What is early decision? What is early action? Are scholarships taxable? Do they reduce the amount of financial aid a college may award? Is an interview necessary? When should we plan to visit the campus of a prospective college?
Applying for college is not as simple as it once was. Finding a college, funding the education, and navigating the process are major undertakings for a family.
After identifying the colleges a student wishes to apply to, a student might fall in love with one particular choice and opt for early decision. This means that they apply early, and are accepted early, usually by December. They have the rest of senior year to enjoy, and not worry about application deadlines, essays, interviews, or worry about their future plans. The downside to early decision is that it is often binding. You are expected to attend that college if they accept you – and the financial aid package you receive may not be as attractive as the one you might receive from another college. There may be financial obligations if you turn down a college that has accepted you on early admission. Still, it does simplify the process for students who know where they want to go, and for families who have a clear and strong grasp of the financial obligations.
Other colleges offer early action – which is not binding. You have the opportunity to apply and be accepted early, but there is still room for negotiation of the financial aid package and consider other schools.
Any parent of a student who is considering early decision or early action needs to be aware of the individual school’s financial policies regarding these admissions. Another question to ask is the school’s policy on awarding need based financial aid to students who receive private scholarships. If you are looking to fund an education with scholarship money, make sure that you have a clear understanding from the college financial aid officer how a scholarship award will affect the total cost of tuition, room and board, and other expenses, and your eligibility for financial aid.
You can learn more about the whole process of applying for colleges and funding an education by visiting http://www.finaid.org/ . FinAid is a comprehensive site which operates as a public service and is free to use. There are a lot of links here to valuable articles, scholarship search engines, information about loans and savings plans, and military opportunities.