With the cost of attending a private college or university reaching into the $60,000 range, financial aid has become a critical component in the decision-making process for students and parents as they consider where to apply and ultimately matriculate. Since most institutions award a large percentage of their financial aid scholarships based on need, it is important for families to assess their resources (current income, assets and ability to borrow) and determine what resources they have available to pay for college. We have included in the handbook several helpful websites that can assist you in your analysis. Through institutional and federal methodologies, financial aid offices are calculating a family contribution based on what they determine a family is able to contribute to their child’s educational expenses rather than a family’s willingness to pay. Each family will have to come to its own understanding of what they are willing and able to commit to their son or daughter’s education. If you think that you will need financial aid at any time during your college years, apply as a freshman. Request and read all materials from colleges regarding financial aid policies and procedures. Note and meet all deadlines, for a missed deadline can be costly.
Please note that colleges will look at your financial situation with a different set of policies and methodologies than Middlesex School, and they may not offer a similar aid package.
Net Price Calculator
In the fall of 2011, the Department of Education mandated that all colleges and universities put a Net Price Calculator (NPC) on their websites. Per the College Board website, the NPC is a tool that you can use to estimate your family’s “net price” to attend a particular college or university. It works by entering your financial information into the college’s calculator, and then the college will give you an estimated calculation of the family’s expected family contribution. While this is a powerful tool towards understanding the “real” costs of a college education, please note that many colleges are happy to discuss the results of the NPC estimated figures and that many colleges factor more than “need” into their packaging of a financial aid package so follow up with the college’s financial aid office for additional information. To learn more, please go to the College Board website at netpricecalculator.collegeboard.org.
Need-based Financial Aid
Although every institution’s approach, priorities and philosophical stance varies on financial policies, most college and universities practice some form of need-based financial aid, even if they blend merit scholarships into their portfolio of financial aid offerings. It is important that you research the policies of the colleges thoroughly and understand the procedures and deadlines of the institutions to which you are applying. How a college uses language in their description of their policies is important to note and recognize. Watch for the following financial aid buzzwords:
Need-blind admissions policy: a college that is “need-blind” makes admissions decisions without regard to the student’s ability to pay. The “need-blind college” does not review the student’s financial circumstances until after an admissions decision is reached. Many of the wealthier and highly selective colleges are able to admit their freshman class without regard to their financial aid budgets.
Need-aware or need-conscious admissions policy: some colleges, when considering students with equal academic records and extracurricular abilities who are “on the cusp” of acceptance, will give preference to the student who is able to pay. Due to a smaller endowment and/or a limited financial aid budget, these schools have to consider and monitor the amount of financial aid dollars they can commit on a yearly basis.
Meet 100% of demonstrated need: whether a school is need-blind or need-aware, it is important to determine if they will meet, if they decided to admit a student, 100% of demonstrated need through a package of grants, student loans and work-study. Schools that do not meet full need will “gap” admitted students, meaning the family will either have to take out parent loans, ask other family members to help with the costs or sadly not accept the offer of admission. Most colleges will proudly state in their materials or websites if they meet 100% of demonstrated need.
fastWEB.com FastWeb lets students create a personalized profile that can be matched against its expansive database of scholarships. This is a free online scholarship matching service whose database has over 800,000 scholarships totaling more than $1 billion. FastWeb also notifies students when new scholarships are added and application deadlines are approaching.
wiredscholar.com This site is hosted by Sallie Mae, who for more than 26 years has been active in the student loan business. The site has lots of information about all aspects of financial aid including a free scholarship search tool.
collegescholarships.com A financial aid search service using a large database of private scholarships, results in a scholarship package built just for you, including scholarships that match your criteria and a personalized letter with your information to each of the scholarship sponsors. Scholarships are available for undergraduate, graduate and international students.
internationalstudent.com/schools_awarding_aid/ A helpful website for international students to locate scholarship moneys and research universities and colleges that offers financial aid to international students.
mefa.org The Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA) is a self-financing, not-for-profit state authority dedicated to assisting students and parents in meeting the challenges of financing higher education.
reducingcollegecosts.com This website is run by experienced former financial aid officers who can help you navigate the process and sort through the challenges of paying for college.
sfas.com Student Financial Aid Services helps families navigate the financial aid paperwork, as well as guide the family through each step of the process.