College and Financial Aid Planning for Students and Families
ScholarFITS offers college counseling and financial aid planning in Portland Maine, or using the internet, across the country. Our focus is helping students and families find the right college fit, matching the student’s academic interests, social preferences, and family financial resources. We offer several packages, or we can tailor our services to your specific circumstances.
The 3 Fits
Academic fit – A good fit college offers the courses and programs you want. The level of academic challenge matches your interests and learning style. You should like the format for most of the classes: do you want close interaction with professors and the lively discussion of small seminars? Or do you prefer lecture instruction and the tremendous variety of courses at large universities?
Social fit – You’ll spend time both in-class and outside of class with your fellow students. The social environment should allow you to grow and thrive both intellectually, and also socially. Most people don’t want to go to college with students exactly like them, but your fellow students should be accepting of who you are and ready to support you in college, and for many people, for years after you graduate.
Financial fit – No matter how well a college fits you academically and socially, if college requires you to take on crippling debt then it’s not a good fit. Colleges discount their prices with grants and scholarships. The trick is to identify your unique profile, then match it to colleges you can afford.
Working with ScholarFITS
When you work with ScholarFITS you choose the services you need. We can help you find colleges with all three fits, or focus on a narrower area of help. We offer several packages – scroll down for details – or we can tailor our services to your specific circumstances.
ScholarFITS encourages families to meet with us for a no-cost, no-obligation first session. You’ll decide whether our services are right for you and what level is appropriate. We’ll clearly outline our prices and payment terms, and ask you to reflect among yourselves as a family to decide if we offer the right solution for your college planning. Click here to contact ScholarFITS on the internet, or call 207-773-4142.
Package 1 – College Finance Essentials
…Because It’s Not a Dream College If You Can’t Afford It
Each year we hear from high school seniors who’ve been accepted to college only to find that they won’t be able to afford it without taking on crushing debt. It doesn’t matter if it’s perfect academically and socially, excess debt can turn your dream college into a nightmare.
You can’t make good college financial plans if you don’t know the cost of college or how much you’ll need to borrow to pay for it. The key in understanding college cost is to focus on net price, the cost of college after subtracting gift aid. The key to predicting what you’ll need to borrow is to know what you have available to pay the net price. The College Finance Essentials Package will help you understand both the net price and the expected debt for your student.
Here’s what the College Finance Essentials Package includes:
- Review of your family composition and the student’s academic record
- Guidance to estimate your FAFSA and Profile EFC using online calculator
- Evaluation of whether your EFC is likely to change due to more or fewer students in college simultaneously – if so we’ll prepare a second net price estimate
- Development of substitute EFC scenarios for FAFSA and Profile colleges – scenarios allow parent(s) or student to use NPCs independently to get quick net price estimates at any US college
- Net price estimates at 5 to 8 colleges chosen by the student showing the estimated cost of a year of college using each college’s net price calculator
- Evaluation of the quality of each college’s NPC giving you an indication of how reliable the net price estimates are
- Estimate of the total net price of college, for example the four-year cost for a BA/BS degree
- Review of the resources you have available to pay the total net price
- Estimate of the total debt that could be required to pay for college, including estimates of the monthly and annual payments
- Evaluation of whether the total debt is reasonable in view of the income required to repay the debt
- If appropriate, suggestion of affordable alternate college plans for your student
Package 2 – Academic and Social Fit
If you’d like to supplement the resources available from your school guidance office ScholarFITS can help you find academic and social fit colleges. This is not a substitute for your school counselor, who will provide valuable help as well as your official counselor recommendation. But ScholarFITS can offer a level of personal attention that’s just not possible for a counselor with a caseload of hundreds or many dozens of students.
Here’s what the Academic and Social Fit Package includes:
- Working with the student we’ll identify interests, likes, and dislikes using tools such as an interest inventory and a variety of career and personality assessments
- Conduct a mock interview with the student – although interviews are rarely required for college admissions, they help a student develop skills that will help in their college essays and future job hunting
- Identify potential colleges of interest for the student to review and evaluate; create supplemental college lists based on the student’s feedback – starting with a broad but manageable list, help the student arrive at a “short list” of colleges to apply to
- By the time applications are due, identify colleges as “best bets,” “likelys,” and “longer odds” – work with student to build list that is balanced and includes several “best bets” and “likelys”
- Assist student and family in developing a college visit plan consistent with their interests, time, and budget
- Review application requirements, assist in identifying and organizing the steps needed to create a schedule for completing application tasks and making timely applications
- Assist student in creating an activities and experiences inventory that will be a resource in completing applications, generating ideas for essays, and presenting the student’s story to colleges
- Assist student in preparing application essays and short answers – note that these must be the student’s work; ScholarFITS will assist in brainstorming ideas, proofreading for errors, suggesting areas for clarification
- Assist student in evaluating whether applying early decision or early action is appropriate
- Review the transition to college and elements of a successful college start
- Limited financial aid assistance such as identifying required aid applications – if more financial fit assistance is desired consider adding the Junior/Senior College Financial Package
Package 3 – Junior/Senior College Financial Plan
You can add the Junior/Senior College Financial Package to the Academic and Social Fit Package for a comprehensive college planning program.
Or, if you’re comfortable making academic and social fit questions but want help with the financial piece, ScholarFITS can help. When you use ScholarFITS standalone financial aid services we assume that you’re getting good advice on the academic and social fit offered by colleges. That may be from your high school guidance counselor, an independent college counselor, or some other source (click here for web resources).
Here’s what the Junior/Senior College Financial Package includes:
- Using your data, ScholarFITS will estimate of your FM (FAFSA) and IM (Profile) EFC for a single academic year
- Analysis of options to impact the EFC to increase potential need-based aid however there is no guarantee of a reduced EFC or increased aid
- Merit scholarship profile to assess the student’s potential for merit aid
- Net price analysis at up to 8 colleges (4 minimum) identified by the student (based on student or parent research or high school counselor recommendations)
- Recommendations for at least 4 and up to 8 additional colleges where the student will have a strong chance of receiving need- or merit-based financial aid and which are consistent with the student’s academic and social fit along with net price analyses
- Four-year cost projection and recommendations of how to structure payments
- Projection of expected debt and debt service at the conclusion of college for both parents and student as applicable
- Evaluation of award letters at colleges the student is admitted to
- Assessment and guidance on the prospects for appealing or negotiating the award
What’s the Difference in the College Financial Packages?
Essentials vs Junior/Senior
The Junior/Senior Package is a fuller package. Here are the differences:
- With the Essentials Package you estimate your EFC yourself using our guidance
- With the Junior/Senior Package ScholarFITS estimates your EFC with data you provide
- The Junior/Senior Package includes an analysis of options to impact your EFC to increase potential need-based aid however there is no guarantee of a reduced EFC or increased aid
- The Junior/Senior Package includes an evaluation of award letters at the colleges your student is admitted to
- The Junior/Senior Package includes assessment and guidance on the prospects for appealing or negotiating the aid award however there is no guarantee of increased aid
Why Aren’t Results Guaranteed?
ScholarFITS Managing Director, Bill Smith, is a member of NACAC (the National Association for College Admission Counseling) and HECA (the Higher Education Consultants Association). Both these professional organizations of college counselors prohibit guarantees of college placement or financial aid results. We agree: Each student is unique, each college is unique, and the college decision process is too subjective to be guaranteed. If someone guarantees college placement or financial aid we advise you to steer clear, or at least evaluate their claims very carefully.
Nevertheless, we’re confident you’ll be satisfied with services from ScholarFITS, as were the clients whose testimonials appear below.
“Choosing the right college is much easier when you know what the financial expectations will be and this program was incredibly helpful in determining that factor.” – Parent, Portland Maine
“This was the best financial aid program that we have taken part in. I am much more comfortable with the whole process and how to understand the true price of college and how to plan accordingly. Each session was really helpful and Bill’s advice was spot on.” – Parent, Portland Maine
“You were finally able to do what no one among our two families could do which is look beyond [a well-known high-priced college] to the financial picture. That was the grandest challenge of all and you cracked the code. I think this meeting will go down in history. The way you presented the picture to us all but especially in talking directly to [our son] was key. He was on his way to Mt Everest of debt with being fixated on [the college].” – Parent, Bath Maine