Ask the Consultant: Registering for the draft to apply for federal financial aid

Q: Do I really need to register for the draft when filling out the FAFSA?

A: On this issue, your options are extremely limited. If you are a male between the ages of 18-25, interested in applying for federal financial aid for college, you are required to register for the Selective Service.* As of now, females are not required to register. Failing to register for the Selective Service if you are 18-25 years old will disqualify you from receiving federal financial aid. There are a very limited number of exemptions: exemptions.

Registration can be completed directly through the Selective Service System (any time after the student is 17 years and 3 months old) at www.sss.gov or by obtaining and filling out a Selective Service Form 1 at any U.S. Post Office and mailing it in.  If you haven’t yet registered at the time you are filling out the FAFSA, you must check the option indicating that you would like to register through the FAFSA application to qualify for federal aid. If you have already registered, indicate that on the FAFSA.  If the student doesn’t answer the question on the FAFSA, they will have another chance to do so on the Student Aid Report (SAR) that is received once the FAFSA is processed.

Note that males are required to register with the Selective Service within 30 days of their 18th birthday. If a male student is not yet 18 at the time they complete the FAFSA, they are not required to register, even if they will turn 18 during the upcoming year (i.e. the FAFSA does not need to be updated for that year.)  However, when they reapply for financial aid in subsequent years after turning 18 (you must file a FAFSA each year to receive aid), they will have to indicate that they would like to register on the FAFSA or indicate that they have already registered.

If you have any further questions, contact the Selective Service Registration Information Office at 847-688-6888 or www.sss.gov .

*Failing to register for the Selective Service if you are 18-25 years old is a felony under the Military Selective Service Act.  Conviction of a violation can result in imprisonment for up to five years and fines of up to $250,000.

And They're Off! College Matters Class of 2019!

You’re gonna fly!

You’re gonna fly!

Here’s where they’re headed:

University of Alabama, American University, Bates College, Baylor University, Bentley University, Boston College, Boston University, Brandeis University, Brown University

Catholic University of America, Centre College, University of Chicago, Clark University, Clarkson University, Colby College, Connecticut College, University of Connecticut

Dartmouth College, Duke University, Emerson College

Franklin and Marshall College, Georgia Institute of Technology, Gettysburg College

Ithaca College, Johns Hopkins University, Loyola Marymount University

University of Maine, University of Maryland, McGill University, University of Miami, University of Michigan, Middlebury College, Muhlenberg College

University of New Hampshire, Northeastern University, Northwestern University

Ohio State University, Quinnipiac University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, University of Rochester, Rutgers University

University of St. Andrews, Skidmore College, University of South Carolina, Swarthmore College, Syracuse University

Temple University, Trinity College - Dublin, Tulane University

Wake Forest University, University of Washington, Wentworth Institute of Technology, Worcester Polytechnic University

University of Vermont, Washington College, Washington University in St. Louis, Yale University

Ask the Consultant: Common App or Coalition

Most times, the path leads you back where you need to be.

Most times, the path leads you back where you need to be.

Q: Several of the colleges I’m applying to accept both the Common Application and the Coalition Application. Does it matter which one I choose?

A: The Common Application and the Coalition application are quite similar. Both allow a student to enter data about themselves, their family, their school, and their extracurricular activities once and send completed applications to a variety of schools. But there are some differences.

First of all, not all colleges subscribe to both. So take a look at the list of colleges that utilize each platform. If all of your schools are Common App or Coalition exclusive, there’s no other option.

But if you do have a choice, here are a few things to think about.

  • Your guidance counselor probably wants you to use the Common App! Why? Because the tools that schools use to send transcripts and letters of recommendation (Naviance, Parchment, etc.) don’t integrate with the Coalition App, so it can be more work for them at a time when they are already taxed by all the paperwork!

  • Have a creative but short essay? Coalition may be the way to go. There are more formatting options in the Coalition app than on the Common App. That being said, each college has the ability to limit the word count on their main personal statement. We’ve seen limits anywhere between 250 and 550 words.

  • Have a lot of extracurricular activities? The Common App gives you room for ten; the Coalition, eight.

  • Have a few extracurricular activities but a lot to say about them? The Coalition app gives you more space to describe each activity.

  • Have an art portfolio, music recording, research abstract? The Common App integrates with Slideroom, allowing you to send that along for review.

  • The Coalition app has partnered with the College Board, to allow students to send SAT and SAT subject test scores within the application.

Finally, if a college accepts both, take a look at the supplemental essays on each. Sometimes they are different! That, in and of itself, can make your decision.

Your First College Essay Draft

Writing a quality college essay can be very daunting and involves a unique approach with which most students have never had experience.  How do you show who you are without telling? How do you find your own voice?  We help lead you through that process.  

I like to use the example of telling someone how to swim when they have never been in the water.  Once they actually get in the pool, they may flail around a bit before putting together a stroke.  Similarly, in writing the essay, it may take several drafts before you get the hang of showing who you are.  In fact, it is not unusual for a student’s first draft to yield very little usable material.  So don’t be discouraged if your first few attempts get tossed! The final result, after much tossing and tweaking, will be a work of art!

The Best College Essay Advice You'll Get!

At this time of the year, we often get calls from rising seniors asking for a bit of advice on their essay. “My topic is great, but something is missing.” After an initial read, we concur. What is missing? Them!

The best college essays are rarely the ones with the most “impressive” or “catchy” topic because the topic of every single college essay should be the same: you!

Making that shift away from the life-changer or the dramatic event can make all the difference. When you see yourself as the topic of the essay, you have far more freedom with themes. What small story showcases who you are at your core? How do you think? What are your quirks? Your fears? Your dreams?

Use that story!

Getting a Divorce? Think College!

Before you embark on a divorce, know the rules!

Before you embark on a divorce, know the rules!

By the time the family is in our office, it is often too late!

“The divorce agreement said that I would keep the house and he wouldn’t have to pay for college.” “He lives with dad most of the time, but I was advised to claim him on my taxes.” “I was told that since my income is less, we won’t have to involve my ex!”

Such advice, given often by divorce mediators and attorneys or financial planners, can be well-meaning, but fails to take into consideration the nuance of the world of college affordability.

The bad news is that, when allocating money for financial aid, colleges and universities don’t care what the divorce document says — you’ll need to follow their rules. And they have stringent criteria for who is determined to be the fiscally responsible primary parent, as well as who else is expected to contribute to the student’s education.

The federal government site has an excellent overview of who is considered the “parent” for financial aid purposes. In most cases, it is the parent with whom the student spends over 50% of their time. But that just applies to colleges which use the federal methodology for allocating money. Most private colleges use a different formula, one in which both parent’s incomes are considered.

This can come as quite a shock to parents embarking on the college search process. And it can be particularly hard on kids, for whom it feels like the divorce is happening all over again.

So, before you sign anything, know the rules! And if you decide to re-marry, please do the same!

Ask the Consultant: Should I go Greek?

Deciding whether or not to join a fraternity or sorority can be tough, especially at colleges and universities where rush occurs for freshmen in the fall. You’ve barely stepped foot on campus when you’re asked to choose your BFFs for the next four years! (And they are choosing you). It’s like applying to college all over again!

So here are a few pros and cons to think about when deciding whether or not to go Greek.

PRO: Being in a fraternity or sorority can make a big campus feel smaller. In high school, did you have a tight-knit group of friends that hung together most of the time? Then Greek life may be a great transition to college.

CON: It’s expensive! Each semester there are dues to pay as well as fees for parties, formals, and swag.

PRO: If you join for the right reasons, not just for the parties, Greek life can be an excellent way to develop leadership skills and cultivate a network of alumni. Your LinkedIn is gonna’ explode!

CON: It’s time-consuming! Do you have high aspirations for a higher level degree? Something like medical or law school that screen by college GPA? Studies have shown that student’s GPAs drop while pledging a Greek organization.

PRO: All Greek organizations are philanthropic — some more than others. Are you a giver? You could find a niche!

CON: Hazing! Unfortunately, every pledging season brings stories of tragedy. Usually, these hazing deaths are the result of binge drinking. Do your homework before you join!

The Pros and Cons of the Summer College Campus Visit

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It’s already August, and you still have more colleges campuses to visit than you can possibly see in the fall before applications are due.  Plus, the fall semester is going to be challenging with that rigorous senior course load you have planned, and you don’t want to take too much time off.  What’s a rising senior (and their family) to do? 

Our advice is to use the few days you have available in the fall to see the leading contenders on your list and to use some time in the remainder of summer to visit others, if possible.  Campuses are generally much quieter in the summer months, but there may still be some students around doing research or other projects.  There is still great value in taking in the layout and feel of the campus, its location, the information presented in an Information Session and by the student tour guide and admission people are usually available to answer questions.  Additionally, it is often a great time to schedule an interview. You will get credit for demonstrating interest – provided you check in with Admissions - which some colleges weigh in their deliberations for admission. 

You may not get a solid read of the campus culture as you tour the quieter summer campuses, but you will get a sense of the place.  Note that start times for fall semester vary greatly, so check the academic calendar online at each institution – you may see more students than you expect with late summer visits as some college students may already be making their way back to campus.  It’s nearly impossible to see every campus during the school year, so it may be inevitable that you will have to compromise and visit a few in the summer! 

Entering High School? Plan Ahead!

Are you about to enter high school?  There are a few things to think about as you consider your course selection and look ahead.  One of the top factors that admissions people use to gauge a student’s competitiveness for acceptance is the rigor of the courses that the student took in high school.  Receiving all As in level 2 or college prep classes is not considered as competitive as earning As and Bs in level 1, honors, AP or IB courses.  You should aim high and challenge yourself to the best of your ability in high school.  

It’s never too early to map out your high school courses thoughtfully. 

Colleges want students who work hard, who participate and engage in their academics and broader school community.  They especially want students who demonstrate drive and a good work ethic.  So, when you’re debating between that easier class and one that may challenge you, think about how you want to position yourself for your future.  It may seem far off now, but the years will fly by, and you’ll be considering your options for after high school sooner than you think.  Be sure you plan well.

SAT Subject Tests: What is a good score?

June SAT subject tests just came out, and with the release of the scores often comes the question, “Is my score good enough to send?”

Most students that take SAT subject tests do so because they are applying to the most selective colleges and universities. As a result, they also tend to score well. A 770 on the US History exam places you in the 90th percentile. A 780 on the Math Level II subject test only puts you in the 71st!

As a rule of thumb, we like to say that a submittable score should equate to the selectivity of the institution to which you are applying. They have a 10% acceptance rate - your SAT subject test scores should be in the 90th percentile to be considered excellent. A 5% acceptance rate, better be in the 95th!

Yes, we know — those are some pretty high thresholds!