The Parent’s Guide to Filling Out the FAFSA® Form

While the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form is the student’s application, we know that parents often play a large role in the process. After all, students who are considered dependent have to provide parental information on the FAFSA form anyway and must have a parent sign it. While we recommend that the student start his or her own FAFSA form, we know that’s not always what happens. With that in mind, we wanted to provide instructions for parents who are starting the FAFSA form on behalf of their child so you can avoid running into issues completing the form.

If you are a parent completing the FAFSA form for your child, follow these 8 steps:

Read More

3 Types of FAFSA® Deadlines You Should Pay Attention To

Ah, deadlines. The sworn enemy of students across the nation. When you’re busy with classes, extracurricular activities, and a social life in whatever time you’ve got left, it’s easy to lose track and let due dates start whooshing by. All of a sudden, your 10-page term paper is due in an hour, and you’re only on page 5 (with the help of 26-point type and triple line spacing). We get it.

Nevertheless, we’re here to point out a few critical deadlines that you really shouldn’t miss: those to do with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. By submitting your FAFSA form late, you might be forfeiting big money that can help you pay for college.

 

Here are those three deadlines:

Read More

10 Myths About the FAFSA and Applying for Financial Aid

10 Myths

There’s so much information available about financial aid for college that it can be hard to tell the facts from fiction.  We’ve got you covered!   Here are some common myths about financial aid and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®)—and we’ll give you the real scoop.

 

MYTH 1: My parents make too much money, so I won’t qualify for any aid.

FACT: The reality is there’s no income cut-off to qualify for federal student aid. It doesn’t matter if you have a low or high income, you will still qualify for some type of financial aid, including low-interest student loans. Many factors besides income—such as your family size and your year in school—are taken into account. Your eligibility is determined by a mathematical formula, not by your parents’ income alone.

TIP: When you fill out the FAFSA, you’re also automatically applying for funds from your state, and possibly from your school as well. In fact, some schools won’t even consider you for any of their scholarships (including academic scholarships) until you’ve submitted a FAFSA. Don’t make assumptions about what you’ll get—fill out the application and find out!

Read More

4 Things You Should Consider When Choosing A College

4 things to consider when choosing a college

A college or career school education = more money, more job options, and more freedom. Yet, with more than 7,000 colleges and universities nationwide, deciding which college is right for you can be difficult. Maybe you want to find a school with the best nursing program, or study abroad options, or the best college basketball team; every person values different things. However, it’s also important to remember that college is one of the biggest financial investments you will make in yourself. Just as important as academics and extracurricular activities are the financial factors: how much a college costs, whether students are likely to graduate on time, and, if alumni are able to find good jobs and pay off their loans. That is why the U.S. Department of Education developed the College Scorecard. It provides clear information to answer all of your questions regarding college costs, graduation, debt, and post-college earnings.

As you’re comparing colleges, use the College Scorecard to compare these four things:


1. Net Cost

For starters, you should consider how much you’ll actually be paying on an annual basis. That’s not necessarily the sticker price, but it’s the sticker price minus all of the scholarships and grants that you will receive when enrolling in an institution. This is called the net price, and it’s important because it’s the average amount students actually pay out of pocket. The College Scorecard can show you the average net price of each school compared to the national average. It can also give you a net price estimate for each school broken down by family income. Here’s an example:

College Scorecard - sample net cost of a college.

Read More

6 Things High School Grads Need to Do Before Leaving for College

high school grads

Your last high school prom is over and you’re counting down the days till graduation. Some of you may have even already graduated. Yes, freedom and plans for a fun-filled summer are just around the corner.  Before you know it, you’ll be loading up your belongings in the family minivan and heading off to college. You’re so ready, right? Well, maybe not. Here are some tips for things to do this summer before you head off to college.

1. Downsize, Get Organized & Learn How to Do Your Own Laundry

You’re not going to be able to take your whole closet and every cherished belonging with you to the dorm.  Start downsizing now and make a list of all the things you’ll need to take with you. A clean and tidy space will make things a lot more manageable. Most likely you’ll go home a time or two on break and you can swap out things that you don’t need for things that you do. But, in between those trips home, you’ll need to learn how to do laundry. Those whites can turn into some interesting colors and transform into a smaller size if you don’t know your way around a washer and dryer.

2. Understand Your Financial Situation

Each family’s situation is different – make sure you understand what your family may or may not be able to contribute. You should’ve already applied for financial aid.  If not, you need to complete the 2015-16 Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) ASAP! Make sure you list on the application the school code of the college you plan to attend so your information is sent to that school. If you still haven’t decided it’s best to list any school you think you may attend. The financial aid office will then notify you of any financial aid you might be eligible for.  Know what each of those types of aid is and in what order you should accept them.  Visit StudentAid.gov for information on planning and paying for college. Do you have enough money to pay for school? Will you need to work part-time? Make a budget and know what you can spend on certain things.

3. Get a Good Calendar and Prepare for a Whole New World of Time Management

One of the biggest challenges for a lot of you will be time management. When you head off to college, you won’t have somebody there to wake you up, make you breakfast and send you out the door in clean clothes with completed homework in hand. Set yourself up early with a class schedule (make a course syllabus your new best friend) and a system that works for you.  You need to know deadlines for registration, papers, financial aid, coursework and everything in between.  Your chance of succeeding academically will rapidly evaporate if you don’t manage your time well. You’re worth the investment – manage it well.

4. Craft a Good Resume and Learn How to Network

No, don’t wait until you’re approaching college graduation to write a cover letter and resume, you need one now. Having a compelling and professional resume and cover letter is vital to applying for part-time jobs, internships, etc. You might want to also consider changing your email address. Employers probably won’t be impressed with an email address like justheretoparty@XXmail.com.  Work experience can be just as important as good grades when looking for jobs after college graduation. Internships not only provide you with knowledgeable experiences in your field, but they also provide great networking opportunities.  Don’t settle in and nest, put yourself out there and go to as many networking events as possible.

5. Embrace Coupons and Master the Art of a Good Deal

Another difficult thing to learn is skipping those unnecessary splurges. Yes, I know it’s all about YOLO but you need to embrace BOGO. Coupons aren’t just for stay at home moms anymore.  Scoring deals whether in newspapers, magazines or with online sites like Groupon and Living Social it’s easier than ever.  But don’t get so caught up in the deals that you buy vouchers for things you end up not using.  That can cost rather than save you money. Save those splurges for when you score a great “Buy One Get One” free or other greatly discounted offer. Ask about student discounts and if available, a student advantage card.  Start practicing this summer.  It’ll impress your friends and it’ll be a little more money in your pocket when you get to campus. Another great way to save money is buying used textbooks rather than new. Search sites like bigwords.com, Amazon, and TextbooksRUs to name a few.  If you buy new and then resell them back to the college bookstore check online sites first for what they’re worth.  College bookstore buy back rates are sometimes as low as 10% of what you paid for it new. Lots of students are also renting textbooks on sites like chegg.com.

6. Learn How to Keep You and Your Things Safe

Yes, you need to remember to lock your dorm room and place that lock on your laptop. Losing your laptop can wreak havoc on your studies and a theft due to an unlocked door can also ruin your relationship with your roommate. Start practicing being more aware of your surroundings and keeping yourself safe. Program your school’s campus security number into your phone.  You never know when you might need it. Safety also applies to protecting your social security number, usernames and passwords. Your social security number is one of the main identifiers when checking on things like financial aid, grades, and registering for classes.  Make sure all your passwords and important numbers are not on a post-it-note on your desk.  Store them in a secure place.  Not protecting your identity and important information can have lasting long-term effects on your ability to get a job and apply for credit.

Congratulations on a job well done and making the decision to advance your education!

Susan Thares is the digital engagement lead for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid.