Preparation is the key to success in any task, and preparing for success in college and careers should start as early as possible. This is not a task that children can do alone: a parent’s guidance and direction is needed. And, it’s never too soon to start planning for a bright future.
Help your children take the right steps to apply for the college, university, or technical training program of their choice, so they can move forward on the path to a fulfilling career.
If you’re a parent of a college bound child, the financial aid process can seem a bit overwhelming. Who’s considered the parent? Who do you include in household size? How do assets and tax filing fit into the process? Does this have to be done every year? Here are some common questions that parents have when helping their children prepare for and pay for college or career school:
Why does my child need to provide my information on the FAFSA?
While we provide over $150 billion in financial aid each year, the federal student aid programs are based on the assumption that it is primarily your and your child’s responsibility to pay for college. If your child was born after January 1, 1991 then most likely he or she is considered a dependent student and you’ll need to include your information on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSASM).
Who’s considered a parent when completing the FAFSA?
If you need to report parent information, here are some guidelines to help you:
If your legal parents (your biological and/or adoptive parents) are married to each other, answer the questions about both of them, regardless of whether your parents are of the same or opposite sex.
If your legal parents are not married to each other and live together, answer the questions about both of them, regardless of whether your parents are of the same or opposite sex.
If your parent is widowed or was never married, answer the questions about that parent.
When completing your child’s FAFSA, you should include parents, any dependent student(s) and any other child who lives at home and receives more than half of their support from you in the household size. Also include any people who are not your children but who live with you and for whom you provide more than half of their support.
Do I need to wait until I file my income taxes?
In some states there are deadlines for additional monies so you’ll want to complete the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1st. You do not need to wait until you file your federal tax return. If you haven’t done your taxes by the time you complete the FAFSA, you can estimate amounts based on the previous year if nothing has drastically changed. After you file your taxes, you’ll need to log back in to the FAFSA and correct any estimated information. If you’ve already filed your taxes, you can use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to automatically pull in your tax information directly from the IRS into the FAFSA.
Do I need to do this every year?
Yes, you and your child need to complete the FAFSA each year in order for your child to be considered for federal student aid. The good news is that each subsequent year you can use the Renewal Application option so you only have to update information that has changed from the previous year!
Holiday and winter breaks are just weeks away, and while students and teachers will get a well-deserved break from the classroom, it doesn’t mean children need to stop learning. Here are a few tips to keep children’s minds sharp and challenged during their break, and it might just prevent cabin fever:
Have your child read to you daily from the newspaper, a magazine, or excerpts from their favorite book, and let your child see you reading.
Use the winter break to strengthen your child’s vocabulary. This is a perfect time to start a treasure chest of words, by having your child look up new words, then write the word and definition on 3×5 cards. Use the word in a sentence or have them write a story based on the word. This exercise will reinforce reading comprehension and writing skills.
Give your child an opportunity to appreciate the arts by attending free events like concerts or plays during the holidays, or stop by a local museum.
Give a book or educational gift that will keep on giving throughout the year.
In the last few months, all across the country, millions of students headed back to school. For many, this was a season of memorable experiences: having their fathers accompany them to their classrooms on the first day, pick them up from their first afterschool activity, and help them study for their first test. Activities like these highlight an important pillar of this Administration’s education agenda: encouraging caring adults – especially parents, and dads in particular – to take an interest in the academic performance of every child.
Family and parent engagement is a leading driver in students’ academic success. Research has linked meaningful family engagement to results like improved grades, higher achievement test scores, lower drop-out rates, increased confidence and ability to learn, and a stronger sense of the value of education. For these and many other reasons, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans supports opportunities for fathers, families and communities to engage with students throughout the school year.
Last December, the Department released a draft framework emphasizing the importance of building effective school, family and community partnerships to support learning and development for children. Created at the Department’s request by Dr. Karen Mapp, from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, this framework encourages schools and districts to include parents and families as partners in the learning process. The framework suggests strategies like professional development, effective communication, and engagement strategies directly tied to student learning, as ways to work meaningfully with families. And, this is a two-way partnership. It’s vital to equip districts, school leaders, teachers and school staff to work with families. It’s equally important for families to feel comfortable and welcome in their children’s schools, and to play an active role in supporting their academic success.
It’s back-to-school time, which means that Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and senior ED officials are hitting the road once again for the Department’s annual back-to-school bus tour. This year’s tour, themed Strong Start, Bright Future, will run September 9-13 and includes visits to states throughout the Southwest with stops in the following cities:
It’s almost that time of year again. Yes, in a few weeks school will be back in session. Is your child ready to succeed? Are you ready to help?
It’s a fact: Parents who play an active role in their children’s education make a huge difference in their success. Here are some things you can do to help your child prepare for the upcoming school year:
Get the children to bed on time. During the summer, children aren’t always on a schedule. But, proper rest is essential for a healthy and productive school year. Help your child get used to the back-to-school routine: start the transition now to earlier wake-up times and bedtimes. For more information, visit: http://www.ed.gov/parents/countdown-success
Communicate with teachers and the school. Contact your child’s teachers at the start of the school year. Get acquainted with them and let them know you want to be an active partner in helping your student to learn and grow. Plan to keep track of your child’s subjects, homework, activities and progress throughout the school year. And, consider serving on your local PTA or joining other parent groups that engage with and support your child’s school. For additional ideas, go to: http://www2.ed.gov/parents/academic/help/succeed/succeed.pdf
Provide for healthy meals. Hungry kids can’t concentrate on learning, so good nutrition plays an important role in your child’s school performance. Studies show that children who eat healthy, balanced breakfasts and lunches do better in school. Fix nutritious meals at home, and, if you need extra help, find out if your family qualifies for any Child Nutrition Programs, like the National School Lunch Program. Learn more at: http://www.usa.gov/Topics/Back-to-School.shtml
Prepare a study area. Set up a special place at home to do school work and homework. Remove distractions. Make it clear that education is a top priority in your family: show interest and praise your child’s work.
Read Together. Take the pledge to read with your child for 20 minutes every day. Your example reinforces the importance of literacy, and reading lets you and your child explore new worlds of fun and adventure together.
Diondra Hicks is a student at Georgetown University and an intern in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and staff from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) recently released an “It Gets Better” video to address the importance of fostering safe spaces for learning across the country. Part of the Department’s initiative is ensuring that students are protected from the harmful effects of bullying within their communities.
One of the tools available to help is StopBullying.gov. The site offers a variety of resources for students, teachers, and parents to help with conflict resolution, provide support to those affected by bullying, and promote general acceptance within their local communities for the upcoming school year and beyond. Here are few tips from the site that you might find helpful:
Assessing Bullying and Aiding in Conflict Resolution: It is important to confront bullying at its source and address conflicts between students as responsibly as possible. StopBullying.gov is a fantastic resource for understanding how parents, educators, teens and kids can all play a role in understanding bullying, stopping it at its source and keeping it from escalating further.
Providing Support: It is critical to provide a strong support structure and network of allies for victims of bullying within local communities. Responding to bullying appropriately is critical for the well-being of all students involved.
Support the kids involved, whether this means simply communicating to victims of bullying that it is not their fault, or helping them gain access to counseling or mental health services to cope with the effects of bullying.
Be more than a bystander by being an ally to victims of bullying by reporting abuse, helping to resolve a situation, or by simply being a good friend.
Promoting and Guaranteeing Acceptance in Your Community: While bullying in your community may be a local issue, there are many state and federal laws that protect victims of bullying.
There are a variety of laws that protect victims of bullying across the country against discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or religion. It is important for students and parents to know their rights and seek out the appropriate support if they feel that their or their child’s civil rights have been violated.
Students who identify as LGBT or youth with special needs are more likely to be targets of bullying and have a greater chance of feeling subjugated as an effect. It is important to support the individual needs of these students and there are resources available to help fight for the rights of these groups specifically.
Creating student-led organizations such as Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA) or Diversity organizations, something that Secretary Duncan underscored on National GSA Day, can help provide critical support for students who feel like they have nowhere else to go. The Equal Access Act of 1984 and many state and local laws guarantee the right to create these types of groups in schools if student need is demonstrated.
We hope that these resources can aid in stopping bullying at its source and give victims strategies to combat bullying, help individuals stand up to injustice in their communities, and ultimately improve the welfare of students.
Secretary Duncan recently noted that “all of us here at the Department of Education are committed to making sure that young people today can grow up free of fear, violence, and bullying and do everything we can to protect them.”
Adam Sperry is a student at New York University and a current intern in the Office of Communication & Outreach at the U.S. Department of Education.
Summer is the best time to provide your child with snacks that promote energy and good healthy eating practices and to make sure they get the exercise and rest they need. Here are a few tips for your child’s summer health.
Make sure your child is getting daily exercise. Encourage your child to stay active. Have them walk, run, swim, play sports, jump rope, ride bikes, or go skating daily. Check out LetsMove.gov for more information.
Photo courtesy of LetsMove.gov
Make sure your child eats healthy. Give your child healthy snacks. Prepare snack bags of vegetables such as carrots, celery, or cucumbers and/or fruit such as apples, pears, or berries.
It’s summer time! Across the nation thousands of recent high school graduates are enjoying their last summer before their first college semester. They are submitting deposits, selecting courses, packing, and anxiously awaiting their first day. However, a large portion of students from low-income communities will have a very different summer experience. Despite being college eligible and in some cases even enrolled, these students will not attend in the fall and will instead “melt” away during the summer.
This is called “summer melt”. Nationally about 10 to 20 percent of college eligible students melt away, most of which are low-income minority students planning to enroll in community college. In the Southwest district that includes Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico, 44 percent of students melt away. The melt was 19 percent for four-year institutions and 37 percent for community colleges in 2011. The lower a student’s income, the more likely they are to experience summer melt because they lack the necessary resources and support. This means that we are losing future Latino leaders and innovators over the summer. We cannot allow this to happen. A higher education is not just a pathway to opportunity, it is a prerequisite.
This is an important issue for the Latino community because the jobs of the 21st century will require some workforce training or postsecondary education. As more Latinos graduate from high school every year we need to ensure that they not only access higher education but are prepared to graduate. By 2050 about 30 percent of the US population will be Latino. Also for a majority of low-income minority students, community college is often the selected path to obtain a college degree. So we must address summer melt to increase the number of Latinos earning two and four-year degrees.
This issue can be alleviated via simple measures at home during summer. Parents, speak frequently with your child about college and help them prepare for their fall semester. Encourage them to attend their freshman orientation and encourage them to interact with friends who are enrolled and attending college. Furthermore, encourage your student to remain in contact with school counselors, teachers, and college administrators over summer to ensure that their questions are answered. Students, make sure that you get organized over summer and stay on top of all deadlines. Remember, you are already accepted but you cannot get your college degree if you do not show up.
Alejandra Ceja is the executive director for the White House Initiative on Education Excellence for Hispanics
Did you know? Students can experience learning loss when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer months. On average, students lose the equivalent of two months of math and reading skills during the summer months. More than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities.
This summer, let’s work to change that. Together, parents, guardians, and community members can help give our children the best foundation for the upcoming school year.
Encourage reading all summer long. This will help prevent the “summer slide” and provide benefits that can be seen year-round.
Visit the local library and help your child put together a summer reading list. Celebrate each time he or she finishes a book, this will encourage them to complete the list by the time the summer ends.
Summer is the perfect time to let your child’s imagination run wild and stimulate creativity. Kids.gov provides resources for arts and crafts projects that will keep children engaged and their minds active while having fun.
NGA Kids – Choose from a variety of activities or projects from the National Gallery of Art, enjoy an animated musical adventure, take a tour through the sculpture garden, and more.
Smithsonian – Are your children fans of Night at the Museum? Then this is the perfect activity for them. Here you are magically taken to the museums at night. To get back home, you have to solve mysteries and help your new friends find their artworks.
Stay Active & Healthy:
In addition to academic risks, children can also be at an increased risk of weight gain when they are out of school during the summer months. Take advantage of the warmer weather and keep youth active outdoors.
KidsHealth.org – How do you feed a picky eater or encourage a child to play outside? Learn how to keep your child healthy with the right foods and exercise.
Let’s Move! – Opportunities for kids to be physically active, both in and out of school and create new opportunities for families to be moving together.
USDA Summer Food Program– This U.S. Department of Agriculture program provides free meals to all children 18 years old and under in areas with significant concentrations of low-income children.
Keynote speaker Helen Littlejohn told parents they are critical to the success of their students
Like many around the country, parents in Nevada’s Clark County School District are hungry for information about how they can support their children’s education. At a recent event hosted by the school district and its community partners, Las Vegas-area moms and dads had the chance to learn new information and find practical answers to their questions in a supportive atmosphere. “Family Enrichment Day provides an opportunity for families to connect to learning and to foster school-to-home relationships,” said Eva Melendrez, the District’s Parent Services Coordinator. “The event makes learning fun, through interactive workshops and activities for the entire family,” she added.
The Clark County School District focuses on increasing parent participation in a number of ways, with community partnerships and Parent Centers and Family Resource Centers on several campuses. Staffed by AmeriCorps volunteers, the centers focus on communities experiencing high dropout rates. They also have a district-wide Parent Engagement Forum that provides valuable two-way information and feedback concerning social and academic issues.
For the first time, the Las Vegas Alliance of Black School Educators was a co-sponsor of the event. “It was a great experience for us to start getting more African American parents and families to participate,” said Tracey Lewis, local chapter president. “We are looking forward to continuing this collaboration with the district and expanding our efforts,” she said. “This is about getting important information to families in clear, understandable ways,” she added, “so they can prepare their students for college.”
Over 400 parents representing 53 schools joined students at the Clark County family engagement fair. Staff from the U.S. Department of Education were on hand with a clear message: parents are critical partners in the educational success of their children. “We must teach our children to be critical, creative thinkers, problem solvers who will invent the next great things, who will fearlessly attack the challenges of our time and those of the future,” said keynoter Helen Littlejohn, the Department’s communications director for the western states. Littlejohn led a chant of “¡Tú tienes la fuerza!” – “You have the power!” – and shared stories of parents in communities of color supporting education.
Participants were entertained as well as informed. The day was packed with academically enriching activities in math, science and literacy, in addition to a “Let’s Go to College!” session offered by the state-funded campaign Go to College Nevada. Parents also learned some effective ways to engage with teachers, in order to better support their students.
Clark County parents filled the breakout session rooms to learn about ways to support their children.
The event was held on a college campus, to “demystify” the college environment and allow participants to grow comfortable navigating the grounds. For students and parents alike, the day at UNLV underscored the importance of great teaching and learning, and fostered the desire to finish high school and pursue higher education. Participating parents gave the day high marks, and highlighted what they’d learned, from the importance of reading with their children, to a new found confidence that the students in their family could earn a college degree.
While Nevada moves forward in developing evaluations that will hold teachers and administrators accountable for family engagement, officials are working to design additional opportunities for district-wide parent engagement, as well as supporting schools as they create school-family engagement plans. As Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky says, “Together, we can ensure the success of every student in every classroom – without exceptions, and without excuses!”
“Families want the chance to achieve the American Dream and to pass the baton of opportunity to their children” – Mayor Julián Castro, who spoke about his Pre-K 4 SA early childhood initiative.
During our recent visit to San Antonio, we had the opportunity to learn how community organizations and schools are working together to engage families in education.
We heard from San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro how the community has rallied to support the expansion of pre-kindergarten education. In November, San Antonio residents approved funding for Pre-K for San Antonio that will provide over 22,000 four year olds with high-quality pre-K. President Obama has put forth a “Preschool for All” proposal in his Fiscal Year 2014 budget, which calls for a partnership with states in making access to high-quality early learning a reality for every four-year-old in America. Studies prove that children who have rich early learning experiences are better prepared to thrive in school.
During our visit to the Eastside Promise Neighborhood we learned how family and community engagement efforts being led by the United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County are moving forward the three goals of Together for Tomorrow:
They are laying the groundwork by dedicating staff and volunteers to cultivate and sustain partnerships;
They are focusing on the ABCs, Attendance, Behavior, Course Performance, and College Access through things like parent volunteers doing visits to homes when students are repeatedly absent; and
They are celebrating and inspiring families and community members to get involved through events that are organized and executed by parents.
We also organized a community discussion to share about Together for Tomorrow, to learn more about local promising practices and examples of school-family partnerships, and to gather feedback to shape the Department’s family engagement efforts. Hedy Chang from Attendance Works joined us to announce a new toolkit, Bringing Attendance Home: Engaging Parents in Preventing Chronic Absence
The event was live streamed and the video is available here. We were joined by our partners, the National Center for Family Literacy, and will be working with them over the coming months to deepen our family and community engagement efforts with Together for Tomorrow.
Brenda Girton-Mitchell is director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Education