Monthly Archives: December 2015

Changes to the FAFSA: PPY (Prior, Prior Year)

A big surprise in college admissions came on Sept. 14, 2015 from President Obama when he announced significant changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) process that will impact millions of students. Starting next year, students will be able to file their FAFSA forms earlier, starting on October 1, 2016, rather than being required to wait until January 1, 2017. This brings the financial aid application process more in line with college applications, which begin in October with Early Admission and Early Decision applications. (There is NO CHANGE to the 2016–17 schedule, when the FAFSA will become available January 1 as in previous years.) Beginning with this same 2017-2018 FAFSA, families will report income and asset information from an earlier tax year, using tax information that should already be completed.  On the 2017–18 FAFSA, students and parents will report their 2015 income information, rather than their 2016 income information (using “Prior-Prior Year” tax data).  This is good news because families should already have their tax information complete by the time they fill out their FAFSA application. Currently, families have to hurry and file their taxes, and/or estimate their tax information and then reconcile the information at a later date.

Families should take note that any strategy of shifting income and delaying deductions should happen two years before a student enters college, instead of one year. Financial Gifts (i.e. grandparent-owned 529 college savings plans or other gifts) to college students can happen earlier in the student’s college period without harming financial aid eligibility.  At the start of the 2nd semester of student’s sophomore year, the Prior-Prior Year (PPY) for the 3rd and 4th year will be over.

The purpose of this change is to simply the process for families. Students and families should have a longer period of time to file their financial aid applications, but it remains to be seen if colleges bump up their due dates for admission and/or financial aid.

Why are Colleges Becoming More Selective?

pecking-orderWe have all heard about how the college application process has become more competitive. Even though many colleges have increased or held their acceptance rates steady, the most well-known colleges have cut their acceptance rates by more than half in the past 25 years. There are a number of factors contributing to the increased competition: a rise in the number of students applying to colleges, use of the Common Application, increased marketing of colleges to improve their rankings, and a rise in the number of international students being accepted into American universities.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, some 20.2 million Continue reading

ACT or Redesigned SAT?

SATvsACTMost of you have heard about the redesigned SAT debuting in March 2016.  For seniors, this change is most likely too late to affect their college planning, but for students graduating 2017 or later, a tougher decision needs to be made.  The current SAT is much different than the ACT, which made it easier for most students to decide between one test or the other.  The current SAT is known as a “reasoning” test, vs. the ACT which is known as more of an “achievement” test.  Because the SAT has been losing ground to its competitor, its redesign makes it much more similar to the ACT.  Students will have to spend a little more time, thought and perhaps full practice tests in order to determine which test to focus on.  Here are some tips for making that decision: Continue reading

Big Changes to the College Process

Big changes have been made recently to how students apply to colleges and how they apply for financial aid.  If you have a student graduating high school in 2017 or later, definitely read on.planningphoto

Most of you have heard about the redesigned SAT debuting in March 2016.  For seniors, this change is most likely too late to affect their college planning, but for students graduating 2017 or later, a tougher decision needs to be made.  The current SAT is much different than the ACT, which made it easier for most students to decide between one test or the other.  The current SAT is more of an “aptitude” test, testing reasoning and verbal abilities; the ACT is known as more of a curriculum-based “achievement” test, measuring what a student has learned in school. Because the SAT has been losing ground to its competitor, the redesign makes it much more similar to the ACT.  Students will have to spend a little more time, thought and perhaps full practice tests in order to determine which test to focus on.  See my blog on SAT vs. ACT to help you determine which test to take.   Continue reading