We all know applying for financial aid is challenging. There are many resources that can help you through the process and successfully apply. We can’t stress enough how important it is to be on top of filing your FAFSA accurately and on time.
If you have not already submitted, and are not sure how to get started, ask your counselor for a meeting. They can help you begin and also answer many of your questions. They may also know of virtual application completion events to help you with your financial aid forms.
Maximize your chances of receiving aid when filing out your FAFSA by avoiding these common mistakes:
Not completing the FAFSA at all. Don’t make any assumptions about your ability to qualify for aid as the criteria used includes not only income but also family size. The FAFSA is used for federal work study, federal loans and even scholarships and grants. So if you don’t apply, you may miss out on the chance for the money you need to pay for college.
Not requesting an FSA ID before filing out the FAFSA. Use your FSA ID to start your FAFSA when you sign in as either student, parent or preparer and use it again to sign your form electronically before submitting.
Not submitting your FAFSA by the deadline. Fill out your form as soon as possible as some aid is granted on a first-come first-served basis. You must submit before your state and school deadlines.
Not reading all the definitions carefully before working on the form. Many terms are not obvious so be sure you are clear on what information the FAFSA is really asking for.
Not using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRT). Use the IRS DRT to quickly and accurately enter the required tax information directly from your family’s tax return. If you’re offered the “Link to IRS” option, use it.
Entering incorrect information on the application. Proof read your application to confirm you have no typos.
Not filing out all the required fields with the necessary information. Read through before submitting to be sure you have completed all fields as some may not have auto-filled if you used the IRS DRT.
Not listing all the colleges/universities you are considering. You can list up to ten schools at a time. You application will not be negatively affected by adding schools since colleges can’t see the other schools you have on the form. If you apply to more than ten schools, follow the instructions on the form.
Not signing the FAFSA form. You are required to use your FSA ID to sign and then submit the form and your parent is also required to do the same with their parent FSA ID.
You won’t know if you qualify for financial aid unless you apply. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to help pay for your college education. Apply now.
Your application is how you introduce yourself to Admissions. Make a good impression by submitting your best, most accurate and carefully written application. Review your applications before your hit “submit”. Avoid common mistakes which will make you look disorganized and careless.
Things to check before you submit:
Spelling: Don’t rely on spell check and be careful of autocorrect. For example, you’re on the “Honor Roll” not the “Honor Role”. Read and re-read multiple times
Accuracy: Look for typos or easily overlooked mistakes such as incorrect information about your counselor’s contact info or your telephone number and email address should Admissions try to contact you. Be sure your date of birth and social security number match what is on your high school transcript. Have you listed your extracurricular activities on the Common App in the order of importance to you?
Be Specific: Make sure each essay and your short answers are detailed and specific to the school to which you are applying. Mention the school but be sure if you are copy and pasting that you don’t refer to the wrong school. If you’ve indicated a high level of commitment in a club or activity throughout high school, highlight and discuss your involvement on your application in order to demonstrate your interest.
Due Dates: Applications, special programs, scholarships and financial aid all have different deadlines, even within the same school. Don’t miss out on any opportunities because you overlooked at deadline. Look them all up on school websites and keep a calendar or agenda with each due date.
Proofread: Read and re-read your application. Have at least one other person read your application before submitting. You want to make sure you’ve conveyed your message with care as well as to confirm you haven’t overlooked any errors.
Seniors, you’re putting together a list of colleges and universities to research and apply. Consider looking into community colleges. These local schools present you with a different pathway to earning a bachelor’s degree. If you are not ready to commit to a four year program and are looking to stay close to home or would benefit from the reduced tuition, community college may be your answer.
Many four year colleges and universities are expanding their outreach and formal programs providing a way for qualified community college students to transfer. These four year schools provide support to help applicants navigate the application process and generous scholarships to help with tuition. Students may often transfer with little or no loss of academic credit. Students who are then ready to earn their bachelor’s will find many agreements and innovative partnerships that allow community college students access to top-ranked programs in nursing, technology, business and science programs.
Internships are a great way to get experience outside of school in the real world. There are many positives to working after school or during the summer.
Get the chance to identify what you like doing
Acquire work experience
Build new skills
Gain an introduction to a field of interest
Identify a potential academic path to pursue
Confirm your interest before you make a long term commitment
Earn money, if it’s a paid internship
Internships are available through many sources including government agencies, private companies, non-profits and cultural organizations to name a few. Internships may be available after school during the school year or during the summer months. Before you begin your search, think about your schedule and whether you really have the time to devote to another commitment during the school year. If not, limit your search to summer internships. Here are some helpful tips on how to begin your search:
Think about what you’re interested in
Talk to your guidance counselor about resources to help you with your search
Ask your teachers, coaches, family and friends for leads
Look online and use social media such as LinkedIn to identify opportunities
Once you’ve found internships looking for high school students like you, think about how you’ll present yourself.
Create your elevator pitch to introduce yourself by preparing a short description about who you are
Share your goal(s) and objective(s)
Mention any skills you have that are aligned with the opportunity
Share something special about yourself and why you would add value
Most schools offer, and some even require interviews, with admission reps and/or with alum. Interviews are just one small piece of the application process, but they are a great opportunity for you to get to know more about the school and also to introduce yourself. Share something that isn’t revealed in your application and give your interviewer a reason to support your application.
Here are some tips to help you prepare:
Confirm with each school whether interviews with Admissions are required. If so, schedule your interview as soon as possible, as slots fill up quickly.
Many schools also offer or even require alumni interviews which can be confirmed on school websites or with Admissions. Don’t miss a chance to interview— confirm whether an alum will reach out or if you are responsible for scheduling the interview.
Your interviewer will have reviewed your transcript and activities resume prior to your meeting. This is an opportunity to share your interests and why you want to join the campus community to help them build a well-rounded entering class of qualified students.
Prepare for your interviews. Start by looking through the website to learn more about the school. Be prepared to talk about yourself: share what you do in your free time, explain why you’d like to attend, and talk about what you hope to achieve at that particular school.
This is a great opportunity to ask questions and learn more about what’s unique about the school and what it has to offer. It’s a good idea to have some questions ready. Just make sure that they are not questions that can easily be answered online.
Practice by role playing with a parent, sibling or friend.
This is also an opportunity to bring up anything that needs explaining, like a temporary drop in grades.
First impressions are important. Make sure to be on time, dress appropriately, pick a quiet spot and be confident. Most important, be authentic.
After the interview, don’t forget send a thank you note and respond to any requests for information promptly.
There are many reasons to get involved in extracurricular activities, both in and out of school. Activities outside the classroom give you the chance to learn more about what you like doing and also give you the opportunity to gain new skills.
,A great way to get started is to think about what you enjoy doing. If there is an activities fair at your school, be sure to attend. Go through the list of clubs and extracurriculars offered at your school and find the ones that sound fun. Also, challenge yourself and step out of your comfort zone and try something completely new. Maybe it’s even something you’ve had in the back of your mind to do.
If you’ve already found something you enjoy, now’s the time to build on it. Consider expanding your role by seeking out a leadership position. Think about starting a new club to get others to join in an activity you’re interested in. Also, you can give back to your community by volunteering.
The more you try, the more you’ll find out about yourself. And, college admissions reps will be interested in how you’ve chosen to spend your time outside the classroom. Your extracurricular involvement will help you to define who you are outside of your academics. You may find yourself in situations that help you develop leadership capabilities, gain confidence in public speaking and also learn teamwork.