We’re exploring the college application process in this show, with Lisa Bleich, author of “Surviv-ing the College Application Process.” I found this book particularly useful in its case study ap-proach to helping students determine what type of “angular student” they are in the eyes of their target schools.
Bleich’s background in marketing, teaching and mentoring combined, lead her to assisting stu-dents and their families in exploring their unique strengths that will help them appeal to colleges when they apply, and write their essays. She tells us that there were already books that explain the “what” of the application process, and her book, which uses 11 various case studies, helps explain the “how” and the “why” of the process. The narrative format also is designed to help students identify themselves and their situations to provoke questions of their own to hone in on their own unique talents and experiences.
Later, we also dive into the question on who should fill out the FAFSA or the CSS Profile, which are financial aid forms used to determine eligibility for aid and the types of aid families can ex-pect to receive.
What is an “Angular Student?”
We’ve heard the advice for years to become a “well-rounded” student, but Bleich says colleges are looking for well-rounded classes made up of students who individually have demonstrated a skill or impact, or their own angle. She works with students and their families to hone in on their unique story to develop the angle that will help demonstrate what they can offer a college they are applying to.
For example, men who are looking to enter into nursing or women who want to enter into engi-neering or science tend to present a unique angle, as these fields are normally gender-dominated. Likewise, a demonstrated ability to overcome adversity or a particular gift in music or athletics is also a great angle for students to develop. The essay the student writes in these cases will use this angle to help gain acceptance into that particular school or program.
How does a student use this if they’re considering elite schools?
- First and foremost, academics and test scores should be evaluated – are you a student within the range of what your reach schools are likely to accept?
- Second, explore how your angle or area of expertise gives you an advantage with these types of schools?
What role should parents play in this process?
- They often can help students hone in and identify their strengths and unique talents
- They can help develop a list of schools that include likely schools and safety schools to sup-plement that dream list of “reach” schools. Even if parents are nervous about their kid’s chances of getting into the reach schools, it’s important to let them go through the process and try.
- In regard to finances, it’s about having “the talk” and have it EARLY (10th – 11th grade)
What should be included in a frank discussion about college with your kids?
- Understand what the budget is
- Know what the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is in the eyes of the schools you’re con-sidering
- Costs can be determined by Net Price Calculators, found either on the College Board website, or generally on the Financial Aid pages for your potential school’s website. You’ll need infor-mation from your income statement and tax returns to complete these.
- Are you eligible for need-based aid? If so, apply to schools outside of your budget, as you could get full demonstrated need and qualify for more aid than if you were to apply to state schools that don’t meet full demonstrated need.
- If your EFC is high, merit-based aid could be a possibility
- The discussion that involves these questions helps to categorize schools and helps your family ultimately determine where you will need aid, and where you can attend with or without it.
- Having this discussion EARLY may also allow you to do something to improve your chances. Reviewing the dollars you currently have for college, where they can be placed so they’re not at risk, and what you’re willing to pay for out of pocket are important to discuss as a family.
- If the student is considering post graduate studies, talk about who is expected to cover those costs, understanding that it’s sometimes tough to see that far ahead when you’re 16 or 17.
Other considerations for financing college as a family
- Keeping it “fair” with multiple children – each student will have unique needs, and it may be tough to split the dollars evenly; understand that things won’t always be “even Steven.”
- The overriding principle should be to stay financially stable; don’t go bankrupt to “stay fair.”
- If your student is academically strong, merit aid may be available, but understand it’s deter-mined on your students ranking in the incoming class not necessarily their current high school ranking.
- Check out naviance.com or CollegeBoard.org sites to find out a specific college’s pool of ap-plicants to determine where your student stands with regard to average range of ACT scores or placement within their graduating class. A school that has a high percentage of students who placed in the top five percent of their high school graduating class may not regard your student’s top 10 percent ranking as highly and therefore be less generous with financial aid.
How does the “Surviving the College Application Process” break down its case studies?
- Narrative introduction of the student to help reader relate; we review Lisa’s client Noah’s story
- Timeline snapshot of where the student is in the process and their background leading up to this point
- What’s involved in the first meeting, and the strengths/weaknesses assessment
- A plan developed for the next year
- Personality profile, which again assesses strengths and what to do to play on them
- Developing a college checklist to determine what the student is looking for in a college, including culture, location and costs among other things
- Developing a list of colleges that align with those criteria and the reasons why the student would choose that college
- Developing the students story or angle to use in the essay
As a financial planner, I’ve found a lot of value in this format. There’s much to be gained from reading this, not the least of which is how to develop a roadmap from seeing how others did it. For those families who have not thought about the process much, this is a great primer in how and where to get started. For those who have been working on it, the book also provides great insights to help sharpen your focus by learning how colleges think and how they choose their students. For everyone, it should also raise some great thought-provoking questions for family discussion.
To contact Lisa Bleich
- Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Visit her website, CollegeBoundMentor.com
- She is also on Facebook as College Bound Mentor LLC or Surviving the College Application Process
- Twitter: @LisaBleich
Question of the Day: Do I have to fill out the FAFSA, the CSS Profile or any aid applica-tion?
The short answer is that you’re not required to fill out any request for financial aid. However, un-less you are independently wealthy, the vast majority of families DO and SHOULD fill these forms out. If you don’t, you’ll limit how much aid you can receive and how many loans you will be eligible for. So, don’t skip this process.
That said, what are these two forms and how are they different?
- A must-do for families seeking aid. Any college that provides federal aid all work with this form and require it
- Helps determine what types of aid you will receive: scholarships, grants, and loans
- Also determines what school aid (endowments or working budget dollars) you will receive
The CSS Profile
- Not all colleges require this form
- Generally included for private or elite schools, which involves higher dollar offers for scholar-ships ($30-$40,000 per year)
- Helps these schools determine that the money coming from their endowments and budgets are going to the “right” students
- Asks more in depth questions about the families, family business, both parents’ information in cases of divorce, real estate and retirement assets
- It generally does not change what your EFC is, most families will be eligible for the same amount
- Some families will see a drastically different answer however because it uses different formu-las to calculate how much aid you will be eligible for.
To view a list of the schools requiring the CSS profile, visit this link on the College Board website.
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