College Pete

How to Save Both $100s and then many $1000s on College

How to Save Both $100s and then many $1000s on College

‘Tis definitely the season – and no, I’m not referring to the fact that Home Depot has Christmas decorations for sale. For me, my colleagues and our college-bound families, we’re plowing through this year’s admissions/applications season. (We spent the weekend wishing the best to all our Florida applicants as they submitted their FSU applications this Saturday, as well as those who sent apps to UNC-Chapel Hill).

At the same time, we’re now also neck deep into financial aid season. Since Oct 1, when the FAFSA and the CSS Profile ‘officially opened’ we’ve assisted with many financial aid applications on behalf of our student applicants. We have proprietary software that helps us process these forms efficiently, but the real work takes place in the planning, well before we complete or submit a single financial aid form. Just as ‘smart’ holiday shoppers plan out their lists, leverage early sales, etc. to get ahead of the curve to maximize savings and availability of best items when gift-shopping; the ‘smartest’ ‘college shoppers’ will create an integrated admissions and funding strategy well before their child’s 12th grade year to optimize their admissions choices and to get the best ‘deals.’

College planning is more than keeping track of important deadlines, submitting test scores, and filling out the proper forms – that’s the bare minimum. The way to truly maximize your college admissions and scholarship options is to create a college plan early in high school. For our practice, the ideal time to begin is just before you/your child chooses their 11th grade classes (the 2nd semester of 10th grade). This allows us to start working with our students before they get into the really heavy academic lifting of 11th grade, and just as the prior-prior look back period (that’s a legit technical term and thing) for all financial aid decisions begins.

Now, because I know we have far more readers than we do actual one-on-one clients and not everyone has been able to get started this early in the process, we also like to pass along tips that can help anybody save money, regardless of where their student is in the process.

For example, there are a lot of hidden fees in the admissions process – and these fees can add up. For example, you have to pay to submit your college applications to most colleges, AND you also have to pay a fee to submit some of your financial aid applications. Yes, I do realize the irony that the nonprofit College Board charges you to submit the most challenging – and beneficial – financial aid document, the CSS Profile.

In addition, they (the nonprofit College Board SAT and its evil twin the ACT) also charge you to send test scores to the schools on your list. And if you’re a little late in this process, they’ll charge you a rather exorbitant rush charge. But nowadays at many schools, YOU (yes, you) can personally self-report these test scores to colleges – at absolutely no cost – and then, once you’ve decided where you’d like to attend, you can have the official report disclosed prior to enrolling. If you click here (, you’ll see the list of colleges that will let you self-report and avoid paying multiple reporting fees.

Now that said, this test score reporting/sending decision can get trickier than it appears. Again, this is where planning matters. Many schools don’t require you to submit your test scores at all to be considered for admissions. When working with our students, we base the decision on when to submit scores on how you performed relative to the 50th percentile of matriculated students at any school. We often will recommend that you submit scores to some schools but not to others (an email for another day – or you can search my blog for all that I’ve written on Test Optional Strategies for Admissions and Scholarship $). Again, the answers are in the planning. Nonetheless, check out the link above to figure out whether and where you can save a few bucks in the sending process and self-report instead.

As we mentioned, to all the Florida-based students who applied to FSU by October 15, we wish you the best of luck and hope to hear good news about your application on December 15. University of Florida applicants: you have a bit more time to check once, twice, and even three times to make sure you submit your best admissions application. UF applications are due November 1. Early Action deadlines for college applicants applying out of state should also remember to submit by November 1 (or November 15 – check with your school).

If you have any questions about any of the topics above, please feel to reach out. Have a great week!

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