The Edge Our college admission blog

How To Add More Than Ten Schools To The FAFSA

by Admitster March 11, 2016


I’m pleased to welcome back to the blog Blaine Blontz, Admitster’s Financial Aid Consultant extraordinaire! Blaine is the founder of Financial Aid Coach, one of the country’s leading financial aid consulting firms, and has helped countless families to navigate the complex and oftentimes confusing financial aid process. Today he’s writing with great information about how to add more than ten schools to the FAFSA – read on! 

We recently published our 2016-17 Guide to the FAFSA. While it covers many topics, including the new FAFSA ID, it doesn’t mention a common question of many families who are completing the form. This question deserves its own post! When families are adding schools to the FAFSA, they quickly realize that they are only able to account for ten institutions. Double digits may be more than enough for some families, but others are considering more than ten schools.

What do you do? Do you have to pick the top ten schools from your list and move on? Is FAFSA forcing you to whittle down your pool of options?

No and nope.

You should select ten schools from your list, with no rhyme or reasoning other than recommended submission deadlines posted by the schools, complete the remaining FAFSA questions, and then submit the form. Soon after submitting, you will receive the SAR (Student Aid Report). Receiving the SAR gives you the green light to move on to the second step of this process.

This next step provides you with three options. You can manually edit the FAFSA by logging back in and making corrections. This is what we recommend to the families who we work with. If you’d prefer, however, you can call the other schools directly, or you can contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center and have them complete the process for you, after answering a few questions.



If you want to manually edit the FAFSA, here’s what you need to do. After logging back into the FAFSA and selecting that you’d like to make corrections, you will go back to the screen that allows you to add/remove schools. First, you should remove the number of remaining schools that have yet to receive your FAFSA. That is, if you have submitted the FAFSA to ten schools but have sixteen total schools that you are considering, you’ll want to remove six of the original ten schools. This allows you the correct number of open spots that you can then fill with the remaining schools on your list. You should add these schools, either through the search feature or by looking up the school’s FAFSA code, and then you’ll finalize the process by submitting the FAFSA once again.

What if you have more than twenty schools? You guessed it. Simply rinse and repeat after you receive your updated SAR. It’s important to remember that you’ll need to repeat this process if you make further corrections to your FAFSA or use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool in order to submit your completed tax information.

Happy FAFSA-ing!

If you have any financial aid questions, feel free to reach out to Blaine at e-mail address


Need-Blind & Need-Aware Admissions Policies

by Katie Z, Ph.D March 8, 2016


If you browsed through Admitster’s Glossary of Important College Admissions Terms, you may have noticed two similar items listed that made you scratch your head and think, “Huh?” Those terms are Need-Aware Admission and Need-Blind Admission. Both are policies related to how colleges and universities use applicants’ financial circumstances in making admissions decisions. What are the differences between the two?  Well…

Need-Aware Admission, also known as Need-Sensitive Admission, is an admissions policy through which schools consider the amount of financial aid a prospective student would require in order to attend, factoring this information into admissions decisions.

Test-Blind AdmissionsNeed-Blind Admission, on the other hand, is an admissions policy through which schools do not consider prospective students’ financial circumstances when making admissions decisions. Know, however, that there are various shades of need-blind policies. Need-blind schools can either meet the full financial need of applicants, meet only some of that need, or meet the need of only American applicants (meaning that the college/university is need-aware for international students) and/or applicants who have not been wait-listed (i.e. being need-aware for those on their waiting list). Also, some schools are need-blind for a given percentage of their incoming class (e.g. 90%) and then need-aware for the rest.

These two little terms are making some big waves in the world of college admissions. Regarding future trends, some argue that while schools with larger endowments can afford to implement need-blind admissions policies, colleges with increasing financial struggles may turn to need-aware policies in increasing numbers, which could negatively impact the admissions chances of those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and, in turn, negatively impact diversity at those schools. For more on this, see this article from The Wesleyan Argus, Wesleyan University’s college newspaper.

Others believe that need-blind admissions are a farce, writing that there is no such thing as a true need-blind college or university. Those in this camp make the point that, at the end of the day, colleges need tuition to operate, so could never truly turn a blind eye to the financial ramifications associated with admissions acceptances and rejections. To do so would be to “defy logic“.

Along these lines, some take a much broader definition of need-blind admission, making the point that even if college admissions officials are not spending hours combing through paperwork on prospective students’ financial situations, that socioeconomic status plays itself out in many ways on the applications, making true need-blind admission impossible. From test scores to advanced courses, from recommendation letters to application essays, from extracurricular activities to legacy status – wealthier students have many distinct advantages in the application process! For more on the unlevel college admissions playing field, click here.

Whatever your thoughts on need-blind and need-aware admissions policies may be, do be aware that they exist. Click here for a list of need-blind colleges and universities and, as ever, do your own research on those schools that you’re interested in applying to!

Making Sense Of Your Financial Aid Award Letters

by Katie Z, Ph.D March 3, 2016


Financial aid award letters, overflowing with crucial financial information you’ll receive from the schools that have accepted you, are the subject of today’s post. The letters will be full of juicy details, allowing you to compare the true cost of attending the various colleges that you’re considering for your undergraduate adventures.  OK, perhaps I erred in describing the letters as being full of “juicy details”. I admit that it may well be more accurate to describe the financial aid award letters as being full of “confusing specifics”, “befuddling facts”, or “mystifying particulars.” Why is it all so complicated? How can you make sense of your financial aid award letters?



Well, I want to share with you a gem of a YouTube video from U.S. News & World Report. I recommend that you watch the entire clip (click here to access it), but if you don’t have 15 minutes to spare at the moment, allow me to give you a quick rundown of the key points:

  • The basic components of a financial aid award letter are: 1) Grants and scholarships (the free money!) – know where they’re from and why they were awarded. 2) Work Study – this represents the most that a student can earn working on campus in a year. 3) Loans – look to see if they’re for the student or for the parents, and also be sure to understand their terms.
  • There are a number of important phrases that are commonly used in an award letter. Two examples are: 1) Cost of attendance – this is NOT the bill, but rather is an estimate of what the college thinks it will cost the student to attend for a given enrollment period. 2) Family contribution – this is also NOT a bill, but is how much parents could look to contribute to the overall cost.
  • Another thing that may be confusing is that some colleges package parent financing into the financial aid award – as a result, it may at first glance appear that the entire cost of attending is covered. However, upon closer inspection it may well be the case that it’s actually parent financing (sometimes called a Federal Direct Plus Loan).
  • Work study and loans help you to finance your undergraduate education, but they don’t change what you’re going to pay – they only have an impact on when you’re going to pay what you owe.
  • If you have more than one award letter and are trying to compare them, proceed with caution, as they may look very different from each other, making a side-by-side comparison challenging (i.e. apples to oranges). Here’s a useful tool for comparing aid awards at up to four different schools – click here!
  • You typically receive single year awards in these letters – for a family to predict what they’ll need to borrow over all four (or more) years, they should know what the criteria are for the renewal of scholarships and grants (if applicable).  Also, be sure to read the fine print for needs-based grants.
  • As ever, be sure to focus on the net price!

Sorting out the finances for college can seem confusing and overwhelming, but if you stay calm and arm yourself with the information you need to make the right monetary decisions given your personal situation, you’ll get through the process!

A Stress-Free And Fun FAFSA?

by Admitster December 30, 2015


Another great guest blog post from our friends over at NCSA Athletic Recruiting!

Think about how stressful it can be to learn about the college admissions and recruiting processes. Put that same learning curve, the same nerve to figure out a complex project with a definite due date, into a much smaller window and you get the FAFSA!

Did you know that for students who attend school for four years, the average incurred cost of loans is approximately $147,000? Further, know that the window to complete the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) opens on January 1st. You can submit your FAFSA at any time (between January 1st, 2016 and June 30th, 2017), but some families feel time crunch because depending on your school, state, and type of aid, awards go out on a first come, first served basis.

Don’t stress out. Seriously. This FAFSA paperwork isn’t going to hurt you. Just be sure that you don’t make errors when filling out your FAFSA – check out this post to avoid the most common mistakes!

Here are the top ways to fill out the FAFSA without stressing out about it:


The FAFSA will ask your family to provide information in five categories. Specifically, you will be asked about:

  1. The student-athlete.
  2. The student-athlete’s dependency on his/her parents (this is a legal question – does a parent or guardian list the student-athlete as a dependent on their tax returns?).
  3. The student-athlete’s parents or guardians.
  4. The student-athlete’s financial background.
  5. The schools that you want the FAFSA to send information to directly.

There are also a bunch of advanced tips (from Chegg) about the FAFSA that can help you to understand some of the more complicated arrangements some families might pursue to maximize their student aid.


In addition to the general bucket categories we listed above, you’re going to need to have a couple of things on-hand that you probably don’t have memorized. Take some time to gather this information together so you don’t feel like you’re searching through your lock box and paperwork and losing your place in the FAFSA. You’ll need:

  • Social security numbers for the student-athlete and parents (if the student-athlete is filing as a dependent).
  • Driver’s license numbers.
  • W2′s from the current and previous year.
  • Tax returns from the previous year (since you probably haven’t done your 2015 taxes yet, the FAFSA lets you use the most recent one you have).
  • Information about any additional benefits you might have: welfare, veteran’s, social security, investments, etc.
  • Information about any additional financial figures that you might need to report: businesses, mortgages, etc.

Did you know that missing out on important financial aid information can mean paying as much as $90,000 extra?

All of the above will help the FAFSA to compute your Expected Family Contribution. Also, please remember that no matter your family’s income, it behooves you to complete a FAFSA.


This might come from years of trumpeting that my sport was other sports’ punishment, but I am a firm believer that there’s a silver lining in everything. Hill repeats? There’s going to be a downhill soon enough. Circuit workout? Get an awesome song playing and it’ll make the time fly by.

ncsablogDo the same when you fill out the FAFSA. Put on some music that everyone enjoys. (I know, I have a dad, too — that might be easier said than done.) Give yourself a reward when you’ve finished it – maybe the family can go out for pizza or an ice cream.

The FAFSA may seem like a chore, but it doesn’t have to be. After all, it’s time that your family gets to spend together!

We have an incredible resource library of tips, how-tos and strategies for every part of your recruiting process. Want access? Get started with a recruiting profile!

Important College Admissions Terms

by Katie Z, Ph.D November 30, 2015


There’s a great deal of information out there about the college admissions process and, unsurprisingly, there are also many related terms worth knowing. A basic understanding of these terms is like having a compass to the college admissions process in your pocket, making your high school years a lot more manageable. This being the case, I present you with a Glossary of Important Admissions Terms!

May this list of terms help to guide you on your journey to college.



529 Plan – An education savings plan operated by a state or college/university. There are two types of 529 plans – prepaid tuition plans and college savings plans. These plans allow for tax-free withdrawals and growth. Click here for more information.

ACT – This standardized test is a “national college admissions examination that consists of subject area tests in English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science.” Students needing or wanting to submit test scores to colleges generally take either the ACT or the SAT (see below). Click here for more information.

Admitster – A company working to level the college admissions playing field, providing families with a host of resources. Examples include free tools (the College List Building ToolPredictions of your chances of admission at the schools on your list, and our What If? Engine, which helps you to determine your best strategy for admission) and affordable services (Essay Reviews and personalized Admissions Advising). There’s also a great bookstore to check out, with unbiased reviews of college admissions books.

Accredited – Look for colleges and universities that are accredited, as this means that the school has met minimum academic requirements (recognized by the U.S. Department of Education) and is therefore eligible to participate in federal student aid programs.

Affirmative Action – Positive discrimination in college admissions, favoring members of a disadvantaged group or groups. Most often, it refers to the use of race and ethnicity in admissions decisions. Today, the debate surrounding affirmative action rages on, with people standing firmly on both sides of the fence as to whether it’s a good thing or a terrible policy.

Associate Degree – This is an undergraduate degree that is earned after two years of study, generally awarded by community colleges.

Bachelor’s Degree – This is an undergraduate degree that is earned after four years of study, awarded by colleges and universities.

College Abacus – This site is a resource worth checking out, providing “a free service that allows users to compare their projected cost of education across schools and to identify schools within their budgets.” Click here for more information.

College App Map – A website that provides you with information on the most useful apps, dependent on where you are in the college admissions process. Click here for more information.

The College Board  – A non-profit organization that, among many other things, develops and administers the SAT and SAT Subject Tests. It also oversees the Advanced Placement (AP) Program. Click here for more information.

College Destinations Index – An index compiled by the American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) that provides detailed information on 75 of the top-ranked college towns and cities in the country. Click here for more information.

College Rankings – There are many different college ranking systems out there, all of which are designed to rank colleges based on a number of different attributes and factors. Click here for more information.

The Common Application – The Common Application, affectionately known as The Common App, is an undergraduate admissions application that allows students to apply to a number of different member schools (and there are over 500 of them) using one application. Be aware, however, that individual colleges and universities will often ask for supplements to The Common App. Click here for more information.

Early Action – Students applying to a school using the early action option will usually submit their completed applications by mid-November and hear back from colleges by January. However, being accepted via early action does not commit the applicant to that particular college or university, and students usually don’t need to inform the college of whether to expect them at orientation or not until May 1st. You can apply via early action to more than one school.

Early Decision – As is the case with early action, an early decision applicant applies to his/her dream college in the fall. However, there are crucial differences to note between early action and early decision! For instance, you can only apply to one school using the early decision option, and you should only apply to this one school if you really want to go there, because if you’re accepted then you’re committed to attending.

Educational Tax Credits – A tax credit specifically for college expenses. For instance, to read about the American Opportunity Tax Credit, click here.

FAFSA – This is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, which helps you to determine your eligibility for federal student aid. Based on the information in your FAFSA form, Federal Student Aid may offer you a Pell Grant, a Stafford Loan, participation in the Federal Work-Study Program, or a Federal Perkins Loan. Click here for more information.

FAFSA4caster – This planning tool is essentially a financial aid calculator that will give you a free estimate of how much financial aid you are likely to receive. Click here for more information.

Fair Test – The National Center for Fair and Open Testing. These guys are your best resource for the most up-to-date and comprehensive list of test-optional schools. Click here for more information.

Federal Work-Study Program – The program provides part-time employment for students while they’re in school. The work-study component on your college financial aid award letter lets you know the most that you can earn working on campus in a year. Click here for more information.

Financial Aid Award Letter – An award letter from a school that tells you the amount and types of aid that will be granted to you by that institution if you accept their offer of admission. Click here to learn more.

First Generation Student – A student whose parents have little or no college experience. Click here for more information.

Fly-In Program – A program through which a college (looking to diversify its student body, to recruit first generation students, and/or to provide opportunities for students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds) will pay your transportation and accommodation costs so that you can come and visit for a few days. You must be selected to participate in a fly-in program, and different colleges have different selection criteria and different application deadlines. Click here for more information.

Gap Year –  Time taken by a student after leaving high school and before starting university, usually spent working or travelling. Click here to read more about it.

In-State vs Out-Of-State Tuition – Differing tuition costs for different students at public universities, depending on which state they hail from and where they’re enrolled. To learn more, click here.

Loan – A type of financial aid that must eventually be repaid, usually with interest.

National Association for College Admission Counseling – A member-directed organization offering students, parents, counselors, and admissions professionals a wealth of information related to college admissions. Click here for more information.

National Collegiate Athletic Association – For those of you interested in being involved in athletics during your undergraduate days, the NCAA is a non-profit association that “safeguards the well-being of student-athletes and equips them with the skills to succeed on the playing field, in the classroom and throughout life.” Click here for more information.

Need-Aware Admission – Also known as ‘Need-Sensitive Admission’, this admissions policy is in place when schools may consider the amount of financial aid a prospective student would require in order to attend, factoring this information into admissions decisions.

Need-Blind Admission – An admissions policy whereby the college/university does not consider an applicant’s personal financial situation when considering whether or not to admit the prospective student.

Net Price – The college’s sticker price (tuition & fees) minus aid & benefits (grants, scholarships, and education tax benefits). In other words, the net price is what you will actually be paying for your education. Click here for more information.

The New SAT – The newly-designed SAT test, coming to testing centers in March of 2016. Click here for more information.

Pell Grant – A federal grant (like scholarships, grants do not need to be repaid) which depends on such factors as your financial need and the cost of attendance at your college or university. For more information, click here.

Perkins Loan – These are low-interest federal student loans for students who demonstrate financial need. Unlike grants and scholarships, loans must be repaid.  For more information on Perkins loans, click here. For more information on other low-interest federal student loans (both subsidized and unsubsidized), click here.

PLUS Loan – A loan for parents to help them contribute to the cost of their child’s undergraduate education. For more information, click here.

Reach Schools – Those colleges and universities where your chance of admission is relatively slim (that is, less than 35%).

Rolling Admissions – An admissions policy whereby colleges/universities will accept applications at any time, up until a final deadline OR until all of their available spots are full – the window for applying is usually more than six months long. Click here for more information.

Safety Schools – Those colleges and universities where you have a strong likelihood of admission (that is, 75% or greater). These are schools where your academic profile is significantly higher than the average entering student, or where you are being recruited for a specific purpose (e.g. to play sports).

SAT and SAT Subject Tests – These standardized tests are “designed to assess your academic readiness for college.” Students needing or wanting to submit test scores to college generally take either the SAT or ACT (see above). Click here for more information.

Scholarship – Free money awarded to a student in order to help pay the cost of his/her undergraduate education. To give but a few examples of great scholarship resources, check out Scholarships.comFastweb, and/or FinAid.

Score Choice – If you take the SAT, SAT Subject Tests, or ACT more than once, Score Choice allows you to determine which scores you send to colleges (by testing date for the SAT and ACT, and by individual test for the SAT Subject Tests).  Keep in mind, however, that some colleges will require you to submit all of your test scores – in those cases the element of choice is gone.  For more information on ACT Score Choice click here, and for SAT and SAT Subject Test Score Choice information click here.  Know that Score Choice is optional and if you opt not to use it then all of your scores will automatically be sent.

Super Score – Some colleges will consider the best of your standardized test section scores across multiple test dates, adding them together for your super score.  Not all colleges and universities partake in super scoring, however, so know ahead of time if your dream colleges are super scorers or not.  For a list of SAT score use practices at different colleges and universities, see here.  And the colleges on this unofficial list will super score your ACT.

Target Schools – Those colleges and universities where you have a good chance of being admitted (that is, between 35% – 75%). At these schools, your academic profile (i.e. grades, test scores, and extracurricular profile) is similar to the average entering student.

Test -Optional School – A college or university that does not require you to submit SAT or ACT scores when you apply. Click here for more information.

UTMA Account – Uniform Transfers to Minors Act account, which is a custodial account in which funds are held in the child/teenager’s name. Be aware that the money in this account can have an impact on the financial aid for which a teenager is eligible, as it is viewed as an asset (and the beneficiary can use the funds for any purpose, not only education). Also, contributions to an UTMA Account are not tax deductible.

Work Study Program – A federal student aid program through which the student holds a part-time job in order to help fund his/her studies.

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