Financial Aid Appeals

You won’t hear a “yes” unless you ask, so if you’ve received an acceptance from a college and you are not happy with their financial aid offer, you can ask them to reconsider your package. Keep in mind that there is need-based and merit-based aid, so how you approach your appeal will change depending on what you’re asking for. There are only three primary factors that make you a good candidate for reconsideration.

  1. A change in your financial circumstances since you applied or if your financial aid application did not give a full picture of your circumstances and you’d like to share more (this would be need-based aid).  

  2. Another college offered you a better package (this could be be need or merit-based).

  3. You’ve had a major accomplishment since applying (this would be merit-based aid that could land you a scholarship).

Tips For Writing Your Appeal

  1. Explain your situation clearly and with evidence. There are many situations that could lead to a change in financial circumstance like a parent losing a job, a divorce, a lawsuit, a gambling problem, etc. The financial aid officers reading your appeal are humans, and they understand that we all face challenges. Your best bet is to explain your case honestly and share evidence for the financial change or hardship (like paperwork, receipts, bank statements).
  2. Explain that the college you’re writing to is your first choice and commit to attending if they offer you a financial aid package that works for you.
  3. If another school has offered you a better package, share that offer and ask if they will match it. Make sure you emphasize that you want to attend X school, but the competing financial aid offer complicates the decision.
  4. If you have had a major accomplishment, received an award, or gotten excellent grades since you applied, this can qualify you for a scholarship. Share your accomplishment and ask if there is anything you can do in the upcoming weeks or months to qualify for a scholarship or additional aid.
  5. Ask if there are scholarships available to sophomores, juniors and seniors that you can apply for the following year(s).
  6. Thank them for the aid you received!
  7. Follow up with a call or in person if you can.

How to Choose Your College

It’s the end of March and you’ve heard back from all of your colleges. You’ve either been accepted, rejected, waitlisted, or a variant of one of those (conditionally accepted, provisionally accepted, etc.). What to do next?

First, put aside the rejections and focus on your options. If your top choice waitlisted you, see this article for tips on how to get off their waitlist and into their freshman class. If you’ve been accepted to your dream schools, congratulations! Celebrate those acceptances and be proud of yourself for all of your accomplishments.

There are, of course, may factors to consider when choosing colleges. Some of them are:

  • cost
  • location
  • social environment
  • academic environment
  • access to resources (counseling center, tutoring, career center, etc.)
  • alumni network
  • diversity
  • religious association
  • greek life
  • sports
  • school spirit
  • study abroad
  • prestige

Sit down and make a list of all the factors that are important to you and then prioritize them. You should have, of course, already done this while choosing your college list; now is the time to get into the nitty gritty. Include parents or those who are funding your education in the conversation because they will likely sway different priorities. It’s also helpful to talk to other resources like admissions officers, students at the different universities, and your college counselor to get more detailed information about each school.

Once you prioritize different factors you can start to narrow your list down.

I would like to note that while I’m a big proponent of getting in touch with your intuition while making choices, I would only suggest this if you’ve visited campuses. Otherwise, much of our knowledge about schools is based on what we’ve heard from other students and parents, the news, online lists, etc. and does not necessarily indicate if this school is a good fit for you.

However, if you are able to visit your top choices, I highly recommend taking tours and going to accepted student days to get a sense if the campus feels good, to talk to students currently attending, and to get any questions answered.

A huge factor in choosing schools is often cost. See this article if you want to appeal your financial aid package because of a change in circumstance or another school offered you a better package.

Once you’ve made your choice, make sure you notify the school and tell the other schools that accepted you that you’re not attending by May 1. Make sure you continue to do well your senior year, because in some cases colleges rescind acceptances for F’s or other behavioral infractions.

So You’ve Been Waitlisted?

If you’ve been waitlisted at your dream college and you’re sure you want to go there, you can:

  1. Think it over! Do you truly want to go to this school? Being on a waitlist can put you in emotional limbo, so make sure you still really want to attend the institution. If  you do, accept the waitlist invitation.

  2. Enroll at your next best option before May 1. That’s the deadline to tell schools if you’re going there or not, so make sure you have that locked in.

  3. Find the contact information for your region’s admissions officer and send an email thanking them for placing you on the waitlist and explaining that their school is your top choice. Make sure to detail any accomplishments, awards, or extracurriculars that were left off of your application or that have happened since applying. Do not repeat what was on your application. Think about what could tip the scales: a “best student” award from the principal? A first place medal in your regional debate or sports tournament? Volunteering with a non profit? You can also provide more information about why you think that school would be a great fit for you and what you will contribute while going there.

  4. Follow up with a phone call asking if they received your email and ask if there is anything you can do to get off of their waitlist. Emphasize that it’s your first choice school!

  5. If you can, visit the school and continue to contact admissions officers to show interest and update them on your new accomplishments.

  6. Ask your high school counselor or any *relevant* people to contact the institution on your behalf or to write additional letters of recommendation.

  7. If you did an interview with an admissions counselor or alumni, contact them to ask if there is anything they suggest doing to help your chances.

  8. Keep your grades up and submit your most recent report cards, as well as test scores if you took an additional SAT, ACT or AP test since applying.

  9. If you can offer to pay tuition in full or have a special connection, that can also help.

If you are offered a spot, know it may come after the May 1 deadline for committing to a college. Many schools offer spots through the end of the summer. You were likely accepted to another college that could be a great fit for you and is worth committing to. If you do get off the waitlist, know you are forfeiting your deposit for the other school and taking yourself on an emotional roller coaster! Colleges only accept between 3-17% of students on their waitlist, so keep that in mind as you make your decision.  

Applying to College: Final Checklist

College application season is almost over, and it is time to dot your i’s and cross your t’s. As you probably know, early decision and early action deadlines have passed and final deadlines are around the corner. In order to apply to college and send in the best applications possible, review this final checklist: 

Essays

  • Write your personal statement: check for grammar and use your unique voice
  • Write your supplemental essays for each college, making sure to give more information about you and why you’re a good fit
  • Write your “additional information” if you have extra context to give schools regarding your academic performance or any background information not already included in your application 

Applications

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  • Review your applications (common application or individual school application) before submitting to make sure there are no mistakes
  • Send your transcript and midyear report to each school through your high school counseling department
  • Send your SAT or ACT scores to each college through College Board or ACT Student; send other admissions tests if necessary (SAT Subject tests, AP tests, TEOFL)
  • Check your online applications to see if your teachers have submitted their letters of recommendation, and if not, follow up with your teachers in person; make sure to write your teacher a thank you note afterwards
  • If it’s not too late (depending on the school), set up interviews on college campuses or with an alumni in your area; send thank you notes to your interviewers

Final Check

  • Review the website of each school you’re applying to make sure you’ve sent them everything they need
  • Once you’ve applied, each school should send you an email with a portal where you can make an account and check to see if your application is complete; check your portals
  • If you are not sure if a school has received all of your information, call or email admissions to confirm
  • Pay for your application; use your fee waiver if you’ve applied and received one
  • Save copies of your applications when you submit
  • Note FAFSA and CSS Profile deadlines and submit financial aid information as soon as you can

Transitions as Chaos and Birth: Embracing New Ways of Being

In Transitions as Death: 4 Steps to Healing Old Losses, I explained that transitions have three parts: death, chaos, and a new beginning. In this post I will explain transition as chaos and birth. 

Disruptions & Awareness

By nature, transitions offer a disruption. Something changes in our lives and we are forced to acknowledge that change. I believe that our ultimate goal is to be aware - of our feelings, behaviors, inclinations - as often as possible, and especially during transitions, because that is how we grow. Growth, like change, is inevitable, so why not grow with the current?

I’d like to explain why I think awareness is beneficial. In our everyday lives we are moving quickly. Our society requires it of us, and as humans, we are adaptable and distractible. For the most part, unless we do a lot of work to be mindful, we run on auto-pilot, and auto-pilot is run by habits. So why are habits problematic? Because habits are old behaviors. They are born through this process:

1. A new situation arises 

2. We react to X situation intuitively

3. We continue to react to X situation and similar situations like we did the first time

4. This collection of reactions becomes an unconscious strategy (or habit) for dealing, regardless of whether we’ve changed in other ways (grown older, had a bunch of new experiences, etc.)

If we are aware of real-time-what’s-happening-now AND of our habits, then we can separate the two out and react to the actual moment: external stimulation and internal reactions (body sensations, thoughts, emotions). This nuance allows us to act freely, without being weighed down by old beliefs and stories. 

Chaos

Transitions are not always linear (mourning > chaos > new beginning). You might feel like your life is in complete disarray as soon as you lose your job or break-up. You may forget to mourn part of your identity and go straight to panic mode. Or you might get jazzed about a new job and neglect your feelings of anxiety that are running below the surface. Regardless, there will be a time when chaos reigns, and that is the perfect time to change old behaviors. You can change old behaviors anytime you exercise enough awareness, but when you have a disruption, the world feels upside-down anyway, so the pieces (aka your habits, behaviors, inclinations) are more flexible.

Imagine a finished puzzle sitting calmly on a table. That’s you during times of non-transition. Now imagine that the table was jostled and some of the puzzle pieces came apart. That’s you during a transition; it’s easier to move the pieces when you’ve already been disrupted, so it’s the perfect time to work on the places that previously felt stuck. You may be wondering why you’d move the pieces on a puzzle, as they only fit in one place, and that’s where the metaphor breaks down a little. However, we want our puzzle pieces to change so we can create a new identity, one that feels in line with our current, authentic self.  

New Beginnings

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So, transitions offer a disruption, and if we can be aware throughout that disruption, we have an opportunity to break out of habit, embrace agency, and create a more authentic self. This is THE new beginning. Not only are there more obvious new opportunities in front of you (new choices, jobs, homes, partners, etc.), there’s also a new way of interacting with the world. This is often the most exciting part of a transition, as possibility is your middle name.  

Through the Eyes of a Client Part 2

See Part 1 here

My Update

If I thought I unloaded on Sophie before, I was wrong. Very wrong. When I left our last session, my plan was to go to a conference in Vancouver, finish up my business plan and act on it. Not easy but not totally complicated. My idea was to impress Sophie with how much I completed.

That’s when it all blew up. The day before I left for my conference I found out I would need to move out of my house in San Francisco. This was not a total surprise as I had thought about moving before, but now with a looming business I needed to get off the ground, I started to feel the weight of my life decisions a little more significantly. 

I boarded my flight and headed to the conference in Vancouver, very aware that I needed to come up with a good idea or I would be both homeless and unemployed. Not the way I wanted to start 29. Thankfully, my business partner and I ironed out the details for a very promising company. This would mean I would need to move to Austin, Texas ASAP.

Panic to Calm

I was in full panic mode when I got home. How on earth was I going to move and start my own business in a month?

When I realized I had a meeting with Sophie the next morning I actually said “thank god” out loud. 

The day I got back I went to go see Sophie and I am pretty sure I looked like a panicked child in a haunted house. I have never been scared of change, but so much is unknown, I think I short circuited. Luckily, Sophie handled my insanity like a boss. Once again, she was an amazing listener and let me unravel on her. She asked open ended question to guide me without trying to fix my feelings for me. She was able to pinpoint that I needed less help on how to do things and more emotional support at this point.

There was a beautiful breakthrough moment when Sophie asked why I was so much more stressed out about this change opposed to others in the past. It was in that moment I realized this is the first time I’ve made a huge move without a partner. I’ve been single for the better part of a year now and it’s made me both completely independent and vulnerable. Once I knew why, I was able to let myself feel the fear without judgement. I’m not supposed to be okay all of the time. Life is overwhelming and scary sometimes.

As I let myself cry for the first time in awhile, Sophie offered to always be a rock for me. So much of my life is uncertain and helping me become aware of the constants in my life brought a ton of comfort. My homework was to create lists of things that are stable, changing, non-negotiable, lists of distractions etc. 

I left my meeting calm and in control again. I will admit that these sessions have started turning into therapy for me. Normally I’m not a huge fan of therapy as I don’t want to talk at someone for an hour while they nod. I would rather make a plan for how to make my life easier. That’s why Sophie has been so helpful for me. She’s not just listening, she’s giving me action points so I don’t feel like a jellyfish in a riptide. I’m on my way to steadier shores, and now I have an incredible rock to keep me grounded. 

Through the Eyes of a Client

My name is Lindsay.

I am 28 year old San Francisco resident in the midst of my millennial crisis. Like many people my age, I am trying to find a way to balance enjoying my time on this earth, and working at a job that has meaning and purpose. I am genuinely terrified of waking up at 75 years old with nothing to show for my life. A couple of months ago I quit my job, moved to Ghana and started volunteering at an orphanage. I had almost too much time to think and when I got back I felt overwhelmed with choice. I could do anything. Go anywhere. Be anything.

YIKES.

So I decided to help reign in my focus with the help of a professional. Through a friend, I met Sophie Silverstein, an incredible life coach and counselor who specializes in transitions. I reached out to her and she promptly set up a consultation.

The Consultation

I’ve never done anything like this so I was nervous walking into our meeting. Luckily, Sophie made me feel comfortable right away. She has a warm and sincere presence so it’s easy to feel like you’ve known each other for awhile. After some “getting to know you” talk, we got into why I was there and what I was looking for. I was admittedly pretty vague, I mentioned I was interested in starting my own business and feeling lost on how to make that huge step a reality.

Sophie was an incredible listener, prompting me with relatable questions until I pretty much unloaded my life story on her. Nothing fazed her or made me feel like she thought I was insane. A good start.

After I spilled my guts, Sophie repeated back same main points to me and let me know we could start a bi-monthly plan to work on setting my goals and accomplishing them. The vibe felt right so I happily agreed to this arrangement. Sophie gave me some personality quizzes and homework I needed to work on before our next appointment. It finally felt like I was going in the right direction and to be honest, I felt like I had a friend who really had my back.

Our First Session  

I met Sophie on a Friday morning after canceling on her the previous day. She was flexible and kind about my schedule change, which I greatly appreciated. We met up and dove right into what I had been working on the past week since we last spoke. It felt so good to explain my process to someone that knew exactly where I had started. I am pretty sure I was a rambling fool but Sophie took it all in stride. She asked questions and reframed my own thoughts so I could hear how they sounded back to me. The best part of the experience was having someone be so genuinely interested in my wellbeing. She checked in on all elements of my life, not just work related.

It felt like a more holistic approach to career counseling, which was really refreshing. 

One of the biggest concerns I have is making money on the side while I try to get this business up and running. I was able to talk about my personal feelings and opinions on certain jobs and it came to light I have a personal stigma about going back to bartending. I was able to work through this shame by talking about my relationship with my family. Sophie was able to isolate some of the stronger emotional reactions I was having and guided me to the “why” behind these reactions. I felt comfortable being completely honest without fear of judgment. Once I was able to talk through my side income ideas, she wove how I could put the two together. Perhaps bartending in a place with a lot of entrepreneurs/start-up founders nearby? Instead of feeling like I was taking a step back, Sophie showed me I was actually taking a step forward.  

In one short hour, I was able to find solutions to side jobs, health insurance, and housing, as well as gain tips and tricks about social entrepreneurship.

I walked out of our meeting feeling like I had my head screwed back on and really excited about the future.  I had set goals on what I needed to accomplish next time we saw each other as well as a strong belief I was on the right track to my own personal success.

See Part 2 here

Transition as Death: 4 Steps to Healing Old Losses

Transitions are about death and rebirth. We don’t usually think of change in such drastic terms, and part of the reason our lives and emotional states can become so disrupted is because of our distance from death, from mourning and celebration, from chaos. 

As defined by William Bridges, in Transitions, Making Sense of Life’s Changes, a change is the actual thing that shifts in your life: divorce, getting fired, a promotion, pregnancy, moving homes, graduating from college. Transition is the emotional and mental experience that accompanies the change; the inner “reorientation” that we go through. Every transition involves an ending, a period of chaos, and a beginning. In this post, we will deal with loss. 

We often move through life without acknowledging that we’ve lost something in a transition. Even if the transition feels positive, like a new job, new home, or new relationship, we’re losing an old identity in the shift. Bridges says that “those who [choose] to make the changes that put them into transition [tend] to minimize the importance of endings; it [is] almost as if the act of acknowledging an ending as painful [is] an admission that the change triggering the transition [is] a mistake" (9). Conversely, if the change is sudden and not born out of choice, it is harder to acknowledge that there could be a positive new beginning around the corner.

Our circumstances, way of being, and the way we live become our identity. When a change occurs, there is a shift in our circumstances and we lose part of our identity. That change has potential to spur a whole set of transformations we initially fail to see. For example, in a new relationship, while we may be excited about sharing our life with another special someone, we now have a new priority that didn’t exist before. We have to consider someone else’s needs and desires. We have to allot our time differently, perhaps de-prioritizing friend or solo time. We have to discuss day-to-day and big life decisions with our partner, where previously, we only considered ourselves.

We can mourn these things. We can admit that they are upsetting to us. If we don’t, they can continue to affect us when present moment happenings unconsciously remind us of hurts of the past. 

Step 1: Identify transitions from childhood to now

Categories of transitions could be: 

  • Physical
  • Relational
  • Places
  • Groups
  • Interests
  • Responsibilities
  • Jobs
  • Beliefs

Step 2: Notice patterns in how you deal with endings

  • Were you sad for a long time?
  • Did you pretend nothing happened?
  • Did you prepare yourself by distancing yourself from people? 
  • Did the end feel abrupt? 
  • Did the change feel gradual and unimportant?
  • Did you feel active in the change?
  • Did you feel like events happened to you?

Step 3: Explore which endings still feel tender, emotional, or open

Go through your list and notice where you’re still holding on to a person, feeling, place, etc.

Step 4: Acknowledge and heal hurts from the past

  • Write a letter to someone no longer in your life and throw it away
  • Make a phone call to an ex
  • Write an obituary for your old job 
  • Visit a place, like the house you grew up in
  • Meditate on how you’ve transformed in positive ways
  • Write in your journal about your sadness, compassion, or nostalgia for childhood
  • Listen to a song that reminds you of a time in your past

If you feel that a transition is holding you back or negatively affecting your life, consider attending one of my workshops or working with me one-on-one. Message me to see if more personalized counseling is right for you.