I love the end of October in Florida!  While it’s getting cold everywhere else, we get the good Heat back (as in the team). Stone crab season starts. The first crisp, sweater weather morning (theoretically, at least) emerges.  And everyday, more and more of our 12th graders are confidently pressing submit on what once seemed like an endless pile of ‘almost perfect’ college applications.

October’s also the month that College Admissions Officers from colleges all across the country invade South Florida. Peter and I were able to spend some good quality time (see stone crab season starts) with several, including two from the Colleges That Change Lives (Ohio-Wesleyan and Eckerd College). So, what’s trending? Well, experiential and pragmatic learning for one thing, a renewed attention to student outcomes (as in what their graduates are doing post-graduation) for another, discounting for merit and need; and finally, truly holistic, non-traditional, test- optional admissions practices.  Did you know, for example, that at Ohio Wesleyan each application gets 45 minutes for the first read – that each student gets mentored by a faculty member for all four years – no wonder they have a medical school placement rate that’s better than most schools including more than one Ivy. Or, how ’bout this at Eckerd College -96% of incoming students get a merit-based scholarship between $10,000 and $20,000… nice.

That’s the good stuff that happens in October. On the flip side, with the Oct 1 debut of the CSS Profile (the more onerous of the two major financial aid applications), October is also the month that financial aid planning kicks into emergency mode for 12th graders.

And what’s making matters worse this October is that NEXT OCTOBER the FAFSA will also ‘open up’ on October 1. This change, which was only announced last month is already wreaking havoc on the planning timetables for 11th grade families AND for college admissions and financial aid offices.  You can read more about the impact of the new financial aid regulations on the Class of 2017 and 2018 here, but the abridged version is this:

Parents of 12th graders, you’re on-the-clock, financially speaking.  You have two months to both determine what your federally-derived Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and your institutionally-derived EFC is and to make adjustments to your finances so that you can reduce it (and thereby avoid April surprises and maximize your child’s chancies for merit and need-based grants and scholarships).

Most of you probably knew that already.  So here’s what’s new!

Parents of 11th graders (of which I am one), we are also On-the-Clock (just like 12th grade parents).  Our 11th grade students’ financial aid awards will be calculated using income from this year (2015), as well as next year!!!  For us, we’ve got what’s been dubbed a prior year ‘look-back’ period as well as a standard ‘look-back’ base year.

But wait, there’s more – starting in January, our kids (9-11th grade) are also going to be introduced to a new portfolio-based digital college admissions application, either in lieu of or in addition to the existing admissions application options. Details are still murky, but the program is being rolled out by 80 or so of the most selective schools.  Candidly, most of the admissions officers I met with last week were pretty skeptical for a variety of reasons. We first reported on this new-fangled application about a month ago, and you can see the whole story here. 

Finally, high school students are breathing a big sigh of relief as they put their number 2 pencils down today, the last of two PSAT test dates. Fittingly, we’re giving a web-talk for our clients and members this evening on what we learned from the redesigned PSAT, what we are expecting from the newly designed when it debuts in March, how it compares to the existing SAT, the slightly tweaked ACT and how these changes should (or should not) influence your child’s Admissions Test strategy.  We’ll also share reaction from students who prepped for the new PSAT, colleges and experts with insider access.

I actually have a lot more to say (which I know shocks no one), but this post is already waaay too long as is.  If you’d like to learn more about what’s happening today in College Admissions and Funding and what you can do to prepare yourself for what can seem like an overly complicated and intimidating process (and you live in South Florida), Peter will be speaking at San Ignacio College in Doral, Florida on Nov 5th at 7pm.  You can click here to learn more and to make sure that you have a seat. This event is completely free of charge and open to the public.

I hope we’ll see you there.

Best,

– Jill (guest blogging for Pete)

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