Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Finding My Way

Larry Goodman, Ph.D.

Head of School  

2020 has been a very jarring year for me. It began with the spread of the coronavirus that grew into a full-blown global pandemic - one we continue to struggle with today. The virus is at once ravaging - having killed more than 880,000 people worldwide already - and beguilingly mild - medical experts estimate that somewhere around 40% of infected people have no symptoms whatsoever. Here in America that has meant that there has been a persistent difference of opinion as to whether we should protect ourselves from the serious and deadly potential of the virus - or go on with our lives without much fanfare since the consequences for the vast majority of people are mild at worse. And as we Americans love to do, we politicized this difference of opinion. So in addition to not really KNOWING what to do, we added the pressure of political rhetoric to shame the people doing the “wrong” thing.

Fortunately, the coronavirus is a biological phenomenon and so science has, over time, helped us to know how to behave and what to think. While the political nonsense continues, rational people know that we should wear masks when indoors, maintain 6 feet distance between us, etc. I was very confused about what to do in March and April - but every month since then I have felt less “at sea” about what to do. While I am aware that we are sailing through “uncharted waters” by remaining open during a pandemic, I feel like science has given me a compass of sorts - a way of knowing what is true, what is not true, and what remains unknown at the moment.

If COVID-19 were the only jarring event in 2020, I suppose I would be giving a very different talk today. But a few months after we had to close school and shift to remote learning, a second event shook America. On May 29th, the police in Minneapolis murdered a black man named George Floyd. This was by no means the first time such a tragedy had occurred - a black person being killed by the police. It hadn’t even occurred that long after another black person, Breonna Taylor, was killed by the police in Louisville, Kentucky. In fact, it was really only the most recent instance of such tragedy in a long and ugly line of black people suffering from - perhaps even dying from - police brutality.

But for a variety of reasons, George Floyd’s murder behaved like a fuse to a bomb. And after that fuse was lit, the outrage, sadness, anger, frustration, and disillusionment of an entire nation exploded. The Black Lives Matter movement, which began as a hashtag following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012, sprang to the forefront of the American Consciousness, as millions of Americans rallied together to insist that this trail of abuse and death had to end. In our Student Union you will see a display students put up in the name of just a few of the victims of police abuse.

And, as your Physics teacher will tell you, every action gives rise to a reaction. As one large part of America was rallying around the Black Lives Matter movement, which certainly placed blame for the abuse and deaths on America’s system of policing and on police officers and police departments, another part of America rallied around those very police officers and departments and the system of policing. You may hear people supporting this point of view countering the Black Lives Matter movement with the phrase “Blue Lives Matter” (blue being the color most closely associated with police uniforms). Still others choose the rejoinder, “All Lives Matter.”

The problem with both of these responses to Black Lives Matter is that they seem to be motivated by a misunderstanding of the message. The phrase is “Black Lives Matter” - NOT “Only Black Lives Matter.” Black people comprise roughly 13% of the population in the USA and about 12% of the police force. And so All Lives and Blue Lives can’t matter UNLESS Black Lives (also) matter. The Black Lives Matter movement is not saying “Black Lives Matter more” - it is, instead, a reaction to centuries of Black Lives NOT mattering as much as White Lives. Much as we may not want to acknowledge that fact, even the most basic history of America certainly shows that Black Lives have not mattered as much as White Lives. Hundreds of years of enslaving black people, followed by decades of outright efforts to deny Black People equal rights, which not surprisingly led to racially unfair practices in large institutions like banking, education, and employment, have ensured that Black Lives mattered less than White Lives. Trust me, I am not saying anything that is debatable in any way shape or form.

But that is what is most jarring. After George Floyd’s death and the ensuing months of protesting, no rational person can make the case that Black people have been treated fairly in the United States overall.

Unfortunately, whereas science has provided a compass of sorts for helping us figure out how to contend with COVID-19, there is no such compass here. Once we acknowledge this fact - that Black Lives have not mattered as much and that we have to change that immediately and ensure that our society considers Black Lives to matter as much as White Lives - what is the correct course of action? We can’t simply say “do over,” and decide to live a life in which Black Lives matter as much as White Lives - there has been too much damage to simply start over. If I were to get caught lying to my parents, repeatedly, I expect that their expectation of my future actions would be tainted by my past actions. I know that I would need to earn their trust back. What’s more, if I had become accustomed to lying to them to get what I want, I might also find it is difficult to change my ways - when I get caught in a sticky situation, I would probably be tempted to lie again. Learning to tell the truth may well be more difficult than simply saying I will tell the truth from now on.

And that is where we find ourselves as a society today in America. For hundreds of years Black Lives have mattered less. We know that is wrong. Some are trying to simply deny accountability by saying that others have done this and so only they are responsible. But because the ways American society has treated Black people for so long has become “baked into” our systems of power - like the police departments - this point of view does little more than ensure that Black Lives will continue to matter less.

Well, then, what IS the correct response? I wish I could answer that question. I cannot. With the coronavirus, I have found science has given me a dependable partner for knowing how to act. But with respect to the embedded racism that I know has infected our society, I have not yet found that reliable partner. As a white man in a position of power, I know that I have a responsibility for figuring this out. I know that this is an inflection point - a point at which things must change - and I must be part of that change. But what does that mean? What does that look like?

I was born in 1965 and grew up during an era in which it seemed - to white America - that race relations were improving. I was convinced - as so many of my white peers were - that there was a straight line from Rosa Parks, a black woman, refusing to give up her seat to a white man in 1955, thereby igniting a powerful wave of Civil Rights advocacy, to the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. harnessing that wave to declare that all people must be treated equally in the 1960’s, which played a large role in getting the government to establish the Civil Rights Act in 1964, to the election of a black man, Barack Obama, to two terms as president, from 2008 - 2016. I knew - and know - that America is flawed. But I believed that we were making steady progress toward a society in which Black Lives mattered as much as White Lives.

But the tumultuous protesting following George Floyd’s murder and the recounting of all of the ways in which Black Lives continue to matter less in America TODAY has compelled me to see that I was wrong. There may be fewer instances of blatant person-to-person racism (though some would disagree even with that statement), but the ways that racism has become embedded in our systems of power has ensured that Black Lives continue to matter less. 


As I said earlier - I am very uncertain about what this means for me, personally. But another term that we are hearing more and more about - “anti-racism” - is helping me start to find my way. I recently watched a short video that explains this anti-racism in a simple and straightforward manner:

Over the summer I wrote to the AOA community and pledged to make it one of our top goals for AOA to work toward becoming an anti-racist school. I know this will be difficult. I realize that this will require a great deal of hard work by everyone in the AOA community. And I accept that the road will be bumpy. No doubt I will make mistakes along the way, as will everyone else. But I do not believe that we have any choice. Until Black Lives matter just as much as White Lives, we can’t truthfully say “All Lives Matter.” And that is the goal - to behave in such a way that we get to the point where we can truthfully say “All Lives Matter.”

I believe Black Lives matter because I believe All Lives Matter. But - and this is crucial - I now recognize that in America Black Lives are not valued as highly as White Lives. I DO believe that many, many people are with me in aspiring to a world in which All Lives Matter - but we have a lot of work to do before we get there.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

How Can We Build Community?

Jim Mrozek

History Teacher
Upper School Dean of Students

Over the summer I had the opportunity to work alongside some of my colleagues to collectively develop a new course. Students who are in the 10th grade would be required to complete the course in order to graduate from AOA and it would involve students taking a deeper and meaningful look at the core values of the school: Community, Creativity, Diversity, Global Awareness, and Leadership.

I was tasked with developing the sessions involving the core value of Community, which was awesome because I love any opportunity to engage students in discussions about the topic. During my research I came across a story about a local entrepreneur and community advocate by the name of Brandon E. Chrostowski. The article profiled Mr. Chrostowski and an establishment located in Shaker Square by the name of EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute. Mr. Chrostowski opened the restaurant in 2007 and the organization offers formerly incarcerated adults free culinary arts and hospitality management training over a six month period. Students “graduate” with state licensure as well. As part of EDWINS mission it states that they “strongly believe in second chances and strive toward making this a reality.” To me this is a prime example of community. It not only offers a service, but it embraces all members of the community. I LOVE IT!

Back to the Core Values course…

As I prepared for the sessions I tried to focus on how to build community. A necessary skill for young people to develop. This led me to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as an advocate of equality through non-violent methods that King often spoke of building community. His vision was the idea of what he termed the “Beloved Community.” In King’s eyes, to achieve the beloved community it required three things. First, it has to be all inclusive and can not be exclusionary. This is a cool notion because it can apply to others and yourself. Secondly, the differences of members have to be embraced. This is something that gets overlooked sometimes because we tend to think about a community as being comprised of people that are similar to us. Lastly, Dr. King mentioned that we need to work for justice for ourselves and every member of the beloved community. EDWINS seems to embody these 3 things.

In the most recent session of our series on community I showed the students a short clip of a TEDx talk that was given by Doug Shipman who is currently the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta, Georgia. During the talk he discusses the “secret to creating the beloved community” and builds upon King’s ideas. The students were soon discussing ideas of Shipman’s interpretations and they identified four main points that are excellent examples for building community.

First, Shipman mentions that engagement is key to building (beloved) community. Our activity in the session was to make an action plan of how to become more engaged with the school community. One of my favorite plans was that a group of students discussed the creation of a “sharing station” in which students can utilize an honor system to lend materials, help, offer friendship or give advice to fellow students in need.

Another thing that Shipman mentioned was that you can’t consume to build community. It’s not a numbers game, rather, it involves something that King describes as “qualitative change within our souls.” This implies that we must be willing to accept change within ourselves.

The last two ideas were also important lessons for the students to receive. Engagement needs to be ongoing. Community building is always evolving and requires a commitment to fostering the necessary attention for progress. The last lesson from Shipman was that sometimes community building has to occur on other peoples’ “turf”. Through discussion the students came to realize that sometimes you have to go outside of where you are comfortable to embrace the differences of others. Once you are able to do this, it becomes easier to build towards the beloved community. After examining Shipman’s points, I asked students to identify communities that they felt they belonged to within the school and the results were not all that surprising. The constant theme is that students seemed to be aware of what communities they belonged to, however, most of them fell into a very “comfortable” place. This meant that students needed a little nudge in the direction of going outside their comfort zone to other peoples’ “turf”.

To get the students out of their comfort zone I had them stand up and make a circle in the middle of the room. We then participated in an activity that is called “Appreciation, Apology, Aha”. The concept is rather simple. Each person shares an appreciation for someone in the class or can apologize to the class for something or shares an “aha” moment in which they came to a realization about something. After each person shares, the group snaps their fingers to show an acceptance of the person. It truly helps to build community because it offers a way of immediate engagement and cultivates a sense of support, which is the first function of community. I have also implemented this into each one of my classes because it keeps the engagement ongoing (one of Shipman’s ideas to help build community).

In the first session of our series on Community we set up a late night talk show, sort of like The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. I was the host and our guest was a guy named Jeremy Langham. He is an active community builder and the current Vice President of Engagement and Organizational Capacity at Passages Inc. in Cleveland. He also serves on the board of trustees for EDWINS. During the Q & A period a student raised their hand and asked Jeremy how to get involved in Community and he said something that I thought was pretty profound.  “Embrace your weirdness and authenticity and allow that to be your path toward what your community is”. So in a nutshell, if you want to build community you can do so in these ways. Find your community. Go out and find where you feel a sense of belonging. You can also create your own! Embrace the differences that you encounter. Think about the beloved community for this one.  Most importantly…...Engage in it.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Why Kids Need the Community of Sport

Scott McNevan

Assistant Head of School
Residential Life & Co-Curriculars
Director - Athletics

You remember it.  

It was the awful feeling that you just didn’t fit. 

It was like you were on the outside of things and no one understood. 

We were all there at one time or another as young people. 

Was it your first day of third grade at the new school?  You were the new kid on the playground, friend-less, and feeling as if everyone was staring at you. 

Perhaps it was in middle school.  What are these new social rules?  Why wasn’t I invited to the sleepover this time?  How come those kids are laughing over there?  Are they laughing at ME? 

Maybe it was a high school moment.  You felt adrift, without a place, without an identity.  They tell me to just ‘be myself’ but...who am I?   

For some, that lonely ‘fish out of water’ feeling is an isolated bad memory from childhood.  It lives in a back drawer of the memory bank, able to be recalled but buried under the sediment of many years.  For others, this feeling was so significant, so enduring and terrible, that it negatively shaped social and emotional development completely.  It can be the root cause of adult anxiety and present personal challenges deep into adulthood.
Regardless of what level or frequency of loneliness we experienced as young people, we can all agree that it was negative.  It stunted us.  It prevented us from being our best, from feeling the electricity of being plugged in to something, from feeling known. 
We are undeniably at our best as members of a community, connected with others for support, care, health, and well-being.  Communities bring people together, often striving towards a common goal or mission.  As adults, we understand this.  We choose to join clubs, groups, and organizations of all kinds for their numerous benefits.  However, kids often lack that initiative.  Slowed by natural insecurity and doubt, they don’t always seek out community for fear of rejection.  They need the community brought to them.
At AOA, ‘Community’ is one of our core values.  We bring this to our students in many ways, at many levels.  The dorm is a community unique to its residents, the middle school division is a community unto itself, the ‘Star Wars Club’ that meets weekly during morning mix is a community to its members.  There are endless examples of community connection available for an AOA student. However, I’d like to highlight an offering we bring to students that has been a life-altering source of community for many young people for generations and is, I believe, more important than ever. 

The community of sport.      

If you were a fly on the wall of most admissions conversations with new families, at some point you would likely hear a statement like this, ‘If there is a sport that Jenny has even mild interest in, we really encourage her to give it a try here.’
This wise encouragement is grounded in years of successful stories.  A typical story usually goes something like this.
-Jenny is a new student who knows no one, is quiet, unsure, and reluctant
-Jenny joins the volleyball team
-Within one week, Jenny is known by coaches and a team of players
-After several weeks, Jenny feels connected and affiliated while walking the hallways of school
-After a month, a more confident Jenny has forged new friendships and social roots
-By season end, the volleyball team has become a community Jenny undoubtedly belongs to 


Sport (both team and individual) instantly provides a young person with connection to a community.  Relationships naturally develop and confidence inherently grows as they share the ups and downs of a season with their teammates.  They push each other to new boundaries in practice.  They experience the thrill of victories and the agony of defeats during competition.  They laugh out loud during bus trips and share inside jokes that only the team would understand. 
For many individuals, sport has provided that ‘aha’ moment in their young lives.  The traction they had been lacking takes hold.  They belong to a group now.  They feel a part of something. 
They no longer feel alone. 
There are unspoken boundaries that all adolescents learn to understand.  For instance, you might be able to sit and socialize with Jordan in the student center after lunch. definitely cannot sit near Jordan and his friends in the hallway between 5th and 6th period.  That is a no-no.  Everyone knows that.

Cliques and exclusive social circles abound.  That group by the pool table?  All seniors.  If you’re an underclassman, you do not go over there.  Those kids sitting outside every day during lunch on the picnic tables? Lifers.  They’ve all been here since Pre-K together.
Social media is hard.  I want to ‘like’, ‘friend’, or ‘follow’ the right people, the cool people.  I mean...I don’t want to seem over-eager, but I do want that attention.  While I think Bernard is kind of funny, most of my friends think he’s a dork.  So, I can’t follow his posts.  It wouldn’t be good for me. 
These sorts of dynamics in a young person’s landscape are very real and always seem in play.  They create pressure and social obstacles that hinder community building in many circumstances.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about the community of sport is that it cuts through these dynamics and provides a safe bubble for young people where those unwritten rules lose their power.  Friendships form between grades, backgrounds, and socio-economic status.  Comradery develops amongst the group that can feel family-like. When you’re on the team, you can safely go where the team goes, sit where the team sits, or speak with a team member in the hallway.  
There is a support system within the community of sport that transcends.          
Relative to our size, we offer a wide range of sports to our students at AOA each year.  There is a long list of reasons why you, as a parent, might want your child to get involved. 
Earn a college scholarship?  Perhaps, although the statistics are not in your favor.  (only 2% of high school students earn an athletic college scholarship each year)
Get exercise and stay fit?  Of course!  With obesity rates amongst young people soaring and the digital age supporting a more sedentary lifestyle than ever, this is an excellent reason. 
Stay out of trouble?  Sports will definitely consume a lot of your student’s time during the course of a season.  There will surely be less opportunity for shenanigans if they are practicing and competing daily. 
These are all standard, sound reasons to support a student’s participation in sports.  However, think even bigger!

Participating in sports is joining a community.  It is feeling known and supported. It is membership in a tribe and learning to contribute towards the common goal.  It is a breeding ground for connectivity and confidence.  It is a safe haven away from the pressures and turbulence of today’s adolescent landscape.   
Kids need the community of sport more than ever. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

From High School to College: What I've Learned from the Other Side

Stephanie Wismer
Andrews Osborne Academy Director of Residential Life

“My child cannot live with that student. They’re just too different.”
“My child needs a single room because having a roommate will be too much change for them.”
“My child needs to live in a specific building because I’ve heard students who live there are happier.”
“My child needs help waking up for class. Can you pop by their room every morning and make sure they don’t sleep through their alarm?”

OK, that last one was just once, but it was memorable! As a former college administrator, I received requests like these from parents of first-year students every year. You may say, “No way!” I can assure you, this is the reality. Others may think, “Helicopter parents! They need to back off!” The purpose of this post is not to shame these parents. I empathize deeply with parents of high school seniors and first-year college students because many of them have one thing in common: they are afraid. Truthfully, why wouldn’t they be? The transition from high school to college is one of the most difficult and all-encompassing transitions students will ever experience. Parents are worried about their child’s ability to manage, adapt, and ultimately, be successful. In my experience, students worry about these same things.

Over the last decade, I have worked in multiple areas of student affairs including admissions, career services, financial aid and university housing. Every year, I witnessed more students struggle with balance and mental health during their first year. In my most recent role supporting a residential campus of 6,000 students, it was evident how quickly transition anxiety can become debilitating. There is a lot of research that explains why the current generation of college applicants, referred to as “Generation Z”, is experiencing more anxiety around the college transition than any generation before them. I will summarize by saying this generation of students is stressed about things both within and outside their control, and experiencing what Psychology Today described as, “A narrowing definition of life success leading to destructive perfectionism and all-or-nothing thinking,” (Hibbs & Rostain, 2018). Although schools try to prepare their students for the next step academically, very few students are adequately prepared for life outside of the classroom.

Today, I serve as the Director of Residential Life for Andrews Osborne Academy, with oversight of 6th-12th grade boarding students from all over the world. Having seen where our students will end up, our Residential Curriculum has been designed to better prepare boarders for this transition and manage their anxiety whenever possible. Our students learn how to live in a community, develop healthy habits, act with greater independence, communicate across difference, and elevate their academic success. Our Houseparents, Faculty Fellows and Proctors all contribute to this mission by fostering meaningful relationships with students, facilitating activities with their houses, and serving as additional sources of support.

Whether or not you have access to a boarding and/or an international community before college, I have some advice for students and parents to ease the transition:

For Students:
Establish a routine now and take your self-care seriously. Most young adults do not know what to do with the excess time they have after high school. That lack of routine impacts their ability to focus, eating and sleeping schedules, and overall ability to function at their best in college. Schedule time for studying, exercising, relaxing, and yes, even sleep. Take those scheduled times as seriously as your school schedule and extracurricular activities. Students who take care of themselves will always outpace those without that same balance.

Ask questions and seek out resources upon arrival! The most successful college students advocate for themselves. Between time and financial management training, success coaching, study tips, and counseling sessions, there is so much available for free on college campuses and in the surrounding communities to support you.

Your college roommate does not need to be your best friend. In fact, in most cases, it is more beneficial if they are not. Your college roommate needs to be someone that you can live well with. Often, that has more to do with when they go to sleep and their noise level preferences than how much friendship boxes they check off.

Conflict is inevitable. Too many first-year students request room changes to avoid conflict and those students typically end up more unhappy than they were to begin with. Before the honeymoon period is over with your new roommate(s), have an honest conversation about how you plan to share space throughout the year. Although it may add to your anxiety in the short-term, this is a best practice that will make life much easier down the road!

Discomfort and personal growth often go together. Please do not measure your success in college (or high school) by how comfortable you can become. Students who only surround themselves with similar, like-minded people and only experience things they already know they like will not grow as much as those who challenge themselves to step outside their comfort zone. Your college may be the most diverse community you have ever lived in, and the more you expose yourself to different people and perspectives, the more you will transform yourself. This is not to take away from the importance of self-care or finding affinity space, but a reminder to embrace discomfort and be open to the wonderfully diverse world we live in!

For Parents and Advocates:
Ask questions and listen. I can understand wanting to solve problems for your child, but what they often need is to feel empowered to advocate for themselves and seek out their own solutions. College is about starting that transition to independence. If they tell you they are upset with how something is going, you can first support what they’ve said with a statement like, “I can see why you feel that way” and then ask a follow up question like, “Have you shared this with anyone at the school?”

Remind them they are not alone. It can take awhile to find true friends, and feeling lonely or homesick during these times is very normal. Sometimes the most helpful thing you can do is to remind your student that they are not alone, and that there is a long list of people at their school that are there to support them. This list may include their RA or another student leader, Hall Director, Advisor, or counselors on campus, depending upon what they need.

There is no “best” residence hall on campus and your student will learn to wake up on their own. For the record, no college I have worked for has ever had a “best” residence hall. In my experience, some of the happiest and most tight-knit communities were formed in older buildings with cinder block walls and community bathrooms. If your student has a good relationship with their roommate, the shape, size and age of their room will quickly become inconsequential to their happiness. Regarding my other note above, I promise you that no college administrator I’ve ever known would agree to wake your child up every morning. Just make sure they have a loud alarm and let them take it from there!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Economics of Higher Education: When and How to Start Saving so it's Affordable

Melissa Nipper
Director of College Counseling at Andrews Osborne Academy


According to the Wall Street Journal, the average college graduate’s student loan debt is at a whopping $37,172 and that’s just the average! The most recent data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York shows the overall student loan debt in America hovering just over $1.3 trillion. Trillion! 

We all want our kids to go to college debt free (for them AND for us!). But how can we make this possible? What are the ways to pay for college? Well, read on and find out.  

First of all: KNOW WHAT YOU CAN AFFORD! No school, no matter how elite, is worth graduating with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt! Parents and student NEED to have a conversation about paying for college well in advance of May 1st- the National college ‘commitment day’. 

Is there a college fund? How much can parents pay per much are parents willing to pay per year? Start the conversation with your high school student now! 

Second, make sure to take care of yourself first- pay off debts, pay your mortgage, pay into your retirement fund. Don’t forget to take care of YOUR future and your own money goals before saving for college for your child.  

Finally, know how much college may cost for your child. If you can estimate this, then you will have a better understanding of just how much you will need to save and can make a well thought out plan from there. 

The first step toward getting a realistic understanding of how much a college or university will cost is to use the Net Price Calculator and Estimated Family Contribution Calculator. Many colleges and universities use the College Board’s Net Price Calculator and EFC calculator to estimate how much the student’s family will be expected to contribute for the year.   Other colleges and universities have developed their own net price and estimated family contribution calculators.  

The Net Price Calculator is a tool that helps you estimate your “net price” (net price= what you will be expected to pay at a specific college or university for one year minus any grants or scholarships for which you might be eligible). The EFC is the expected contribution each family is deemed able to provide each year towards the cost of college.  


The Net Price Calculator looks at the “sticker price” of a college, uses your financial information (which you enter), and then estimates the amount of money your family would be expected to contribute to the cost of college. The Net Price Calculator also evaluates your eligibility for financial aid. 

Remember—it is possible that a college with a high sticker price might end up costing less than a college with a low sticker price, and the Net Price Calculator can help you to estimate “financial fit” at a variety of colleges and universities. 

Because it can be tricky to find the Net Price Calculator on each school’s website, I suggest you consult this list of schools with links to their Net Price Calculators, compiled by U.S. News & World Report.   



Loans: these have to be paid back to the lender
  • Federal aid offers direct subsidized and unsubsidized loans. The difference between these two loans is that subsidized loans are based on financial need and the interest does not accrue while the student is in college, as the interest is paid by the federal government. Interest begins accruing for Direct Unsubsidized Loans as soon as the loan is taken out.

  • PLUS Loans: This is a fixed rate federal  loan for parents of dependent undergraduate students. Our advice is to look into other private lending options as well to make sure you are getting the best interest rate available. 

Grants: A Grant is money the government provides for students who need it to pay for college. Grants, unlike loans, do not have to be repaid. Eligible students receive a specified amount each year under this program.
Work Study: Federal Work-Study provides part-time jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with financial need, allowing them to earn money to help pay education expenses. The program encourages community service work and work related to the student’s course of study. 


Scholarships are also money awarded that does not need to be repaid. Scholarships can be awarded based on academics, special talents, leadership, athletics, or other aspects that specific schools, companies, community agencies, and organizations would like to recognize and reward. Some scholarships at colleges are automatic while others must be applied for. 

It is important that you check each school’s website for information about merit aid/scholarships. Some schools might require a separate application and also could require you to submit additional letters of recommendation and additional essays. 

- FastWeb is a great scholarship search engine for outside scholarships opportunities. Also, check with any organizations or affiliation groups you or your family belong to. They may have scholarships available. 

- RaiseMe enables students to earn micro scholarships throughout high school, starting as early as 9th grade, for doing all the things that best prepare them to succeed, whether that’s getting good grades, volunteering in the community or joining an extracurricular activity.


The most common form for financial aid is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This is required by every college and university if you apply for financial aid. There is no fee connected to the FAFSA and filing the FAFSA determines your eligibility for Federal financial aid funds, the backbone of most college financial aid programs.  

* Note: Both students and parents will first need to register for their own individual FSA ID/PIN numbers. Registering for an FSA ID is the easiest way to make sure the financial aid process runs smoothly as it allows users to electronically access personal information on the FAFSA web site as well as electronically sign a FAFSA.   

Prior-Prior Year (PPY) refers to a policy enabling students and families to file the FAFSA using tax information from two years ago. For example, a high school senior planning to enroll in college in Fall 2020 will file the FAFSA using tax information from 2018. The FAFSA opens up annually on October 1st. Students and parents should complete the FAFSA as close to October 1st as possible. Also, many colleges have financial aid deadlines- it is very important to know these! 

**Please note: and are the Web sites of private companies who will try to charge you money to fill out your FREE Application for Federal Student Aid. Avoid these sites! 

2. The second most common form needed for financial aid is the College Scholarship Service Financial Aid Profile (CSS Profile).  The CSS Profile is what colleges and universities use to determine how much non-government financial aid they can award.  Most often, private colleges and universities are the ones to require the CSS Profile, however it is your responsibility to check with your colleges and the official list of CSS Profile schools to determine if you need to file a CSS Profile. The CSS can be filled out beginning October 1st. Unlike the FAFSA, the CSS requirements can differ from school to school (deadline dates, whether it needs to be completed every year, which parent/s need to fill out, etc).  

3. The third most common form needed for financial aid is individual college and university institutional forms. Many colleges have online financial aid applications. Make certain to check on the availability of these forms. If you have questions, do not hesitate to contact the college’s financial aid office for assistance and guidance during this process.  

After they are submitted online, the FAFSA and CSS Profile are sent to central agencies to be processed and forwarded to the colleges to which you plan to apply. Families complete only one FAFSA and one CSS Profile. Institutional forms, on the other hand, are requested directly from each college and submitted to its financial aid office.


What you need varies by application, but a basic checklist includes:

  • Your Social Security Number
  • Your Alien Registration Number (if you are not a U.S. citizen)
  • Your federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other records of money earned. (Note: You may be able to transfer your federal tax return information into your FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.)
  • Bank statements and records of investments (if applicable)
  • Records of untaxed income (if applicable)
  • A FSA ID  to sign electronically.
  • If you are a dependent student, then you will also need most of the above information for your parent(s) 
  • Here is a helpful link that will help explain the CSS Profile vs the FAFSA. 


Beyond financial aid, loans, and merit based awards and the ever elusive ‘full ride’, having a college fund is the optimal way to pay. But what is the best way and when should you start saving? Well, one answer would be to start saving the moment you find out you will have a child. We all know however that this isn’t always possible or  probable. Let’s just say- it’s never too early, and if you can save anything, then it’s never too late to start! 

529 PLAN:

There are 2 types:

Pre-Paid Tuition Plans: You lock in current tuition rates at in-state public institutions. If your child decides to go to a private or out-of-state institution, you might receive only a small return on your original investment. 

Savings plans: You contribute regularly and rely on the account’s earnings to grow. You take on more investment risk but give your child the opportunity to use the funds at public and private schools nationwide.
  • Note that you CAN shop around from state to state. You do not have to automatically get the 529 Plan offered in your home state. Check out this article to help you learn more about 529 plans and which may be the best for you.  


An ESA allows you to save $2,000 (after tax) per year, per child. It grows tax-free! If you start when your child is born and save $2,000 a year for 18 years, you would only invest $36,000. While the rate of growth will vary based on the investments in the account, you’ll likely earn a much higher rate of return with an ESA than you would in a regular savings account—and you won’t have to pay taxes when you withdraw the money to pay for education expenses. 

UTMA or UGMA (Uniform Transfer/Gift to Minors Act):

An UTMA/UGMA differs from ESAs and 529 Plans in how they aren’t designed just for education savings. The account is in the child’s name but is controlled by a custodian (usually a parent or grandparent). This person manages the account until the child reaches age 21. At age 21 (age 18 for the UGMA), control of the account transfers to the child to use any way they choose. 

  • If a student is considering applying for a school as an early decision candidate BUT is hesitant to do so because of the cost, call the financial aid office and ask if they would be willing to do an early financial read and give you an estimate on what your estimated Family contribution would be. 

Once all the acceptances come in, award letters are sent and financial aid packages are finalized- that is when the determining factor of where to commit takes place. Make sure to sit down with your child and again, have the conversation about funds and paying for college. Review everything. Don’t’ be afraid to reach back out to a college’s financial aid office to see if they’d be willing to reexamine your aid package and merit awards. The worst they can say is no. But if there is a discrepancy between very similar colleges in what they are awarding you, it never hurts to ask. Also, if something changed affecting finances between the time your child applied to the college and when the award package came in, let them know this information as this could have an impact on the award/aid offered. Best of luck to you. The college search and application process can be really fun! The paying for it part-not so much. However, if you are well informed, then you can be well prepared and hopefully, get through this with minimal financial impact.