College Decision Day Checklist

Categories: Admissions Advice

National College Decision Day is May 1!

college-ahead-sign

National College Decision Day is the day by which you must inform a college or university that you plan to enroll there*. Usually this involves sending in a deposit to secure your place. Before you make your final decision, review our checklist to ensure you make the best choice for you!

Read your award letter.

Cost is an important factor when making your college decision! By now, you should have received award letters from the colleges you’ve applied and been accepted to. Before you make your final decision, you have to have a good idea of how much you will need to pay for each college. Think about it…would you agree to buy a car without knowing how much it cost? First take the time to make sure you fully understand each award letter and then compare your award letters to help narrow down your choices. Click here to download our “Can you afford your college choices?” worksheet.

Visit the campus.

Another factor in your college decision should be whether you actually like the campus. If you visited a college and didn’t really enjoy the time you spent there, perhaps you should think twice about choosing that school. That campus is where you’ll be spending the majority of the next four years, so you’re going to want to actually enjoy the time you spend there! If you haven’t yet been able to visit the colleges on your final list, make every effort to do so. To use our car analogy again, you wouldn’t buy a car without seeing it in person, would you? If you are absolutely unable to visit a campus in person, at least take a virtual/online tour. Click here to download our “College Visit Checklist” worksheet.

Do it for the right reasons.

Try not to base your final college decision on the wrong reasons. For example, the college your best friend or significant other has decided to attend might be a great fit for them, but that doesn’t automatically make it a great fit for you. Or maybe your parents had their hearts set on you attending their alma mater. Instead of these reasons, try to base your final college decision on factors that are more important for you personally, such as academics, programs of study, athletics and extracurriculars, financial aid, campus size and location, housing and dining, and other things that you want most out of your college experience. Click here to download our “Choosing Your College Priorities” worksheet.

Go ahead, make your choice.

So you’ve considered everything mentioned above, done a lot of thinking, and have finally narrowed your college list down to a single one. Congratulations — you’ve made your final college decision! Take a moment to celebrate this amazing achievement. By making this important decision, you’ve taken a huge step on your journey to achieving your higher education goals. You should be proud!

After you’ve made your decision, join us for our Cappex College Decision Day celebration! We’re proud of you too, and we’d love to know where you decided to go. Be sure to log on to Cappex and update your college list! Then tell us what school you chose by posting on our Facebook timeline or sending us a Tweet with the hashtag #CappexCollegeDecision.

Congratulations!

* Note that some colleges and universities might have a different deadline for putting in your deposit; contact your college or university of choice to confirm.
 
image credit: greatcollegeadvice.com

Original Post Date: April 18th, 2014

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Buying a Work Wardrobe on a Student Budget

InterviewingSU2Beginning your summer job search? Or perhaps you have several internship interviews lined up? Whether you’re a high school senior or soon to be college grad, it’s never too soon to have office-appropriate clothes on standby. Even trickier is assembling a work wardrobe on a limited budget, which may spark you to frantically ask, “What do I wear!?” There are many simple ways around it, so don’t fret. The following advice will help you throughout and after your college career.

Invest in Workplace Staples

You’ll always have a need for blazers, nice slacks or pants, nice blouses or collared shirts, skirts, and button-ups. You can dress them up with accessories and other accent pieces. Remember to always dress more formally for interviews, even if the office has a casual dress code. Flip-flops are a major no-no, but hiring managers report that it still happens. If you’re unsure about whether your outfit is appropriate, check out these great visuals.

Mix & Match

Instead of buying new everything, mix and match what you already own. Versatility is the key to saving money – a nice shirt has a completely different look when paired with denim jeans than it does with nice pants or a skirt. This strategy allows you to be a chameleon; you never know when you might have to go from casual to business or vice versa.

Sales

While the latest styles in store windows are tempting to splurge on, you can create similar looks with items from the sale section. Try to shop out of season when possible; for example, in the spring, you’ll find lots of sweaters and cardigans for the fall on clearance racks.

Resale and Consignment Stores

These hidden gems are great ways to find quality pieces without spending a fortune. Even if something isn’t your size, you can easily have it custom-tailored and it will still be less than retail. Brand name suits, often notorious for being on the higher end, are more affordable in price at resale stores.

Image credit: salisbury.edu

Original Post Date: April 16th, 2014

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Understanding Your Financial Aid Award Letter

financial-aid-101

As a former college and career adviser, I’ve witnessed countless students anxiously awaiting the arrival of their financial aid award letters.

For many of you, receiving your award letters from your colleges or universities is the most important part of your entire college decision process. Your award letter is the document that will outline your financial aid package from each school: the total cost of attendance, expected family contribution, scholarships, grants, loans, and what has to be paid out-of-pocket. If only reading and understanding these award letters was an easy task.

No worries, we are here to help!

If you are having a hard time reading and comprehending your award letters, you are not alone. Many award letters/award packages from colleges are often difficult to understand, especially if you are the first person in your family to attend college.

The first step to understanding your award letters is to decipher the amount you’re being given, the amount you’re borrowing, the amount you must pay out-of-pocket, and if all of these amounts cover the total cost.

The Basics

Cost of Attendance (COA): How much the college predicts it will cost for you to attend their school (usually for one year). This will be the largest number on your award letter. Typically it includes the price of tuition, room and board, books and supplies, transportation, fees, and miscellaneous expenses. The items included in the COA can vary from school to school. It is important to note that you cannot take out a student loan that is more than the amount of your total cost of attendance.

Direct Costs: This is what HAS to be paid in order to be an enrolled student at a college. Usually this balance must be paid off before a college will allow you to enroll in classes the following semester. Examples include tuition, fees, and room and board (if you live on campus).

Indirect Costs: An estimated amount the college predicts you may need to pay as an enrolled student on their campus. Because a student can never take out a student loan beyond the amount of the COA, the indirect costs are figured in to assist any student that cannot pay for these expenses out-of-pocket (and thus need to take out a loan to cover the cost). Examples include books, supplies, transportation, personal expenses, and miscellaneous expenses. A student can still enroll in classes for the following term without these items being “paid for.” They are just suggested amounts in order to help the families better prepare.

Private Scholarships: Money you’re being given because you applied and received a scholarship through a program or organization. This is money you will not have to pay back.

Institutional Scholarships/Grants: This is also money you do not have to pay back. It is money that has been awarded to you by the college, and it can be based off of a number of requirements, such as GPA, intended major, athletics, etc.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC): This is the amount your school believes your family is able to contribute toward your college education. Usually this amount is based off of information from your FAFSA.

Loans: Money that is borrowed to pay for college that you must pay back (plus interest) once you have graduated or if you ever drop below part-time status.

Grants: Money that’s being given to you that you do not have to pay back. This funding can come from the college, the state, or a federal program.

Work-Study: The amount of money you’ll receive toward your college costs in return for working on campus. This money must be earned in order to receive it.

Total Award: The total amount of money you’re receiving in financial aid through loans, grants, scholarships, and work study.

Financial Need: This is your “gap” in financial aid. In other words, this is your COA minus all other financial aid, otherwise known as the money you and your family will have to pay out-of-pocket to cover the remainder of your expenses.

Questions to Consider before Accepting Your Financial Aid

- For the EFC, do my parents/guardians really have this amount to put toward my education? If not, then you’ll have to add this amount to your out-of-pocket expenses.

- Can I expect these grants/scholarships every year? Pay close attention to whether your “free-money” is renewable (received every year), or it is a one-time award. If you are being offered one-time awards, will you able to pay for this school in subsequent years?

- Will I be able to maintain the requirements needed to keep this scholarship?

- Am I able and willing to work on campus through a work-study program in addition to going to school?

If upon reviewing your award letter, you discover you still don’t have enough money to pay for college, there are a few options you can take. You can apply for private student loans through a bank, look into tuition payment plans, or apply for more scholarships on Cappex.

If you still have any additional or specific questions regarding your award letters, be sure to reach out to the financial aid offices of your colleges and universities.

Image credit: fortscott.edu

Original Post Date: April 14th, 2014

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