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Choosing Which College to Attend (Post-Acceptance)

November 4, 2019

So, you’ve submitted college applications to several institutions and you’ve been accepted to a few – now it’s time to compare your offer letters and choose the college that’s the best fit for you.

 

The campus visit is an essential part of deciding which college you are going to attend, and while we suggest that you visit your prospective schools before you submit your applications, it’s not always easy to do so. You may be busy with your senior year and extracurriculars, or some of the campuses may be a long distance from you.

But once your acceptance letters start to arrive, it’s time to make the big decision about which college you will attend. Now would be the time to visit (or revisit) the campuses you’ve been accepted to to help you make that final decision. Here are some tips for how to approach these final campus visits so that you’ll be ready to choose a college or university that you’ll be the most happy with.

 

Map Out Pros and Cons

This may seem simple, but the best way to choose the right college is to weigh the pros and cons of each institution. This will help you look past the face-value of the school and the information they provide you with, and instead focus on the characteristics you care about most. Here are some typical pros and cons that we think will help you decide:

  • Academic programs
  • Athletic facilities
  • Campus atmosphere
  • Campus grounds
  • Classrooms
  • Clubs
  • Coaches
  • Cost of attending (i.e. how much you’ll take out in student loans)
  • Dining hall food
  • Dorm rooms
  • Professors
  • Safety
  • Student body
  • Surrounding area

 

Try Spending the Night

While you might not have had time to experience overnight visits during your first round of campus tours, with your list now narrowed, it may be time to try it out. Staying overnight at your prospective colleges will give you a much better feel for what the experience of attending will feel like. Ask yourself questions during your overnight visit, such as:

  • Do I feel safe here?
  • Am I comfortable in the dorms?
  • Are the students welcoming?
  • Are the students focused on academics?

 

If school is in session during your visit, be sure to talk with current students and ask them questions you have – this will also help you make that final decision.

 

Don’t Be Afraid to Look Past Pros and Cons

While pros and cons are a great way to narrow down your list of options, you’ll probably want to go with your gut when it comes to making the final decision. In other words, focus on which college just feels right. It doesn’t have to be the most prestigious college. Picking the most prestigious school may seem like a smart move, but it may strap you with student loans. Being comfortable at your college and being confident in your decision will be more beneficial than attending one based on the opinions of your parents or other people – and you’ll be more likely to stay and complete your degree.

 

Keep in mind that these tips are for choosing a college post-acceptance and approaching your post-acceptance visits, which is much different than visiting colleges pre-acceptance and choosing colleges to apply to. During the initial visits, you’re focused on deciding whether to apply. When you visit post-acceptance, you’re deciding where you will actually attend, which means you need to pay closer attention to which school will best accommodate you academic, social, and extracurricular needs. For more information about campus visits, read Making the Most of the Campus Visit from eCampus Tours.

 

If you’ve been accepted to your dream college, but your financial aid and scholarships don’t quite cover the full cost of tuition and expenses, private student loans from ELFI may be right for you. Learn more about our flexible terms on private student loans. Applying is simple, and you’ll never pay an application fee, origination fee or prepayment penalty.*


 

*Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply.

 

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2019-11-18
The Average Cost of College

When it comes to shopping, many of us have champagne taste and a beer budget. We shop with our eyes and our hearts before taking a peek at the price tag. The process of selecting a college is no different. We make decisions based on location, athletic teams, available programs of study, greek life, or even where our friends apply. Unfortunately, for many people, the cost of college lives at the bottom of the checklist, despite being a vital factor to consider.    The average cost of college for the 2019-2020 school year, is $21,950 for public, four-year, in-state colleges and $49,870 for private universities. This is an increase of 2.6% and 3.3%, respectively, over the year prior, alone.    Without question, college is expensive, and very few people are talented enough to get an athletic or academic scholarship to completely or partially cover the cost of education. An even smaller number of people are able to pay for a degree out-of-pocket. That leaves the majority of college students and their families to rely on loans to pay the bills.     Further complicating matters, a lot goes into the cost of college, including your residency status, level of degree you seek (bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral), where you live (on-campus, alone, or with a house full of roommates), and even how much you eat or how you commute to campus.    To help you understand where you can save, as well as how you can cover expenses with financial aid, let’s dig into what comprises the average cost of college.   

Tuition

Average Cost: $10,440 (public) | $36,880 (private)*

Tuition is the amount you pay your university to enroll in classes. The total changes based on the number of credit hours you take and if you take courses with additional charges like science labs or residential academic programs that let you attend smaller classes in your dorm. Offers like the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) can help students save money by providing in-state tuition to out-of-state students. Despite programs like this, the average cost of college is always rising because tuition increases each year based on inflation, school budgets, and a variety of other factors.    Mandatory fees are lumped into tuition and include contributions toward campus construction and access to things like:
  • Student rec center
  • Athletic events
  • Career services
  • Student activities
  • Computer labs
  • Bus passes
  • Etc. 
 

Room and Board

Average Cost: $11,510 (public) | $12,000 (private)*

Many colleges require you to live on-campus for at least your first year of attendance. The benefit of this requirement is that you’re close to classes and resources, including dining halls and bodegas that can be paid for with your room and board fees. These costs aren’t typically part of the bill for community colleges or schools with a high population of daily commuters. However, students will still need to cover living expenses like rent, utilities, and groceries if they chose not to live at home with their parents and amounts vary based on eating habits and geographic locations. For example, rent in California is higher than in Tennessee and the general cost of living in an urban setting is higher than it is at a rural school.   

Books

Average Cost: $1,240 (public and private)*

Books can be a secret killer when it comes to college expenses. No one ever anticipates the sticker shock associated with their first $300 textbook. These costs also include necessary technology like tablets or laptops for note-taking and essay writing. It also can include special supplies like graphite pencils and drawing paper for art majors or scrubs or stethoscopes for nursing majors. These semesterly shopping trips can do real damage to your checking account and add to the average cost of college.   

Transportation

Average Cost: $1,230 (public) | $1,060 (private)*

So far, we’ve focused on what you’ll need to pay to get by on campus, but we haven’t talked about the expenses associated with getting to campus. These costs impact resident and commuter students and range from airplane tickets and bus fare to parking passes and tanks of gas.    

Financial Aid 

When factoring the average cost of college, the other side of the ledger is represented by financial aid in the form of scholarships and need-based grants. With these awards, that don’t have to be repaid, the cost of tuition is reduced.    In addition to scholarships and grants, federal and private loans are available to help cover the cost of college. Private lenders offer student loan options for undergraduate students, graduate students, and even parents. Loans cover everything from tuition to personal expenses that you’ll occur during your college years, like cell phone bills, clothes, laundry, or even a bed for your apartment. The biggest thing to keep in mind when taking out loans is to borrow only what you’ll need. It’s necessary to have money to pay bills while you’re a full-time student, but borrowing too much can put you in a bind when it comes time to pay back those loans.  
  Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.
2019-11-12
What is Early Decision for College?

If you, or your son or daughter, are currently applying for colleges, you live in a world of deadlines. There are ACT registration dates, SAT prep dates, application deadlines, and scholarship due dates. When you live by the calendar, it can feel like torture waiting to hear back from schools, especially your top choice. Some colleges have early decision options that help push the application and admissions process along. What is early decision? Students can elect to apply early decision to (typically) one school as early as November, and can subsequently hear back from that school in just a few weeks. There’s more to the agreement though…   Let’s dig into the details to see if this application option is right for you.   

What is Early Decision? 

Early decision is available at many private colleges and universities, and some public schools also offer this option. Certain highly selective programs like Ivy League schools can limit students to only one early application. Through this option, prospective students submit applications in early- to mid-November and hear back as early as late-November. This notification rolls in months before you might hear back from other colleges. In a typical application timeline, students submit applications in early winter for decisions by mid- to late spring.    There are two different early application windows. Early Decision I is typically in November while Early Decision II is in December or even January. If you don’t get into your Early Decision I school, you can still apply to another school’s Early Decision II deadline.    Early decision can also give you an edge when it comes to acceptance rate. In 2018, colleges with early decision had an average regular acceptance rate of 50.7%, while the
early decision acceptance rate was 62.3%. Colleges appear to weigh early decision applications differently since these potential students demonstrate a strong interest in their programs.  

What Are the Drawbacks of Early Decision? 

If you apply to a binding arrangement like early decision, you lose the opportunity to compare financial aid packages from multiple colleges. This might also impact a college’s incentive to offer you merit-based financial aid. If you already expressed excitement and interest, why would the school need to convince you to attend by offering scholarship discounts? You might even have to accept the offer before hearing from third-party scholarship organizations, affecting your ability to accurately determine if you’ll be able to afford that dream school.    You can only typically reject an early decision offer if the school’s financial aid package isn’t realistic for your financial situation or if your financial situation has changed. However, if the school truly is your first choice, you can still apply for scholarships or private student loans to help bridge the gap.    Finally, if you’re going to hit early decision deadlines, you need to be very organized. Submitting applications four to six months early means you also need to have application materials ready early. It’s recommended that you leave time to take the ACT and/or SAT at least twice, in case you need to boost your score. Without planning ahead, you might find yourself up against early decision deadlines.    If early decision seems like an intimidating commitment, many schools also offer early action. This option allows students to apply and receive an admission decision earlier than typical decisions. But the main difference is that the option isn’t binding.   

What’s The Right Choice? 

Now that we’ve answered the question, “What is early decision?” the next question is whether this option is right for you. It can be tempting to want to hear back from your dream school before the holiday break hits. However, you have to consider if you’re prepared to submit your best application at such an early date. You also have to do your research regarding financial aid.    There are many choices to make when applying for college. Be sure you’re aware of what your choices mean for your college career and the loans that will help you get through those four years.   
  Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.
2019-11-06
What is FAFSA Verification?

You finally submitted the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). You think everything is going smoothly until you receive notice (via your Student Aid Report) that you have been selected for FAFSA verification. What does this mean? What should you do? FAFSA Verification is a process that the U.S. Department of Education uses to verify certain information on the FAFSA is accurate. Sometimes these selections are made by the U.S. Department of Education, and sometimes they are made by the college or university that the FAFSA was submitted to. In most cases, only a portion of students are selected for FAFSA verification, however some schools verify 100% of students to ensure all students are verified.   

Why was I chosen for FAFSA verification?

So, why did you get chosen for verification? It depends. There are several possibilities for being selected for FAFSA verification. Keep in mind that more possibilities exist, but the following are the main reasons for being selected:  

Random selection

In many cases, you were just selected randomly or the school you submitted the FAFSA to has protocol for verifying its students.   

The submitted FAFSA has incomplete data

If you didn’t answer certain questions or provide certain information on the FAFSA, you may be subject to having your application verified.   

The submitted FAFSA has inaccurate or contradictory information

If the information that you listed on the FAFSA doesn’t make complete sense, such as having contradictions or having inaccurate information, you may be subject to having your application verified.  

The FAFSA application has estimated information

Often times, people make estimates for things like income and moving dates. If the information provided as estimates doesn’t seem accurate to the Department of Education, your application may be subject to verification.   

What needs to be done after the selection?

Once you’ve been informed that you’ve been selected for FAFSA verification, the first thing you should do is check your Student Aid Report to see if you have a message from the Department of Education. If you have any questions, contact your Financial Aid Office. Your Financial Aid Office will likely ask you to submit certain documents as part of the FAFSA verification process. You should submit these documents in a timely manner. These documents may include: 
  • Verification Worksheet
  • IRS Tax Return Transcript 
  • Marriage Certificate
  • Social Security Card
  • Alien Registration Card
  • Other information/documentation
Keep in mind that these documents will depend on your specific circumstances and that not everyone is required to submit the same documents.   

What happens if there are discrepancies in the application?

Once you’ve submitted your documents, your Financial Aid Office will compare the information to that of your Student Aid Report. Corrections will be made if any errors or discrepancies are found. If the errors or discrepancies have an impact on the amount of financial aid you can receive, you will then be given a revised award notification showing the difference.    If you are selected for FAFSA verification, you need to return the information and requested documentation as soon as possible. Processing usually takes two to three weeks, but it can take longer during the peak season. Because verification must be completed in advance of disbursing any money from any financial aid program, it is vital to send complete and correct information as quickly as possible. Above all else, don't be upset because you were selected for verification. This is a process that is required by the federal government. The Financial Aid Office may even discover errors in your report that could actually increase your eligibility for more aid.  
  Notice About Third Party Websites: Education Loan Finance by SouthEast Bank is not responsible for and has no control over the subject matter, content, information, or graphics of the websites that have links here. The portal and news features are being provided by an outside source – the bank is not responsible for the content. Please contact us with any concerns or comments.