Road Map for October: Seniors

With the opening of the FAFSA and CSS Profile this month, students and parents should be moving forward with financial aid forms. While it’s always a good idea to do these forms early, this article explains why it’s especially important this year, particularly if your financial situation has changed significantly since 2019 due to COVID (or any other reason.)  And this one addresses the additional uncertainty of merit aid when so many students are applying without standardized test scores.

Parents sometimes ask if they should bother doing the FAFSA if they won’t be eligible for need-based aid.  If you expect to be borrowing for college then yes, since the FAFSA is required for federal student loans, which have better borrowing terms than private student loans.  I also recommend the advice in item 20 in this article. And I tell students to be very careful if they can’t cover their costs with federal loans; that could be a warning sign that their chosen school is not affordable for them.

If you still need to request letters of recommendation and transcripts, do that soon so your counselor and teachers have enough notice to meet your deadlines. Anyone applying Early Decision or Early Action should be getting close to finalizing applications and essays, and you should plan to submit your applications a few days before your deadlines. That way if there’s a tech glitch or other problem you have time to resolve it. Note that this year November 1 and 15 are on the weekend; be sure your cushion includes a couple days when school is in session in case you need to connect with your school counselor or teacher recommenders before you hit “submit”.

I’m still hearing from students who are trying to register for standardized testing, or at least considering it.  I want students to feel confident that not having scores is truly OK this year.  This probably won’t be my advice for future classes, but at this point if you don’t have test scores you really can just skip it.

I’m reviewing lots of personal statements and college-specific supplemental essays, and I appreciated this article about whether to write the optional COVID essay  I’m encouraging students to use this opportunity even if they haven’t experienced a dramatic impact like a loss in the family or job, though those are absolutely essential to include.  Students can still share aspects of their experience that are unique to them or reflect their interests or values.  For guidance on this or other essay-writing support, or any aspect of your application process, please contact me for an appointment.