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Occidental College: A Great West Coast School

college funding services, financial aid, college planning, college admissions, occidental college, college

Occidental College: A Great West Coast School

Occidental (“Oxy”) gives you lots of reasons to love it, from academics, to financial aid, to location—even to its food! If you and your child will consider a California liberal arts college, Occidental should place high on your list.

Oxy wants its students to roll up their sleeves and dig deeply into something through research.  The school provides both access and support to make that happen.  Undergrads can pursue their research interests through joining a faculty team already engaged on a project, through interacting with the resources that Los Angeles offers (like museums, archives, and other cultural institutions), or even through traveling abroad.  As a financial aid recipient myself, I had to earn money towards my tuition over the summers, which made something like a summer research project inaccessible to me.  Oxy uses grant funding to make such opportunities available to all, including those who must earn money to help pay for school.

Increased access characterizes Oxy when it comes to the economics of college as well.  Compared to other elite colleges and universities, Oxy has among the lowest median family income, signifying an unusually high level of socioeconomic diversity on campus, according to The New York Times.  It ranks in the top third on Kiplinger’s Best College Values list for liberal arts colleges.  Financial aid expert Bill Rabbitt calls Occidental “a better value for a high need family” than some other selective liberal arts colleges.  According to Rabbitt, Occidental meets 100% of demonstrated need; however, only about 18% of accepted students receive merit scholarships, making Occidental less of a value than some other schools—like Clark University, for example—for a non-need family.

Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of quality of life.  Oxy ranks #8 on The Daily Meal’s “75 Best Colleges for Food.”  All dining locations at Oxy make food from scratch and in small batches.  If you don’t like what sound like delectable menu offerings (balsamic glazed chicken, butternut squash risotto), you can custom order anything you want.  A little bit of Los Angeles makes its way to campus when food trucks come for lunch every Thursday.  Outside the Oxy campus, Los Angeles awaits.  Anna Hunter, co-founder of a company that provides career support for young professionals, loves her adopted city.  She urges Oxy students to take advantage of their Eagle Rock location, where they can find great hiking and an artsy vibe:  “There’s a lot happening in that part of town.  Eagle Rock is, in a lot of ways, a hidden pocket, a part of L.A. that a lot of people don’t know about.”

Occidental College offers it students access to a top-ranked liberal arts education that includes opportunities for serious research at the undergraduate level.  Those who need it get significant financial aid, resulting in a college community that brings together young people from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.  Together, they get to enjoy a welcoming campus, complete with great food, and one of L.A.’s hidden gem neighborhoods that gives them access to both the arts and the outdoors.

By: Eva Ostrum


An award-winning educator, Eva has worked in college admissions on both sides of the desk:  as an undergraduate admissions officer at Yale University – her alma mater – and as a teacher, school administrator, and private college admissions coach supporting students and families through the process.  She is the author of The Thinking Parent’s Guide to College Admissions:  The Step-by-Step Program to Get Kids into the Schools of Their Dreams (Penguin Books, 2006) and the executive producer of Turusma:  A Young Man’s Journey to College, a documentary short that screened at juried film festivals both in the U.S. and abroad and won an award for excellence at the Berkeley Video and Film Festival (2002).  Eva has taught at the high school and college levels, served as a school leader, and consulted on educational interventions and policy for public and private organizations around the country.  She has appeared as a guest expert on education in numerous media outlets (including NBC’s Weekend Today).  Eva graduated from Yale University with a Bachelor of Arts in French Studies and from the Harvard Kennedy School with a Master’s in Public Policy.  She is is currently seeking her doctorate in Educational Psychology.  A native New Yorker, she and her family live in New York City.

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2019 Paying/Borrowing Timeline

Paying/Borrowing Timeline

Although we’re a little over 3 months away from fall semester bills we want to start to get a better idea on how we will paying that bill.  

The ideal situation is that families have the resources to cover the net cost at the chosen school. In that case, the main focus is how to strategically use what resources and when to use them.  The reality, however, is most families will have to borrow in order to make this happen. In this case, we want to make sure we make educated decisions around that and do it in the most responsible way.  Furthermore, many will likely be somewhere in the middle of these two scenarios.

The video above takes a high level look at the timeline around paying and borrowing for college.

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Why College Fairs Are Important

Why College Fairs Are Important

Juniors returning from campus trips want to keep the momentum going and continue visiting colleges closer to home on weekends. For those who cannot make any further excursions, college fairs can be the next best option. Here’s how to make the most of them.

Let your son/daughter take the lead

College fairs are meant to be an opportunity for students to confer with admissions reps. Parents, no matter how well-meaning, interfere with that valuable time and may be viewed by the reps as “helicopter parents.” If you have a question or two that you want your student to ask, write it down, and ask him/her to jot down the response.

Head straight to your first choice(s)

Every college fair provides a map of the colleges represented. Because the lines grow quickly, begin with those where you may wait a few minutes to introduce yourself. The less popular schools tend to have shorter lines anyway so you can save those for later.

Be open-minded, explore options.  

It’s only natural to stop at the colleges you’ve heard of, and those already on your list. Yet, college fairs are precisely the place to expand your thinking and to explore alternatives to the few colleges you might already be considering. Widen your net and take a chance on a college rep whose table is quiet. He or she may truly surprise you!

Don’t be shy.  

While it can be difficult to simply walk up to someone and start asking questionsthe reps do want to meet you. It helps to have some prepared questions, but do not ask questions whose answers you can easily find on the college website. In other words, don’t ask how many majors a school offers or if it has club lacrosse. Do ask questions that may be more nuanced – “can you explain how I can get involved in research as a freshman?” or “tell me the most unique feature about X College” or “how would you describe the quintessential X University student?”

Write it down.

 Keep a college notebook with the details that you’ve gleaned and the name of the person you met. Don’t be embarrassed to request a business card (sometimes they’re right on the table) and make sure to send an email thank you to the rep with whom you spoke. When application time comes in the fall, you may interject those details in the supplemental questions on your application. And if you plan to visit a particular college after the fair, email your contact person and let him/her know when you will be on campus.

Always fill out the ‘contact card’

Most college reps give you a card to fill out. These are an expression of your “demonstrated interest” so always hand them back. Many schools monitor how many contacts you’ve made with their college so every connection counts.


Author: Franca Rawitz


Franca Rawitz has been successfully guiding students on their college journey for the past 13 years. She empowers students to take control of their college path and to achieve success in a sensible and strategic way. Through personalized guidance and 24/7 support, she allays student anxieties and parent concerns by organizing the entire admissions process.

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Verification and IDOC

College Funding Services - IDOC and Federal Verification

IDOC and the federal verification process is what you can expect to tackle once the FAFSA, CSS Profile, and any other financial aid forms are submitted. Here is what you need to know.





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How I was accepted at Vanderbilt, Carnegie Mellon, NYU, BU, Michigan and more!

College Funding Services - Accepted at NYU, Michigan, Vanderbilt

How I was accepted at Vanderbilt, Carnegie Mellon, NYU, BU, Michigan and more! Take a few minutes to learn what advice Lucy Altus has for college applicants and and how she was able to have so much success in the financial aid and admissions process.









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You won’t believe how American University treated this family who made a mistake on the FAFSA

College Funding Services - Mistake on FAFSA


Thank you to Magda for sharing her story with the CFS community. Not all schools will conduct themselves as American University did in this situation. Having said that, we always want to shine a light on the fact that, although they are in the world of academia, colleges are very much BIG BUSINESS and are very much concerned about their  own bottom line. Ensure that you are prepared accordingly.

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The biggest piece of advice from parent’s who have just gone through the college process.

We survey parent’s at the end of every year. Matt shares the biggest piece of advice from parent’s who have just gone through the college process.



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We don’t qualify for NEED-based aid…what can we do?

College Funding Services - Low Need

If you are a family who will not be eligible to receive need-based financial aid, it is even more important to be strategic with college selection. Be sure some of your colleges also offer merit aid, as that is where you will see your discounts.



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Class of 2019 July Checklist

Knowledge is power! All CFS clients receive a monthly checklist to stay ahead of the curve and know whats around the next turn. One of the ways we limit the stress, anxiety, and cost of college!