March 2020
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Adjusting and Adapting to a Virtual Senior Year

Hello Seniors! Staying home and taking classes from your kitchen table is likely not how you pictured the end of your senior year-this is supposed to be the highlight of your high school career and it has been taken away by COVID-19. Although this may not be an ideal situation, we have put together a list of suggestions to help make your senior year successful and memorable:

  1. Stay on top of your studies from home. If your school has implemented online learning assignments, try your best to stay focused and maintain your level of success. Here are some hints:
    • Find a space that works for you. If you like total silence or if you need music playing in the background, create a learning environment that meets your needs.
    • Keep a schedule/routine for your school days that is different from your weekend days. Try to get up at a normal school day time, shower and get ready to work. Use your weekends to still sleep in and binge watch your favorite shows.
  2. Stay connected and keep motivated. Now is the perfect time to use social media to stay in touch with friends, while maintaining social distance. Study online together, keep each other motivated, and talk about silver linings. Not everyone does well staying at home, so make it a point to check in with your friends and family!
    • Remember that you’re not alone! Seniors across the country are experiencing the same disappointment, confusion, and sadness that you might be feeling now. Check out this video created by a high school senior in Ohio who has a message for seniors across the state: stay strong.
    • Recently, Netflix has released a Chrome extension called Netflix Party. This is a fun way to virtually watch your favorite shows and movies with your friends! Check it out here.
    • Although connecting with people is a positive use of social media, try to avoid the endless hype and updates on Covid-19. Choose one reliable source such as the CDC, WHO, or your local news to get your updates a couple times a day (not a couple time an hour) this will help with anxiety and being overwhelmed with too much information.
  3. Continue planning for your life after high school. Remember that “this too shall pass,” and in time we will be back to our regular schedules. Choosing a college may become a bit more challenging, but here are a few things you can still do:
    • Stay connected with your admissions counselor via phone/email. Take this time to ask all the questions you were saving for admitted students’ day and ask them now.
    • Look at the cost! If you have financial aid letters, now is a great time to compare your packages and see how much each college will cost you. Read the next article for more information.
    • Take virtual tours of any campuses that you are interested in that offer them. It isn’t the same as being there but it is still a great way to get an impression of the campus.
    • Apply for scholarships! Now is the perfect time to submit scholarship applications and get those done. (See our scholarship spotlight for more!)
    • Keep your school counselor informed and up to date and reach out if you need help with online learning, transcripts, letters, or any follow up with colleges.

Most importantly remember, this is STILL your year and you can still make it a great one!

Understanding the Award Letter

Understanding Your Financial Aid Award Letter

So you’ve applied to the college of your dreams, submitted the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and any supplemental forms, received an acceptance from the Admissions Office, and now you’ve gotten an award letter from the Financial Aid Office. Here, at the Center for College Planning (CCP), we see the award letter as the final piece of the college decision puzzle. Here are our answers to some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) from college seniors and their families:

  • What’s an award letter and why is it so important?
    • Award letters tell students and their families the types and sources of financial aid available to them in the upcoming year. The financial aid office will use your FAFSA and any supplemental forms to determine the types of aid they award-gift aid (grants and scholarships) and/or self-help aid (loans, tuition payment plans, and work study employment). The award letter is a critical piece of your college decision because it will determine affordability.
  • I applied to several schools so I am getting several award letters. Why do they all look so different?
    • Award letters are confusing because each institution uses a different format. For example, many schools will not list total Cost of Attendance (COA) and if they do, this number will likely only include billable costs (tuition, fees, room and board) and leave out non-billable costs (books and supplies, transportation, living expenses, health insurance, etc.). If the school does not provide the COA on your award letter, be sure to do some research on their website so you can determine your cost of attendance after aid. It’s also important to note that award letters can be unclear about loans (self-help aid) and grants (gift aid). It is not uncommon to see grants and loans listed together, as financial aid offices may not use the word “loan” in the award letter.
  • I’ve found my COA, my gift aid, and my self-help aid, now what?
    • Your next step is to determine the net cost, which subtracts free money or gift aid from the total COA for that institution. In other words, the net price is your bottom line; this is the amount you must pay from available resources (cash, savings, income, or loans). We do not include loans in this formula because you will eventually need to repay all money taken out in a loan and is therefore not free.
      • Follow this formula or use this tool to find your college’s net price: Total COA (remembering billable and non-billable costs) minus total amount of gift aid that does not need to be repaid (grants and scholarships). This number will be your net price, which will help you to compare your costs of attendance for one year at the different schools you were accepted to.
      • Remember: total cost of attendance (COA) – total amount of gift aid = net price. Once your net price is calculated you can determine if utilizing the Direct Stafford Loan made eligible to you through the FAFSA is needed along with any other private or federal loans.
    • Determining the net price is critical because it helps you to make sense of the numbers. For example: college A offers you $15,000 in gift aid and college B offers you $5,000 in gift aid. The total cost for college A is $50,000 and the total cost for college B is $35,000 per year. Using the net price formula, you will see that although college A gave you more money in gift aid, your net price is $35,000 while college B’s net price is $30,000.
  • I don’t think my family can afford this. Can we try and negotiate?
    • This is a tough question to give a definite yes or a definite no. Although all schools have a formal appeal process, the school has likely created a fair and equitable financial aid policy to help each student finance their education. If your family has experienced a major financial change-parent’s loss of a job, parent’s change in marital status, disability-or if you made a mistake when filing, you should reach out to the financial aid office so they are aware and file a special circumstance. Although we cannot guarantee that you will be awarded more aid by doing this, more information is better information; financial aid staff cannot help if they do not know of tricky family circumstances.

For any questions on award letters or to review financial aid award letters with a College Counselor, call us at 800-747-2383 ext. 119 to schedule an over-the-phone appointment!

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Seniors, It’s Never Too Late to Make Plans for Life After High School

Senior year often feels like a whirlwind, especially now with COVID-19 in our lives. Although things move fast during your final year of high school, it is never too late to make plans for post-graduation. All community colleges and several four year colleges offer rolling admission, meaning the admissions team does not have a hard deadline by which to review applications and provide a decision. If you’re still thinking about plans for post-graduation, do not worry! Every student’s journey looks different and there are pathways to a certificate, associates, or bachelors program, even if you have not started the process. At the Center for College Planning (CCP), we are here to help you! We would love to talk with you and discuss options and/or file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Call us at 888.747.2382 x119 to schedule your FREE over-the-phone 60-minute appointment today.

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Juniors-Have Some Downtime While Social Distancing? Prep for the SAT!

Juniors, while some of you may be relieved that the state SATs are postponed, you should be using this time to study and prepare for test day down the road! You can study for the SAT for FREE using Khan Academy through the College Board website. If you took PSATs, your score report can also help you study for the SAT; you can find this report by logging into your account on College Board. For up-to-date information regarding the SATs and testing changes due to coronavirus, visit the College Board's COVID-19 updates page.

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Preparing for a College Fair

College fairs are your opportunity to put college admissions representatives in the hot seat. These events bring together admissions officers to speak to you about their campuses and why you should be interested in their school, while also giving prospective students and families the opportunity to ask questions.

Although most college fairs are postponed at this time, there are still some steps you can take in advance to prepare:

  1. Do some research. Once you’ve found a college fair near you, see which schools will be attending. With which schools do you want to connect? Which schools offer your choice of major? Or your preferred geographic region? Create a short list of tables to visit and ask yourself: what do I know and what do I want to know? For the items you “want to know,” create a few questions to ask the representative.
  2. Write a list of questions. Once you’ve identified what you want to know, start listing your questions. We recommend coming to the college fair with a few intentional, thoughtful, and well-researched questions. If you can easily find the answer to your question on the school’s website, it might be best to think of a different question. College representatives want to see that you are interested in the school and the questions you ask can help to demonstrate this interest. Here's a list to get you started.
  3. Consider creating a college resume. The college resume provides the representative with a one-page introduction to your academic, extra-curricular, and/ or community interests. Think of this as your chance to highlight your achievements throughout your high school career, while demonstrating your ability to write and organize your thoughts. It’s a win-win! Representatives at college fairs want to know about you and your interests, and the college resume can help you to prepare for these questions. For an example of a college resume, visit page nine of our College Admissions Insider.
  4. Dress the part. We’re not suggesting you wear your prom dress to a college fair, but you should dress professionally. Wear something that makes you feel confident, polished, and comfortable. Remember that your appearance is not just limited to your outfit; a school’s first impression of you will also come to your eye contact, smile, and general demeanor.
  5. Ask for contact information and use it. After a conversation with an admissions representative, ask for their contact information. Having their email address or phone number will give you the opportunity to continue the conversation you had during the college fair. When following up, be sure to remind the representative of who you are, when and where you met, what you learned from your conversation, any additional questions you have, and finally why you think you are a good fit for the school based upon the information learned during the college fair.

Are you ready to get started? The Center for College Planning is hosting a college fair as part of Destination College hosted at Saint Anselm College on Saturday, June 27th. Watch for event registration news (this event was previously scheduled for Saturday, March 28th) as we hope you will attend our free workshops on planning and paying for college, have the chance to win scholarship money, and speak to admissions officers representing colleges from Quebec, Canada to southern Florida!

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Major Spotlight: Computer Science

Do you enjoy solving puzzles and thinking logically? Do you have an interest in software engineering or cyber security? As computer technology evolves, the field of computer science grows with it, creating many opportunities for students in this major. Computer science majors can expect to study calculus, linear algebra, algorithm design, and computer organization which prepare you for more complicated coursework like cryptography and data visualization. If you see yourself conducting research to support cybersecurity or working in software engineering, data analytics, or website development this would be a major to consider. A major in computer science can apply to a variety of industries-think fashion, transportation, entertainment, and medicine-which means you can combine interests to create a career pathway that works for you and your goals. Check out Plymouth State University's Computer Science Department to see an example of coursework and what students do with their major after graduation.


Seniors - Here are scholarships we encourage you to apply to while you are “socially-distancing”:

  1. You are Destined for Greater Things’ NHCF Statewide Student Aid supports 1,500 students each year achieve their dreams. Don’t miss your chance to apply! If you are interested in a four-year program your deadline is April 17th OR a two-year program is due June 15th. Visit New Hampshire Charitable Foundation for more information.
  2. Planning to pursue a degree in education at a four-year college or university? If so, the Christa McAuliffe Scholarship might be for you! Check out the application to learn more! Applications due May 1st.
  3. Each quarter, our sister company EDvestinU awards three (3) $1,500 scholarships to randomly selected entrants that are, or will be attending, any Title IV eligible college or university.
  4. The Stephen Phillips Memorial Scholarship Fund offers renewable, four-year scholarships to students with financial need who display academic achievement, a commitment to serving others (in school, their community, or at home), a strong work ethic, and leadership qualities. Applications for seniors due April 3rd at noon!