The 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.
We’d like to offer you a warm welcome back to school. We hope you had a great summer and that your new school year is off to an excellent start!
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.
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.
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!
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.
Now that you’re equipped with plenty of FAFSA knowledge, it’s time to start thinking about the many ways you can earn money for college. If you’ve worked during the summer in the past, you know how good it feels to have spending money for gas, snacks, clothes and fun with friends. It’s also a great way to save money for college expenses and help reduce the amount of money you have to borrow for college. Did you know that there are many other ways a summer job can help you prepare for college?
A summer job can:
- Allow you to explore career options before choosing a college major.
- Help you develop a good work ethic and time management skills.
- Provide access to internships in your chosen career field.
- Show admissions officers that you are responsible and motivated to succeed in college.
- Help you develop references and contacts.
- Give you a chance to shadow someone who currently works in the field in which you’re interested.
- Open doors for employment after school.
So, when choosing where you want to work this summer, keep these things in mind and select a job that can provide benefits beyond earning some cash. Then, give yourself a pat on the back for using your summer job to catapult you into your future.
If you submitted your FAFSA using estimated figures before filing your tax return, you and/or your parents may need to update your FAFSA to reflect any differences between the estimated amounts you listed and the actual amounts reported on your tax return(s). Here’s what you need to do in order to correct the estimated information:
- Log in using your PIN at www.fafsa.gov.
- Click on “Make FAFSA Corrections.”
- Change tax filing status from “Will File” to “Already Completed.”
- Enter your updated tax information
- If eligible, follow FAFSA’s guidance to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to automatically import tax information from the federal tax return.
- If you aren’t eligible to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, you must manually enter your tax information* to reflect your filed 2013 tax return.
- Double check your information and don’t forget to click submit!
*If you’re manually entering your new information, be sure to review all dollar amounts—not just income. Your income tax amounts (IRS Form 1040 – Line 55; 1040A – Line 35; or 1040EZ – Line 10) may need to be corrected, too.
The FAFSA will not resubmit itself. Once you’ve submitted the FAFSA for the first time, you’ll need to remember to renew your application each year that you need* financial aid for school.
To simplify the process for next year:
- Record your FAFSA log-in information and PIN, and save it somewhere safe.
- Keep your tax information organized throughout the year to save time later.
- Consider filing your taxes early in the year and take advantage of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool on the FAFSA.
Don’t forget, many grants and scholarships require information from your submitted FAFSA. Remember to complete and submit the FAFSA as soon as possible after Jan. 1 to meet deadlines.
*Remember, even if you’re not sure you’ll need aid, it’s best to renew your FAFSA anyway so you have access to financial aid if you do, in fact, need it. You can always decline the aid offered to you if you don’t need it to pay for your school expenses.
Completing the FAFSA is paramount; however, you shouldn’t stop there. Non-federal, private scholarships abound and they are available for a variety of reasons, not just good grades.
Be sure to check out local organizations that sponsor scholarships, such as your church and community groups. It’s good to apply for local scholarships because you’re competing against fewer people. Check out the following groups for scholarships in your area.
- Chamber of Commerce
- Rotary Club
- 4-H Club
- Girl and Boy Scouts
Remember, scholarships are awarded based on a variety of criteria, including need, merit, residency, family history, skills, hobbies and athletics. Scholarship deadlines vary, so you may want to sign up for free online scholarship sources, like FastWeb.com or Scholarships360.org. Many of these sites will notify you when new scholarship opportunities are posted.
UCanGo2.org features a scholarship page that allows students to search for scholarships based on “deadline” or “category.” Check out your local library, too. They may have a variety of books with scholarship listings.