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Welcome to the College Admissions HQ Blog where we present tips, information, and resources to help students and parents further their college admissions education.

You’ll get the best college admissions results when you fully understand how the parts of this process are entwined. With this knowledge, you can take thoughtful, deliberate action along the way. We call this Applying with Purpose, and it’s our powerful method to tackling this intimidating task. Whether in our blog, our free resources, or our course materials , we’ve got the essential information you need.

Please contact us us with your thoughts and questions about our blogs. Send us your suggestions for articles on topics you’d like more information about!

Unpacking Your Financial Aid Award

8 Clues to Understanding What a College is Really Going to Cost You

April is an exciting time in the college admissions process. Colleges have made their choices and your decision letters are posted on your online portals or have arrived by mail.

You’ve probably also received your financial aid packages. Now is the time to carefully scrutinize them to figure out your Net Price at each school—the dollar amount you have to pay to attend.

Net Price includes your EFC (Expected Family Contribution) and, if present, any Federal Direct and Perkins Loans, State Loans, Work-Study (on-campus employment), and unmet need, otherwise known as the GAP.

Our Financial Aid Award Comparison Worksheet helps you pick apart your first-year awards and find your Net Price.

However, your first-year Net Price does not necessarily reflect what you’ll pay in subsequent years. Each year you’ll get a new financial aid package and, depending on the college’s financial aid policies, they may look VERY different than your first-year year award.

The truth is, your Net Price is almost certain to be higher each year you attend. It’s important to find out how and by approximately how much your Net Price may increase each year—information not revealed in your first-year award.

To get an accurate estimate of the TOTAL cost of your 4-year degree, pull out your calculator, call the college’s financial aid office, and get the answers to the following 8 questions:

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Are You On the Same Page About College Costs?

8 Essential Money Questions for Every College-Bound Family

There are many exciting things to talk about when you begin the college admissions process—what to study, which colleges to explore, and how to tackle college applications, plan college tours, prepare for interviews, and discover scholarships and other financial aid* that might be available to you.

But often completely left out of college discussions are critical questions about what college actually costs, who is responsible for paying those costs, and what student loan debt really means for the family.

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Seven Smart Ways to Save Real Money on College Costs

You don’t often see “good news” and “college costs” used in the same sentence, but here it is: We have some good news for families facing the burden of ever-increasing college costs. Yes, there are some simple, smart ways you can save real money, even tens of thousands of dollars, in overall college costs.

Not every option we offer is right for every family situation; but it is absolutely true that every family can find real savings using at least one of the following seven strategies:

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Your EFC: What It Is, How It’s Calculated, and Why It Matters

As families start to dip their toes into the murky waters of the college application process, there’s one thing that’s crystal clear—college is very expensive and getting more expensive every year. A family’s best safeguard against being pulled underwater by college costs is to become fully educated about the college financial aid system.

That education starts with an understanding of a special number, EFC, or Expected Family Contribution, a measure of what a family can contribute toward college costs each year. EFC is the base of your need-based financial aid package. 

Financial Need at a college is determined by this simple equation:

COA (Cost of Attendance) – Your EFC = Your Need

If your EFC is less than the COA, you qualify for need-based financial aid (grants, student loans, and work-study). The lower your EFC, the more need-based aid you qualify for.

Your EFC is generated through an analysis of parent and student income and assets as reported on the FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Any family wishing to be considered for need-based financial aid must fill out and submit the FAFSA each year.

Most families are stunned when they see their EFC for the first time because they feel it’s much too high—that it would be impossible for them to contribute that much money every year toward college costs. And, in fact, they’re right. Today, the EFC actually reflects a combination of what you can pay now and what you can borrow and pay over time.

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Make the Most of Your College Visit

How to Make Your College Visit Really Count

Choosing the colleges you want to apply to is exciting! Your research brings to light opportunities, experiences, and a world of possibilities open to you at different colleges and universities. As you begin to whittle down your choices, consider how your college visit can significantly enhance your research.

Why Visit?

College visits let you see and feel for yourself what it might be like to live there. You gain information and insight you simply can’t get from brochures or websites. And, if you decide to apply to a school you have visited, your initiative demonstrates to the school that yours is a serious request for admission, and it may tip the scales in your favor (particularly if you have interviewed or spoken directly with admissions counselors, coaches, or professors).  

Get Your Visit Right!

College visits require an investment, sometimes a significant investment, of time, money and effort. So, make the experience worth your while! Follow this checklist to be sure you get the most out of your college visit.

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Get the Best College Recommendation Letters

3 Keys to Amazing College Recommendation Letters!

Letters of recommendation are an important piece of the application for colleges that require them. The best college recommendation letters provide valuable insight into you as a student and person. They validate from an outside perspective that you have excelled in some way – demonstrated exceptional commitment, reached high levels of achievement, exhibited great character, shown generosity of spirit, or worked well with other people. An effective letter of recommendation might tip the scales in your favor for an acceptance or even greater financial aid.

Follow these 3 simple guidelines to get letters of recommendation that really make a difference:

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Ace Your College Interview!

Four Steps to a Successful College Interview

The college admissions interview is a tremendous opportunity! Interviews add color and depth to the basic facts of your application. They allow you to ask questions that will help you decide if that college is right for you. It is a chance for you to set yourself apart from other applicants. With the right preparation, you can ace your college interview and tip the scales of acceptance in your favor.

Interviews are sometimes required as part of the application process, optional for interested students, or not offered at all.  An interview may seem intimidating but it is not meant to make you feel uncomfortable. Rather, it is meant to facilitate a conversation that helps you and the school learn more about each other.  Interviews almost always work in your favor, and if you have the chance to do an interview at a college of interest, grab it!

Follow these 4 Steps to a get the most out of your college interview:

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Discover Your Likely Net Price

Discover Your Likely Net Price Before You Apply

With the cost of college going through the roof and college debt growing at an alarming rate, Net Price is rapidly becoming the most important factor to consider when deciding on which college to attend.

You won’t learn exactly what your Net Price is at a given college until after you are accepted and receive your financial aid package.  This often arrives late in the senior year, long after you’ve spent time, money, and stress on the application, campus visit, and interview(s).

But, is it possible to get a realistic idea of what a college will cost you before you go through the hassle and expense of applying to that college? The answer is YES you CAN by understanding what Net Price is and how it’s determined.

What Is Net Price?

Net Price is the actual amount of money you are responsible for paying to attend a college.

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