February 2016 Parent News
For parents the impact of financial aid is a significant factor to consider when weighing college options.
If you have a younger high school or middle school student, start building your understanding of college costs — it is more complicated than just looking at listed prices. Grants and scholarships are given out by institutions that are tied to both family financial need and to student merit. And at our colleges, those grants cut the cost of tuition by more than half for first-year students for the average family. Learn more about how financial aid works and explore our Paying for College videos.
And if you have a junior or a senior, you may be looking for some nuts-and-bolts suggestions about financial aid. Our college’s financial aid and admission leaders recommend that you:
- Get an estimate – To get an estimate of your expected family contribution and eligibility for financial aid, consider completing the FAFSA4CASTER. This tool has fewer questions than the actual Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and doesn’t require personal information.
- Create a federal student aid (FSA) ID – Both you and your student need to create a FSA ID (instructions) to sign in to all federal financial aid-related websites.
- File taxes early – Complete the FAFSA as soon as January 1, or as soon as taxes are filed. If taxes are filed two to three weeks before completing the FAFSA, you should be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (see below) to complete the FAFSA application.
- Simplify the FAFSA by using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) – You and your student are encouraged to use the DRT to complete the FAFSA to make the application process easier and reduce common errors.
- Understand and prepare for verification – Verification requires you and your student to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool or submit federal tax transcripts and other supporting information directly to the financial aid office to verify the information you shared on the FAFSA. It is critically important to respond to schools’ requests for information as soon as possible to get an official financial aid award letter in a timely fashion.
- Find your “go-to” person – Colleges can be big places, and the application and enrollment process may sometimes seem overwhelming. We recommend identifying a go-to person at each college, someone you know you can go to for timely and honest answers to your particular questions.
Students — and parents — have a lot of questions. We selected and answered a few of the most common ones that our college admission experts are frequently asked at college fairs and other admission-related events. Read the Q&A article.
We recently excerpted two opinion pieces that tackle current hot-button topics: the value of liberal arts and affordability. Mary Hinton, president of the College of Saint Benedict, stresses that there is more behind going to and graduating from college than simply getting a job. The Council’s president, Paul Cerkvenik, addresses frequent myths on affordability and debt. Read excerpts from both opinion pieces.
There are a variety of programs that prepare high school students for college-level work, and many of our colleges award credit to first-year students who participated in them. But each institution may have a slightly different policy. Find out which colleges accept what.
First-generation student Ka Thao became interested in science during her junior year in high school and is now immersed in the sciences at Carleton College, which she chose because of its academics, diverse student body and to be close to home. A scholarship from Minnesota Private College Fund helped make it possible. Read more of Ka's story.
Some of our colleges hold four-week classes between semesters in January — or J-term — allowing students to focus intensively on single class. Hamline University offers one to juniors and seniors that provides career development and professional skills training. Read more about Hamline's career prep class.
Mark your calendars! Minnesota Private College Week is scheduled for June 20-24 this year. Although it’s four months away, you and your student can begin researching our colleges by checking out each college’s profile or using the college finder to search by majors, sports and the arts.
Registration opens on April 1, but don’t worry! We’ll send you a reminder if you’re subscribed to this parent newsletter.
Our colleges look forward to seeing you in June!
- How efforts to combine arts with STEM education could improve tech diversity
The Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 16, 2015
- College, and its value, is within the reach of all
Duluth News Tribune, Jan. 3, 2016
- Challenging the barista myth
Inside Higher Ed, Jan. 7, 2016
- The importance of high-school mentors
The Atlantic Magazine, Jan. 13, 2016
- What is the value of an education in the humanities?
National Public Radio, Feb. 3, 2016