Vicki Beam

Vicki L. Beam

Most seniors have completed their college applications and are wondering what happens next. The priority deadline for college admissions at a large number of schools was Nov. 1, but some schools that have later deadlines. Make sure that you are verifying the deadline for each school of interest.

Applications for financial aid became available on Oct. 1. All seniors should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible for the best consideration of aid offered from the school of their choice.

Many schools and scholarship programs, including The University of Michigan, use the CSS PROFILE in addition to the FAFSA because they believe that by collecting more detailed information from students and their families, they can make a more complete analysis of a family’s financial capacity to pay for college-related expenses. The CSS Aid PROFILE collects more detailed information about a family’s financial circumstances and contains about 50 percent more questions than the FAFSA. There are significant differences between the CSS PROFILE and the FAFSA.

Unlike the more widely used FAFSA, which is required for any kind of federal aid, as well as for assistance from most states and colleges, the CSS Profile is just for private, non-federal aid. The online aid application is used by nearly 400 colleges and scholarship providers — so if a student is looking for aid from one of these organizations they will need to complete the CSS Profile.

Each school has a different deadline for completion of the CSS Profile — so it is important to check with each school to avoid losing out on private aid offered by the college or university.

Students are responsible for submitting the forms, but parents will need to get their documents together before starting the process. A list of information required to complete the CSS Profile is available at https://cssprofile.collegeboard.org. In order to file the CSS PROFILE, the student will need to log in to the CSS PROFILE site with his or her College Board account — which is the same account used to find PSAT and SAT scores.

When completing the CSS Profile, parents will report the value of cash, savings and investments as of the date the application is completed. The value of the home and other real estate should be listed at fair market value if sold today, not the tax assessed value. Families also will be asked to give information on the age and value of automobiles as well as the values of any businesses or farms that may be owned by them. In addition, it is important to know what amount a family has spent in medical expenses. Students with divorced parents also will need to have the noncustodial parent file a noncustodial parent form.

Now is a great time for seniors to begin searching and applying for additional scholarships. Make sure your student checks with the counseling office for information on scholarships. Locally, the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation gives away more than $150,000 each year. The 2020 applications will be available sometime in late January or early February — visit www.gtrcf.org for more information.

Seniors should visit the website for the colleges they have been accepted to, in order to learn about scholarships that may be available. Many colleges in Michigan have scholarship competitions — the top students can win a full-ride scholarship. Make sure to contact the financial aid office for details on how to apply.

Junior year is an important year for college prep. Juniors recently finished taking the PSAT and are awaiting their scores — hoping to find out that they are a National Merit Scholarship semi-finalist. Now is a great time for them to start preparing for the April SAT — and determine if they should be taking additional SAT and/or ACT tests to improve their admissibility to the school of their choice. Many resources are available to help with standardized test preparation — including local tutors, Khan Academy and on-line resources.

Now is a great time for juniors to begin visiting colleges of interest to determine if the school is a good fit, if it offers the desired program, what the requirements are for admission, if it is affordable and what are the chances are of acceptance. Campus visits typically include a presentation that includes admissions, financial aid and department heads. Prospective students will also be offered a campus tour, conducted by a current student, that can help them learn more about the college.

Michigan College Planning offers many free workshops scheduled in the area. Visit their website for locations and dates. The workshops are informative and include steps you can take right now to assure you understand the cost of attendance and how you can afford college.

Vicki L. Beam is a college planner with Michigan College Planning located in Traverse City. She encourages questions and comments about college planning. Contact Michigan College Planning at (231)947-0203, by email at vicki@michigancollegeplanning.com and at www.michigancollegeplanning.com.

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