Top College Planning Questions from Parents: Part 2 | College Made Simple

Here’s the next installment in what will be a continuing series of frequently asked questions parents have about college and the college admissions process.

Feel free to send in any you may have yourself and we’ll see if we can add them to the list!

Q: What are some questions I should be asking a school’s financial aid officer?

A:  Keeping in touch with a school’s financial aid office is your best way to stay on top of a process you’ll likely have to go through each year your child is in college.

Make sure you’ve got all the info you need so that nothing falls through the cracks.  Below are a list of questions you’ll definitely want to get answers to.

  • Does the college offer need-based or merit-based assistance or both?
  • Can they provide an early estimate of what my financial aid award could be?
  • What is included in an aid package?  Books? Room and board? Transportation? Additional class fees?
  • Is there a multiple year commitment for any aid packages?
  • Is there an appeal process for financial aid decisions?
  • At what point should forms for the following school year be filed?
  • Is there a timeframe on how long students can receive aid?
  • What sort of payment options are available? (monthly, quarterly etc…)

Q: How is the ACT test scored?

A: With the ACT becoming just as common for high school students to take as the SAT, there’s often times a lot of wondering on how it’s actually scored.

ACT scores are based on the number of questions answered correctly by the student. There are no points deducted for an incorrect answer. The raw scores on each section are added up into scale scores which range from 1-36.

Next to each scaled score you’ll find a percentile ranking.  These tell you the percentage of people who performed better or worse than you did on the test. For example, a percentile ranking of 84 shows you that that 83% of the people who took the test scored lower than you did, and 16% scored higher.

The ACT also gives you subscores for particular subcategories on three of the tests. It goes like this:

  • English: usage/mechanics and rhetorical skills
  • Mathematics: pre-algebra/elementary algebra, algebra/coordinate geometry, and plane/geometry/trigonometry
  • Reading: studies/natural sciences and prose fiction/humanities.
  • Science Reasoning test: none

The subscores range on a scale of 1 to 18 and are also reported as percentiles.  They’re not much use to colleges but they’re a great way of showing where your strengths and weaknesses lie in each section.

Your final composite score is the average of your four scaled scores on each test section.  So that will also range from 1-36.   And this is obviously the number that colleges will be taking the hard look at.

Q: If my child got great grades in high school, does that mean they will in college too?

A: Well sure if you’ve got a 4.0 student on your hands, it’s reasonable to expect that your student will likely have a successful college career as well.  But don’t make the mistake of thinking just because they got straight A’s in high school that they’ll do JUST as well at the next level.

College isn’t high school and the level of difficulty of the courses will prove that quickly. It’s not uncommon for your student’s first semester to be their worst grade-wise. They’re adjusting to harder classes, more demanding teachers, a brand new academic environment, perhaps a new living environment and of course the limitless possibilities of a college social life.

It’s natural, especially if they’re living away from home, for a student to have trouble with things like time management and self motivation. Give them a chance to get used to being a college student. If they’ve demonstrated that they’re a good student, they’ll most likely end up that way again shortly.

Hopefully these helped shed some light on some questions you may have been wondering about. I’ll be back soon with another installment in an effort to help clear up any confusion you may have about this VERY confusing process…

To your successful college search,

Jodi Polster

Education Director,

P.S. Follow this link for more college planning questions and answers.

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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News,, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.