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 niche is financial aid and college cost planning, but we know that a college isn’t a bargain if it doesn’t suit the student academically and socially. We help 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 – Financial Aid and College Cost Snapshot
…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 and whether you’ll need to borrow to pay for it. The Financial Aid Snapshot will help you understand both the net price – the bottom line after gift aid – and the expected debt for your student.
Here’s what the Financial Aid Snapshot includes:
- Analysis of student’s eligibility for both need- and merit-based financial aid
- Need-profile (estimation of the EFC, or Expected Family Contribution) using both FM (Federal Methodology, used by all US colleges that accept federal financial aid funds, based on the FAFSA) and IM (Institutional Methodology, used by about 150 colleges, based on the CSS Profile form)
- EFC components including portions attributable to income and to assets from both the parents and the student – allows you to plan and sometimes increase your eligibility for aid
- Multi-year EFC forecasts if significant changes can be expected
- Merit-profile based on student’s academic record in high school and standardized tests
- Basic review of student’s academic profile and characteristics the student prefers in a college
- Review of colleges the student has identified as being of interest
- Based on student’s interests and need- and merit-profiles, suggestions of additional colleges if appropriate, including colleges that could make offers of grants and scholarships
- Report with multiple statistics on colleges of interest
- Net price analyses comparing estimated one-year costs at various colleges (net price is your real cost – the cost remaining after subtracting grants and scholarships from the published Cost of Attendance)
- Projection of estimated four-year cost of a degree
- Analysis of the resources available from savings and income earned during the college years to pay the total net price
- Estimate of the debt required to pay the remaining cost of degree at various colleges
- Estimate of the payment required to pay off debt at various colleges
- Estimate of the suggested income to keep repayment amounts manageable
How does the Financial Aid Snapshot work?
We’ll give you a detailed list of the data needed to estimate financial aid. When you have the information here’s what happens:
- Initial meeting by phone/internet (or in person if practical) where we’ll gather the information that makes up the student’s need- and merit-profiles
- We’ll crunch the numbers
- To wrap up we’ll have a follow-up meeting where we’ll review the analysis with you and answer your questions
What insights will you gain from the Financial Aid Snapshot?
- Your student’s need- and merit-profiles so you can reasonably conclude whether you might receive need-based aid or academic scholarships and where
- Cost estimates at colleges your student is considering – It’s like an x-ray of your college list!
- Added college suggestions intended to be suitable overall, also offering a range of cost options
- 4-year cost-of-degree estimates at various colleges
- Representative payment scenarios so you can evaluate potential outcomes if your student attends colleges at the high end of the cost range, the lower end, and in-between, particularly looking at whether debt may be required and if so, whether the debt is reasonable
Who is the Financial Aid Snapshot for?
Families anywhere in the US or abroad as long as the student is a US citizen or eligible non-citizen (for example a green card holder). Do the Snapshot before the student finalizes the list of colleges to apply to so you can be confident you’ll have some affordable options. Requests for the Snapshot peak in the fall, when seniors are submitting applications. We sometimes have to turn people away – do the Snapshot early so you don’t miss out!
Package 2 – Senior Year Financial Aid Support
For families who have completed the Financial Aid Snapshot and want more support throughout their student’s senior year of high school.
Here’s what the Senior Year Financial Aid package includes:
- Updated EFC and merit analysis if appropriate as new information becomes available
- Additional net price and cost of degree analyses as the list of colleges under consideration by the student changes
- Evaluation of the pluses and minuses of Early Decision
- Assistance completing the FAFSA and CSS Profile financial aid forms – ScholarFITS will help you understand the specific questions, but we do not complete the forms for you
- If your financial circumstances have changed since the year being considered by the aid form, assistance strategizing how to request more financial aid from colleges
- Analysis of actual aid offers when received from colleges
- Advice on whether appealing or “negotiating” an aid offer might be successful
- Assistance drafting a model appeal letter that can be sent to colleges to request additional aid
- Updated payment scenarios showing the cost of degree at colleges based on their award letters
- Evaluation of the resources available to pay for college, estimate of the total debt required, and analysis of whether the amount of debt is reasonable
- Assistance evaluating student loan options
Who is the Senior Year Financial Aid Support package for?
Families who have completed the Financial Aid Snapshot and live anywhere in the US or abroad as long as the student is a US citizen or eligible non-citizen (for example a green card holder).
Package 3 – 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
- Limited financial aid assistance such as identifying required aid applications – if more financial fit assistance is desired consider adding a college financial planning package
Who is the Academic and Social Fit package for?
Unlike our other services, the Academic and Social Fit package is only available to students in southern Maine. Capacity is limited; we offer this package to only a handful of students each year.
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
“[Working with Bill at ScholarFITS] was a dream – responsive, clear and very thorough. He took a complicated, opaque (frankly, scary) process, and walked us through each step. He answered tons of questions, until we really understood all the data that he was giving us. First, he assessed our likelihood of getting need based aid, and calculated our EFC (expected family contribution), a big task in and of itself. Then he took our list of 20+ colleges and gave us a variety of different data points for each school: academic, financial, demographics, selectivity. It was great to have all of that information all in one place to help compare the schools. Then, based on our specific situation, he mapped out exactly what each school would end up costing us, not only for one year, but for all four years that our son would be attending. And to top it off, he proposed ways that we could actually pay for it! The cloud of college finances has cleared for us, and I feel confident that we can use the information to make a better decision about where my son will go to college. Even more importantly, it helped my son clearly see the impact of college costs, and how to incorporate that input into thinking about his future.”– Parent, Brooklyn New York