What is the Common Data Set?

2 little kids researching the common data set

What does it mean? The Common Data Set refers to data collected by a group of publishers including US News Best College Rankings, The College Board, Petersons, and Wintergreen Orchard. The data includes information that is not part of government data including percentage of students receiving merit aid and the percentage of students that have financial need met. Approximately half of all colleges post their Common Data Set information on their websites for public viewing.


The Very Short List of Colleges that Meet 100% of Need

college student holding money representing colleges that meet 100% of need

As families start to encounter sticker prices during their college search, they are often revived from their state of shock by soothing voices whispering, “it’s ok, it doesn’t include financial aid.” Students and their parents learn the conventional wisdom that hardly anyone pays full price at private colleges. While true, unfortunately this is when too many families push their financial worries aside and decide to hope for the best in terms of financial aid. The problem is that while most colleges will provide some financial aid, very few will actually meet 100% of need.


What is financial aid gapping?

two little kids looking up financial aid gapping

What does it mean? When students submit their financial aid application, they receive a number they are expected to pay called the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). When you subtract the EFC from the total cost of attendance for a specific college, the amount left over is considered the student’s financial need. If a college’s financial aid award doesn’t cover all of the student’s need, the student has been “gapped.” Gapping refers to colleges not covering 100% of students’ financial need. How does it affect how much you pay for college? Gapping means that families should consider their EFC the minimum amount they will pay for college instead of the maximum. There are only around 80 colleges that claim to meet 100% of students’ need. These ...


Who Decides What are the Best and Most Interesting Colleges?

students researching best colleges

I was recently working on a custom list of colleges and the client was “confused” as to why two colleges were on the list, McDaniel College and Valparaiso University. She couldn’t find them listed in her Fiske Guide and so had no idea why we had selected the colleges. My problem isn’t with the client wanting to know why the colleges were included on the custom list. My problem is the thinking that because the schools aren’t included in the Fiske Guide it means they aren’t worthy of consideration.


What is merit aid?

Two little kids researching merit aid

What does it mean? Merit aid is a type of college financial aid. Colleges provide merit aid as an incentive for select students to attend their institution. Generally, these students have academic qualifications that would contribute to raising the college’s academic profile.   Often students do not even have to apply for institutional merit scholarships. Students are automatically considered for available merit awards as part of the admissions process. Colleges will often list the GPA and test requirements for these automatic scholarships. 


Why Your College Search Should Start with Your State University

picture of college graduates representing why you should compare collegesShould Start with Your State University

The college search process and figuring out how to pay for it can be confusing and intimidating so it’s not surprising that many families don’t even know where to start. For most people, the obvious place to start is with their state public universities. The logic is simple, private schools are going to be more expensive than your public option unless you receive significant financial aid. Knowing how much your state public university costs gives you an idea of how much financial aid you would need to make a private college competitive financially.


What is average net price?

little girl and boy researching what is average net price

What does it mean? Average Net Price is a term defined by the federal government which is the average amount students paid to attend a college after deducting gift aid. According to CollegeNavigator, the college search website for the National Center for Education Statistics, Average net price is generated by subtracting the average amount of federal, state/local government, or institutional grant or scholarship aid from the total cost of attendance. Total cost of attendance is the sum of published tuition and required fees, books and supplies, and the weighted average for room and board and other expenses.


Strategies For Finding Niche and Local Private Scholarships

Niche and Local Scholarships

Below is a summary of our Facebook Live discussion with Becky Ix on the topic of finding niche and local private scholarships.  Presenter – Becky Ix, College Prep Advisor and author of Who’s Guiding You? Becky advises families on all areas of high school tracks, testing, and programs as well as the college & financial aid & scholarship application strategic planning and processes. Her guidebook “Who’s Guiding You? Florida College Prep Guide” is available on Amazon for only $15 and is applicable to any student nationwide, it just has extra details about Florida programs. She also offers two custom organizers for College Applications & Scholarship Applications that you can purchase from her Facebook page “Who’s Guiding You”.  The largest source of scholarships come directly from ...


Why You Should Consider Going to a Small College

Tug boat and large ship representing reason to consider a small college

Simple-there are more of them. By considering a small college, you’ve just increased your possible college options by two thirds. There are a lot more small colleges than larger colleges. This has nothing to do with which are “better.” This has everything to do with paying less for college and the basics of supply and demand.


What is the PROFILE financial aid form?

2 little kids researching what is the css profile financial aid form

What does it mean? The PROFILE’s full name is actually the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE. The CSS stands for College Scholarship Service. It is a financial aid application administered by the College Board for non-federal financial aid. There are around 200 four-year undergraduate programs that use the PROFILE to award financial aid. Students who apply to schools that use the PROFILE financial aid form will still have to complete the FAFSA to qualify for federal aid.