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What Happens in the Financial Aid Office, Honors Colleges, and the UVA Essay Supplement

submitting applications
Julia Jones

Written by Julia Joneson November 16th, 2017

I have been working in education with students for more than 20 years. I spent many years working in the admissions office at Brandeis University, where I was involved in virtually all aspects of the admissions process. As a senior member of the admissions committee, I was a key decision maker on applications, and I met and recruited students around the country and from major cities including Boston, Cleveland, Dallas, Houston, San Francisco, Atlanta, and Nashville. I also served as director of a one-thousand member national network of alumni recruiters and interviewers. Prior to joining College Coach, I continued my work with high school students and their families as director of admissions at a private day and boarding school in Massachusetts.
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In the latest episode of Getting In: A College Coach Conversation, host Beth Heaton covers a wide range of informative topics: an insider’s perspective on what happens after you submit your financial aid application, a conversation about honors colleges, and insight into the UVA supplemental essays. After the Aid Application In the first segment, Beth welcomed former Babson and RISD financial aid officer Michelle Clifton to the show to shed some light on what happens in the financial aid office after families submit the FAFSA, and, for some schools, the CSS Profile. Beth and Michelle talked about the very first steps after submission. Colleges compare the submissions that come in electronically to the admissions data, checking to see who’s been accepted.  An important point to note: financial aid officers don’t create financial aid packages for students before they’ve been slated for acceptance.  Michelle then walked through all the next steps in the process: comparing the data received on all applications, calculating an expected family contribution, comparing that EFC to the college’s total cost of attendance (COA) to determine the student’s “need,” and attempting to meet that need with federal, state, and institutional funding. During this walkthrough, Michelle also answered some questions commonly asked by families about the process:
  • How can I be sure that the colleges received my FAFSA and my Profile forms?
  • What should you do if you realize, after submitting, that you’ve made an error on the forms, or that information has changed?
  • Are colleges going to question the information on the forms? How do they verify that the information is accurate?
  • And, finally, when do financial aid award letters come out?
Lots of detailed information and answers in this segment!  It was a great look inside the financial aid process. Honors Colleges For the second segment, Beth welcomed former Goucher admissions officer Lisa Albro for an enlightening discussion of honors colleges, an option that is becoming increasingly popular for ambitious students these days. But what are they, exactly? Honors colleges are a way for public, often larger, universities to offer a ‘niche’ for the high-achieving students in their applicant pool. They are, in a sense, an enclave for these students—a smaller school within a larger university. They are often extremely selective—in some cases, as selective as the Ivies—and the admissions process can differ from school to school. An honors college can be an amazing opportunity for the right student, but should you apply to an honors college?  Lisa and Beth discussed who should consider honors colleges, and how to decide if an honors college is the best fit. They are designed for students who are extremely committed to their education—for students who ‘go the extra mile’ in their studies. Some specific Honors Colleges discussed were those at Penn State, University of Texas, University of Michigan, University of Maryland, Arizona State, and Clemson. University of Virginia Supplement In the final segment, Beth welcomed back former Franklin and Marshall and Georgetown admissions officer Karen Spencer to offer tips and insight on how to tackle the University of Virginia supplement. They went through strategies on how to approach each of the various questions. While they are all different, the common thread among them is that they are short and specific—forcing students to be personal and revealing.  Students should strive to be non-generic in their responses, and to make sure they are answering the entire prompt. Almost all the prompts end with the question, “And why?”  Karen’s advice was to focus on the ‘why’ in any response, as that is likely the most important part of the essay to the Admissions Office. So much amazing advice in one jam-packed show! And our next episode promises to be just as good, when host Ian Fisher looks to answers the important question: do senior grades matter? (Spoiler alert: they do!) He’ll also look at net price calculators and more college supplemental essays. Not to be missed! Getting-In-CTA


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