.

The Basics About Transferring Colleges

The college application process is intimidating in itself, yet approximately a third of college students will repeat the process in orde to transfer to another college. The reasons vary, and as with anything else, there are good reasons and there are poor reasons.

Experts believe that with the popularity of early admissions where schools now admit sometimes up to half of their incoming freshman class, and the competitive nature of the application process, high school seniors often feel pressured to make decisions before they might have had chance to really understand which school is the best fit for them on both a personal level and academically. Even for those who did everything right, once on campus and confronted with the rigors of college level courses, doubts about having made the right choice will begin to emerge.

The normal path for students who begin their college education at a community college is to transfer to a 4-yr institution once they have earned their Associates degree (AA). Naturally, students can apply to transfer to any college they wish, but Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG) programs (not to be confused with Guaranteed Transfer) guarantee qualified community college graduates admission to schools that are part of such programs where they can then go onto earn their Bachelors. California has one of the best known TAG programs offering guaranteed admission to all eligible in-state community college students.

Students who want to transfer from one 4-yr school to another have a more challenging time. If transferring after only one year of college, the high school academic profile will be the core of their application. If applying after sophomore year then the college GPA, transcript, etc., will come into play. Always check the college’s website for their transfer student admission requirements. Few Ivy League schools accept transfer students with some, like Princeton, which has only just begun to accept transfers, and it goes without saying that the process is very competitive.

Transferring credits is easily one of the hardest parts of the process, but here are some tips to ensure that the most of them do. Students able to participate in a TAG program will be able to keep most of their credits, but rarely are students able to transfer all their credits to their new school. Approximately 40% of transfer students received no credits for courses taken, losing on average almost full year of credits.

In July of 2018, Common App introduced the Common Application for Transfer, specifically designed for students interested in transferring schools. As with the regular Common App, this application streamlines the process, helps students gather the necessary documents, identify the essay prompts and all other school specific admission requirements, and lastly, is accepted by all their members schools. Transfer deadlines tend to be in February and March, but always check the websites of the schools on your list to be sure.

So, if you want to transfer schools, do yourself a big favor and follow this handy step-by-step guide to make sure that you’ve thought of everything and are successful at taking this next big step in your future.

College Application Timeline - January 2019

Happy New Year!! Congrats to all those who have already received letters of admission and scholarships from the colleges where they applied either Early Decision, Early Action or Priority. But, unless you applied Early Decision, don’t stop now. The next big due date is only five days away on January 1st, the better known of all the application due dates, especially for regular admission to many highly selective colleges and universities.

However, if you are still not satisfied with the admission results, consider the second round of Early Decision II and Early Action II.  Those deadlines are now so you  must act quickly if interested. Early Decision II is also binding, and Early Action II still offers applicants the chance to review financial aid packages before making that final decision. 

Even if you have a few notifications of admission in your hand, there’s still much more to do and consider in the application process.

•  Deferred or waitlisted - You have been deferred or wait listed?? Understand the differences between these two and what your options are.

•  FAFSA - The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, and the the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE are now available online. All students planning to attend college in the Fall should begin filling the necessary one out and submitting it as soon as possible. Financial aid packages are calculated using the information on the FAFSA so get this form filled out and submitted quickly. Check when the financial aid deadlines are for the schools on your college list - do not miss them. 

•  Check the status of your applications - Incomplete applications will not be evaluated, delaying a decision. It is the student's responsibility to check if the schools have received all the necessary documents. Colleges will notify you by email if there is something missing or students can check directly on the college's website regularly. This is especially important for international students for whom getting missing documents tends to take longer.  

•  Scholarships - Students should never stop looking for extra funds to pay for tuition. Check here for scholarships with January deadlines.

• Thank you - For those students who are all done with their college application process, please take the time to thank those that have helped you with your applications. Whether in the form of a card, note or email, let these people know that you acknowledge their efforts: it's the right thing to do. It doesn't take long and very much appreciated.

• Do not forget to notify those schools that you will not attend. Once the scolleges have calculated their yield, if needed they will be turn to their wait lists in hopes of filling those empty spots. If you are currently wait listed somewhere this could be YOU!!

•  Haven't even started thinking college yet?? - Well, you're in luck because there are still over 100 colleges and universities with application deadlines in January and February. Your 'perfect' school might be on this list.

The balance of the bullet points for January are identical to those every month:

• Don't miss ANY deadline

• Take the time needed to write a good essay - long or short

• Always keep your guidance counselor informed

• Lastly, keep those grades up. This is not the time to drop the ball with your school work .Colleges have been known to rescind an offer if there is a drastic drop in grades, they’ve discovered inaccuracies or there have been disciplinary issues.

To all my readers, thank you, for your support over the past year and I look forward to continuing to guide more of you through the college application process this coming year. And remember, help with your any part of the application process is only an email away, so don’t hesitate to reach out.

College Application Timeline - December 2018

December is a very busy month in the college application process with application due dates almost every week. Saturday, December 1st, marked another big priority/regular application due date for many colleges and universities. The next deadline is December 15th, which is also when the notifications from November 1st  Early Decision (ED) and Early Action (EA) will begin arriving.

Not submitting applications on time is one of the biggest mistakes students make, and though it’s known that public colleges and universities technically have rolling admissions, it’s always in the best interest of the applicant to submit their applications on the due dates. So, being prepared is key to reducing the stress of the college application process.

•  Guidance counselors & recommendors -  An application that is submitted without any supporting documents won't be reviewed so make sure that the guidance counselor, and those writing their letters of recommendation, are updated.

• Check your emails daily - Schools communicate more via email than snail mail, so clean out your inbox and check your emails daily. The status of you applications can also be checked on the respective schools' websites. It’s your responsibility!!!

• SAT/ACT Score Reports - Another crucial part of any application, these score reports take approximately two weeks to reach your schools, so send them early. Colleges in the Historically Black Colleges (HBC) network often accept SAT/ACT scores listed on the transcript, but its always best to check ahead. This is a big money saver for students on a tight budget.

• AP Score Reports - Check your colleges' requirements, but if you scored 3-5 on an AP exam consider also sending those along for consideration. A high score could act as a tie breaker in the evaluation process and/or allow the student to be excused from an introductory class.

  Supplemental and short answer essays - Don't take them lightly! By now most students have written their main college essay, but selective schools tend to have several of these supplemental essays and they are often harder to write because of the smaller word count limit. The infamous 'Why this school?' essay might seem easy, but shouldn't be answered by citing weak reasons. Do your homework by researching the website and thinking of exactly why that school is on your college list. Here's yet another opportunity for students to use their voice, so use it wisely.

•  January 1st deadlines - The regular admission deadline to the more selective colleges and universities is only a few weeks away. It is highly recommended that these applications be submitted as soon as possible. Double check the status of all the required documents -   SAT/ACT scores, letters of recommendations, transcript - are ready to be sent along with the application. Don't forget that incomplete applications cannot be evaluated.

•  Early Decision II or Early Action II - Students who applied Early Decision or Early Action on November 1st, but are not satisfied with the results, can try their hand at the second round that have early January and February deadlines. Early Decision II is also binding, and Early Action II still offers applicants the chance to review financial aid packages before making that final decision. 

• Final Aid Deadlines - Often overlooked, applicants must also submit their financial information on time. Check the school’s website or call the Financial Aid office for more information.

•  The 2018-2019 FAFSA can now be filled out and submitted earlier. Schools use the information on the FAFSA to calculate the financial aid packages they offer students, so applicants should get that FAFSA completed sooner vs later.

•  Missing deadlines -There is absolutely no excuse for missing an application deadline especially when using the Common App. Every effort should be made to have those applications ready to be submitted on time, and with no mistakes. All students with January 1st deadlines should make sure they aren't waiting till the afternoon of December 31st to hit Submit, and remember to keep in mind those time zones differences if applicable.

This is a very busy time of year for high school seniors, but one of the most important things they must also do is keep their grades up. A mid-year report is sent by the guidance counselors to the schools that have admitted you, as well as the others the student has applied to. There have been known to be consequences, such as an offer of admission being withdrawn, should there be a drop on the academic profile. So, good luck to all and keep your eye on the prize!