financial aid award letters

On the latest episode of Getting In: A College Coach Conversation, host Ian Fisher welcomed the new year with a conversation about New Year’s resolutions for high schoolers, an update about some trends that have been noted in the outcomes of this year’s University of Michigan Early Action round, and a discussion of financial aid award letters and how to read and understand them.

New Year’s Resolutions for High School Students

Ian’s first guest, Olivia Sajjadieh, offered some fantastic suggestions about starting the new year on the right foot academically, advising younger high schoolers to be intentional and thoughtful about challenging themselves in course selection, and older high schoolers to reflect on how the school year has gone so far, both positively and negatively. Ian and Olivia talked about how parents can also make some resolutions about maintaining the delicate balance between helping their child and empowering their child in the college search. They wrapped up their conversation with some wonderful insights about resolutions teenagers can make about their health, relationships, and personal growth. There’s no law that says New Year’s resolutions must begin on January 1—if you haven’t made yours yet (or even if you have), you’ll want to listen to this episode!

University of Michigan Early Action Trends

For the next segment, Ian called on college admission expert Tova Tolman for her perspective on this year’s outcomes in the University of Michigan Early Action round. College Coach educators from around the country have noticed that many students with high test scores and strong transcripts, who they expected would be admitted to Michigan, were instead deferred to the Regular round. Tova confirmed that indeed, the University of Michigan is no longer a safety school for anyone. She went on to discuss a few possible reasons for the seemingly high number of deferrals, and encouraged students not to panic. Tova did, however, encourage students who were deferred to re-evaluate their list, especially if they thought UM was their safety school. Students can use a search tool available in the Common Application to find schools that have later or rolling admission deadlines.

Reading and Comparing Financial Aid Award Letters

Finally, seniors who have completed the FAFSA and/or the CSS Profile and have been accepted to colleges may have received a few financial aid award letters by now. Ian’s last guest, college finance expert Michelle Richardson, was on hand to take them through the college financial aid award letter, what it includes, how to read it, and how to compare awards from different schools. There was lots of great information provided here—you don’t want to miss it!

Don’t forget to join the show this week, when Ian will be back to talk with his guests about apps and resources for college students to use to manage their money, summer STEM programs, and more information about applying to colleges with later or rolling deadlines.


Written by Kathy Ruby
Kathy Ruby is a member of College Coach’s team of college finance experts. Before joining College Coach, Kathy was as a Senior Financial Aid Officer at St. Olaf College and Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania.