Alumni Webinar: Navigating the College Application Process

By: University of St. Thomas | Minnesota

(audience applauds) - [Announcer] The following is a presentation of the University of St. Thomas with campuses in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota. (upbeat fun music) - [Ryan] Awesome, welcome everybody. - [All] Hello. - [Ryan] Happy lunch time hour. Want to welcome you to another alumni webinar series.

Today, joining with you is some of our enrollment staff. Or we are the enrollment staff from Admissions and Financial Aid. So we'll do some quick introductions, and I think we'll start.

We're all alumni, which I think is pretty exciting. And we will kind of start with the more experienced alumni. - [Jeff] Thanks, Ryan for putting it nicely. Welcome, everybody. My name is Jeff Schmidt.

I'm Director here at St. Thomas in Financial Aid. I graduated in 2003 with a finance degree and then I later on got an accounting degree. Been here 12 years working with families through the financial aid process, so it's been a privilege to be here. Glad you guys are here and hope this is a good experience for you. - [Ryan] So I'm Ryan Blake.

Alumni Webinar: Navigating the College Application Process

I started at the introduction. I'm the Director of Undergraduate Admissions. I graduated in 2009 with a degree in communication studies. And that program is now actually called communication journalism. I've been with the office for about seven years. - [Courtney] And my name is Courtney. I am Admissions Counselor here at St. Thomas.

I graduated in 2013. I got my degree in psychology. I minored in business. I have about four classes left of my MBA here, so I've been doing that part time. So I'm super excited about that, and thank you so much for being here. - [Ryan] Awesome.

Today, as you can see by the title of the PowerPoint screen and what you saw on the invitation. We're really gonna talk about navigating the college application process. And really giving our suggestions and professional advice as to things that you should do throughout that whether you have a student in high school, have a young child and you're already thinking about college, or have a neighbor or someone that you know who wants some advice or some support in the college application process. So I think one of the things we're gonna start out with really talking is kind of timeline. So I'm gonna flip to the next screen, and it's gonna give you a high level timeline.

Let me make sure. Well, it's gonna give you-- - Hoping, it's gonna. - Hopefully, this works. - [Ryan] It's gonna give you a high level timeline of kind of what the application process looks like. Here it is.

- [Jeff] There it is. - [Ryan] And on here you'll see it really kind of starts with that sophomore, junior year, and it goes all the way through senior year to when you would actually attend an orientation and registration session. A couple things to note with this is that this is something that is not our suggestion. It fits in with the financial aid process, but this is specific to St.

Thomas in that we have what we call an early action deadline, early action application, which is a non-binding admissions process that really is allowing you to get a decision earlier where if you were to do it as a regular enrolling decision, you might not hear until the second half of your senior year. We can talk more about that later, but really kind of focusing on this timeline. This is lengthy and intense that could happen over two or three years as you're really thinking about the next steps after high school, which can create a lot of anxiety.

- [Jeff] Yeah, I mean, just to jump in here. You'll see several timelines as you we kind of walk through this process and whatnot. But I would almost encourage those of you that do have family maybe don't have high school students at this point. I personally have a 16-month-old and five-year-old, and we've started saving for college already. I mean, where costs have gone for all colleges for that matter has really increased. So this timeline that we have out here is just kind of that last couple of years of high school, but it's important to remember that really do start early because the more you save, the easier it will be for access to colleges and specifically we hope St.

Thomas, of course, too. - [Ryan] We could extend this timeline by like another 12 years. - Way back. - Definitely. - [Ryan] But needless to say, it can be intense for a lot of those reasons that you just mentioned as well. And as we look at this, this is just St.

Thomas. So I've captured this all just within St. Thomas. With how students are able to apply to colleges today, students can apply 20 colleges by the click of one button on something called the common application, which is essentially a universal application.

So you could take this and have seven different versions of it if the person you're working with or know, whoever may be applying to multiple colleges. The things that start to create more anxiety is when you start adding in the things they want to enjoy throughout high school and senior year. So if we throw those on the timeline as well, maybe now you're starting to sweat a little bit in your hands. Okay, now, this is lookin' to be a little crazy with how intense some of these processes might be. So we are encouraging students to start early as with the financial aid process planning. But really kind of starting early with the whole thought process of what college is so you can make an informed decision. You're making meaningful visits to campuses, and everything that you want to do to make an informed decision. We have a little PowerPoint shut down.

Sorry. We want to make sure that we know what it is. Yeah. I don't know if it's affecting what they can see or not.

Sorry. So it's a mindset. I'm gonna wait to click until it comes up. But I think one of the themes is really planning is important. And we want to plan what, we want you to really emphasize how important planning is 'cause I think the theme is always that college is an investment, right. It's something that's a high level. That's what we always talk about when it comes to investing.

And I'm a very kind of visual learner. And that's the thing about visual things. What are some important things to plan for? When I was young, one of the things that people, they said there's really some important things to do in life that you want to invest in. One of them is college. And some other things. I don't want to give away my secret quite yet.

(laughs) But I think the first thing is to-- - [Jeff] It wouldn't be a webinar if we didn't have a little technical difficulties. (laughs) - [Ryan] So that is importance of planning. And the first thing I always like to highlight is you want to save, right.

Any time you're trying to make an investment or plan you want to save. So this could be for college. It could be for a vehicle. It could be for anything. But then you want to make a list.

What do you want out of those features? What is it that you're hoping for? Then you want to experience it. And as you are experiencing it, that's how you're gonna know you need to make changes to that list. Once you make changes to that list, you want to experience again. And some of my friends who are alumni who are actually in a different business, this is very similar to the process that you would do for investing in a house. And that was one of the other things that someone encouraged me to do is two of the biggest investments you can make in life are college and a home, owning property in that sense.

So as I say this, I'm just gonna throw the other five check list items on there 'cause once you experience it twice, now you really know what you want, and you're passionate about it. And now, you're gonna start discussing price. And is it affordable? Accepting those terms once you've kind of understood the financial components of doing a final walk through, which I would count as a third visit or a third kind of experiential opportunity. Making a down payment and formally getting the keys, and now, that is yours.

This is synonymous to what it is for planning for college. You are saving. You're making a list. Courtney's going to go through some of this in a little bit.

You're discussing finances. You're experiencing it multiple times, so you can feel confident in the decision you're making until you make that formal decision, submit deposits and ultimately attend orientation. So it's-- - [Jeff] There's a lot of correlation. - [Ryan] There's a lot of correlation. It's all about planning.

And I think with college, we don't always think about the same process as a house, and I think that the point that we can all make is that... - [Courtney] Doing so there are things that you should consider with college because it is a big investment, and it is going to be where your student would go for the next four years. So it's a really important decision to make. And so the first thing I like to talk with students about is what are your non-negotiables? What do you value in your college experience? What are your must-haves when you're choosing a school? So those are things you could look into that could be something like distance from home.

Do you want the ability to be able to drive home if needed? Or are you looking to go a couple states away, and be a little bit further away? There's things like location. Are you wanting to be in a bigger city, or do you want to be in a smaller city, a more rural area? So that's something to consider. Type of school is also something you could consider. Public school versus private school. At least for me, I knew, or I originally ruled out private schools because I thought they were too expensive and not financially feasible for me to attend. But once I started actually doing those visits and doing that research, I ended up at St. Thomas, and I couldn't be more excited to now work at St.

Thomas. So cost was a huge factor for me, but I was able to make it work. So cost can be a huge factor to consider as well along with major, so-- - [Ryan] I want to say to add to this research component. You as alumni are our biggest advocates. You are kind of the ambassadors of St.

Thomas. You're talking whether it is with your own children or with other people about your alma mater, and I think as you do that, you're able to add some value as to what those things mean. Why does location matter? Why does cost matter? But even talk about the positive outcomes of it so that we're able to break some of those stereotypes of what it means to be a private school, some of things that you've experienced personally. - [Courtney] And how affordable it can be for all students. - [Jeff] One other non-negotiable probably that should be on there is beating St. Johns each year. (laughs) - [Ryan] That's right. - [Courtney] This weekend.

- [Ryan] That's right. - [Jeff] That's a big non-negotiable for all of us Tommies. - [Courtney] Definitely. And so once you have that list of non-negotiables and must-haves that you're looking for in a school and you do that research of schools that really fit those must-haves, and visiting is an important part of the college experience and that timeline throughout high school.

So if your student is a sophomore or junior in high school, we have events that are really great for getting that first look overview of what St. Thomas has to offer. So those are larger scale events really giving a nice general overview of what the academics are like at St. Thomas. What can you do? In campus life, what are the activities and clubs and ways to get involved? What do students do on the weekends? Things like that. The application process.

All of that's really important, but as a sophomore and junior, it's really great to get that overview and snapshot of campus, and it's a great first look into what St. Thomas has to offer. And it is more on presentation styles. We do information sessions along with campus tours.

I did a ton of campus tours when I was going through this process, and it's really good not to get taken back by a campus and the buildings, especially St. Thomas. I know I was blown away when I stepped on campus and our beautiful buildings and what it had to offer, but I always encourage students to really look around the campus while they're going on that tour. What are the students doing? Do they seem genuinely happy? Is it a positive community? And do they feel comfortable on campus because they're going to be here for the next four years, and if you don't feel comfortable on campus or a student doesn't feel comfortable on campus, it might not be a great fit for a student even if they have the major they're thinking or it's in the right location. So feeling comfortable is a big part of that college experience. - [Ryan] And to add to that, being that other alumni are listening. It'd be valuable for you to come back to campus.

- [Jeff] I was going to say that, yeah. - [Courtney] Things have changed. - [Jeff] Things have changed a little bit. - [Ryan] Things have changed a lot even since I graduated in 2009, and that's when they built the new Anderson Student Center and Athletic Facilities, Recreation Complex. - [Jeff] All the financial aid buildings when I was here are no longer here.

- [Ryan] Yeah. - [Jeff] Which is a good thing. It's even gotten better. And they had to come back obviously, too. - [Ryan] Yeah.

And as you were talking about atmosphere. Even as alumni as you're thinking about this, like, well, I loved my college experience, and the atmosphere was awesome. Coming back and being able to experience what the different atmosphere and how it's evolved and enhanced in many different ways that your son or daughter can then, or other people that you may know and be able to experience that, and you can kind of share the similarities and differences.

- [Courtney] Definitely. So once you've had that first general overview and first visit of campus, senior year, we love to have our students come back to campus and do a more personalized visit. We want them to be able to dive in to what they're truly interested in, so a first thing we love to recommend is meeting with someone like myself, an admissions counselor, as we're the main point of contact and resource for those students throughout their high school career. We're here to really help them with the application process, with timeline and what they should be doing every step of their senior year, and we would love to meet with all of our students if it was possible. - [Ryan] And part of that is because we know it's stressful. - [Courtney] Yeah. - [Ryan] So as we talk about alleviation of anxiety through this intense process, we are here to help facilitate some of that and relieve a lot of that.

- [Courtney] Yeah, definitely, and being an alum is really helpful to be able to relate to students in this process because we all went through it. We went to St. Thomas, so we can really help guide and navigate them as much as possible to make their life as easy as possible. As a senior, you can always sit down with a financial aid counselor if you and your family have questions regarding FAFSA or other aid opportunities, scholarships.

As admissions counselors, we can help with scholarships, but financial aid counselors are really the experts in that field. If a student knows what major that they're really considering, they can sit with a professor and learn more about where students are working. What career opportunities does that major give a student and really what that major is all about to see if it's a good fit. Along with sitting in on a class or meeting with a music director, an activity director. There are so many things you can do to experience campus on a more personal level. I remember my senior year coming to campus and sitting in on a class, seeing the interaction between professors and students, and that helped solidify my decision because of the small atmosphere and how engaged the students were. I knew I wouldn't be a number in the classroom, which was super helpful.

And the professor knew everyone by name. - [Ryan] And I think that's a campus experience that hasn't changed. Some of the alumni probably know some of the professors by name if not still talk to them. Some might still be teaching.

That's something that I think really stems through. So those are experiences you, as alumni, can always share that I would say add value to students wanting to know what a college experience might actually be like. - [Courtney] Definitely. And then once your student, if they decide to apply, which hopefully they would at St. Thomas. Once they find out they're accepted, we do have events for students to come back to really help them solidify their decision in attending a university and hopefully St.

Thomas. But those could be anything from overnight visits, and at an overnight visit, students get the chance to really experience campus from a student level. They get to sit in on a class.

They get to tour all the residence halls. They get to meet with coaches and professors, and it's a really great way to get that full feel of what it's like to be a St. Thomas student. We have scholarship days where students can come test for certain departmental scholarships, and while the test is the most important part of that day, they also get the chance to kind of experience and get to know that department specifically.

So that's always really important. They can come back and have meals on campus, meet with students, and then in the late spring of senior year, we also have admitted student days where students can come back and really finalize that decision. All right, and I'll have it over to Jeff.

The stuff is about to start. - [Jeff] Yeah, the financial aid process. It's a growing concern year in and year out just as cost as you probably have seen have gone up. It certainly has since I was a student here. It's a bit unfortunate, but we want to also just let you know that there are ways, and St.

Thomas does invest a lot in helping students gain access to the University of St. Thomas. And we're gonna talk a little bit about that. The first little timeline I want to show up here. We've been using timelines throughout the kind of process. This is our own financial aid one, which has some of the same things that-- - [Ryan] It kind of just pulls out, the is just the financial aid.

- [Jeff] Yes, it does. - [Ryan] Yeah. - [Jeff] So early actions out there.

Ryan talked a little bit about that. But you can see kind of the file the FAFSA. We'll talk a little bit about what the FAFSA is here in a little bit. Hopefully, some of you have heard of that. Maybe you filed it when you were students here. And then we'll talk about our merit-based awards a little bit, and how we put our award packages together, but the important thing is every school will do things a little bit differently as well.

And we want you to know there should be representatives at each school you're looking at. Here at St. Thomas, you do have a financial aid counselor that works with you for four years. Courtney kind of mentioned you're given an admissions counselor that kind of helps you up until you make a decision. You do have a financial aid counselor during that process, and you hold onto them for four years.

So if life happens or things come up where you want to discuss about how you're going to make the education, the cost component work, that's what we're there for. That's what we do on a day to day basis, and it is an important part of the decision as we've mentioned a few times, so yeah. So this timeline really breaks down mainly during your senior year. Again, start earlier in terms of the planning and saving process, but this timeline specifically just kind of goes over just kind of your senior year for students there. So we want to talk a little bit about merit scholarships. Again, at St.

Thomas, 97% of students receive a merit-based scholarship primarily looking at a lot of the academic credentials. We still are a division three school, so we don't offer athletic scholarships. So again, as you're looking at different schools, they're gonna have different processes that they do. But specifically at St. Thomas, we're looking at the academic achievement, to some extent the involvement in school and community. We want Tommies to be involved. They're involved here, so it's always good if we have students that are involved currently that they're going to continue that and be good stewards at the University of St. Thomas just because the service hours and all that, that expands every year I would imagine in terms of how many hours St.

Thomas gives back to the community, which is huge. You can see a bit of a range in terms of what our scholarships look like this current year. So you can get some nice scholarship funds that can really bring down some of those costs kind of going back to what my two colleagues said in terms of don't rule out a school just solely based on what those costs are because right there, you might be able to knock a good percentage of the total cost, which brings the bottom line to a number that you'll like. And makes that decision a little bit easier. And one other thing at least at St. Thomas. The application for admission is the application for all of our scholarships.

So that's where it's important that you're thorough. All of the information that we're pulling from there is how we will identify you for our scholarships, and there may be multiple opportunities beyond. We just list the one on the PowerPoint that you're looking at, but there are many other opportunities that you can look at, and we will identify you through that admissions process.

- [Ryan] Yeah, and some of those will have separate like application, but you're exactly right that that admission application's gonna allow us to identify which ones might make sense for you to apply for. If you're interested in engineering, we probably won't send you a communication journalism scholarship. Those are two very different departments. - [Jeff] Exactly. So yeah, you can just have the peace of mind that that's a common question we get. Hey, are there more scholarships to apply for? We will let you know. That doesn't mean you can't always be looking for outside scholarships, which you certainly should be doing, but in terms of internal scholarships, that's what that application's for. Talk a little bit about the philosophy of financial aid.

This kind of pertains a little bit more on the need-based side with FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Some families and friends don't always agree with this statement, but it does say to the extent possible, it is the family's responsibility to pay for college. When you are completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, you are inputting things like the total household size, number in college, parental income and assets, student income and assets.

That is all taken into consideration in calculating an expected family contribution, EFC, and that's really kind of the means to help, what kind of drives the needs analysis to determine what sort of federal and state assistance you'd get. So there are three main ways that students will pay for college. It's either by past earnings, so if you are saving, which we sure hope you are, 529 plans, savings accounts, things like that. Current earnings, so income from your employers or student's employers as well, too. And future earnings, which would be loans and things like that, things that you're gonna take and invest in yourself and likely have to pay those back.

So that's the basic philosophy for really all schools. Again, every school will have different wrinkles in terms of how all this is put together, but at the same time, that is the kind of the general mantra of most financial aid offices. Talked a little bit about the FAFSA. Why should you file that FAFSA? A couple reasons.

You stay in contact with us. You'll get information from our office. Your admissions counselor is kind of your gateway person, and you'll get that scholarship letter as long as your student is admitted to St. Thomas, but this keeps the conversation going because if you were to call me or one of my colleagues and say, hey what other financial aid opportunities are there? If you don't have that FAFSA on file, that's likely the first thing we're gonna say. 'Cause that's really gonna open potentially some other opportunities for you, so we can't consider you for any sort of need-based aid, need-based grants, work study, or loans, work study is a little bit different. But in general we cannot consider you for that if you don't have a FAFSA on file. And it's done each year.

We will send a lot of information about other options to reduce those costs beyond that, so it really is a good tool to use. All schools use it. You have to fill it out once a year. It's a universal application kind of like the common app if you have some students that are in the process of applying. So it's a universal application that all schools use. So it's pretty easy to fill out. If you need help with that, you can certainly call us. We're certainly happy to help out with that.

- [Ryan] What's your record time for filing a FAFSA? - [Jeff] I think seven minutes. - [Courtney] Wow, I filled it out for grad school in 15 minutes. So if I can do it in 15 minutes, everyone can do it.

- [Ryan] They've made it a lot easier than it has been in the past. - [Jeff] Yeah, it has gotten a lot easier. But at the same time, I see it every day, so I hope I know what I'm doing.

But yeah, it's a useful tool definitely. - [Ryan] I was going to say. One thing I like to mention with the FAFSA, too, is even if you are feeling confident that you may not qualify for any need-based aid, it's still valuable to file it because it gives you and your student options. Knowing what the outcome is ahead of time is never a bad thing, but in my mind, I always like to plan for what could happen. So if something would ever happen to you, and there's a loss of income or something, the FAFSA would already be there.

It would be on file with the school. You can go and talk to the school, and they can expedite the whole process to get things done, and now you're not waiting for things to come in or the student you may know. They can continue their education. That kind of eliminates some barriers that could happen later. I would say it's, for lack of a better term, kind of like an insurance policy that you could utilize later.

- [Jeff] Yeah, it's like anything. If you don't need, at the very minimum for filling out a FAFSA, you'll be offered student loans. If you don't need those loans, that's a great problem to have, but life does happen. And if you have that FAFSA on file, especially if that event is a stressful thing, you've got that one file. We can easily just pick that information up and make adjustments if needed. So that's a great point, Ryan, in terms of life can happen type thing there. Just kind of recapping our overall timeline here, and I'm pretty sure this, it has a little bit of a mix of everything on here doesn't it? - [Ryan] Yeah, a little bit of everything.

Visiting, financial aid stuff in there. - [Jeff] So again, this will be available, this PowerPoint. - [Ryan] Yeah, the webinar. - [Jeff] We're not quite done yet. (laughs) We have a couple little things, but just we kind of keep hitting on the timeline, of course, and you know, it's really pretty simple to follow through, but as you know, along with all of the other things that are going on in your life, it's important to kind of keep these things in mind. - [Courtney] Yeah, and we're here to make your life as easy as possible through this process, so while this might seem stressful and intimidating with everything we've just said, we're here to make it easier and to help you guys out. - [Ryan] Yeah, planning is the theme of the game in terms of navigating the college process.

We do have a series of tips on the screen now, but I think we may have some questions that have already come through. Okay, well, I have some questions in about five minutes. But I think that the biggest tip it is, one of 'em that I think is have fun in it. It can be stressful. It can be anxious, and I feel like we're hyping that up a little bit. But I think it is a fun process. When you're going to be somewhere for the next four years, everybody always talks about the best four years of your life or at least that's what the theme of the game was when I was there. There's a lot of value to what you're doing and the things that you're experiencing.

And I think as you experience that together as a family, it's a growing process for everybody 'cause the college game has changed in terms of what people are expecting in their process but also what colleges are offering. - [Courtney] Definitely, and trusting your gut instinct, making sure the student is feeling comfortable on campus. I can't say enough. It's so important. Visiting as much as you need is totally fine, and starting with that list of those non-negotiables and always going back to what do you value, and what does your student value in the college process and at a school because it is a large investment. But it is supposed to be a fun exciting four years of the student's lives, and we definitely want to make this process as easy as possible. - [Jeff] And knowing that it's gonna be an individual process for everybody, too. We all took different paths to get here.

I grew up in North Dakota. I looked at 12 schools. I looked all over the place. And my parents were shocked that I ended up at St. Thomas. I went to a private school for 12 years, and I thought I'd kind of be done with it.

But at the same point, I took an early look here, and in the fall of my senior year. And I had a chance to come back in the spring. I was fine to go to the University of Colorado, Boulder and changed kind of last minute. And it was because of that second set of visits.

So all of the things that Ryan and Courtney both hit on, and the financial aid worked out as well, too. I had to make dad happy on that piece as well, too. But yeah. - [Ryan] You never left. - [Jeff] Well, for a little bit, yeah. Thanks again for datin' me there. - [Ryan] Oh, no, I only left for a year.

I've been here. I've been here. - [Jeff] But it's a fun journey like we've said, and we are excited to share a lot of this with you. We hope that you certainly share this with your kids or your neighbors or whoever and really kind of continue to share that Tommie love. - [Ryan] And that is point, you said share it with your neighbors. If you as alumni have people who are talking about college, and you think they might be interested, you're always welcome to send admissions an email. At the end of this, we'll have our contact information up there, and you can always send us an email with somebody, like, hey.

So and so might be interested. Love to get a packet of information in their hand. We'd be more than happy to make that happen. We just really need their name and email address, and I guess address and where to kind of send that packet. We can let 'em know that you heard from them or that they heard from you, or we can keep it anonymous. However you want to do it. But I think anytime we can share that St.

Thomas love, we're always happy to. I said we're going to go on to questions. - [Jeff] Perfect. - [Ryan] I'm guessing we have a couple questions. And I know there's some questions that I could answer that may not get asked. So it's definitely not an issue, but I think Cody's gonna read us off some questions. He's helping out with this and the production side of it.

- [Cody] Yeah, thank you very much, Jeff, Courtney, and Ryan. That was awesome information, and we do have some great questions from viewers in the audience. - [Ryan] I hope we can answer them.

- [Cody] Yeah. And the first question is, my student is procrastinating on this timeline that you presented. (laughs) How do I motivate them to take initiative on applying to college? - [Ryan] Yeah, that's a great question. I think when it comes to it, you almost don't want to force the issue. And I think that's hard to say because we put out a timeline, and say, plan, plan, plan all throughout high school and even before that. But I think once you start to force the issue, then decisions start to get made that the passion isn't here and the comfort level isn't there, and then you start getting into more challenges of going into a transfer process or another process that makes it more challenging if you don't like the school that you went to because you felt that pressure. I think some of it is just going to be just having a conversation about maybe starting like, what do you want to do? Like high school right now, senior year, and even junior year, like, where do they want to go? Like, maybe even do some things like, hey, let's go to a game at St. Thomas so that they can just be on campus and experience it in a different way. Or even just driving around on a trip, and if you're the one driving as a parent and you see a college campus, pull over.

And be like, hey, let's go check it out or grab something to eat and do a little like maybe blatant things a little bit subtle just to kind of get exploring and see what happens. And once you start getting that excitement there, and this is where I think academics when we think about college. If you could get the excitement there of something that doesn't necessarily tie to something they're not quite as excited about, it will just kind of start to come.

It's like, okay, this is really cool. Look at that atmosphere. Look at what it's like on this campus. Look at these cool people I met. They start to think about it in a different way. Okay, maybe I can see myself there.

And they don't necessarily want to have that conversation. 'Cause I was a student who procrastinated. I didn't actually hear or even look into St. Thomas until about junior or January of my senior year. And then it was like, okay, I guess I better apply. I didn't really make my decision until later on in senior year when I had just finished an application three months earlier. But I'll say my mom kept giving me little, subtle things to kind of push me in the right direction. Then I was like I definitely feel confident and comfortable 'cause it just kind of came up in regular conversation.

- [Courtney] Right, and high school goes by so fast, so trying to encourage the student to start thinking about college early. You can put it and phrase it in a way that senior year goes by very fast, and the earlier you get your applications in and get the decisions, you can actually enjoy senior year and really enjoy those things on the timeline like homecoming or prom and anything that they'd rather be focusing on. - [Ryan] The other thing I do want to add. As a parent, there's a lot of information out there for parents, and high school's will do parent night. You as a parent can also be informed, so when your student is ready to pursue that, you have the information you need to at least guide them in the right direction. I think that's what the role of a parent, you would want to take in that situation. We have more questions.

- [Cody] Awesome, thank you. So there's actually a handful of questions regarding financial aid. (laughs) - There usually is. - Of course, there is. - [Cody] So the first one here is really quick. What is the FAFSA filing deadline? - [Jeff] Yeah, each may have a deadline. Here at St. Thomas, we really don't have a hard deadline. I like to phrase it in such a way that it's available October 1st of any given year.

The earlier you get that information in, the earlier we can get you information back, and I think that will be likely the same basic conversation you would have with a lot of schools. But we like to say if you can have everything in by the end of December, there's a very, very good chance you could have a pretty specific financial aid package to your house by the middle of January, which gives you four and a half months to make a decision. So yeah, but some schools may have some specific deadlines, so you'll watch check with them. - [Ryan] And it's called a priority deadline. - [Jeff] Right.

Some schools will have actually hard deadlines where they can't offer certain things. So yeah, but we, as I said, we used to have a priority date, but we don't have that anymore. - [Ryan] Okay. - [Cody] Thanks, Jeff, so on that note of financial aid, another question is what are your tips on saving for college, and what types of loans are the best? - [Jeff] Okay, tips for saving for college, start early. If I have learned anything in financial aid with my own kids, it's start early, and we have 529 plans set up for both of our kids.

So talk to a financial advisor, but if you can just even get either yourself or your kids to take any bit of their income or whatever they get, and put that into account for savings. It could be for college. It could be for anything else 'cause there are incidentals in college as well, too. But start early, I guess. If you haven't already started saving for college, start doing that 'cause that will definitely pay off whatever school that you're looking at. Early is better, and then the loans question. Usually for education loans, the best starting point would be the loans offered from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, so the FAFSA 'cause at the very minimum, you are offered federal loans.

They are in the student's name, so the parents aren't on there, and parents love that part about it, that they're not on those loans. It will build some credit for the students and what not. Regardless of income, you are offered loans just for filling out the FAFSA. Beyond that, there are two other types of education loans that we'd go into a little more specifics about with you. And I won't spend a whole lot of time on them right now, but there are two other education loan options that you can look at. But other families have looked at home equity options just because there's some good tax deductibility there.

Some families have looked at taking funds away from retirement to borrow from retirement. I'm not a big fan of that, but that can be an option as well, too, so there are definitely options. And that's what we do work with a lot of students as their kind of making that decision. - [Cody] Awesome, thanks.

- [Jeff] Thank you. - [Cody] So keeping on the topic of financial aid, the next question is where should I look for scholarships? And what makes a good scholarship application? - [Jeff] Yeah, I think students for outside scholarships bring in well over two million dollars each year, so they are definitely out there. I use the phrase a lot, start local but think global. Start local, community school, churches. I know you guys work with guidance counselors a lot more than I do, and every high school's going to be a little bit different. But usually, they're pretty good resource in terms of diving into those local scholarships 'cause that's typically where students find the most success. I also mention to students.

Don't look so much into the amount of the scholarship. Any little bit that you're going to get in terms of a scholarship will be helpful. So 250 dollars to 20,000 dollars, it doesn't matter. Start local, and branch out to the metro area or state and then the national scholarships. As you branch out, your competition's gonna get much, much stronger. So that's usually if you can really kind of hunker down in your local area, you're more inclined to get those kinds of scholarships versus the national ones. - [Ryan] Were you going to say something? - [Courtney] I was gonna say when I go to different high schools and present about St. Thomas, it's usually in their counseling center or career center.

And most of the guidance counselors that I'm working with have lists of local scholarships that students can apply to, so whether that is through a local organization, church, their high school might even offer certain scholarships or even local businesses. Start with your places of work. I know I've had a few families who are pleasantly surprised to find out that their places of employment offer scholarships for students. - [Ryan] For their like son or daughter of the employees working there. - [Courtney] Yeah, for their son or daughter. - [Ryan] I was actually gonna touch on what I did.

I would say start with the things that you have the strongest connection to whether it's your, you kind of mentioned church, but think involvement. If you are part of a dance studio, it never hurts to say, like, is there any scholarships available? If you are part of a church or anything-- - [Jeff] The worst they can say is no. - [Ryan] The worst they can say is no, but as long as you're asking the question. Say, I've been involved here a long time, or I just got started getting involved. Is there any scholarship opportunities I might be able to apply towards my college education? The more you ask, I think the more that will come up, and you'll find 'cause people love giving away money for students to pursue kind of their-- - [Jeff] And don't get discouraged if you hear some no's, too. I get made fun of a lot, and I probably will if my colleagues watch this.

(laughs) The old Wayne Gretsky, you miss 100% of the shots you don't take. It really does hold true. Ryan's already laughing at me, but it is true. If you don't put your name in the hat, I mean, you can't win, so yeah. And start early with that as well. - [Courtney] And I know it kept me motivated when I was searching for outside scholarships. I can thank my dad for this.

But if it takes an hour for a student to fill out the application, and it's a 2,000 dollar scholarship, and they get it, that's a 2,000 an hour income, which is a great income. So that kept me motivated, and even if I didn't receive some of those scholarships, really all it took was 30 minutes of my time or an hour of my time. - [Cody] All right, so one more question about financial aid, and then we'll switch topics here. So this one is do merit-based scholarships increase each year with the cost of college? If not, can students reapply each year for more academic scholarships? - [Jeff] That's a great question. At St. Thomas, the merit-based scholarships that we kind of referenced earlier is a fixed amount for four years, so if you're eligible for 20,000 dollars, you get 20 each of the four years over, it could be 80 over four years. So that is a fixed amount.

That does not go up or down at least currently if tuition changes. That doesn't mean that students can't pick up additional departmental scholarships as a continuing student. We do have opportunities for that as well. Oftentimes those are going to be through the major and whatnot, but that can also add some additional funds that would stack on top that would offset potentially any sort of increases for that. So you can always be looking for scholarships, but in terms of what we do is we kind of let students know what our investment in them will be going into the process, and we try to be pretty clear with them that they need to know that that fixed amount is likely not going to change from our end. But that doesn't mean that you can't get additional ones there. Good question.

- [Cody] Thanks. So let's switch topics right now. This question is actually from a student. The question is what things can I do in high school to make myself more desirable to colleges? - [Ryan] That's a really good question.

I think in any atmosphere in any college, a lot of what they're looking for is academic success, which is relative to the college that you're looking at. So I'd say just doing well in school is probably the biggest priority, but in conjunction with that, and at St. Thomas, we like to see well-rounded students who are engaged, and Jeff alluded to this a little bit. I guess you just said it.

Students who are really involved in high school, we like to see that because students in college at St. Thomas are actively engaged in the community. - [Courtney] And we want students. When we're reviewing applications, and we see that students are involved in a lot of different activities, that makes us excited because once we're on campus, we want our students to be engaged and involved and to really get the most out of their college experience. And like Jeff had mentioned earlier, your freshman application is your application for everything. So the more you disclose on your application, the better.

What can help us really get to know you as an individual? What makes you unique? And what are your passions? - [Jeff] Brag. - [Ryan] Yeah, you do want to brag. I don't think you want to undersell it. - [Jeff] Yeah, it's your chance to really tell us who you are. - [Ryan] And you don't want to undersell it either 'cause as we say get involved. Say well, what do you get involved in to stand out? You can always volunteer. You can always do things in your community, but I think the things that are really gonna stand out is when you are dedicated to something. Being involved in 100 things that might look great and make for a long resume, but that doesn't necessarily speak to what your passions are and what you really want to contribute to the college community.

So even if it's one thing, even if it's you work. So in high school, I worked at McDonald's. Even if you are working at Mcdonald's 30 hours a week in conjunction with school year, that shows a lot of dedication, passion, and commitment.

You can find a lot of passion in things that you're doing. So you just want to be able to articulate that and talk about why. So I would say, you're better off doing some very meaningful things than you are trying to spread yourself thin over just to make your resume look better. So that's what we would look for. - [Courtney] Right.

- [Ryan] So meaningful involvement. - [Cody] Awesome, that's great advice. And here's one more question from a student. And the question is, I am a senior, and I am behind on your proposed timeline. (laughs) What can I do today to catch up? - [Ryan] I would say, you're not as far behind as what we may have thought.

Maybe you haven't visited. Maybe depending on what you're looking at. But most colleges haven't had a deadline yet. My suggestion would be to just think about the colleges you are most interested in, and if they have an online application, go out and get that portion done. If you can spend a weekend or even a day just doing the online application, school starts.

You send your transcripts. You send your test scores. That essentially kind of completes a lot of the application process, and now, while you haven't had a decision yet, take some time to go and visit. Get on campus.

Get a feel for it. The fall is a great opportunity because you have a lot of new students on campus who really getting excited and engaged, and feeding a lot of energy into campus, and that energy is gonna help you get a really positive experience. So I wouldn't say you're too far behind if you feel like you're just starting now. But I would encourage.

Start getting in some online applications if you haven't already. - [Courtney] Yeah, we encourage visits all the time. And as admissions counselors, we visit high schools, too.

So if it does seem like it might be a struggle to come to campus right away, go to that college presentation. I know I have a ton of high school visits that I'll be doing this fall, so see if you can make it to some of those visits at your high schools as well. - [Jeff] Yeah, you're not as behind as you think you are. Again, this is, we have a pretty wide audience, so you're in good shape. - [Cody] That's some great comforting advice. (laughs) So the next question is, what are the major factors admissions looks at when deciding on a student who is on the fence of being admitted? - [Jeff] Good question. - [Ryan] Yeah, that is a good question. When it comes to, so academics is always the priority.

We want to admit students who we know have the ability to be successful when they're here. And some of the things when you're talking about being on the fence, I'm thinking they might be thinking on the fence academically. We really like to see upward grade trends. As we said before, we're all human.

We make mistakes. We don't know that we're making mistakes. And that freshman year is sometimes a little bit lower than what we, 'cause we're not thinking about college as freshmen all the time. But if we see some upward grade trends, I would say that's what we really like to see. And also, somehow articulating what now you learned from it but how you've grown and really understand the resources that are available to you. And speaking to and almost acknowledging some of the challenges that you have faced but how you're overcoming those things. If it comes to something like, and every college looks at standardized test scores differently, but if it comes to standardized test scores, I think that's more of a one on one conversation to have. If you're thinking on the fence where that might be, but you can always take those exams multiple times.

It's just a matter of what are you doing differently in those exams, and that's something you can also articulate, that between these exams, I've actually put in a lot of meaningful training and time and practice. - [Courtney] Yeah, and because of that, you were essentially able to increase that score. And any time a student does take the ACT or SAT again, we'll always reevaluate that merit scholarship.

- [Ryan] And to add to that, be a self advocate. The more you can advocate for yourself in those processes as students, the better off you're gonna be because when we as staff members know you, and the role of the admissions counselor is to advocate for the students on their behalf. - [Jeff] And I'll just point one other thing out as well. Some of you may have heard also that we did start a new college, the Dougherty Family College as well, too. You might be potentially on the fence for the University of St. Thomas, the four year college, but that Dougherty Family College might be an opportunity for you as well. - [Ryan] Yep, definitely a conversation that would be worth having to be part of the St. Thomas community.

- [Courtney] Yeah, and again, I can't say this enough, but the more you disclose and the more you advocate for yourself, the better we can help you, and we want to help you to the best of our ability. - [Cody] Great. Thanks, so we have time for two or three more questions. And this next question is asking to talk about transfer admissions. So the question is if I didn't get into my top school, will I have a better chance of going somewhere else and reapplying as a transfer student? - [Ryan] Maybe? (laughs) - [Courtney] Potentially. - [Ryan] It's almost like a trick question. I would say it's gonna depend.

I think some of it's gonna depend on why you didn't get admitted in the first place whether that was St. Thomas or another school. You almost want to know what those details are so that when you do start at whatever the initial college is with a plan on transferring, you know where you really need to exceed. And for lack of a better term, prove that committee wrong so that they didn't make or that the decision they made is something you've shown a lot of success in college because things are reviewed differently in most colleges for the transfer process. And I'm not an expert on the transfer process, so I'm not gonna say that I am. - [Courtney] Right, I'm not either. - [Jeff] I would just talk to the school about it, too. If that happens, the school would be able to tell you just kind of what they're looking at in terms of for students that do apply as transfers.

- [Ryan] Yep, and then as you are thinking about the transfer process just to throw this out there. If you know where you want to go as a transfer student, always talk with the college about what courses you're taking at where you're starting, so you know that when you do transfer not only are you doing the right thing, but that you know the classes you are taking are not going to elongate what your timeline of college is gonna be. Every college looks at courses differently. So if you are taking classes at school X and you want to transfer to school Y, it doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to graduate in four years because those classes don't line up in terms of what they're programming might be. But they probably have a process to help figure that out that you are doing everything in a very planned way. - [Courtney] Right, and if St. Thomas was your dream school, and let's say you didn't get accepted, and you do want to transfer, we do have transfer admissions counselors that we can get you connected with that will really help you just like we do on the freshman side to really help you with the application process, what you should be doing, and if you have questions about courses or what would transfer. Our transfer counselors can help as well.

- [Jeff] And there's financial aid, too. (laughs) - [Cody] Thanks, Jeff. Well, the last two questions actually come back to the financial aid. This one here is, is FAFSA completed annually and what if there's a major financial change or life event that happens after the initial filing? - [Jeff] Another good question.

The FAFSA is completed annually because needs can change. You might have more than one in college. That can change the needs.

So yes, it is an annual application that you complete. It's a universal application, so as I mentioned earlier, it goes out to really every school, so always available on October 1. So that answers that piece, and then if there's a change, talk to your financial aid counselor at the school that you're looking at. We know life happens. We have what we call a special circumstances form. Schools will have these.

This addresses four main sections I guess I'll call them in terms of if there's a change in income or lots of medical expenses or if there's a change in the household or we have a few other things as well, too, but if those kind of things happen, we do have processes in place to really reevaluate the need, which could potentially offer the student more in aid. It doesn't always work out that way. Guarantee is a swear word in financial aid, so I don't use it, but at the same time, we, that's again kind of going back to what I think St. Thomas does a really good job of is you do have a personal financial aid counselor maybe you can work with, but all schools will have that. So if there are those changes, and we know life happens, talk to your school's financial aid office, and they can get you that special circumstances form. - [Cody] Thanks, Jeff. And one more question here for the day, and this one regards the FAFSA as well.

And this question asks, is a joint savings account counted as parent money or student money? And the viewer has noted that it's a joint named savings account. It's not a 529 or an education IRA. - [Jeff] Yeah, you can with those joint accounts, if it's a 529 plan or a savings plan, usually you have an owner and a beneficiary, but if it is a joint, you an keep that on the parent side of the FAFSA information, and the parents, their investments or their assets are protected more than the students. So that joint savings account or checking account or what have you can remain in the parent's name. That's perfectly fine based on the rules of the Department of Education.

Good question. - [Ryan] Awesome, so thank you everyone for tuning in. You will get a copy of this as a follow up but if you do have questions, I don't know if our contact is on the screen yet or not. I'm sure it could be. You're welcome to contact us at any time.

Like I said, if you have questions or if you, I guess, have students who you want to encourage to apply, feel free to share our contact with them or send us an email with theirs, and we'll reach out to them ourselves. So thank you again for your time and having lunch with us. - [Courtney] Thank you. - [Jeff] It was a pleasure. Hope you learned a lot about financial aid. - [Ryan] That's right. And hopefully you tune into the Tommie, Johnny game this weekend at Target Field if you're not going to be there.

- [Courtney] Over 32,000 tickets have been sold, so it'll be a big game. - [Ryan] Go Tommies. - [Jeff] Thanks so much.

- [Ryan] Thank you.

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