Report all of your Financial Aid Reply

Your overall financial aid package can come from many sources. You completed the FAFSA application and the results of that application were submitted to your school. Using that, you could be awarded a variety of Federal grants, scholarships, and loans. Your school may have internal grant and scholarship opportunities that are awarded based on a variety of factors, such as your high school grades and you and your parent’s economic situation.

University, Finance, Charity and Relief Work.

College financial aid.

In addition to this, you’ve probably spent many hours applying for grants and scholarships that aren’t attached either to your school or to the FAFSA. Likely this meant writing essays and introduction letters completing many very long applications for several opportunities ranging from as little as five hundred dollars up to thousands of dollars each. These could have been scholarships offered by local community groups such as the Rotary Club or the Masons, as well as state and national groups.

The important thing to remember is that these scholarships are considered part of your overall financial aid package, even though they didn’t come directly from your school or from your Federal financial aid package. Some scholarship and grant programs notify the school of their award, or send the check directly to the school’s financial aid department. Others send or give the checks to you directly and may or may not actually report the award to the school. This is especially true of smaller gifts from local organizations. This is where your responsibility comes in. It is up to you – not the school and not the organizations giving you money – to make sure all sources of financial aid are reported to your school. Even the small $500 grant checks that you received are part of your financial aid and are considered by the school when awarding other Grants and scholarship.

There is a temptation to refrain from reporting some of the smaller awards, especially when it seems very unlikely that your school will never find out about them. Can reporting your outside financial aid reduce the financial aid package your school offers? Yes it can. However, it is considered fraudulent to withhold information regarding your outside financial aid offers and it could result in a revocation of your entire financial aid package should the school find out that information was withheld. Even more severe, you could find that your acceptance into the college is also revoked if the school feels you have been dishonest with them.

The better, and more honest, route to take would be to report everything you have received to your financial aid department. Then you can negotiate with them, should you find that your overall package was reduced. Don’t put your college career at risk to save a few bucks.

Decoding your College Awards Letter Reply

Multi generation meeting at the coffee bar

Sharing the news of a college award letter.

Typically, colleges for which you have been accepted will send an awards letter to you in March or early April. This letter contains important information. From it, you should be able to determine your total cost and the financial aid you are offered. Unfortunately, there is no standardized format for these letters, nor is there a standardized set of data that must be reported in the letter. Each school formats their letters a little differently, and so it can be very difficult to decipher.

On your letter, you may see several acronyms. Let’s go over a few of them so that the letter itself will become clearer. Prior to receiving your Awards Letter, you received a notification from FAFSA which included your EFC – your Expected Family Contribution. This is the amount that you or your family will be expected to cover, using loans or other means. Your COA – is your cost of attendance. It is the amount listed on the letter that shows the total cost to attend the school. Your FAFSA of course, is your Free Application for Federal Student Aid and is the application you completed to start the whole process.

The letter should outline your COA, so that you understand the overall costs. If you are comparing schools, this is often a very important number. You will also see the Net Price, which is the COA minus your gift aid. Gift Aid is considered the scholarships and grants that you were awarded through the school and the FAFSA. While COA is an important number, the Net Cost can be even more important. The Net Cost is the Cost of Attendance (COA) minus the financial aid you received. This includes all grants, scholarships, and loans. The Net Cost is composed of your EFC plus a GAP, which is the difference between the total cost and the EFC – something that goes beyond your expected family contribution.

The Net Cost can be important because, even if the COA of one school is higher than the other, that higher priced school might have more aid available. This could mean that by looking at your net cost, you may find that you could actually pay less to attend a more expensive school because they have more scholarships and grants available.

Once you have decided on a school (if you’ve applied to more than one) it is important for you to review the Awards Letter and return it to the school. When you review your Awards Letter, you will be accepting some or all of the Financial Aid offered. It is important to get this done as soon as possible so that your aid can be applied to your account at the school. You can choose to accept or not accept any portion of your financial aid. When looking through your aid package, you’ll want to accept all grants and scholarships first, followed by any federal loans prior to accepting private loans. This will help ensure that your overall costs stay low.

Should Startups Hire New MBA Grads? Reply

StartupNew Economy, New MBA

Back in the day, MBAs were sort of for losers. People who weren’t successful in their business pursuits went to business school to gain new schools with the hope of improving their business acumen. The logic was simple back then: if you were good at business, you stayed in business. But our economy has shifted and so have many business schools in terms of how their MBA programs are shaped and whom they accept into their programs.

Many business schools are now places for networking, innovation, and learning hard skills that serve core business functions (the stuff that hasn’t changed very much). In short, MBAs are walking out of their business schools more connected, more creative, and more prepared than the average individual with a few years of work experience but lacking an MBA. Many MBAs take the advantage of their time in school making connections and thinking broadly by creating startups of their own with their colleagues.

Getting wiseMBA

The beauty of the new frontier for MBA students is that they are primed for innovation as they leave the incredibly formative experience that is graduate school. Increasingly, entrepreneurship is one of the most appealing concentrations for students in business school. Nothing spells new horizons like putting in your few years at some firm, becoming a student again, then stepping back into the world of work. MBA students are eager to apply their learning and leverage their newfound connections on behalf of whatever project will help them make their mark. And we are beginning to see startups catch on.

Startups are hungry for that balance of innovative energy alongside hard skills that keep the company’s wheels turning on a daily basis. They need a constant infusion of fresh thinking along with the ability to execute on those bright ideas. In so doing, startups operate with some degree of consistent churn among their employees, which can be seen as a strong quality assuming that the company is still meeting its internal goals.

No longer risk-averse

Whether it is a generational shift or a product of business schools shifting their admissions and programmatic priorities, today’s typical MBA student is no longer as risk averse as MBA students in past years. Indeed, MBA students are arguably going to business school to mitigate the risks in our hyper-competitive economy. They are quite literally building the networks and acquiring the skills they believe they will need to survive in the business world precisely because they wish to advance in that world. To them, not improving their standing with MBA is an even greater risk than leaving the security of their pre-MBA job.

This is an ideal reality for startups. As they themselves get smarter about risks–in order to reduce the remarkably high failure rate for startups–they find themselves with a fresh crop of MBA students to draw from, year to year, to fuel their potential success. Alongside this trend, we have business schools and MBA students themselves working hard to make MBA degrees as valuable as possible in our modern economy given its ever-shifting context. An ideal match if there ever was one.

About Vera Marie Reed

Vera Marie Reed is an ex-elementary school teacher turned freelance writer from Glendale, California. She is now a stay at home mother to her two young daughters and enjoys writing about education and parenting issues. She hopes one day to write and illustrate a series of children’s books. Follow her on Twitter at @VMReed.

All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of or its parent company Nelnet.

High School Sophomores: Get a Part-Time Job or Volunteer Work to Help You Succeed Reply

Portrait of Vietnamese beautiful waitress with a tray standing in a cafe

Working a part-time job.

For high school sophomores, getting a part-time job or volunteering for an organization is a great idea. Part-time jobs allow you to get some pocket cash and gain experience in a field of interest. While you won’t make any money volunteering, the experience you gain looks great on your resume for future jobs and on the application to college. Doing either of these isn’t hard either since you won’t typically be required to already have fully built out resume. For a lot of jobs or volunteering gigs, all you need to do is have an entry level resume and show you are motivated to work hard to succeed.

If you don’t have any experience and want to be able to work in a hospital, daycare, or school, community center, or for local events, volunteering is a great way to gain the experience you need to acquire the job after you have graduated high school. Jobs that require a specific amount of schooling, like a college degree or certificate, are perfect to volunteer for, because although you won’t get paid, you will be establishing yourself as a person who is motivated to succeed.

Part-time jobs are also a great way to gain experience, plus you will get paid to do work. However, a lot of higher paying jobs will require work experience and/or a certain level of education, so don’t expect to be making six figures right off the bat. Don’t get discouraged though, this doesn’t mean that you can’t get a job in your field of interest. Many animal shelters, sales, grocery stores, restaurants, and department stores are happy to higher high school students who don’t have any experience. If you already have some sort of expertise, you can also work freelance, for example as a web designer or writer.

The best way to get a job or volunteer work is to research and ask around your local community if anyone is looking for part-time workers. Most organizations will always be willing to accept volunteers, and typically companies will be willing to hire a part-time worker, especially in the summer. Summer jobs are notorious for being the perfect fit for high schoolers looking to make a little money while school is out.

Also, ask your mentors, teachers, parents, and friend’s parents if they know a good place to apply. A lot of times volunteer opportunities and part-time work are filled by word-of-mouth and friends of friends, so don’t forget to harness the power of your already existing relationships and community. Remember as well that your parents and mentors will be willing to help you out finding a job and building a resume. Wherever you decide to work you will be gaining valuable experience and skills for your future success, including money management, responsibility, a sense of worth, collaboration, and professionalism. All of these skills be beneficial to getting into college and/or getting a higher paying position in the future.

High School Juniors: It’s Time to Gather Your Application Materials for College Reply

When applying to college, you’ll need to gather all of your pertinent documents require for the application process. Along with the school’s application and depending on the program you’re applying for, you’ll want to have a resume, writing samples, letters of recommendation, portfolios, audition tapes, statement of purpose, and any other documents that the college is requesting.

College Resume

Student filling out a resume for college.

A resume for your college admissions packet is different than a work resume. For the college resume, you’ll want to include everything of note that you have already accomplished and will accomplish by the time that you graduate. Include anything from experiences that show a passion for your major to publications, awards, volunteering, jobs, extracurricular activities, sports, and hobbies. For help brainstorming and organizing a formal resume, do some research online for a good template and ask your parents and mentors for help. You want to ensure that your resume is easy to scan and shows that you’re professional enough to put the time into creating a great resume. Whatever you do, don’t just throw a resume together and expect it to be good.

Likewise for all writing samples, portfolios, audition tapes, and anything else that you’ll submit along with your application, be sure that each is formally presented. Be sure to label everything with your name, phone number, email, address, and name of your high school at the top. Admissions departments have so many applicants each year they will appreciate an organized and well-thought application.

When you send your application materials, be sure that you know that all of your documents and application actually get to where you send. This can mean that if you send it through the United States Postal Service that you request a tracking number and notice of delivery. If you send your documents digitally, follow up after a couple of days with an email to the school’s admissions department to be sure they got it. Also, if they don’t reply to your email, be sure to call them during normal business hours to ensure they received everything. It would be a good idea to call admissions if you send everything through the USPS as well after you receive a notice of delivery, just to be sure.

The most important part to the admissions process is to ensure that you have done everything properly and submitted the required documents so that your application isn’t delayed. Be sure to ask your teachers, mentors, and parents for help creating the perfect application packet.

Sophomores: Now is the Time to Visit and Tour College Campuses Reply

iStock_000004837175SmallVisiting a college campus is a great way to find out if a college is the right fit for you. With all of the variation in college campuses, student housing, and academic and student life, the only way to experience a college before actually attending is to do a campus tour. Plus, it can be fun to have a road trip with your parents or friends during a summer to hit two birds with one stone. During the summer is usually the best time for high school students, however, in order to get a true feel for how the campus will be during the school year, it might be best to visit during the Fall or Spring semester.

The first thing you need to do when planning out your on-campus visits is to choose a number of universities and state colleges that are close and far from your hometown. How many you want to visit is up to you, but it is important to at least visit the colleges on your top 5 list. Keep in mind that sometimes college tours only take a couple of hours so you can visit 2 or 3 during one day if you schedule in advance. However, some colleges also offer the chance for potential applicants to stay the night with current undergraduates. If you have the time to do this, it is highly recommended. Staying the night in a dormitory is a great way to learn firsthand from students what the college experience will be like.

After you have narrowed down the colleges you want to visit, be sure to call the school’s admissions office so that you can be sure you are visiting during an appropriate time. If you want a tour that is led by someone who knows about the campus, most require that you call at least 2 weeks in advance. However, simply going to the campus and walking around without a guide can be helpful too. Though colleges prefer that you schedule a tour, exploring the campus can often give you a more authentic experience.

If you want to get all of the information possible in one visit it is also a good idea to set up appointments with an academic advisor, financial aid office, a professor in the field you want to major in, and a coach if you are planning on doing college sports. Professionals at the school will typically be willing to meet with you during business hours to help answer your questions and show off their school to get you to attend when you graduate high school. And don’t worry, you don’t have to have everything planned out right away. You still have plenty of time to decide what you want to study and where you want to go. Plus, over 50% of students change their major at least once, so don’t feel bad about trying out different specialties until you find one that you truly enjoy.

Applying for Scholarships: Start Early and Apply Often Reply

Students studyingLocal scholarships are scholarships that various organizations in your community offer students who reside in particular place to help pay for college. Often these scholarships are offered through municipalities or prominent figures that wanted to give back to their home communities. Plus, since these are largely given out based on geographic location, it can often be easier to be awarded money for school because of the smaller applicant pool.

Even if you live in a small community, there are often plenty of scholarships available, you just might have to do more work to find them. So, before you start your junior year, you should already be asking your teachers, mentors, employers, parents, and other people in your community that might know about local scholarships that might be available. You might be surprised to find out how much money is available to eager and driven students.

Most scholarship deadlines are in January, so you should be ready by mid-year of your junior year to have scholarships already lined up for after you graduate. This might seem early, but it isn’t. Plan on carving out some time in your schedule in order to find and apply for scholarships. Preparation and due diligence are key here.

Along with asking those who are close to you about available scholarships, check with your guidance office. They will likely have a list of scholarships available. But don’t just stop there as they might not have a full list. Contact state and local agencies, community colleges and universities around your area, as well as searching online for local scholarships in your city. This is a time when picking up the phone or scheduling a meeting with someone in-the-know can greatly pay off in the long run.

10 Body Language Tips for Your College Interview Reply

Having a successful college interview means more than just saying the right things and having a great digital resume, having the right body language is extremely important too. Non-verbal cues can convey a message stronger than your actual words since they can often be unintentional yet express your true meaning. Here is a list of the 10 body language tips for your college interview.

  1. Sit firmly back in seat

Sit up straight

Sitting all the way back and firmly in your seat not only shows that you have great posture, but also that you are confident. It gives a sense that you are comfortable and relaxed and ready to tackle any tough question that might get thrown your way.

  1. Keep feet on the ground

Planted feet shows that you are secure and steady. Since your feet are planted on the ground literally, it can figuratively mean that you practice sound judgement and good common sense, which any college interviewer would look for in a prospective student. Also, it has been scientifically proven that you can respond to questions more creatively and with more complex answers with both feet on the ground.

  1. Make and maintain eye contact – but don’t stare

Maintain eye contact
Making eye contact shows that you are being direct. Maintaining eye contact shows that you are listening and engaged to your interviewer. Even without speaking, proper eye contact shows that you are an active participant in the conversation. However, while you should maintain eye contact, you should not stare. According to Forbes, this can be interpreted as aggressive and even creepy.

  1. Gesture with your hands

It can often feel awkward to hold your hands still while talking, so it’s okay to use your hands to gesture while you speak. It can show that you are passionate about what you are talking about, which would be impressive to any college interviewer. Just be cognizant of your gestures, so don’t point in an aggressive manner.

  1. Palms up means honesty

According to Mashable, putting your palms up conveys honesty and engagement and can actually make the interviewer feel more comfortable. If the interviewer is more comfortable, this can cause you to relax, as well, making for a better and stronger interview.

  1. Nod while listening

Slightly nodding while listening is a great way to send the message that you’re listening, without actually speaking and interrupting your interviewer. Nodding at key moments drives home the fact that you’re engaged. Just remember not to overdo it and nod at every single word your interviewer has to say.

  1. Lean slightly forward

Leaning forward slightly during your interview can show that you’re listening intently. It’s also reducing some of the space between you and the interviewer, which can make things more relaxed and comfortable.

  1. Don’t cross arms

Crossing your arms can seem like a defensive mood, where you can seem off-putting to your interviewer. It’s better to keep your arms at your sides to seem more relaxed and personable. You want to seem open and approachable during your interview.

  1. No hands behind back

Don’t keep your hands behind your back at any point; it can seem as if you have something to hide. Place your hands lightly in your lap while not speaking or gesture with them while talking as cues that you are engaged throughout your interview.

  1. Make sure tone and expression match

You could send mixed signals to your interviewer if you are speaking passionately, while having a deadpan expression on your face. This can signify that you don’t believe what you are saying. Therefore, make sure that both your tone and expression match to convincingly get across what you are saying is exactly what you mean and how you honestly feel.

About Vera Marie Reed

Vera Marie Reed is an ex-elementary school teacher turned freelance writer from Glendale, California. She is now a stay at home mother to her two young daughters and enjoys writing about education and parenting issues. She hopes on day to write and illustrate a series of children’s books. Follow her on Twitter at @VMReed.

All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of or its parent company Nelnet.

How Important Are Test Scores in College Admissions? 2

With the recent trend of more colleges going test optional, you may think that test scores have become less important in college admissions, but this isn’t exactly the case. The reality is there are many schools and many categories of students for whom test scores remain to be very important. So let’s break it down.

Why Test Scores are Still Important

Currently, there are over 850 colleges and universities in the United States that are test-optional, or “test-flexible” in some capacity, but these make up less than ⅓ of the 4-year colleges and universities in the country. SAT and ACT scores are considered by many institutions to be the most effective data points we have right now to compare students from different high schools and different parts of the country. These tests are not perfect, by any means, and they do not accurately assess many of the intelligences and skills a student might bring to a school, but, for better or worse, they are what colleges have right now to use as an equalizing factor. And so they will remain an important component in admissions at many schools, particularly large institutions. Even many schools that appear to be test-optional are not truly test-optional for all students. They may require other testing in lieu of the traditional SAT or ACT, such as AP or IB scores, or they may require scores from student athletes and students seeking scholarships even if they aren’t required in general admissions.

Test Scores are More Important at Some Schools than Others

Every higher ed institution ranks the factors it considers in admissions from “very important”, to “important”, to “considered”, to “not considered”, and you can find this information online in college profiles. For example, Yale lists test scores as “very important,” the University of Michigan lists them as “important,” and Harvard lists them as “considered.” But because this information is self-reported, you have to take it with a grain of salt (Harvard boasts some of the highest test scores in the country, after all). Test scores are also calculated into U.S. News and World Report rankings, so this puts additional pressure on schools seeking higher rankings to increase the average SAT score of their admitted students.

Still…Test Scores are Just One Factor in Admissions

Knowing how important test scores are to certain institutions can give you valuable insight into the level of scrutiny that your SAT or ACT score report might face, but it is also important to keep in mind that scores are only one factor in admissions. Most institutions consider your high school transcript and GPA to be the most important component in admissions and also consider other elements such as essays, teacher and peer recommendations, extracurricular activities, and personal obstacles. This is a good thing for students who feel that their test scores do not best represent them, but it also means that students should realize that test scores might be even more competitive at their dream schools than they realize. Say a school deems test scores a “considered” factor in admissions and releases a middle-50 percentile SAT score range of 1200 – 1450 (I’m using new SAT scores out of 1600, since that is what we will be working with from now on). You may think your 1250 makes you competitive at this school, and it might, depending on the rest of your profile. But remember that this score range is likely pulled down by some students who have been admitted for special reasons. You should always target scores in the upper half of this range, then, to consider yourself to be truly competitive. If you’re wondering how to improve your ACT score or your SAT score to move up in this range, one of the best ways to do so is to practice with all of the official tests you can get your hands on (and do so under a time limit). You can find previously given SATs and ACTs on the College Board and ACT websites as well as in the official books published by these organizations.

The moral of the story is that good test scores can only help you in college admissions. Test optional schools are a great choice for students for whom the SAT or ACT is not a good fit, but, with the state of college admissions today, good scores still stand to open up a lot more doors.

About Kristin Fracchia
As Magoosh’s resident ACT Expert, Kristin creates awesomely fun ACT lessons and practice materials for students. With a PhD from UC Irvine and degrees in Education and English, she’s been working in education since 2004 and has helped students prepare for standardized tests, as well as college and graduate school admissions, since 2007. She enjoys the agonizing bliss of marathon running, backpacking, hot yoga, and esoteric knowledge.

All views and opinions of guest authors are theirs alone and are not representative of the views of or its parent company Nelnet.