Get It Together

High school seniors, fall break is almost here! Next comes the holiday season, spring semester and before you know it, you’ll be planning your summer break. Before you get carried away with thoughts of summer freedom, now is a good time to organize your college preparation materials. You’ll want to start completing college applications, housing forms, scholarship essays and everything else that goes along with starting your higher education. You probably have stacks of scholarship information, report cards, ACT/SAT scores as well as booklets and information from different colleges, career techs and universities. If so, here are some tips to help you get organized.

  • Create a “My Future” file and keep your important grades and test scores in it.
  • Print the Tracking My Classes and Achievements worksheet from UCanGo2.org. College applications often require information about your classes and extra-curricular activities. This worksheet will allow you keep an organized record of your classes, awards, sports, clubs, volunteer work and more.
  • As you search for scholarships, organize them by deadline. That way, you can apply for them in the order they are due, and maximize your scholarship application efficiency. File your scholarship essays in one place too so you can easily find them as you’re completing applications. Many scholarship essays can be adjusted and reused for multiple scholarship and/or college applications.
  • Sort your college brochures by school and keep them in separate folders. Take some time to compare the pros and cons of each school to help you make a more informed choice.

Enjoy fall break, but don’t forget to spend some time getting organized for the future. When summer break comes around, you won’t regret your time spent planning ahead.

 

Need Money for College?

If you’re planning to go to college, you’ll need money to pay for it. Scholarships can make a huge difference, but the only way to get scholarships is to apply for them! Scholarships are available for grade school students, college students and adults returning to school, based on a variety of criteria.

Many scholarships require an essay, but don’t let that discourage you. Preparing scholarship essays can be fun and informative because they provide opportunities to explore interesting topics and help you identify your future goals. Plus, some essays can be used to apply for several scholarships, so be sure to save them all!

Check out our Scholarship Success Guide at UCanGo2.org for helpful  application tips and a long list of scholarship websites. Visit your local library to check out informational scholarship books. Also, do a little research by asking around. Your employer or church, your parent’s employer, local businesses, clubs and others may be offering free money for you to use for college.

Remember to complete the FAFSA and keep in mind that scholarships are considered free money. They can offer you a way to pay for your education and reduce the amount you may have to borrow in student loans.

Is it too late to apply for financial aid for this academic year?

Now that you’re going strong in your fall semester at college, are you concerned that you might not have enough money to finish out the school year? Here are some things to consider.

  1. Have you submitted a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)? You should submit a FAFSA each year you need financial aid for school. If you think it’s too late to give it a shot, think again. While some types of aid can run out quickly, federal Pell grants and student loans are typically available year-round. Contact your school’s financial aid office to find out what types of aid you may still be able to receive, and what’s still available.
  2. You may be surprised to learn that you can actually fill out a FAFSA for the 2014-15 school year up to June 30, 2015. Your college must have your correct, completed information by your last day of enrollment in the 2014-2015 school year in order to meet this deadline.
  3. The quickest, easiest way to file your FAFSA is through FAFSA.gov. There are other websites out there that will charge you for submitting your financial aid application, but FAFSA.gov is free.
  4. Be sure to review your Student Aid Report (SAR). Learn more about the SAR at startwithfafsa.org/category/sar/.
  5. If you need a student loan to help cover school expenses, be cautious about the amount you borrow. Learn how to borrow smart from the start at ReadySetRepay.org.

Constitution and Citizenship Day

iStock_000006076941MediumThe Constitution of the United States was signed 227 years ago, officially defining America’s government system and the basic rights of its citizens. We observe this day each year to recognize the meaning of our citizenship, including our responsibilities and opportunities as members of our country, state and community.

Civil and educational authorities, such as public colleges and universities, are required by law to make plans to properly observe Constitution and Citizenship Day on September 17 each year. We hope that you’ll participate in the observation of this special day tomorrow. If you’re a college student, contact your school’s student affairs office to find out how you can participate in the day’s events.

 

My Situation Has Changed Since I Filled Out My FAFSA–Do I Need to Make Updates?

When you submit the FAFSA, you provide a ‘snapshot’ of your overall financial situation. Some less significant changes, such as your day-to-day current account balance, don’t necessarily need to be updated on your FAFSA. However, you may need to update your FAFSA if any of the following elements have changed:

      • Your dependency status
      • Your marital status
      • Your verification status
      • Your Student Aid Report (SAR) will tell you if you’ve been selected for verification. If you were selected, you may still need to submit certain requested information to the financial aid office. Remember, you can’t receive any federal aid until the verification process is complete.

      • Your choice of college(s)
      • Check out our post “Adding More Schools to Receive Your FAFSA” for more information.

Before you make any updates to your FAFSA, discuss your situation with someone in a campus financial aid office. They’re your best resource throughout the entire financial aid process.

Important FAFSA Notice

A change to the 2014-15 FAFSA has resulted in the miscalculation of many applicants’ financial aid eligibility. The addition of an extra data entry box within the income entry field was made to accommodate higher income categories. However, many applicants used this extra space to enter a decimal point and cents. When these applications were processed, the decimal point was not applied to the formula and the cents entered were interpreted as dollar amounts, significantly increasing the applicant’s reported income. For example, if an applicant entered their income as $22,852.19, it was converted to $2,285,219. This error made many students ineligible for some grant and subsidized loan programs.

If you’ve been notified by your school that you fell into this category, please follow their directions and make any corrections requested. If you haven’t been notified and you’re concerned your income may have been entered incorrectly, double check your income listed on your Student Aid Report (SAR) and contact the Federal Student Aid Customer Service Department for additional assistance.

Adding More Schools to Receive Your FAFSA

If you’re planning to visit colleges this summer, you already know how beneficial it can be to step foot on the campuses you’re interested in attending. If you’ve discovered a great new school, but didn’t include it on the list to receive your FAFSA, you’ll want to add it to make sure the school receives your information. It’s never too late to include additional schools and it’s pretty easy, too. To add schools to your FAFSA, simply:

1. Go to FAFSA.gov.
2. Enter your Login information.
3. Select the option to Make FAFSA Corrections.
4. Go to the section where you’ve listed colleges and add the new school code(s). If you’ve already listed ten schools on your FAFSA, you’ll need to delete some to make room for any new school codes.
5. Don’t forget to hit Submit.

Be sure to follow up on your FAFSA changes. Check your email and/or home mailbox to respond to any requests for materials from these additional schools. Watch for award letters and financial assistance offers from the new colleges to help you narrow down your choices. Remember, it’s very important to choose the school that’s the best fit for you!

So, you received an award letter. Now what?

If you submitted a FAFSA and responded to all requests for information from your college of choice, you should have received a financial aid award letter. This letter shows the different types of financial assistance you’re eligible to receive to help cover your college expenses. The award letter may be sent to you via email or snail mail. If you haven’t received it yet, contact your college to find out how they’ll send the letter. Follow these steps when it arrives:

        • Make sure you fully understand each type of financial aid you’re offered.
        • Decide how much and which types of financial assistance to accept or reject.
            • Accept grants and scholarships first because they are considered free money and typically don’t have to be repaid.
            • Beyond grants and scholarships, only accept the amount of aid you’ll need to cover your college costs.
        • Submit your response on time. Many award letters have deadline dates, so pay attention to the details.

Financial aid is a great way to help you pay for college, but don’t neglect your responsibilities. Be sure to answer all requests and read any correspondence from your financial aid office and/or student loan agency.