College Advising Blog

Sharing from the Department of Education's blog.

The 2019–20 FAFSA® became available October 1! If you plan to attend college between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020, you should fill out your FAFSA form as soon as possible!

Just make sure you don’t make one of these common mistakes:


1. Not Completing the FAFSA Form

We hear all kinds of reasons: “The FAFSA form is too hard.” “It takes too long to complete.” “I’ll never qualify anyway, so why does it matter?” It does matter. For one, contrary to popular belief, there is no income “cut-off” when it comes to federal student aid. Also, the FAFSA form is not just the application for “free money” such as the Federal Pell Grant, it’s also the application for Federal Work-Study funds, federal student loans, and even scholarships and grants offered by your state, school, or private organization. If you don’t complete the FAFSA form, you could lose out on thousands of dollars to help you pay for college. It doesn’t take too much time to complete, and there is help text provided for every question.


2. Not Filling Out the FAFSA Form as Soon as It’s Available

If you want to get the most financial aid possible, fill out the FAFSA form ASAP. Some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, and some states and colleges run out of money early.  Even if it seems like your school’s deadline is far off in the future, get your FAFSA form done ASAP. The 2019–20 FAFSA form requires 2017 tax information, which you should already have—so there’s no excuse to wait!


3. Not Filing the FAFSA Form by the Deadline

You should fill out the FAFSA form as soon as possible, but you should DEFINITELY fill it out before your earliest FAFSA deadline. Each state and school sets its own deadline, and some deadlines are very early. To be sure you are being considered for the maximum amount of financial aid, fill out your FAFSA form—and any other financial aid applications required by your state or school—before the earliest deadline.


4. Not Getting an FSA ID Before Filling Out the FAFSA Form

It’s important to get an FSA ID before filling out the FAFSA form. Why? Well, because when you register for an FSA ID, you may need to wait up to three days before you can use it to sign your FAFSA form electronically. An FSA ID is a username and password that you use to log in to certain U.S. Department of Education websites, including fafsa.gov. You AND your parent (if you’re considered a dependent student) will each need your own, separate FSA IDs if you both want to sign your FAFSA form online. DO NOT share your FSA IDs with each other! Doing so could cause problems or delays with your financial aid. Don’t wait! Create an FSA ID now: StudentAid.gov/fsaid.


5. Not Using Your FSA ID to Start the FAFSA Form

When you begin your FAFSA form, you will be asked to identify yourself as one of these:

1.) I am the student
2.) I am a parent, preparer, or student from a Freely Associated State

If you’re the student, you should choose the first option. Why? When you do, some of your personal information (name, Social Security number, date of birth, etc.) will be automatically loaded into your application.  This will prevent you from running into a common error that occurs when your verified FSA ID information doesn’t match the information on your FAFSA form. Also, you won’t have to enter your FSA ID again to transfer your information from the IRS or to sign your FAFSA form electronically.


6. Not Using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT)

For many applicants, the most difficult part about filling out the FAFSA form is entering the financial information. But thanks to a partnership with the IRS, students and parents who are eligible can automatically transfer their necessary 2017 tax information into the 2019–20 FAFSA form using the IRS DRT. It’s the fastest, most accurate way to enter your tax return information into the FAFSA form, so if you’re given the option to “LINK TO IRS” button, take advantage of it!

 


7. Not Reading Definitions Carefully

When it comes to completing the FAFSA form, you’ll want to read each definition and each question carefully; sometimes the FAFSA form is looking for very specific information that may not be obvious.

Here are some items that have very specific (but not necessarily intuitive) definitions according to the FAFSA:

  • Legal guardianship
    To determine your dependency status, the FAFSA form asks, “Does someone other than your parent or stepparent have legal guardianship of you, as determined by a court in your state of legal residence?” Many students incorrectly answer “yes” here. For this question, the definition of legal guardianship does not include your parents—even if they were appointed by a court to be your guardians. Also, you cannot be your own legal guardian.

  • Number of family members (household size)
    The FAFSA form has a specific definition of how your household size or your parents’ household size should be determined. Read the instructions carefully. Many students incorrectly report this number, especially when the student doesn’t physically live with the parent.
  • Number of family members in college
    Enter the number of people in your (or your parents’) household who will attend college at the same time as you. Don’t forget to include yourself, but don’t include your parents in this number, even if they’re in college. This number should never be greater than your number of family members.
  • Taxable college grants and scholarships
    For this question, you report only college grant and scholarship amounts that were reported to the IRS as income. That means you should not use the amount listed on your 1098-T; you should report the amount listed on your tax return. Do not use the number in the adjusted gross income (AGI) field. Here are the tax line numbers you should reference when asked this question. If you didn’t file taxes, you should enter zero.

* If you’re a dependent student, the value of any college savings accounts should be reported as a parent asset, not a student asset.

 


8. Inputting Incorrect Information

Here are some examples of common errors we see when people complete the FAFSA form:

  • Confusing parent information with student information
    We know there are many parents out there who fill out the FAFSA form for their children, but remember, it is the student’s application. When the FAFSA form says “you” or “your,” it’s referring to the student, so make sure to enter your (the student’s) information. If the form is asking for your parent’s information, it will specify that in the question.
  • Entering information that doesn’t match your FSA ID information
    After you create an FSA ID, your information (name, Social Security number (SSN), date of birth) is sent to the Social Security Administration to be verified. If you then enter a different name, SSN, and/or date of birth on the FAFSA form, you’ll receive an error message. This is often the result of a typo or mixing up student information and parent information. To avoid delays, triple-check that you have entered your information correctly. If you encounter an error about information not matching, here’s how you can resolve it.

9. Not Reporting Required Information

  • Additional financial information
    If you follow our recommendation and use the IRS DRT, a lot of the financial information required on the FAFSA form will be automatically filled in for you. However, the IRS DRT doesn’t populate everything; some numbers, including many items in the “Additional Financial Information” section, must be manually entered. If you used the IRS DRT, you’ll see that some boxes in that section are pre-checked and the fields prefilled with “Transferred from the IRS.” However, other items, such as “Payments to tax-deferred pension and retirement savings plans” and others, cannot be transferred from the IRS. You must manually review each item in the list, check the box if it applies to you, and enter the appropriate amount by referencing your relevant financial records. In the case of payments to tax-deferred pension and retirement savings plans, you can find that information on your W-2 form.


10. Listing only one college

Unless you are applying to only one college or already know where you’re going to school, you should include more than one. Colleges can’t see the other schools you’ve added, so you should add ALL colleges you are considering to your FAFSA form, even if you aren’t sure whether you’ll apply or be accepted. You can add up to 10 schools at a time. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, follow these steps.

It doesn’t hurt your application to add more schools. In fact, you don’t even have to remove schools you later decide not to apply to. If you don’t end up applying or getting accepted to a school, the school can just disregard your FAFSA form. But you can remove schools at any time to make room for new schools.


11. Not Signing the FAFSA Form

So many students answer every single question that is asked but fail to actually sign the FAFSA form with their FSA ID and submit it. This happens for many reasons—maybe you forgot your FSA ID, or your parent isn’t with you to sign with the parent FSA ID—so your application is left incomplete. Don’t let this happen to you.

  • If you don’t know your FSA ID, select “Forgot username” and/or “Forgot password.”
  • If you don’t have an FSA ID, create one.

If you’re not able to sign with your FSA ID, there’s an option to mail a signature page. If you would like confirmation that your FAFSA form has been submitted, you can check your status immediately after you submit your FAFSA form online.


Nicole Callahan is a Digital Engagement Strategist at Federal Student Aid.

Meet one of the members of the College Advising Team.


Name: Laci Evette Tucker

Universities attended/Degrees: Ohio University, Bachelor of Arts, English                                                                                                                                                      University of Cincinnati, Master of Education, School Counseling

Years in Advising: 12

What made you want to be a College Advisor:  I have always enjoyed helping people recognize his/her talent(s) and figure out what makes him/her happy.  School counseling/advising is a way of getting people to look inward and assess their strengths and purpose.  I love watching the lightbulb come on when people see the value they possess and how they can make a difference in the world (big or small).

Favorite aspect of being a College Advisor:  Knowing I have helped someone find direction and/or see something in a different perspective.

What do you wish students asked more about: Hmmm…good question. How did Gilligan get off the island? Where actually IS Waldo? Paper or plastic? Is that Trump’s real hair? In the real world, will people really want to know my ACT score?

Best tip for students during their college search:  When visiting colleges, take a notebook.  Write down the highlights and nuances of each college campus you visit, b/c after a while all the colleges will start to look alike.  Taking notes will help you keep track of the specific characteristics that made each college stand out to you.  Find the college environment that suits YOU best.

Ms. Laci Tucker is the College Advisor for Class of 2019 students (Jansen-Muccio) and Class of 2020 students (Jacobs-Nelson).

 

Recently Mr. McCoy was able to participate in a visit program to Allegheny College sponsored by their Office of Admissions.  He was able to spend a day on Allegheny’s campus and learn more about the college, its academic programs, and student life. 

Allegheny’s mascot is the alligator.  This was chosen by the student population solely for alliteration.

There are no actual alligators in Northwest Pennsylvania.

Quick Facts

Location: Meadville, PA

Enrollment: 2,100 students 

Notable programs: Natural Sciences, Humanities, and Social Sciences. 

Fun Facts

  • Allegheny College is listed in the book Colleges that Change Lives.
  • 80% of students engaged in community and civic service.
  • Division III athletics with 21 teams including men’s lacrosse being added this year.
  • All students engage in research within their studies.

Yesterday St. Xavier’s Career ConneXions program hosted an Engineering Roundtable for students during flex period.  The Engineering Roundtable brought guests with various engineering backgrounds from a variety of local companies.  Students were able to learn from our guests about their career explorations and had the opportunity to learn more about the variety of opportunities that are available within the field of engineering.  More than 90 students attended the event.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many students express an interest in studying engineering during college, yet few know which area of engineering that would like to focus.  The Engineering Roundtable provided students the chance to learn more about this dynamic field. 

This week we wanted to share the content from Georgia Tech's Admissions Blog.  The words sum up the Thanksgiving season and this moment of the college search process perfectly.


"A Few Words...And A Hug!"

November 19, 2018 by Rick Clark

I LOVE Thanksgiving because it’s simple. The entire purpose is to bring family and friends together and provide a time to pause from our busy lives and breathe. Thanksgiving does not have the buildup of other holidays that become consumed with parties, shopping, music, and obligations. It does not demand presents or greeting cards or fill the skies with fireworks. “Just show up.” “Bring a side.” “It’s all good. We’ll see you when you get here.” Thanksgiving language is calm, easy, encouraging, optimistic, and unifying— all qualities that are too rare in our culture right now.

Importantly, Thanksgiving also has a few admission lessons to teach:

Seniors: This THANKSgiving, give THANKS.

Just as with life, it is easy to be caught up in the frenzy of the college admission experience— especially in the fall of your senior year. By this point, you’ve likely taken a bunch of standardized tests (sorry about that, by the way). You have probably submitted a few applications and are now considering if or when you need to send in more. You may be waiting anxiously for December when many schools release EA or ED decisions. Forget about all of that this week. Enjoy the fire. Eat too much food. Take a long nap. Go see a movie. Read something for fun. Whatever it is, just make an effort to PAUSE and to breathe (seriously. Do that. Don’t keep reading until you’ve taken at least three long, full breaths).

​Back with me? Okay. Sometime this week, I want you to go find your parents (ideally individually) and give them a huge hug. Tell them this: “Thank you. I love you.” Don’t worry about expounding–a hug and those five words will do. This is Thanksgiving after all. Simple is best. But if you are looking for some reasons, here are a few:

For driving me to all of those practices; for using a snot sucker to de-congest me when I was two; for paying for (insert instrument or sport of choice here) lessons– and making me stick with them; for always trying to make my life better; for the sacrifices of time and money I’ve never known about (and for not viewing them as sacrifices); that I’m the last thought on your mind before you go to sleep (or the reason you wake up in the middle of the night); for all of those nights you sang me to sleep; for the copious loads of laundry and endless carpool lines and countless teacher conferences. Thank you for caring enough to argue with me, remind me, and continually check in. I know all of that comes from a place of love. 

This is your last Thanksgiving living full-time at home. Your parents love you more than you could everever possibly imagine. Five words and a hug. My friend and colleague, Brennan Barnard from the Derryfield School (NH) suggests that if you will be intentional to do this regularly everything else will take care of itself. “Thank you. I love you.”

Parents: This ThanksGIVING, GIVE.

No. I’m not suggesting a new sweater, a gift card, or another slice of pie (all welcomed, however). Instead, try this: “I trust you, and I’m proud of you.” The truth is that all “kids,” whether five, 15, or 50, long for their parents’ approval. We may find increasingly effective ways to hide or mask that desire, but invariably it is there. Sometimes in the college admission experience, your kids are seeing your love and concern as nagging. It causes friction when you ask repeated questions about deadlines, essays, and checklists, because they infer that as a lack of trust. I’m not telling you to completely step away, but step back this week. Hug your son or daughter and tell them, “I trust you.”

Don’t forget the only reason you are reading this is because your kid has worked incredibly hard to this point. They have taken lots of tough classes and done well. They have achieved outside the classroom. You are worried about admission decisions and financial aid packages because those things are imminent. What a great problem to have! (As someone who is just hoping my kids make it to middle school, I think you’ve already won). You are the only one who can say it, and they need it more than they’ll ever let on, so be sure you tell them this week, “I’m proud of you.”

THANKS. GIVE. GIVE THANKS.

Is any of this going to help you get into your first-choice school? Absolutely not. It’s not going to give you an edge on that merit scholarship or ensure an honors college admittance either. But a “great” or “successful” Thanksgiving is not about turkey or pie or football. Sure, those things are all nice, but they are not the heart and purpose of the holiday. The best Thanksgivings are about family, memories, and unity. At its core, so too is the college admission experience. “Getting in” is what people talk about but staying together is what they should be focused on.

Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy those hugs.