Frequently Asked Questions (and their answers) 1. Our local high school has guidance counselors and a college counselor. How can you help me in ways that those counselors don't? Answer: Many guidance counselors are trained to help guide students through adolescence and the high school experience, but not the college admissions and financial aid application processes. Some high school-based college counselors have caseloads of as many as 400-500 students, and are only available to you when school is in session. This can prevent them from providing your family with personal attention in the college search processes. Similarly, many school-based counselors have budgetary constraints that afford them few, if any, opportunities to attend professional development conferences or visit colleges and universities across the country. At times this can limit the scope of their knowledge and support.
2. My parents are divorced and live in different states. Does this mean I qualify as an in-state student in both of their home states? Answer: Not likely. In most states, students are considered residents of the state of the parent with whom they reside 51% of the time. Similarly, most states have closed any "loopholes" that would allow families that own a vacation home in another state to receive in-state tuition in that state. You can only be a resident of one state.
3. If we pay out of state tuition for one year and then move off campus to an apartment for subsequent years, we can declare residency for the sophomore or junior year, right?
Answer: Not likely. Once your residency status has been determined by the state it is likely to remain the same throughout college to graduation. Colleges will ask about the state in which you pay taxes, vote, register your car, etc. If your primary reason for moving to a state is to attend college, you are not likely to be considered in-state.
4. My child has been contacted by numerous college recruiters at an early age. Doesn't that mean the scholarship money will pretty much take care of itself?
Answer: Maybe. Academic scholarships require students to maintain a certain GPA and scholarships based on talent can be lost due to unforeseen circumstances. It is always best to be prepared with a contingency plan, just in case. This means families should file FAFSA (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to determine how much the government says you can afford. The results of the FAFSA are the basis for the financial aid package and should be a factor in your contingency plan.
5. I've heard that financial aid awards can be appealed and determining what you pay is like bartering or buying a car. Is that true?
Answer: Financial aid awards can be appealed, but supporting documentation is almost always required. Financial aid appeals are not "negotiations". They are simply an opportunity for the financial aid office to determine if any unusual circumstances were overlooked when the original financial aid package was awarded. I have never seen a student receive an additional grant of $5,000 or $10,000 as the result of a financial aid appeal, but I have seen a loan for $1,000 become a grant of $1,000 and an increase in the amount of federal work study that has been awarded after an appeal.
6. Who hires a private college adviser? Answer: Research firm Lipman Hearne, with the assistance of the National Research Council on College and University Admissions, found that 26% of high achieving high school students used a private college adviser or Independent Educational Consultant. Furthermore, a recent study of IECA (Independent Educational Consultants Association) found that the typical client of private college advisers comes from a public school in the suburbs of a big city. These families have an income of between $75,000 and $100,000 per year. They come to the college choice process with various grade point averages, standardized test scores, financial backgrounds and special circumstances, but they are all looking for the same thing: a college where their child will thrive.
7. Aren't your typical clients from wealthy families whose main objective is to get their children into Ivy League Colleges? Answer: The mission of Pathways College Advising is to help guide families through the college admission and financial aid processes based on the individual needs of the student and family. At Pathways College Advising, we operate under the philosophy that there is a college for every student and a student for every college. A quality educational experience can be found at a lot of colleges and universities, and we want to present families with options that they may not have considered. We also want you to understand exactly what you are getting when you "buy" a college or university experience. Knowing what you are paying for when you choose a college shouldn't be a mystery!
8. I don't think we can afford the hefty price tag of a private college. Does that mean my options are limited to community college and large public universities in our home state? Answer: Not necessarily. Private colleges recognize that they have to compete with public colleges for students. Therefore, they often discount their tuition heavily. At Pathways College Advising, we help you identify public and private colleges that will offer your family need-based and merit-based financial aid to make colleges affordable for your family.
9. If a student doesn't have a spectacular GPA or top score on the SAT, he or she won't get into a good college, right? Answer: Colleges use a "holistic" approach to evaluate applications for admission. Along with test scores, they also consider whether or not the student is enrolling in challenging courses, the student's grade point average, extra-curricular activities, letters of recommendation and leadership roles the student has undertaken in high school. Similarly, some colleges have become "test optional", which allows students to be admitted based on a high grade point average or asks them to submit additional letters of recommendation.
10. My dad went to law school at Yale. Does this mean I will get in as a "legacy"? Answer: Not necessarily. Most colleges that offer a bit of a competitive edge to students who are "legacies" only offer that benefit to the children of individuals who attended the school for their undergraduate educational experience. Usually, the children of graduate and professional schools alumni don't qualify as "legacies".