FAFSA: What You Need to Know Right Now!

FAFSA: What You Need to Know Right Now!

How to fill out the FAFSA:



Why fill out the FAFSA?


FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  Your child’s college career could hinge on this one form. Fill out the FAFSA!  Even if you think you won’t qualify, fill it out.   The FAFSA will determine whether or not your student will receive Federal Student Aid, it will ALSO determine any monies he or she will receive from the schools that they apply to as well.  Most schools will require you to fill this out, so do it right away. In other words, the information that is provided when filling out this form could help your family to get more money from different colleges! (Read our post on applying for colleges)

It is very important that you fill this out for many reasons.  The due date is October 1, more on that below…


–The main purpose of the FAFSA is to determine your EFC.  This is an acronym for the Expected Family Contribution.  This is a number determined by your answers on the FAFSA.  It is a calculated number that the government thinks that your family should be able to pay towards your child’s college.  The number we received would work if both my husband and I each had full time, high paying jobs, and we lived on pork and beans every night, and never did anything that cost any money!  In other words, don’t expect for your EFC to be realistic!  This is a whole other blog post topic!


When to fill out the FAFSA:


–You need to fill out the FAFSA–no matter what!  And, fill it out in a timely manner.  In other words, do this by the due date, again, the date is October 1.  This is a suggested due date, however, all of these scholarship packages will be determined by this information, so don’t delay too much longer.  Yes, it does determine the need based federal aid money for students who need it.  But, it also helps schools determine the money that they give out for merit based aid.  This is FREE money for your student.  Schools give out the money on a first come, first serve basis, so if you want any chance of merit based aid, fill that puppy out.  


–The FAFSA is NOT JUST for need based aid.  We thought about not filling it out because we knew that we would not qualify for the need based aid.  But, by just filling out the FAFSA, my son receives $1000 off of his yearly tuition.  Even if he qualified for no other scholarships, they reward this amount for filling out the form!  So, check with your child’s college and see if there is a similar situation.  Aid is often determined by the numbers that you put on this form.   


–After the FAFSA due date has arrived, each college starts rewarding their merit based aid.  This is determined by the FAFSA, GPA, and various other factors such as ACT/SAT scores and strength of resumes.  This is where hard work during high school; both in class and out will really help!  Your student will start to hear back from colleges after they have applied.  Each school will send out letters of acceptance and denial.  


–In acceptance letters, colleges will include their financial aid package.  These could just be estimates, so read carefully.  Keep track of all offers, and use them to get colleges to compete with each other to get your student to attend their particular school.  A financial aid package can be appealed and should be, if your child really wants one school, but got a better package from another, let their favored school know.  This is expected and it can work!  


–As your child finishes up the first semester of their senior year in high school, send updates of their GPA and resume to each school for which they have applied.  It is still early in the game, and this can help with a better financial aid package.  If a life changing experience  has occurred, such as:  divorce, a death in the family or some sort of accident, let the college know.  This is information schools need that could make a difference to the bottom line!


How to fill out the FAFSA:


–FIRST, go to Fafsa.ed.gov and create a FSA ID for both you and your child.  Then, fill out the FAFSA4caster.  This will give you an idea of how to fill out the actual form when it is time.  It will also give you an idea of all of the information you will need for filling out the dang thing!  You will need your federal tax information, social security number, W2s, and any asset information.   Filling out the 4caster will give you an idea of aid eligibility for decision making.  Do this now, as in after you finish reading this blog post.   


–SECOND, when you are ready, log back into the FAFSA website, and get this form filled out so that you can submit it right on the due date which is OCTOBER 1.  It is a process, and not something that you want to think that you can do quickly some evening!  Take your time.  


–DO NOT make any errors on the FAFSA!  Triple check and then check again that you have entered everything on the form correctly.  Have your spouse or significant other check it as well, a new pair of eyes can catch mistakes that you have overlooked the first 3 times that you checked for mistakes.  Mistakes will lead to delays in your child receiving financial aid.  


–Your child does not have to decide on a school at the time that you fill out the FAFSA, but fill it out anyway ON TIME or soon thereafter.***  Once you have filled out the FAFSA for your oldest, then you will have to continue to re-submit yearly.  (This is so that the government can check your child’s eligibility status, which will change if your finances change or you have more than one kid in college!) There is a renewal option with some categories which will be pre-populated, but check all of this information carefully and make sure that it is all up-to-date.  Most of the new info needed will be based on taxes paid.  


Once the FAFSA is filled out, be sure that the colleges of choice are notified that you have submitted the complete form.  This is also a good time to check each college’s website for admissions requirements and scholarship opportunities at the school.  You really need to dig for this information sometimes, but is worth the extra effort.  Every penny that your child is given by the college, is one less penny out of your pocket, or your child’s!


***If you plan on attending college from July 1, 2017-June 30, 2018, you will need to submit the FAFSA from October 1, 2016- June 30, 2018 using income from 2015.  Moving forward, the suggested submission date from here on out, will be October 1 of each year.


Another form you might need to fill out is the CSS Profile. https://student.collegeboard.org/css-financial-aid-profile.  This asks for lots more information than the FAFSA, but is necessary for many private colleges.  This is how they decide to distribute their non-federal aid, in other words, merit based aid.  It is $25 for the first college you have to submit this to, and $16 for each college after.  (I will say, we didn’t have to do this for my son who is attending a private school.  He received a much larger financial aid package from this private school than the local state school–many thousands more, so filling this out might be helpful, if they require it.  Make sure it’s necessary before filling it out though.)

I will say that, in my opinion, getting student loans may not be worth it in the end. Is a gap year for better finances an option?  Outside scholarships are great, but start looking before your senior year.  Weigh all of your options and do the math.  Will your major and work experience by the end of college provide you hopefully with a job that will give you the income needed to pay back your loans?  Student loans are a whole other blog post as well because they are terrible things to start your life with after college.


So, that is the low down on the FAFSA.  It is not something to ignore or forget.  It will make a difference to what you and your family will have to pay.


Fill the FAFSA out every year because financial aid is determined yearly.

*One note, it is NOT due by October 1.  However, that is the first day that it will be accepted.  Don’t wait to get around to it.  It is something you need to make time for very soon.  It is true that schools will give out monies based on the fact that the FAFSA is submitted.  Many schools have already started accepting students.  Scholarship packages will be assigned based on this information, so don’t delay too much:)


Here are a couple of resources that  you can visit for more information.










Now, go fill it out!!

Let us know how it goes!


Time to Apply for Colleges-Quick How-to’s

Time to Apply for Colleges-Quick How-to’s

Time to apply to colleges!

It is now time to think about applying for colleges.  

They are all sending information to prospective students via email and snail mail.  It is such fun to receive all of this!  

So, where to start, you ask.  Throw away any that you know that you are not interested in.  This will eliminate over half of what you receive.  Either in your trash can or email trash.  Do not get behind on this because your stack will grow and your inbox will get to be overwhelming.  

Next, prioritize the rest in the order in which the due dates fall.  Some will be immediate, others not for awhile.  Some have an early decision date which is binding, others have early decision which is non-binding.  Some have rolling decision dates, which means that you have more time.  

For the applications which you have decided to fill out, look on each college’s website.  What is their tuition package?  What sorts of scholarships are available?  Is there a tiered fee structure?  Where do you fall in all of that?  This might help to eliminate more from your stack. One more thing to look at as far as applications, is whether or not they charge an application fee.  These can add up, so be sure that if you spend that money, it is really somewhere that you can see yourself going to for the next 4 years.

Fill out the FAFSA The due date is October 1.  Do not wait until the first to fill it out!  It takes hours to get it all filled in, doublechecked and completed!

Register for the ACT and/or SAT again, if those scores are something which you are wanting to improve upon.  You can still apply for colleges, you will just have to update the score for them either yourself or via the test center.  

Some schools ask for the ACT composite score.  This is the score of each subtest which is then divided by the number of subtests.  Your composite score and each test score (English, mathematics, reading, science) range from 1 (low) to36 (high) is the average of your four test scores, rounded to the nearest whole number. Fractions less than one-half are rounded down; fractions one-half or more are rounded up.]  

Another ACT score that a school may ask for is the superscore.  This is made up of your best subscores regardless of test date. Be sure to send in all your test scores for consideration.  This creates a new superscore using only your highest numbers.  Not all schools will ask for either of these, but look out for these options.

Next you need to write some essays.  These can be tweaked for each situation as needed. One essay that you need to write is, “What are your plans for the future”.  Most schools want to know this information in some form or another.  It is a good way for you to actually think about this and get your thoughts in order.   Be sure when filling out all of this information and writing these essays to be honest.  There will be questions that will cause you to really have to think, and there will be others that seem ridiculous.  Most questions are asked for a certain reason, so think and answer carefully.  

One final tip.  Go back to each college’s website.  Look carefully through each tab.  Search through student life, take a virtual tour of the campus, look at the available clubs and activities.  Google the nearby town to find out information about the size and what is available to do outside of school since it is where you may be living.  

Do everything that you can to inform yourself about this possibility, so that when it comes time to really decide where you will end up, you are ready and have all the pertinent facts.

5 Positive Parenting Techniques

5 Positive Parenting Techniques

5 Positive Parenting Techniques I’ve Learned from U-Thrive

Chapter 1

I’m in the process of reading U Thrive: How to Succeed in College (and Life) by Daniel Lerner and Alan Schlechter, MD. They teach a course at NYU on the “Science of Happiness” which is one of the most sought after courses on campus.  It’s a “how to” guide on how to thrive in college and beyond.  Yes, positive psychology is all around us and it’s probably because our culture is thirsty for it.  But let me say, by page 30, I was hooked.  This book really should be used in our schools. But, schools don’t really have a class on how to be happy, so it falls on us, the parents.  And as you know, parenting is the hardest job ever and there is no real “how to” book. So, even though this book is focusing on thriving in college, it is definitely transferable to parenting. While reading, I thought to myself  “I wish I knew this when I was my kids were younger”.  Wait I still can!  Even though my kids are 23, and 19 and I’m in my early 50’s, I can honestly say, this book can really help everyone, no matter what stage of life you’re in.  I don’t think it’s ever too late to be better at your relationships. So as I read this book, I’ll let you know my “takeaways”! Here’s are the first 5 from Chapter 1.

Raise Your Mood

Raise your mood before every opportunity or challenge by thinking about something positive for 30 seconds.  I told my daughter, Kelly, to try this before taking her tests during finals week.  She looked at me kinda weird and asked why?  I quoted from pg. 18 “Positive emotions prime you to perform your best”.  In the book, they continue, “Good feelings are a fantastic learning aid:  they help you retain more information and stay on the ball in group discussions; they improve your test scores and your grades; they boost resilience and help you deal with stress more effectively”.  So Kelly tried it, she thought of a funny memory that made her laugh and thought about it before she took a test.  Kelly told me, “it was so much easier, I wasn’t focusing on how hard it was going to be.  I just breezed through it.  And it felt good!”  The end result- she got a B on her math test. It worked.

Focus on the Good!

Tell your kids 3 things they did well and 3 places to grow (or less according to Kelly).  In the book, they detail a story of a student who only heard negative feedback from his theatre professor.  The student had a hard time believing in anything he was doing well.  He had lost his confidence.  Lerner and Schlecter (authors of the book), suggested to the student to ask his teacher to tell him what he was doing right. The professor agreed. Then, the student started his own peer group to share feedback on 3 things they were doing well and 3 things to work on.  Hmm. Could I do this as a parent? Sure, and would have, but I can tell you I didn’t.  I was always asking my girls, “Hey did you do this?”. I was focused on what they may have missed not what they did well. Ugh. I had focused on what they could have done better, which unfortunately doesn’t recognize what they were/are doing well.  So, my takeaway on this is no matter where you are in your parenting journey, focus on 3 good things and according to my daughter only 1 or 2 things where they can grow. Much better message!

Write Down Why You’re Grateful

Write down daily what you’re grateful for and why they matter. The theory behind the gratitude is it “qualifies” your positive emotions which can translate to higher GPA, better social relationships, better sleep and less depression. When you make a habit to scan for the good things during your day, it rewires your brain. So keep a journal or a gratitude jar and slips of paper next to your bed. Write down 3 things that bring joy that day and put them in the jar. This is what I do, and I’m looking forward to seeing to the end of the year when I can reflect on all the things that brought me happiness.  Or if you like to write, try this journal-The Five Minute Journal: A Happier You in 5 Minutes a Day. I’ve been using it and love it too. Great reviews!

Random Acts of Kindness

Perform Random Acts of Kindness Consciously (pg. 29)- A little difference here in that you are thinking about what you can do nice for someone else AHEAD of time. This act gives you a boost of happiness that can last for months.  It isn’t about being proud of yourself as it is to focus on how it made you feel- ask yourself “What did I do today that was kind and how did it feel?”.  Replay the scene in your head.

What Makes You Happy?

Pay attention to what makes you happy. This is such a great idea! We can all do this but for those of you with younger teens, ask them what they’re interested in. This is a crucial step in figuring out a potential career. Have them experiment with different classes, extra-curricular activities or even job shadow. And for us moms, it’s never too late to pay attention to what lights you up.  This is one of the reasons why I wanted to start a blog.  I have a B.A. in Communications and never did anything with it.  This blog allows me to rekindle my skills and learn how it’s done today. So what makes you happy? What makes you feel good or what activities do participate in that you don’t even notice that time has passed?