Back to Episode # 8

Intro  00:00
Life After Now.


Liz Bolsoni  00:07
Hello, and welcome to the Life After Now podcast. I'm your host Liz Bolsoni. I'm a communication studies major at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. This podcast is a place for young people like you to gather information about education, and think about what it means for your life after now. You'll be able to connect with inspirational guests who have first hand experience and expertise surrounding education in Minnesota. So today I'll be talking with Jodi Furman. Jodi is the founder of Enlightened Admissions, a consulting company that helps students navigate college admission process. Jodi, thanks so much for joining me today.


Jodi Furman  00:44
Thanks for having me.


Liz Bolsoni  00:45
So before we start, do you want to give a little introduction to our audience about who you are and why you're here?


Jodi Furman  00:52
Sure. So as you mentioned, I work for Enlightened Admissions, I'm the lead advisor. So I work with students at all levels of achievement, and looking at helping them figure out what they're going to do, frankly, after now. So whether that's going to trade school, community college, to college, to graduate school, or anything in between. So I really have the privilege of working with students to help them figure out where they want to go and how to get them there.


Liz Bolsoni  01:19
That's such an exciting step. So what a cool job. So before we dive into some questions, I wanted to ask a quick icebreaker to get to know you a little bit more. And if you were going to give your high school self a piece of advice or some words of affirmation, what would you say?


Jodi Furman  01:35
Such a great question. I think that the best advice that I would give myself and also to a lot of my students is really to enjoy the ride and to live in the moment. I think so many of us are so focused on the next step, and what's next and getting ahead. And I think that we sometimes forget to enjoy the now, right now.


Liz Bolsoni  01:55
That's great advice. So I guess as we start, I want to hear a little bit more about Enlightened Admissions. What is it that you do?


Jodi Furman  02:03
Sure, so I'm the founder and lead advisor. So along with a team of admissions advisors, and essay specialists, we work with students to guide them through and demystify the admissions process. So we either help them with specific pieces of that process, such as essay guidance and editing, or for the entire process. Most of the students that I work with, I start working with towards the end of their, you know, right now the end of their junior year, summer before senior year, even the beginning of senior year to help them with the actual process. But I also work with students as early as ninth grade, especially for those students who might be looking at some of the more selective schools in the country.


Liz Bolsoni  02:38
And also looking at a higher level view or a broad lens., what does the admissions process look like for those students, and what steps are part of that timeline?


Jodi Furman  02:50
Great. So the admissions process can be really overwhelming, but it's actually far less complex and convoluted than most people expect. The actual deliverables that, that students need to provide can be as few as just filling out an online application and having your high school send over your transcripts. In addition to that, most schools do require in addition to that application and transcripts, they also require an essay, 650 words, so a little over a single page, single spaced, a list of awards and activities, and recommendations from your teachers and your counselor. And that's really about it. The more selective schools and those that are looking for major scholarships or honors programs, will sometimes have additional essays over and above that 650 word essay. Usually, those essays tend to be a bit shorter, maybe 250, 300 words, in addition to the other things that they need to submit. SAT, ACT scores are often required, but right now, especially in the midst of COVID, there's a lot of test-optional policies being adopted, not only for last year's admissions process, but also for this coming year's. So with those deliverables, they really can be though I don't advise it, but they can be completed in a single day if need be. Applications for most of those universities will open in August before your senior year. Most of them have a first deadline right around November 1st, give or take two or four weeks, and most have a later deadline that is for regular admission. It's usually January 1st though. Some schools have rolling admissions and they accept applications well after January 1, but typically sooner is going to be better. In terms of the timeline, the actual process won't begin until August, right before senior year. But for things like testing and things about developing interests, those can be done obviously significantly earlier than that. So for testing, for instance, I often recommend that that be done ideally and completed before the end of your junior year. And a lot of students choose to take that first test between sophomore and junior year, where they might have some more time to prep for it.


Liz Bolsoni  04:55
So you make it sound so clear, and you lay it out really easily. But you know, during school when you've got sports or activities, people feel really overwhelmed with adding that step of thinking about the future, which is a little bit scary in and of itself, but also, there's a lot of time put into preparing yourself for that next step. So what do you say to students who are overwhelmed with applying and enrolling?


Jodi Furman  05:24
Yeah, absolutely. It's completely understandable, by the way. This process can be overwhelming. It's new, you know,  it's usually their, obviously, the first time that someone's dealing with it. There's a lot of moving parts. But again, please know, it's far simpler than you likely believe. And there's a lot of assistance out there, especially utilizing your teachers, your college counselor, or your guidance counselor at your school. Additionally, there are some factors and things that make it a lot easier. Most schools, not all, but most schools are available for application purposes through the Common App, such as commonapp (A P P) .org. And that keeps all of your info organized. It could also show you when you add each individual school, what their deadlines are, and any additional information that they might need to. You could apply to just one school or up to 20 schools from that single page. But again, ask for assistance. Your high school guidance counselor is a great guide. There's also a number of videos and resources on, available probably through your school district as well as through the Office of Higher Ed.


Liz Bolsoni  06:26
So the financial aid process is a big part of applying, right. But it can be confusing and intimidating for a lot of students. So what advice do you have to people who might feel like they can't afford an education past high school and are confused with how to apply for financial aid?


Jodi Furman  06:42
Another very understandable concern. There's a tremendous amount of programs out there. And there's a lot of aid available. Both from schools themselves, as well as governmental and private sources. First things first, don't just look at the retail or the sticker price of a school. Every single school has what's called a net price calculator on their website. sometimes it's a little bit difficult to find. It's usually under Financial Aid. But if you either do a search when you're on the website for a school, or just Google the name of the school and "net price calculator." So the net price calculator will help you determine what the estimated bottom line price will be. So again, not the retail or sticker price, but the actual price that you'll be paying. And there's actually shockingly, a lot of instances where expensive private schools can end up being more affordable, sometimes than even public schools or even community colleges, due to their generosity through merit and or financial aid. And especially if those schools are what's called "Meets Need." Now those do tend to be more selective schools. But there's a lot of excellent and highly affordable schools, in and out -- and around Minnesota. And we're lucky enough in Minnesota to have reciprocity with Wisconsin, North Dakota and even the province of Manitoba in Canada, where our students can pay either close to or exactly the same as an in-state or in-province residents would pay. Let's first talk about government aid. So you're going to apply through what's called the FAFSA, which will be open to you October 1st of your senior year in high school. And you'll be applying for that, what that will allow you to do is to qualify for federal loans. And every student as long as they fill out that FAFSA, whether your family makes $0 a year or millions of dollars a year will be eligible for to borrow $5,500 worth of federal loans for their freshman year in college. Additionally, by filling out the FAFSA, they will see whether or not you're eligible for what's called a Pell Grant. Now a grant, unlike a loan, which alone has to be paid back, a grant is a gift, does not need to be paid back. You can qualify for up to $6,495 per year. So for your freshman year, you will get $6,495 and again for sophomore, junior and senior year and the Pell Grants can be adjusted. They do sometimes go up from year-to-year. How much of a Pell grant you will qualify for, again  that's the max, will be determined by both the cost of attendance for the school that you'll be attending for college, as well as your family's income. There's also Minnesota-specific aid that students can qualify for. There's programs such as the Promise Program, which for any of the University of Minnesota campuses, if your family's income is under $50,000 a year, your tuition will be covered at 100% at any of those campuses. Now moving from government aid into private aid, there's a lot of school-based aid that is available. Most schools will offer either additional what's called institutional aid, which could be in the form of grants, which again is a gift does not need to be paid back. They also might offer scholarships. We'll talk about that in a little bit. It just in a bit more detail. They are also my offer things such as loans, which do need to be paid back, or work study, which allows you to have access to a job on campus. But again, scholarships is also a form of gift aid, that often is going to be earned by your merit. So your grades and your scores on SAT, or ACT, if necessary, and involvement. There's also private and community scholarships and scholarship programs, small programs and scholarships that might be offered through community programs like Rotary Clubs, where you played sports, local corporations, but there's also a lot of national programs such as QuestBridge, that are highly generous for those who qualify.


Liz Bolsoni  10:41
So let's say that someone gets through applying and they apply for the FAFSA or private scholarships, like the ones you talked about, and they qualify for a certain amount of money from the FAFSA. Is it guaranteed that the school that they choose or any school of choice is going to offer that amount that the FAFSA specifies?


Jodi Furman  11:04
Yes, and no. This again, I realized this process is so difficult. This is why I'm so passionate about really helping people understand the, kind of getting rid of these myths, but let's clear some of this up and get into it a bit. So even though your FAFSA does calculate what they call your expected family contribution, often referred to as an EFC, I want to be really clear, your expected family contribution does not, again does not mean that is all that you'll be expected to pay at any school that you choose. Each and every school will compute your demonstrated financial need, and how they meet it, if they will meet it, differently. That's why yes, absolutely, you need to fill out the FAFSA, because that is what qualifies you for again, those federal loans and for Pell Grants. But running the net price calculator is so critically important because it's going to show you and demonstrate to you exactly how that school is going to hopefully continue to meet your need, and maybe even provide more aid than you expect. Or sometimes, unfortunately, schools that are not as generous with either merit or financial aid, you might find out that you're still expected to pay the full sticker price. So that's why filling out the FAFSA does qualify for aid and you will be able to use it everywhere. But there's more to the story. And that's what the net price price calculator does.


Liz Bolsoni  12:28
So thank you for the closer look into the details about applying and getting financial aid as we look at college. And like you said, those things are really challenging during a normal year, right? But this year has not been normal. And so there's even more stress as we apply for college and look into the future. What do you say to students who might feel like this is just not a good time to apply for college?


Jodi Furman  12:54
I mean, this past year has been immeasurably challenging in every possible way. But this is still a great time to apply to attend school. And while there are many, many ways to be successful that don't require a college degree, the statistics bear out that having a degree does correlate with future financial stability and success. There is a school out there that's going to meet your needs and work with your finances. It is never too late, even if you took time off, or decided not to go to school right after college excuse me, right after high school. It's never too late to pursue higher education. Right now is an excellent time. The silver lining also of the pandemic has been that a lot of schools have gotten away from looking at things such as standardized testing. So there's a lot of options and opportunities for people who either haven't been able to take testing or just don't do particularly well on testing. So there is some opportunity and some upside, again, a very small silver lining from a really terrible year. But now's a great time to apply.


Liz Bolsoni  14:00
So we've talked a lot about what the admissions process looks like for high school students enrolling into college for the first time. What advice do you have for students who are in college right now and are looking to maybe transfer or have had a change in income?


Jodi Furman  14:13
Sure. So let's talk first about transfer students. For transfer students. Many of the same rules apply that we talked about for people who are applying for first time in college, you want to run the net price calculator and see not just with a retail or sticker prices, but what the true bottom line is. Now for a current student, if you have a change in income or increased need, be sure to immediately reach out to your school's financial aid department speak with them. You can often file paperwork that will show them your new status. They might be able to kind of help you bridge that gap. They're absolutely a wealth of information. Additionally, there are scholarships that are available that might only be available to enrolled students. You might need to be a sophomore, junior or already have declared a major. Oftentimes those scholarships are tied to your major. So check your school's website, check with your advisor, and again, check with financial aid. They are there to assist you. They're there to help you. And they're trying to make it possible that you can remain enrolled in school.


Liz Bolsoni  15:13
So you've already mentioned a lot of great resources and tips and tricks for students who are navigating the admissions process in general. I was wondering if you have specific advice or resources for students from underserved and underrepresented communities in order to make the admissions process go more smoothly for them?


Jodi Furman  15:30
Sure, for students who are BIPOC, first generation and otherwise underrepresented or underserved, this process, which is already daunting, can seem even more daunting. But there are great resources and outreach there to help you, again through the Office of Higher Education, your school. But there's also foundations such as the College Access Challenge Grant Program, which not only provides information, but it will also provide assistance with all these processes, including filling out the FAFSA. It also provides professional guidance to help select schools and help to complete those application processes. Also, for high achieving students, there are programs such as the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, and QuestBridge, which aren't necessarily focused only on BIPOC, but all students who are under resourced. And they're there, again to provide application support, and many of them also provide financial support.


Liz Bolsoni  16:22
So to wrap up, students are facing so many challenges right now in their education. But this is such an exciting process to think about the future and begin applying for, for different postsecondary options. So what advice or parting words do you have to students as they begin to look at and wonder about their futures?


Jodi Furman  16:43
Great question. I think like many things, it's a really delicate balance. You certainly don't want this process to take over your life. But you also do need to do a little bit of research and have some intentionality. I often hear people just assuring students, "Oh, it'll work out." That is not entirely true, at least not with a little bit of research, again, to make this work. But it absolutely can and will. Please know, again, there's absolutely way that virtually every single student that's listening to this, every single student that is currently in high school or has graduated high school, or has gotten their GED, can afford to pursue higher education. We're beyond lucky also to live in a state like Minnesota, where there's multiple ways to make that happen. Please do not get overwhelmed and do not give up. Seek out help find the resources. Even if you graduated already from high school, go back and speak to the college counselor there. There are people and resources out there that can help you navigate this that they've done this countless times before. And absolutely, if there's a will, there's 100% a way to get this accomplished.


Liz Bolsoni  17:50
Thanks so much, Jodi, for sharing your expertise. And I hope that our student listeners are excited and feel a little bit more prepared as they begin the admissions process. So it was wonderful speaking with you, thank you.


Jodi Furman  18:02
Thank you again, for having me. I hope that I was able to clarify some things. And again, I'm really excited to be able to help people who might not think that there's opportunities out there for them to realize that there's tremendous opportunity for them.


Liz Bolsoni  18:15
Right. That's exactly what we want to get out of this episode. I just want to give a quick shout out to our listeners. Thank you again for spending some time with us today. This podcast is brought to you by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. Please dig into the resources we mentioned in this episode, which you can find in the show notes at our website Don't forget to follow this podcast on Apple, Spotify, Google Play or wherever you listen to podcasts, so that you don't miss any future episodes. Until next time, everyone I'm Liz Bolsoni. Stay well, stay hopeful, and stay ready because you all are the future.

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