For Class of 2012 high school seniors, the past month has been full of college decisions. After months of hard work and waiting, students finally get to survey their options and choose a college that suits them. At Bottom Line, we spend a lot of time talking about “finding a fit” – meaning a college that meets a student’s academic, financial, career, and personal needs. Affordability is an integral part of this discussion. By enrolling in a college that meets their financial needs, a student can complete a degree without accumulating an excessive amount of debt. In many cases, Bottom Line advises students to enroll in full-need schools, such as College of the Holy Cross and Tufts University, or state schools, such as UMass Boston and Worcester State University, which have a low cost of attendance.

Ariana Campos of University Park Campus School in Worcester (below) is just one student who, we are proud to say, has found her fit! After getting accepted to all 9 of the schools she applied to, and after looking over her award letters with Bottom Line, she was glad to find out that she can graduate debt-free from Harvard University. We are excited to help all 785 seniors from Massachusetts and New York choose a school in the coming weeks.

, , ,

It’s financial aid season! That means time for college students to fill out FAFSAs and CSS profiles. Applying for financial aid can be daunting and confusing, particularly if you’re from a family that is unfamiliar with the process. Since applying for financial aid is somewhat complex, there’s many misconceptions about how paying for college actually works. Below are the five common myths that Bottom Line counselors often debunk for students.Student-Counselor Meeting

1) My family doesn’t have any money, so I can’t afford to go to college.

All college students are eligible for financial aid, which will help you pay for college! To determine how much you and your family pay for your education, colleges and the federal government have you calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This lets them know about how much you are eligible to receive in financial aid, based on you and your family’s income, savings, and other indicators. So the less money your family has, the more aid you should expect to receive for college.

2) My dream college costs nearly $40,000 a year—I can’t afford that!

Just because a college has a high price tag doesn’t mean that you can’t afford it. For some colleges, you will only have to pay the amount calculated for your EFC. For other colleges, there will be a gap between your EFC and the college’s price tag. If there’s a gap, you can always advocate with the college’s financial aid office and apply for outside scholarships.

3) Public colleges are always more affordable than private colleges.

On the contrary, some private colleges award “full need” financial aid packages. That means they provide students with enough grants and low-interest loans to make up the difference between their family’s EFC and the school’s cost of attendance.

4) The only way I can get money for college is by having perfect grades.

Colleges and the federal government award scholarships, grants, and low-interest loans based solely on financial need—that’s what financial aid is! Merit-based scholarships and grants are awarded separately from financial aid packages.

5) I was awarded $5,000 in work-study, so the rest of my tuition expenses are covered.

Not so fast—work-study is money that you have to earn throughout the semester… by checking students into the dining hall, logging packages in the mail room, or answering phones at an administrative office. You can’t subtract this money from the bill that’s due at the beginning of the semester, since it will take you all semester to earn the money. In addition, you only get paid for the number of hours that you work. While you’ve been awarded $5,000 in work-study, you may only have time in your schedule to earn $4,000 of this award.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,