Road Map for March: Seniors

The latest update on the FAFSA is that the Department of Education has begun sending test emails to colleges and expects to begin sending data to schools shortly. Keep an eye out for an email to let you know your FAFSA has been processed and transmitted to the schools you listed on the form.  At that time you should also be able to access your FAFSA submission summary, make any corrections that are needed, and view your Student Aid Index (SAI).  If you’re not familiar with this term, it’s the amount the FAFSA formula calculates that you can pay out of pocket for the year. Unfortunately, many families find the formula’s projections to be unrealistic, but this is simply the starting point in the process.  Any gap between the SAI and the cost of attendance (COA) for a particular college is referred to as your “demonstrated need.” If you have demonstrated financial need, you may be eligible for federal work-study funds, and for better terms on federal student loans. (Students without demonstrated need can still access federal loans, but at somewhat less favorable terms.) These sources of federal aid are in addition to any federal grants you might be eligible for, like a Pell Grant or Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, which support students with low SAIs. Colleges then also review the FAFSA data, and may make adjustments as they determine how much need-based aid to offer from their own funds (referred to as institutional aid.) Remember also that many colleges offer institutional aid based on merit rather than, or in addition to, financial need.

As a result of the FAFSA delays, a number of colleges have extended their deadlines for enrollment deposits. NACAC is keeping and updating a list, which you can view here.  If you need more time to review your aid offer as you make your final choice and the schools you’re considering are not listed, don’t be shy about calling and requesting an extension. Most families need to consider cost in their college decision-making, and colleges will be fielding a lot of these requests.

On a more fun topic, seniors are looking forward to end-of-year excitement like prom and graduation, and many are of my students are planning their senior portraits! In Washington, DC the cherry blossoms are a popular backdrop, and are expected to peak in about two weeks. If you have a time-specific setting in mind, be sure to book your photo session!