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8 Possible Reasons for a Financial Aid Suspension

Many of your students depend on financial aid to attend college and earn their degrees. In 2017-18, the average full-time undergraduate student received $14,790 in financial aid, according to the College Board.

But earning financial aid when starting college doesn’t guarantee your students will get it all four years, and some students find themselves facing financial aid suspension. While there is an appeal process, the best scenario is to avoid losing aid in the first place.

There are a variety of reasons students can lose their federal financial aid. By learning what they are, your students can try their best to preserve their eligibility. Her are their things they need to watch out for:

  1. Your GPA is too low:

To maintain your eligibility for financial aid, you need to make satisfactory academic progress toward your degree. This includes maintaining a minimum grade point average (GPA), which is determined by your school.

Typically, you’ll need to keep up a GPA of 2.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale, or at least a C average. Your financial aid office can tell you exactly what GPA qualifies as satisfactory at your school. If your grades dip below this standard, you could lose your financial aid.

What to do: If your grades are slipping, take action to boost your GPA before it’s too late. Make the most of free on-campus resources for tutoring and academic support. Meet with your professors and find out if you can take on extra credit work to improve your grades. Your financial aid — and your degree — depend on it.

2. You dropped below half-time enrollment:

Making sufficient progress toward your degree is another part of maintaining satisfactory academic progress. You’ll need to earn a certain number of credits each semester, as well as maintaining at least half-time enrollment in your program.

If you’ve failed or withdrawn from classes, you might drop below the level required to receive financial aid.

What to do: Work with your advisor to design a reasonable course of study that fulfills the credit requirements for your major and graduation status. If you’re in danger of falling behind, be proactive about getting help from professors or tutors.

3. Your family is making more money:

A lot of federal and institutional financial aid is need-based, meaning the amount you get depends on your family’s financial situation and Expected Family Contribution (EFC). If your family starts making a higher income, you might get less financial aid than you did the previous year — or even none at all.

What to do: There’s not much you can do if your family’s financial situation changes dramatically from one year to the next. But if you feel your EFC doesn’t reflect your real situation, you could consider a financial aid suspension appeal letter that explains extenuating circumstances, such as medical bills or job loss.

4. Your parents didn’t file federal taxes:

f you’re a dependent student, you likely need your parents’ tax information from the previous year to file the FAFSA and get financial aid. But if your parents didn’t file federal taxes and were required to do so, you won’t be able to complete the FAFSA and, as a result, won’t have access to aid.

What to do: To avoid this scenario, your parents need to ensure their taxes are in order before it comes time to file the FAFSA (Oct. 1 or later).

5. You forgot to file the FAFSA every year:

In order to receive financial aid on an annual basis, you need to file the FAFSA every year. If you failed to complete the FAFSA, your financial aid won’t be renewed. Fortunately, the FAFSA stays open until June 30, and it’s better to file late than never.

But your state deadline might have already passed, and your college might not have as much money to distribute, since it’s already given out aid to other students. Note that some colleges additionally require a form called the CSS Profile, so it’s important to file that as well if it’s required.

What to do: Prepare to file the FAFSA even before it becomes available by collecting last year’s tax forms and financial information. File as soon as possible when it opens on Oct. 1, since some financial aid is doled out on a first-come, first-served basis.

6. Your aid was only available freshman year:

Financial aid is typically determined on an annual basis, and you’re not guaranteed to get the same amount in subsequent years as you did the first year. In fact, some colleges appear to “front-load” financial aid offers to attract incoming students, then offer less in later years. Likewise, some scholarships you received as a freshman might not be renewable for all four years.

What to do: Speak with your financial aid office to clarify the terms and conditions of your financial aid package. Reach out to any scholarship organizations as well to find out if your aid is renewable and if there are any steps you need to take to preserve your eligibility.

7. You’ve defaulted on previous student loans

When you file for financial aid, you need to state that you’re not in default on any previous student loans. Although this situation probably won’t apply to undergraduates, it could come into play for graduate students or adults returning to school. So make sure to keep up with any required payments on older student loans — falling behind could mean you’ll lose eligibility for future financial aid.

What to do: Make sure to keep up with any required payments on older student loans so you don’t lose eligibility for future financial aid. If you’ve already defaulted, try to get your loans back into good standing through loan consolidation or rehabilitation.

8. You were convicted of a drug-related offense:

If you’re convicted of a drug-related offense while receiving federal student aid, your eligibility could be suspended. You might also have to return any aid you’ve already received.

What to do: If you’ve been convicted of a drug-related offense, you might be able to get your financial aid back by completing an approved drug rehabilitation program and passing two drug tests. Once you’re eligible again, contact your financial aid office ASAP to regain your grants, loans and, if applicable, work-study.

You were denied financial aid — now what?

Losing financial aid is a nightmare scenario, especially if you can’t afford to stay in school without it. If you’ve been denied financial aid, your first step is to find out why. Reach out to your financial aid office and ask what made you ineligible.

Once you understand the reason, you can take specific steps to resolve the problem. You can also write a financial aid suspension appeal letter to your financial aid office, explaining any special circumstances that impacted your eligibility and providing any supporting documentation.

If your grades or enrollment slipped due to a medical issue, a death in the family or another emergency, for instance, you might be granted some extra time to bring your grades back up. Or if your family’s financial situation changed due to job loss, the office might be able to grant you some extra aid.

Although there’s no guarantee your financial aid suspension letter will work, it’s worth a shot. Stay in communication with your financial aid office so they can help you navigate this difficult time and hopefully get back the aid you need to pay for school. What to do if your financial aid suspension appeal letter doesn’t work

If your financial aid suspension appeal is denied, you might have to make some tough decisions about what to do next. A few possibilities include: Transfer to a cheaper school: If you can’t afford tuition and fees at your current school, you might consider transferring to a less expensive school, such as a community college, to earn credits. Make sure your existing credits transfer, though, or you could end up being in school for longer than four years and paying more money as a result. Borrow an emergency loan: Some schools offer emergency loans to students who encounter financial hardship. Speak with your financial aid office about whether this is possible, even if you haven’t regained eligibility for federal aid yet. Apply for private scholarships: It’s a good idea to apply for private scholarships all four years of college, especially since some freshman year scholarships aren’t renewable. Stay on top of scholarship applications to earn money for tuition and living expenses. Make money with a part-time job: If you have time to work during school and the summers, you could earn money that could help you pay for school. Consider private student loans: Although federal student loans tend to be your best bet for funding, a private student loan could help you fill the gap. But be careful not to borrow too much, so you don’t get stuck with high payments after graduation. Note that you might need to apply for a private student loan with a cosigner to meet income and credit requirements.

Hopefully, your loss of financial aid is just a bump in the road, and you’ll regain eligibility soon. But in the meantime, consider these alternatives strategies for lowering the cost of tuition and covering college expenses. And remember to stay in contact with your financial aid office, as its administrators can help you navigate the often-confusing world of financial aid and ensure you have the funding you need to earn your degree.

This information was published by Student Loan Hero.

Leading Women to STEM Careers

Once they hit middle school, girls often move away from STEM-related careers. School counselors can help middle and high school girls keep all their options open.

Careers in STEM exert significant influence and power, shaping nearly every aspect of our lives. Yet, women (diverse in race, ethnicity, class, age, gender identity, abilities, and other historically marginalized identities) are underrepresented in the field. And, even when present, they may find themselves in unwelcoming cultures that impede their participation as innovators, leaders, and researchers who are shaping the future.

Most college students majoring in STEM make that choice during high school. Unfortunately, despite the increasing demand for professionals in the field, some young women don’t automatically think of STEM careers when planning their future.

Students who lack a strong STEM role model in their life or who haven’t had access to adequate STEM learning may not automatically consider a career in STEM. Further, self-doubt can arise for students who don’t have confidence in themselves and their abilities. Questions — “Can I be competitive with peers in this major? Is there a place for me in this field?” — may loom in their minds. Such students’ paths can be influenced by the help of a school counselor.

A school counselor’s role

“As part of their commitment to equity, school counselors work to raise awareness and encourage students to explore all avenues for their future careers, not just those that are stereotypically gendered,” said Jill Cook, executive director of the American School Counselor Association.

School counselors actively advocate for equitable policies, procedures, practices, and attitudes, embracing equity in opportunities and access to resources for all students and colleagues. School counselors are vigilant in countering the harmful effects of stereotypical gender-role expectations. “Persistent, subconscious images of male mathematicians and scientists that start at the earliest ages may be one explanation why girls enter STEM fields at dramatically lower rates than boys,” according to Edutopia.

School counselors are essential allies for bridging this gap in information and experience, providing career-shaping information to students and their families. School counselors provide and advocate for individual students’ college and career awareness, exploration, and postsecondary planning and decision making, which support the students’ right to choose from the wide array of options when students complete high school. By focusing on a growth mindset, school counselors help students understand that, “their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work,” according to Carol Dweck, author of the book Mindset.  “Brains and talent are just the starting point.”

But school counselors can also influence school leaders on which courses to offer and evaluate how the courses match the existing experiences of students. “I set about identifying the changes I could influence. It became evident that the overarching themes were equity and access to classes that could have an impact on postsecondary plans. By looking at class enrollment data, we made intentional changes to the master schedule, dropped outdated prerequisites, and monitored for our implicit bias,” said Jennifer Correnti, a school counseling director in New Jersey.

Addressing comfort

School counselors can also help teachers address unconscious bias in the physical environment of classrooms. “The physical environment conveys messages to students about who belongs in computing and who doesn’t. Rooms decorated with images and objects associated with geeky stereotypes are typically less appealing and welcoming to women than are gender-neutral rooms. Knowing this, you can craft an environment that makes a broad range of people feel welcome,” according to The National Center for Women in Technology.

When school counselors have training and expertise in creating inclusive spaces where all students feel welcome, comfortable, and supported, they can help other educators improve their physical spaces.

By actively advocating for equitable policies, procedures, practices, and attitudes and embracing equity in opportunities and access to resources for all students and colleagues, school counselors can help young women interested in STEM careers reach their goals.

Author Terry Hogan, President and CTO, The National Center for Women in Technology; Angela Cleveland, Program Director, NCWIT Counselors for Computing, us.editorial@mediaplanet.com

Tips for Acing the Virtual College Interview

College interviews are making a comeback. While many schools never abandoned the one-on-one interview, others are beginning to see the value in meeting with a student to gather additional information for an application process now missing one key component—test scores. 

As over 1665 or more than 70% of four-year colleges and universities have implemented test-optional policies, institutions previously dependent on scores for evaluating students are looking for ways to evaluate students using other metrics—those more aligned with assessing character. And what better way to probe character issues than by actually meeting and interviewing a student? 

 In addition to supporting assessment, the interview can be another marketing opportunity for colleges anxious to replace campus visits as occasions to sell the institution and all it has to offer. And the feedback gathered from a student can be yet another tool for assessing interest or perceived “fit.” 

But just as COVID-19 has pushed colleges into adopting test-optional policies, the virus has also made it all but impossible for them to conduct in-person interviews. And for better or worse, the virtual interview has its own quirks and subtleties. While students are largely accustomed to interacting in a classroom environment over the internet, the interpersonal element in an interview requires the student to be more attentive to communication details. 

To start, the virtual interview may be conducted over any one of several popular video chat or conferencing platforms—each with its own advantages or disadvantages. The most popular are Zoom, Skype, FaceTime or Google Hangout. But be aware that the interviewer decides the format, and it’s up to you to familiarize yourself with the platform making sure you have any required software on your computer, tablet or phone. 

Once that’s established, it’s time to drill down into details. And here are some tips for acing your virtual college interview: 

DO: 

  • Find a quiet, appropriate space where you can have the call.
    Be aware of your background—plain and uncluttered is ideal. 
    Make sure your computer is charged-up if you’re using a laptop—better yet, plug it in! 
  • Check your lighting and try to position the camera so that you are facing a light source and not the other way around. 
  • Test the technology. Before the interview, schedule a test call with a friend, family member or anyone who has been working with you throughout the application process. 
  • Ensure your microphone and speakers are working on the day of the interview and that your internet connection is stable and supports high-quality live video. 
  • Secure your device if using a phone or tablet—shaky or wobbly video is annoying. 
  • Be sure to use a professional screen name (first and last) that will be easy for the interviewer to recognize. 
  • Eliminate background noise and distractions—barking dogs, while sometimes unavoidable, distract you as much as your interviewer. Keep Fido out of the interview, if possible. Close windows and turn off the TV. 
  • Silence personal devices. 
  • Choose a small, comfortable and upright chair. Slouching on a couch isn’t engaging and sprawled out on a bed is disrespectful. 
  • Dress appropriately—top and bottom (you never know). Logo gear is not advisable, especially when it’s from another college. Avoid clothing featuring small patterns or colors that might not come across well on the screen. 
  • Try to make eye contact by looking directly into the camera. Nodding will show the interviewer that you are involved and listening attentively. Feel free to use your hands if it comes naturally to you. 
  • Have a backup plan in case of glitches. Transitioning to a phone or rescheduling for an alternate time are both possible solutions for technical difficulties. Try not to panic if your software experiences an issue. If the problem is outside of your control, the interviewer will understand. 
  • Follow-up with a thank-you note.


DO NOT:

  • Schedule an appointment without noting it on your calendar. 
  • Assume the interview will be in your time zone. Verify with the interviewer the time zone of the interview and be ready to begin at the agreed-upon time. 
  • Have your parent(s) sit in on the meeting. There’s nothing worse than having someone lurking off camera prompting responses. And don’t let them hover anxiously outside the room. Hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign outside your door if necessary. 
  • Neglect to introduce yourself. 
  • Come to the interview unprepared. An interviewer can tell in a minute if you have absolutely no knowledge of the college for which you are interviewing.
  • Get too cute with virtual backgrounds or screen names. If you must use a virtual background, choose something professional—not a picture of a closet filled with toilet paper as one student recently used. 
  • Turn off or disable your webcam. Part of the purpose of the face-to-face interview is for the interviewer to see how you interact as well as how you respond to specific questions. 
  • Try to record the interview. 
  • Forget to smile. Speaking into a computer is a little unnatural, but it’s important to try not to act like a robot. 
  • Sit in a dark room—it’s a little creepy. 
  • Watch yourself instead of the interviewer. 
  • Talk over your interviewer. Zoom has a built-in lag and it’s sometimes easy to jump in too soon. Practice your timing and use the pause to your advantage as a moment to consider your answer. 
  • Check email/phone/web while on the call as others can easily tell when you are distracted. And it’s a clear signal that you’re disinterested. 
  • Eat or chew gum or wear a hat unless there is a religious reason to do so.
  • Fail to say thank you and follow-up with a note.

Nancy Griesemer is an independent college consultant practicing in Oakton, Virginia. She has two children who survived the college admissions process and a very large tabby cat who sits in on many of my counseling sessions. Her credentials include degrees from Penn and Harvard, professional membership in the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) as well as the Higher Education Consultants Association (HECA), and a Certificate in College Counseling from UCLA. As a professional college consultant, she support students and families navigating their own personal college explorations. Check her blog out at http://collegeexplorations.blogspot.com/

What does my deferral really mean?

This is a question you might get asked by your students. Lee Bierer of College Admissions Strategies wrote a great blog piece below that can help your students answer that question:

Being deferred is NOT the same as being rejected. It may feel that way for students, but this year with a record number of early applications there has also been a record number of deferrals.

A student who applies through either early action or early decision is deferred when a college determines that the student has potential but they want to see first semester senior grades to confirm. So without sounding overly Pollyana-ish, being deferred gives a student a second chance to impress the admissions office.

So how should a student respond to a deferral?

  1. Visit the college – If possible, if you haven’t toured the campus, this is a great time to make the visit. Even if you have visited previously, a follow-up visit where you sit in on a class and/or meet with someone from admissions is an opportunity to set yourself apart from other deferred applicants. Also, a campus visit can really help you determine where this college ranks in your desirability scale. Plan to eat lunch in the cafeteria and have conversations with current students. These informal discussions can often provide insightful comments.
  2. Contact your admissions representative – Find out which person in the admissions office handles your geographic territory. Take the opportunity to introduce yourself via email and ask that person if they can share any thoughts on how you could improve your application. Listen to what they say, don’t argue or complain.  It is important to be upbeat and leave a positive impression.
  3. Write a letter – Send it to the Director of Admissions as well as your admissions representative. The letter should focus on your strongest attributes and how you will be able to contribute to the college community. Demonstrate your interest and your commitment. If you are 100% sure that if you are accepted you will attend, then say so. Talk about college fit; why the college is a good fit for you and why you are a good fit for the college. Use the letter to update the admissions office on any new information such as leadership roles in clubs, athletic accomplishments, awards, scholarships, etc.
  4. Send your mid-year transcript. Most colleges will specifically request that you send your seventh semester grades. Follow instructions to the letter and get it done as quickly as possible. Timing can be an important factor.

Here’s what not to do?

  • Don’t whine and complain to the Admissions Office that you really deserve to be accepted
  • Don’t send volumes of emails, snail mail or packages hoping to change their minds
  • Don’t accuse the admissions office of making a mistake in their decision
  • Don’t compare your SAT scores and GPA with someone else’s
  • Don’t over-boast about small accomplishments, tell it like it is. It is not really worth it to share that your SAT score went up 10 points.

Lee Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to: lee@collegeadmissionsstrategies.com; www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com

If your students choose to take College classes online take note of this fact about their financial aid

U.S. News and World Report recently published a blog that showed taking college classes online can really affect the financial aid a student receives from traditional Colleges.

When a college offers the option to either learn from home or return to campus and a student chooses the former, the financial aid office typically recalculates his or her cost of attendance. The cost of attendance is the total cost for the school year and includes tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and other expenses. This cost, along with a student’s financial information provided on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, is used to calculate how much financial aid a student can receive.

Similar to the calculations made for commuter students, a college may reduce estimated living and meal expenses for a student who learns remotely from the family home during the coronavirus pandemic. This translates to the possible elimination of institutional grants and other financial aid opportunities, and may be a rude awakening for students this spring and beyond when they realize the financial impact of choosing to study at home.

For this reason, experts urge students to ask their financial aid office about the college’s policy around cost of attendance recalculations during the pandemic before making the decision to study virtually or on campus.

This is definitely something your students should note as they begin planning for their futures.

Here is a link to the U.S. News and World Report article: https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/paying-for-college/articles/how-taking-college-classes-remotely-amid-coronavirus-can-cost-you

Distracted Driving is a big issue with teens

A 2016 survey from State Farm found 94% of drivers said they thought texting was a distracting behavior behind the wheel, but 35% still did it anyway. In 2018, an estimated 2,841 people in the U.S. died in distraction-affected crashes, according to the National Safety Council. Teenagers text while driving at an even higher rate and many accidents are caused by this behavior. They’re three times more likely to be involved in an accident than drivers aged 20 and older.

The graphic below by Reviews.com gives some safety tips you can use with your students to discuss the perils of distracted driving:

Download this infographic here

Check out the article from Reviews.com that discusses What distracted driving is and why it is even worse at night here: https://www.reviews.com/insurance/car/how-to-avoid-driving-distracted/

5 Essential Steps to Becoming a Teacher

Are any of your students interested in becoming a teacher? They might be wondering how to turn your career vision into reality. Here are some tips that will guide them through everything from deciding which subject to teach to getting their teaching license.

Choose a Grade

First, they will need to determine which grade level they want to teach. Teaching high school is very different from teaching kindergarten, so it’s important to consider which students they would prefer to work with. Elementary school students are curious and enthusiastic about learning, middle school students are figuring out their places in the world, and high school students are planning for the next big chapter in their lives.  

Decide on the Subject

Which subject should they teach? Ideally, they will be able to identify a subject that they enjoy discussing and understand deeply. They might also want to look at subjects that fewer teachers pursue, as this could open up more job opportunities. For instance, the Edvocate states that mathematics, English, and social sciences are all in-demand subjects. With fewer teachers applying for these positions, they will have less competition when job searching! Ultimately, they want to select a subject that they are passionate about.

Earn Their Degree

To get that first teaching job, they will need to have a bachelor’s degree. Most four-year Colleges have programs for teachers. However, they do necessarily have to attend a brick-and-mortar college – they can secure their teaching license by earning their teaching degree online! This option can be more affordable and convenient for many aspiring teachers. In addition to finishing their bachelor’s program, their state will likely require them to submit academic transcripts, go through a background check, and complete entrance exams and skills tests. Keep in mind that, in the future, they may also want to earn a master’s degree to increase earning potential.

Landing a Job

Once they have gotten their bachelor’s degree, they have their teaching license and should be more than ready to get into the classroom – now, they just need to find a job at the right school! In order to make a great first impression to potential employers, they will need to prepare answers to common interview questions in advance. The Muse states that they will likely be asked why they want to be a teacher, how they would handle difficult students, and how they would structure a typical lesson. They should try rehearsing answers with a friend so that they can give them feedback – this should give them more confidence when they start interviewing.

Prepare for Online Learning

Today’s teachers understand that not all learning takes place in a traditional classroom. Experiential learning and remote learning are also valid educational methods (even more so during COVID-19). Make sure that they are ready to teach virtually if the need arises. They will need a reliable laptop and an external webcam, and they may also want to upgrade your Internet connection.

Teaching can be a very rewarding career. By helping your students make the right decisions about their subject, grade level, and degree program, you can help your students achieve their dreams.

3 Steps to Resetting Your Morning Routine

The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting everyone differently. As a counselor, helping students, faculty and parents cope with stress is a part of your job, however due to today’s climate it’s more important than ever to advocate for your mental health and make sure your needs are being met. 

Prioritizing yourself doesn’t mean being selfish and can look differently for everybody. For some it might mean waking up earlier to set aside time for self-care and for others it could mean ending the day with a bedtime routine filled with relaxation. 

Whatever your style, we encourage you to reset your morning routine to be geared towards productivity, intention and wellness. Not quite sure where to start? Tommy John created a three step approach to help school counselors reset their routine for success during this turbulent time. 

Step 1: Practice Mindfulness 

It’s easy to go through the motions these days. Due to the current climate, being present can be difficult when there are so many distractions. When creating a routine rooted in success, it’s important to prioritize practicing mindfulness to ready your brain for focus all day. It may sound silly, but the act of being mindfully aware in the first 10 minutes of your morning allows you to start the day on the right foot. Try saying a mantra like “I am capable of handing anything that the day might bring” to center yourself and start the day with a fresh perspective.

Step 2: Practice Gratitude 

Practicing gratitude is the best way to gain perspective on days when you’ve woken up on the wrong side of the bed. Simply writing a few things down that you are thankful for or saying them outloud releases a combination of dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins into your brain and helps you feel more positive. You’ll notice how life’s struggles and inconveniences pale in comparison to your blessings. 

Step 3: Practice Goal-Setting 

Creating a morning routine that’s filled with purpose adds structure to your day and allows you to concentrate on what you really want in life. When you race through your morning, chances are you aren’t focused on your goals. Instead set daily intentions right when you wake up, that will encourage you to be present and strive for your goals. 

We hope these three tips will help you center yourself and tackle your day. As a school counselor, a large part of your job is being there for others so we encourage you to set aside time for yourself every morning. For more inspiration around how to reset your morning routine, view the visual below! 

Scholarship Opportunity for your students – Upsolve Essay Scholarship

Upsolve, a national legal services nonprofit funded by the federal government and Harvard University is offering a scholarship opportunity to your students.

To empower the next generation of change-makers, they are encouraging students to submit short essays (500-1000 words) on how society can improve access to justice. The winning essay will receive $2,500.

These are the eligibility requirements:

  • Must be currently attending university or college or set to attend during 2021-2022 academic year;
  • Must apply via email and provide their name, university or college, major, and expected graduation month and year;
  • Must be in good standing with their current or prospective institution;
  • Provide their application (a two-page essay on your ideas for a more equitable legal system) by March 31, 2021

Here is a link with more information about their scholarship program: https://upsolve.org/scholarship/.

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