Parents of college-bound teens look forward to filing the FAFSA as much as they look forward to filing their income taxes. It’s a federal form and all federal forms aren’t exactly user friendly. Many parents are so intimidated by the form that they choose not to file, telling themselves that their student wouldn’t qualify for aid anyway because they make too much. But don’t fall into that trap.
Here are 10 good reasons to file the FAFSA:
1. College is expensive
Even if you’re rich and can afford to pay for your child’s education, it’s expensive. Why would you pass up an opportunity to help with some of the cost?
2. It’s FREE
That’s right. It’s completely free to complete the FAFSA. You’ll spend some of your time completing the FAFSA and you could get thousands of dollars of financial aid in return. So one could say, it’s BEYOND free–they pay you!
3. Getting help is easy and FREE
If you get stumped, help is available using the online help tool or by submitting a question at the FAFSA web site or calling the help number listed on the site. Many schools even host a FAFSA day where they offer help to parents and students on how to complete the free form.
4. FREE money could be waiting for you
According to a recent Reuters article, about 1.8 million lower income undergraduates who might have qualified for aid neglected to file the FAFSA and missed out on financial aid. No matter what your income level, you should file the FAFSA because there is more money out there to be awarded than just need-based aid.
5. Federal money
The federal government provides over $80 billion dollars in grants, loans and work-study programs every year. The only way to get pell grants, perkins loans, stafford loans and other federal aid is by submitting the FAFSA. Federal loans offer the best interest rates and repayment terms for student borrowers and are superior to private student loans.
6. State money
FAFSA is the gatekeeper for state financial aid programs. Each state’s programs are different but they all require the FAFSA to distribute the funds. Check with your state’s higher education agency for deadlines and requirements. In some states the financial eligibility ceilings are much higher.
7. School money
Colleges and private scholarship sponsors offer billions of dollars in financial aid. Even if you don’t have financial need, you may be eligible for these awards. Some school and private scholarship programs are specifically designed for students who were rejected by federal financial aid. Some schools will not award merit aid unless you complete the FAFSA.
8. Scholarship applications ask if you’ve applied
In addition to the aid that a student may receive from federal and state agencies, many scholarship applications include a box to check asking whether the student has submitted a FAFSA. According to Monica Matthews of How to Win College Scholarships, “Scholarship providers want to know that the student is doing everything possible to get financial help in paying for college and submitting the FAFSA is a very important step in the process.”
9. You have two or more children in college
With two in college, your expected family contribution (what the parents can afford to pay) drops by 50%. Even if you didn’t get financial aid with the first, file the FAFSA because having a second child in college can net you some financial aid.
10. You really don’t have a choice
Look at it this way: FAFSA is the ONLY way to be considered for federal, state and college financial aid. Even if you don’t NEED the aid you still want to get it. Who doesn’t want FREE money?
Over 3 million college students will attend universities outside of their home state this year. With the yearly costs of a private or out-of-state education starting at $24,000, any added expenses beyond room and board, books and tuition can be a real burden. Yet, not having your kids home for the holidays is unimaginable for many parents, so they find a way to make it happen.
For those already thinking about how to get back home “from” school, here are five tips to help your college student get home on the cheap:
- Rack up miles and earn free flights. While fares during peak season can cost hundreds, earning free flights is easier, and simpler, than many think. RewardExpert helps travelers create easy-to-follow strategies by developing customized earning plans and maximizing frequent flyer rewards. The service makes it easy to earn free tickets in just a few months, making now the perfect time to enroll.
- Carpool with someone headed the same direction. College Carpool is amongst a handful off services that allow students to connect with others driving the same direction through private pages for each college. Through forums, students can find available rides, or proactively request one.
- Enroll in a car share. Many traditional rental car services have restrictions for those under 25, however ride car services like Zipcar andEnterprise CarShare are available to university students. Monthly fees are low, and once registered, students can reserve a car whenever they need one.
- Hop on the bus… Sure, the bus might not be the most glamorous option, but Bolt Bus, Megabus and Greyhound are cheap options with surprising amenities. Most have free wifi, power outlets and even reclining seats. Smaller-scale regional buses also offer student discounts, such as Short Line.
- … Or the train. Taking the train home is another great option, withAmtrak providing service from 500 destinations in 46 states. The company offers a 15% student discount, along with the opportunity to earn points towards free travel.
No matter how far away or son or daughter may be, there are some creative ways to get them home without breaking the bank.
Dear High School Junior,
Your quest for college intensifies this year. Junior year is THE most important year in the college process. It’s the year you focus your energy on college preparation. All the years leading up to this year have prepared you to begin this journey and as an admissions officer once told me, “drive the car”.
Focus on these four tasks this year and enter your senior year prepared to apply to colleges.
Your junior year is THE most important year as far as college. It’s the junior year transcript that colleges will receive with your application. This is NOT the time to start coasting. Do your best in every class, especially the AP Honors classes. This level of commitment to academics will communicate to colleges that you capable of handling rigorous college courses and have fine-tuned your time management and study skills.
Test prep and study
First–the PSAT is NOT a practice test. It’s your ticket to some substantial scholarship money if you qualify as a finalist. You don’t have to win or be the best; you just have to qualify as a finalist. Most students don’t study for this test so that’s an advantage you will have going into it. If you study, you could be looking at a full-ride at one of the colleges you list on your test. Think carefully before you list a college. Once you do, it’s locked in.
The SAT and ACT are used by colleges to rate you among prospective students. Scoring high on these tests can mean the difference between an offer of admission and a rejection. Study before taking the test. Take advantage of some free test prep even if you feel you don’t need it. Take the practice tests, evaluate your strengths and weaknesses and adjust your study accordingly.
College lists and visits
It’s time to start your college lists. Is one college at the top of your radar? Do you want to stay in state or attend a college far from home? These are just a few of the questions you should ask yourself when you start your list. Remember to look at all types of colleges: private, state, junior colleges, liberal arts colleges, technical colleges and even career specific colleges like a culinary school. One size college does not fit all. It’s time to explore.
Start visiting colleges–either on your list or nearby to get a feel for campus life. Make some preliminary visits before you start scheduling official visits with the colleges. Talk to students. Explore the area around the college. Once you have a tentative list made, start scheduling visits for tours, meeting with financial aid, and interviewing with admissions. Letting the college know you are coming shows interest in their school. Colleges keep track of these contacts; and when the application is received, they can look at their list and see you have expressed interest.
Talk with your parents about how they expect you to pay for college. If they are contributing, ask how much they have budgeted for your education. This will help you know what they are prepared to pay and what you will have to contribute to make up the difference. If it’s substantial you should intensify your scholarship search and start working to save money for expenses.
Don’t apply to colleges that are entirely out of your reach if you don’t receive financial aid. It will only lead to disappointment. Investigate how much financial aid the colleges usually provide incoming students. This will help you plan. Remember that the sticker price of a college is not usually what you will pay. Apply to colleges where you are at the top of the applicant pool. This will improve your chances of receiving merit aid.
It’s time to get serious because senior year is just around the corner. Once it hits, you will be writing essays, applying to colleges, and working hard to keep your grades up. If you prepare in advance by completing these four tasks, you will have less stress your senior year.
Good luck on your journey,
Suzanne Shaffer, Parents Countdown to College Coach
Parenting has certainly changed.
In the 50’s, our parents let us have the run of the neighborhood. We rode our bikes everywhere, walked home from school alone, and rode the bus to the movies alone. In the summer, we left the house early in the morning and returned home in time for dinner. Our teachers terrified us and we knew if we misbehaved, our parents would back them up. There were no car seats or safety belts. You would never find anti-bacterial soap or even consider using it. When we turned 18, we either went to college or got a full-time job and moved out of the house.
In the 80’s, parenting styles began to change. Because of Adam Walsh, we watched our kids like a hawk. We weren’t quite ready to take away their freedom, but we worried. We worried about where they were, who they were with, and what dangers they might encounter when they were at school, outside, and at the mall. Parents began to question a teacher’s authority and loosened the grip on the discipline of their children. Spanking became taboo and “time out” emerged as a parenting technique.
At the beginning of the 21st century helicopter parenting emerged. It’s not like we planned for it to happen. It just did. We sheltered our children from any disappointment. Everyone on the team got a trophy. There were no winners or losers. We questioned all school authority. We would never consider letting them walk home alone or play outside without supervision. If they forgot their lunch, we took it to them. If they left their homework at home, we took it to school. We began to make every decision for them and protect them from every consequence. We began to feel the “parent peer pressure” for our children to be the best and the greatest. If they graduated from college and couldn’t find a job, they came home to live and thus the term “boomerang” generation was born.
How do you walk the tightrope of helicopter parenting?
How do we raise our children in this frightening world without overprotecting them from the disappointments and trials of life? What are the long-term risks of helicopter parenting? Combine a little of the 50’s parenting, some of the 80’s style of parenting, and a very small amount of the 21st century parenting for the perfect parenting balance. There’s a fine line between cautious parenting and being a helicopter mom.
Ask yourself this question–Do you want your children to be independent successful adults or do you want them living in your basement for years and years depending on you to pay their bills and take care of them? Is it conceivable they will be going off to college and surviving alone, or calling you every day crying for help, or needing assistance with every life task? Will they be running home because they simply can’t survive without you?
My guess–your answers to every one of these questions would be a resounding NO!
Today’s guest post is from GoSchoolWise, a new website offering free tools to help with college prep.
Is this school a good fit for my child? Do we have a balanced college list? How much will college cost us?
If these are the questions you are asking yourself, there is good news. A smart computer called IBM Watson (the computer that beat humans in Jeopardy) is helping answer these questions for thousands of parents this year at GoSchoolWise.com.
GoSchoolWise.com has 3 tools that use sophisticated algorithms to help answer the questions you were wondering. The good news is all these tools are free for high school students and their parents.
College – Personality Fit Tool: The tool has analyzed over 600 US colleges and identified personality traits of students at those schools.
Example: Some of the personality traits of Georgia Tech students are: Unselfish, Go with the flow, Thoughtful, etc. Some traits for students at Columbia University are: Independent, Change-Agent, Direct etc.
The tool can analyze your child’s essay or Tweets to develop her/his personality traits and identifies their personality fit with each school on your schools list. In addition to campus visits this tool can give you a unique perspective how well your child will fit in at a particular school.
Let us know if you agree with the personality traits of your child by sending a message here.
- Admissions Insights: The tool analyzes the schools you are considering applying to and gives you valuable information on the potential acceptance rate based on your child’s gender, and the admissions round you are considering (EA, ED, RD, etc.).
The tool also recommends other schools your daughter or son should consider as well as checks if you are in compliance with the Early application policy such as Restrictive Early Action or Single-Choice Early Action for different schools.
In addition to a bunch of other admissions insights, the tool beautifully lays out the schools on a US map (with school pictures) for you to visualize how far your young one is considering going.
- Financial Insights: The tool takes your family income and uses historical data as well as factors in the financial aid families with similar income received, predicts the total annual cost of attendance for your child. This can be valuable information to help you understand how much college can cost your family.
You really thought this post will end without giving you any bonus tools and features.
Well guess what we have…
3 Bonus tools/features: SchoolWise also has additional tools/features to help families. Some of the other noteworthy features are:
- College Admissions News: College Admissions news and updates from around the web are curated with the help of IBM Watson. The news feed keeps families updated on the latest admissions advice and developments.
- Academic Index: Looking to apply to Ivy League school? You should check out the Academic Index (AI) Calculator. AI is a score between 60 – 240 used by Ivy League schools to score the academic achievement of an applicant. The score is highly correlated to acceptance rates. Even though Academic Index is not a secret anymore, but the Ivy League universities and other highly selective colleges are hush-hush about its use.
- Schools Pages: Each 4-year college has a beautiful schools page, with pretty images, videos, and interactive tools. One example is the gender diversity tool, which shows the class mosaic. Also, check out the notable alumni and the key recruiting companies section for each school. Some school page examples are: Harvard University, MIT, College of William and Mary.
If you need to write an essay for college, you have to be aware of the basic rules of its writing. It is important to follow a standard pattern. You have to reveal your personality and showcase your writing skills. If you have never written an essay before, the following tips will help you craft a good piece of writing.
1. Do research.
You have to know what has been written on your topic before. Check out both printed and online resources. Make sure that you have access to them. Go to the library and order some books. Take notes if needed. Look for relevant literature on the Internet. Download the necessary files and documents.
2. Come up with your own ideas.
Now you are armed with numerous researches and articles. But the thing is to express your personal view on the subject at hand. Your own voice needs to be heard clearly. The essay is not a compilation of works by other authors.
3. Write a solid thesis statement.
Among all of your ideas, choose the strongest one. Ensure that you have enough supporting materials. The thesis statement must be specific and concise. Your task is to expand it through the body of your essay and prove its correctness.
4. Craft an outline.
Writing a well-structured essay without an outline is virtually impossible. It helps you organize your thoughts and follow the intended line. You need to highlight the core сategories and consider each of them point by point. Do not forget to use specific facts and provide examples. An outline usually includes 3 levels.
5. Write an introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion.
Like any other college paper, an essay should consist of three logical parts: introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. The beginning should be engaging and introduce readers to the topic. Each body paragraph has to start with a topic sentence that is followed by 2-3 supporting statements. You must include no new information in the conclusion. Simply paraphrase what was being said earlier.
6. Create a captivating title.
The title of the essay has to induce the reader to read your writing. Avoid general and boring titles. They have nothing to tell about your paper. Use specific headings instead. There are many essays consisting numbers in their titles at writing2me.com. Such type of the headings is considered one of the most interesting. The readers also find attractive those headlines that debunk stereotypes or appeal to their emotions.
7. Double check the essay.
Once your essay is over, put it aside for a while. No matter how hard you will try, you still won’t be able to see a mistake. You need to let your eyes and mind relax. Better yet, let your friends read the essay. It will be much more easier for them to detect an error with a fresh eye. Your essay must be grammatically flawless. It is out of the question.
Although at first glance crafting an essay for college may seem as an extremely complicated task to perform, this is not quite accurate. Use the recommendations given in this article and you will easily cope with it. All things are difficult before they are easy.
Yes. It’s that time of year again. Parents are trekking hundreds and even thousands of miles to drop off their students at college. For most it’s bittersweet. For moms, it’s a tornado churning inside our hearts. On one hand we are happy for our children. They are now grown up (or so they say) and ready to venture out into the world. On the other hand, our hearts are breaking. The years have flown by and we aren’t quite ready to say goodbye. Parting is such sweet sorrow.
Wasn’t it only yesterday that we brought them home from the hospital. They were so small and helpless. When they grabbed our finger and smiled we melted. We wanted to give them everything and we wanted them to have every one of their dreams come true.
And then, the toddler years arrived. With all the “nos” and the “mine” and the dreaded potty training. Most of us felt there would be nothing worse than this. Temper tantrums ruled our house and don’t even get me started on the bedtime tug of war.
But then, they grew up to be teenagers. And we longed for the terrible twos again. During the teen years, we often found ourselves longing for the day when they would leave home. Can college come soon enough? Especially during the summer after high school graduation. Tempers flared, doors were slammed and we wondered just who was living in our house.
Where did the time go? In a few days or weeks, you will be saying goodbye to that child you raised and he or she will be leaving a huge hole in your heart. In spite of it all, you will miss them terribly. And don’t even think they won’t miss you. They may put on a brave front, pull away from the hugs, and hold back the tears, but it will be just as hard for them as it is for you.
It won’t be long before you get the phone call, “Mom, I need . . . “. And once again, you will be aware that it doesn’t really matter what age they are, they will always be your little girl or boy.
Congratulations to every parent who will be dropping off their child at college soon. Hold on to the memories. Believe it or not, they will comfort you in the months ahead.
Today my daughter turns 35. It seems like yesterday we were visiting and applying to colleges. Since then, she graduated with a Bachelors and a Masters in Marketing. She has two wonderful boys and the life she always hoped for.
From the time she was small, she dreamed of going to college in Boston. It’s a mystery why she chose that city. We had never visited there. The only tie she had to it was from a movie that mentioned Boston University. I say this to make a point—college was always in her future. She worked hard during high school and got the grades and multiple scholarships to attend college in Boston.
But if I knew then what I know now, we would have done things differently.
Establish a relationship with your high school counselor early
High school counselors are invaluable resources for scholarships, college information, volunteer opportunities and as a reference. My daughter barely knew her counselor and when we needed help, it was a struggle. A relationship would have made things so much easier.
Use all four years of high school to get ready for college
We waited until senior year to start preparing for college. Needless to say, it was a train wreck. Between all her senior activities, trying to visit colleges, testing, applying for scholarships, and applying to colleges we were both stressed and irritable. Some of those tasks can be done before senior year, even during freshman year. Plan ahead.
Study for the PSAT
My daughter did not study for the PSAT. We had no idea what was at stake with this test. If she had studied, she could have qualified as a National Merit semi-finalist and finalist. This would have meant full-ride scholarships and more at numerous colleges throughout the country.
Visit every college you apply to
This was a tough lesson to learn. My daughter applied to numerous colleges without visiting. After being awarded a full-ride scholarship at one of them, we visited. She immediately hated the campus and the entire college setting. It was disappointing for me, as a parent knowing this college would have meant no debt. But it would have been worse if she had gone there and dropped out freshman year.
Spend time writing and rewriting the college essay
The essay is your best chance to give the colleges a picture of who you are. There are so many available essay coaches online and free essay help available. I wish we had taken advantage of those opportunities.
Don’t apply to colleges that aren’t within your financial reach
When my daughter received an acceptance from her dream college without any financial aid we knew it was impossible for her to attend. We were anticipating scholarship money to assist us but when it didn’t come through, she was devastated. Do your homework and look at the colleges financial aid profiles. If they award a small percentage of aid and you can’t afford it without it, don’t apply.
Apply early to get the best financial aid
The early bird gets the worm with financial aid. My daughter applied regular admission and her dream college had already dispersed aid by the time they received her application. If I had known then what I know now, she would have applied for early decision.
Start applying for scholarships early
We waited until senior year to apply for scholarships. It was a struggle working all the senior activities in and finding time to apply for scholarships. There are scholarships for all ages—start early.
Appeal the award letter and ask for more money
With several full-ride scholarship offers we could have used them to ask for more aid from her first and second choice college. We didn’t ask for more money from any of the colleges and we didn’t appeal any of her awards. It was a huge financial mistake.
Only apply for federal student loans and know your repayment options
We followed this advice in college, but when she decided to get her master’s degree, she took out private student loans. These loans, combined with her federal loans, put a financial burden on her after graduating. It was difficult to pay them back early in her career and she had to file deferments several times, extending the time and interest on the loans. She made the mistake of not investigating repayment amounts before signing for those loans.
Roommate issues can be the worst part of college
I had no idea the drama that would ensue with college roommates. There were tears, anger, frustration and cries to come home early. If she would have discussed these issues with the RA or dealt with the conflict early, it would have saved both of us a ton of heartache.
As you can see, I’ve learned quite a bit since her college years. If you have a question about any of this advice or any other college-related question, feel free to leave a comment. We parents have to stick together.
Harlan Cohen, New York Times bestselling author of The Naked Roommate: 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into College and The Naked Roommate: For Parents Only! is hosting LIVE webinars for college-bound students and their parents.
17 Things You Need To Do Before College
THIS FREE EVENT WILL COVER:
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- SPECIAL OFFER: Naked Roommate College Boot Camp for Students and Parents.
RESERVE YOUR SPOT NOW!
Sign up for one spot at 12 pm CST or 7 pm CST on August 4th (pick one session)
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I don’t know about you, but I’m not a fan of change. Even if it’s good change. Maybe it’s my age, or maybe it’s that I know with change comes confusion. Such was true when the new SAT was rolled out. Then came the ACT and the confusion about scoring. Such is the life of a student who has plans to apply to college in the fall.
Magoosh certainly recognizes your confusion. In an effort to help, they provided students and parents a breakdown of the new scoring process and how colleges view them. In their post about this, they commensurate with your pain over the new SAT:
Okay, I’m just going to come out and say it: the new SAT scoring system is extremely confusing. There are subscores, cross-test scores, a science score and much more. And don’t even get me started on the new concordance tables (though started I’ll get, but later in the post!)
Because I don’t want you to be uncertain about something as important as your SAT scores, I’m here to dispel any confusion and answer your questions.
I’ll talk about all of the different scores: what they mean, SAT score ranges, what SAT scores you need for top colleges, and how everything ties together.
I’ll also let you in on a little secret: the SAT scoring tables comparing the old SAT and new SAT are a little wonky (but more on that later).
We’ve also put together this table of SAT score ranges for the top 100 universities in the United States.
Read through the article using the link below and see the comparisons. It will help your student set score goals and it will help you understand why change might not be welcome, but might just be better for your student.