Applying to College

You’ve been considering colleges for a while now; visit booths at college fairs, perusing websites and pamphlets, and even venturing out on campus visits – all the while looking for that perfect campus that says home away from home.

Well, the time has come to start applying if you haven’t already. October is College Application Month and now is the time to make some decisions about what colleges interest you enough to fill out that application and hit submit.

The application process is actually a lot easier than most people think, but depending on where you decide to apply there can still be some steps to the process.

Step 1:
Narrow your choices. You should apply to 3-5 schools to keep your options open. You want to apply to your top schools, but you also want to make sure your final list includes a safety school. What is a safety school? It’s a school that you know you’ll get into and that has your program of interest. You want to always have a back-up plan and your safety school is your admissions back-up plan.

Step 2:
Review each school on your list and determine their application process and requirements. Are the applications online free? Is there a benefit to applying on campus? What pieces of information are required such as ACT score, GPA, letters of recommendation, or essays? Make a list for each school and then begin compiling everything you need.

Step 3:
Fill out the application. Be thorough and don’t leave anything blank. If you have to submit additional information, be sure you proof read everything and check off each item as you submit it to the school.

If there’s an essay make sure you are following all the instructions. Some schools will provide a prompt or topic they want you to write about. Others may simply ask for a personal statement. Remember that you can reuse certain parts of essays but be sure to tailor each essay to the specific shcool

Once you’re organized, the application process is pretty straight-forward. Just remember to take your time and be yourself on your applications. Try and submit your applications by early to mid-November so you have plenty of time to focus on scholarship applications at each college. And remember, you can also be working on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA.)

That’s about it. Now get out there and submit those applications.

Contributed by: Iowa College Access Network

This is Contributed Content. Any opinions, advice, statements, services, offers, or other information contained in Contributed Content are solely those of the respective author(s) or contributor(s) and do not necessarily state or reflect the opinion of Iowa Student Loan and/or this blog. See the “About” page for additional important information about Contributed Content.

Registration Opens for College Scholarship Program

Scholarship Gives 30 Iowa High School Seniors Chance at $2,000,
Educates Them on College Borrowing and Personal Finance

Registration is open for a scholarship that offers Iowa high school seniors a chance to receive one of 30 scholarships worth $2,000 for college while learning important financial literacy skills. In addition, each recipient’s high school will receive a corresponding $500 award.

2017 Scholarship recipients with then Iowa Governor Terry Branstad.

High school seniors may register for the Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge: Senior Scholarship at www.IowaStudentLoan.org/SeniorScholarship between now and Feb. 16. Iowa Student Loan® will award $2,000 scholarships to 30 students who complete two online financial literacy tutorials and score highest on a related assessment. Registered students also receive emails highlighting financial literacy tips, such as the importance of early career and college planning and ways to reduce student loan indebtedness.

After registering for the scholarship, students receive emailed instructions for completing the three required online components. The two tutorials — Student Loan Game Plansm and the ROCI Reality Check — were developed by Iowa Student Loan to help students understand the consequences of college borrowing and discover how to maximize their return on college investment, or ROCI.

A related multiple choice assessment will check students’ understanding of the concepts in the tutorials. The 30 high school seniors who score highest on the assessment test will each receive a $2,000 scholarship that will be sent directly to their colleges in fall 2018. If top-scoring students tie, those students will be asked to write and be judged on a short essay so winners can be determined.

Each scholarship recipient’s high school will also receive a corresponding $500 award to be used toward scholarship and financial literacy programs.

“I’m incredibly grateful for Iowa Student Loan and the Financial Know-How Challenge Scholarship. The financial rewards as well as the skills I learned when applying will be a huge help to me … as I strive to pursue my dreams in a way that is financially responsible.”

— Ryan Wagner, a 2017 graduate of Fort Dodge High School and a recipient of the 2016–2017 scholarship

 

The Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge: Senior Scholarship is open to legal U.S. citizens who are residents of Iowa; are seniors at an Iowa high school during the 2017–2018 school year; and attend college in fall 2018. It is a no-purchase-required program, and full rules and details are available at www.IowaStudentLoan.org/SeniorScholarship.

Register Today!

By: Iowa Student Loan

Addressing Financial Aid Myths

Have you heard that applying for financial aid isn’t worth it because your parents earn too much or because it takes too long to complete? Don’t be tempted by these common myths to skip completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You could be passing up free money. And that’s the last thing you want to do when it comes to paying for college.

FAFSA-Myths-Image

Financial Aid Myth — You won’t receive financial aid because of how much money your parents earn.

Income is not the only determining factor when it comes to whether or not you’re eligible for federal student aid. And there is no income level that automatically disqualifies you for aid. Taking the time to complete the FAFSA is the only way to qualify for federal student aid and you won’t know if you qualify until you do that step, so completing the FAFSA every year you are in school is important.

Also, did you know that the FAFSA is used for more than just federal financial aid? State and school aid is also awarded based on your FAFSA results. If you don’t complete the FAFSA, you could also be missing out on these other sources of financial aid.

Financial Aid Myth — The FAFSA is difficult to complete.

The FAFSA has changed a lot since it was first introduced, and the application is revised often to make the process smoother. The online process uses logic to limit questions to ones that are relevant and completing it online instead of filling out a paper application lessens the chance for mistakes. According to the federal government, completing the FAFSA now takes less than 21 minutes on average. That’s not too bad if the outcome is grants, scholarships and other funds to help lower your college expenses, is it?

Financial Aid Myth — You only need to complete the FAFSA once.

If you complete the FAFSA before starting college, you may think you don’t need to file it ever again. But you should file the FAFSA every year as soon after Oct. 1 as possible if you intend to enroll in classes during the next academic year. This is especially important if your family’s circumstances change because you may be eligible for new or more aid next year. Even if there are no major changes to your family, though, other factors such as how financial need is calculated may mean you are eligible for different options next year. And, once you complete the FAFSA the first time, it will take even less time to complete the following years.

Financial Aid Myth — Your parents are not supporting you financially in college so you don’t have to include their information on the FAFSA.

Unfortunately you may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes, even if you are paying for all your college expenses yourself. You will need to answer questions in the FAFSA to determine if you are considered a dependent student or an independent student. If you are considered a dependent student, you will need to report your parents’ information on the FAFSA. If you are unsure how what type of student you are, contact your college or university’s financial aid office for assistance.

By: Iowa Student Loan

10 Things You Need to Complete the FAFSA

10thingscompletefafsa

Now that the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is open, set aside a little time to complete it. Before you start, make sure you have these items available if they are applicable to you.

Item Dependent Students Parents
List of schools you wish to send FAFSA results to

X

FSA ID username and password

X

X

Biographical information like Social Security number, drivers license number, birthdate, marriage and divorce dates

X

X

Alien registration number for non-citizens

X

X

2016 income tax returns, W-2s and other records of money earned in 2016

X

X

2016 bank statements and investment records

X

X

2016 untaxed income records

X

X

2016 businesses and farms records

X

X

Child support received or paid

X

X

By: Iowa Student Loan

FAFSA: What You Need to Know

If college is in the picture for the 2018–2019 academic year, now is the time to file the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Here are answers to some of the most important questions about the FAFSA.

Why should I file the FAFSA?

Regardless of financial situation, filing the FAFSA is the first step to qualifying for many forms of aid, not just those based on income. Federal Student Aid’s Myths About Financial Aid (PDF) provides more information on why all students should submit the FAFSA.

Whose information goes on the FAFSA?

The student who will attend college will provide biographical and financial information on the FAFSA. Dependent students, whether or not they are financially supported by their parents, will need to provide parent or guardian biographical and financial information.

Is the FAFSA only for federal aid?

The federal government uses the income, family size and other information provided on the FAFSA to award federal aid in the form of grants, work-study and loans. You need to file the FAFSA to qualify for federal work-study and federal student loans. In addition, many states and colleges and some private organizations use the information to determine eligibility for grants, scholarships and other aid.

When should I start?

The 2018–2019 FAFSA opened on Oct. 1 and is available until June 30, 2018. Some types of aid have limited funds, so the earlier the FAFSA is completed and submitted, the better the chances of receiving more financial aid from those programs.

Remember to complete a new FAFSA the fall before each new college year.

What information will I need?

The student should create an FSA ID to make it easier to complete and access the FAFSA. You can also gather identifying information (Social Security numbers for student and parent, driver’s license number, and Alien Registration number if applicable); federal tax information or returns from 2016; records on any untaxed income; and balances for cash, savings and checking accounts, investments, and business and farm assets for both the student and parents.

Note: You may be able to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to pull in applicable tax information while you complete the FAFSA, but this information will not be displayed on the online FAFSA or your Student Aid Report.

If you have any questions on the information you will need to provide, start by reviewing the Completing the FAFSA guide (PDF).

Where do I start?

You can complete your FAFSA online at https://fafsa.gov.

You may also download a PDF form to print and complete or call (877) 433-7827 to request a form be mailed to you. Some colleges may allow you to file your FAFSA at their financial aid office.

Do I need to do it all at one sitting?

You may save the information entered into the FAFSA online if you need to stop before completing it. Then, when you’re ready to finish, log back in to complete the form, sign and submit it.

What will happen next?

Within three weeks after submission, you’ll receive a Student Aid Report, which summarizes the data you submitted. You should review this report carefully and follow the instructions for correcting any mistakes.

Your Student Aid Report will also tell you if you’ve been selected for verification. This is not necessarily an indication that something is wrong; verification may be based on a random selection or because one or more of the schools listed requires all FAFSAs to be verified. If you are selected, follow the instructions to verify your information with the requested documents.

Federal Student Aid also shares the information you submitted with the colleges you listed when you completed the FAFSA, your state and the states of colleges you entered. Each college you have been accepted to will follow its own timeline to send you a financial aid award packet detailing the financial aid available to you if you choose to attend that school.

More information is available from Federal Student Aid.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Find a Budgeting System that Works

When someone says budgeting some people find themselves cringing a little at the thought.

For many, the idea of a budget means less freedom and less fun. But the truth is that having a budget provides a lot more freedom in the long run.

To make things easier, you can use the word “plan” instead of “budget.” Everyone has made a plan at one time or another, whether it’s a small list of things to do, a get-together with friends, or a trip.

Making a budget is simply another form of making a plan. It’s figuring out how much you have coming in (income) and what expenses you have to cover (bills/spending). Your budget is a plan to have enough income to cover all your expenses while ensuring there’s enough left over to do what you really want to do.

Understanding how much money you have enables you to plan ahead for bigger things and provides you more freedom because you’ve already determined what you can afford and how you want to spend your money.

Budgeting can seem overwhelming but there are a lot of great tools and resources to help you get started.

Mint.com is free and does all the work for you. This online tool links to all of your accounts over a secure site and tracks income, spending and overall debt. There’s lot of features, including setting spending limits, email alerts, goal setting, and a mobile app.

Other ways of tracking your spending include resources such as Dave Ramsey’s EveryDollar, Feedthepig.org, your bank or credit union’s online system, or a simple spreadsheet. Some people even use the envelope system where cash is added to envelopes each month and bills and expenses are paid directly from there.

No matter what system you find is right for you, it’s important to track your spending and know where your money goes. The more financially responsible you are, the more freedom you will find when it comes time to do the things you really want to do.

Note: some systems, including Aspire Servicing Center’s,  do not support automated integration with sites like Mint.com and may require you to manually input your info.

Contributed by: Iowa College Access Network

This is Contributed Content. Any opinions, advice, statements, services, offers, or other information contained in Contributed Content are solely those of the respective author(s) or contributor(s) and do not necessarily state or reflect the opinion of Iowa Student Loan and/or this blog. See the “About” page for additional important information about Contributed Content.