College Planning Frequently Asked Questions


How do I calculate my financial need? 

The Financial Aid Office determines your financial need by calculating the difference between your Cost of Attendance (COA) and Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The COA is the sticker price of the school. The EFC is the amount that you and/or your family is expected to contribute to your cost of attending college. The EFC is the same for every school you apply to.

Financial Need

Your expected family contribution is calculated by the federal government based on your FAFSA. The nine month cost of attendance includes tuition, fees, books, supplies, and an average cost for living expenses to include housing, meals, and transportation.

I come from an upper-middle class family with a higher income. Does this mean I’m not eligible to receive funding for college?

No, not at all. Financial aid comes from many sources including the Government, the College or University, and Private Sector Scholarship Sponsors. While your family may not be eligible for need-based funding from the Government, you are most likely eligible for other types of funding. In addition, there are a number of financial planning strategies that can place your family in an advantageous financial position when it comes to paying for college.

When should I start looking at colleges and planning to finance my education?

The short answer to your question is NOW! Ideally, during your sophomore year of high school you should begin working on your career path and start researching the qualities that you are looking for in a college or university. Planning to finance your education should start at approximately the same time. This will give your family plenty of time to make any adjustments to the family’s finances to give you the best eligibility for financial aid. Don’t despair if you are already past your sophomore year – even seniors in their first semester can effectively choose a college and plan for financing an education but it will take a great deal of time and dedication in a relatively short period of time to do so. Your best plan is to start early!

Do I really need to decide on a career before I start searching for a college?

Deciding on a career path or at least an area of study before you start your college search is the best strategy for optimal college selection and funding. You will be properly equipped to find the college offering the best program in your desired area of study. Doing so will also prevent the loss of time and money that comes with a change of schools when a student discovers that his or her chosen school doesn’t offer a quality program in the desired area of study.

Do I apply for admissions or funding first?

Technically you will apply for admissions first (Fall of your Senior Year) and funding second (January of your Senior Year). However, you should start planning your funding strategies long before you actually apply to the schools. Also, private-sector scholarships vary greatly in their deadlines. You may be able to apply for some of these funds during your junior or even your sophomore year of high school.

My family doesn’t have much money. Do I have to settle for a less expensive school?

No, most-often you will not have to “settle” for a school. This is one of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to selecting a college, and paying the bill. There are a number of strategies that will help you maximize the funding that you may receive from various sources. With proper planning and foresight, you should be able to receive adequate funding for your education – no matter which school you choose to attend.

How many colleges should I apply to?

It is recommended that you apply to six (6) institutions. These should include four good selections, one “long-shot” selection and one “safety” school.

My Dream School offered me $12,575 in funding, but it will cost $22,000 per year to attend. Is that the best offer I can get, or is there something else I can do?

In many cases you may appeal for a better offer of funding. Many schools will start low in their initial offers of financial aid. Knowing when and how to appeal can make the difference between receiving enough funding to attend and being turned away.

Can we get through this process on our own?

Can you get through it? Of course you can. Do you have the time necessary to do the research, devise a plan, and effectively stay on track? Most families don’t! Please keep in mind that there are dozens of strategies for college selection, admission and funding that can put your family at a real advantage over the “crowd.” A professional college funding consultant, with a proven track record, can advise your family on how to use applicable strategies to your best advantage.

Do I have to reapply for financial aid every year?

Yes. Most financial aid offices require that you apply for financial aid every year. If your financial situation changes, you may receive more or less aid. After your first year you will receive a “Renewal Application” which contains preprinted information from the previous year’s FAFSA. Note that your eligibility for financial aid may change significantly, especially if you have a different number of family members in college. Renewal of your financial aid package also depends on your making satisfactory academic progress toward a degree, such as earning a minimum number of credits and achieving a minimum GPA.

Are my parents responsible for my educational loans?

No. Parents will only be responsible for your educational loans if they co-sign your loan. However, parents are responsible for the Federal PLUS loan.

If I take a leave of absence, do I have to start repaying my loans?

Not immediately. The subsidized Stafford loan has a grace period of 6 months and the Perkins loan a grace period of 9 months before the student must begin repaying the loan. When you take a leave of absence you will not have to repay your loan until the grace period is used up. Once you use up the grace period, you will have to begin repaying your loan immediately.

I received an outside scholarship. Do I need to report it to the financial aid office?

Yes. If you are receiving any kind of financial aid from university or government sources, you must report the scholarship to the financial aid office.

Are work-study earnings taxable?

The money you earn from Federal Work-Study is generally subject to federal and state income tax, but exempt from FICA taxes.


*If you have questions about College Planning, we offer a free one hour consultation to everyone. To schedule an appointment please call our office at (630) 993-8200 or fill out this form.