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FAFSA and All Things Financial Aid

It is that time of year again! The 2020-2021 FAFSA and CSS Profile are open. The FAFSA is required to be completed by any student and parent who intends to attend college in the Fall of 2021 and will need money to pay for college. Listed below are suggestions and facts that I believe will help you navigate this process.

1. All colleges and universities require submission of the FAFSA for need-based aid consideration. For current high school students or transfer students expecting to attend college next year, the 2020-2021 FAFSA can be accessed and submitted at studentaid.ed.gov/sa/fafsa beginning October 1.

2. About 150 colleges and universities also require submission of the CSS Profile. That list of colleges can be found here, but it is always best to verify with the college itself: cssprofile.collegeboard.org

3. The CSS profile can be accessed and submitted at: https://cssprofile.collegeboard.org beginning October 1.

4. The deadline to submit these forms varies from college to college. However, it is my strong recommendation that you apply as early in October as possible. It is necessary to check each college’s website or financial aid office to verify the deadline for each. Missing these deadlines can seriously jeopardize your child’s eligibility for financial aid.

5. For those planning to apply during ED (early decision) or EA (early actions) rounds, many colleges have a November 1 or November 15 financial aid deadline. Know your child’s deadlines. There is a connection between when you apply to college and when you complete the FAFSA.

6. These forms will ask detailed questions about your 2018 tax return. Be sure to have those returns handy. Also, make sure you have submitted and processed your 2018 tax return prior to beginning these forms.

Here is what you need to properly begin the FAFSA:

1. The FAFSA belongs to the student, although many parents complete the form on their child’s behalf. To begin the FAFSA, the student must first create their own FSA ID (Federal Student Aid Identification Number). This ID is an electronic fingerprint associated with one person and one email address. Any person who needs to access a student’s FAFSA will require their own. Create your FSA ID here: https://fsaid.ed.gov/.npas/index.htm

2. Parents will need to cosign the FAFSA for their minor children and will therefore need to create their own FSA ID as well.

3. When beginning the FAFSA, it is best to select the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) in order to automatically populate many of the answer fields. Selecting the DRT will unfortunately shield the numbers for the filer’s view, although colleges will see these numbers. Not doing so will often trigger a verification request from the financial aid office, requiring submission of an official tax transcript, and possibly delaying admission decisions.

Here is who should seriously consider filing the FAFSA and the CSS Profile:

1. Anyone wanting to receive need-based aid who believes they may qualify.

2. Anyone who thinks they might require need-based financial aid at any point during their child’s undergraduate career. Many colleges will not consider a financial aid application in the future, or until the junior year, from any student who did not previously submit the FAFSA.

3. Anyone who will have two or more children in college at the same time, because the threshold for need-based eligibility is significantly lower.

4. Anyone applying for merit aid at institutions that require the FAFSA or CSS Profile for consideration for such awards. Check on each college’s website for this requirement, because sometimes it is not stated in the college application.

Appealing Your Financial Aid Decision

Families who have experienced negative changes in their finances this year, for one or more reasons, including those due to the impact of Covid-19, may want to appeal their student’s financial aid package. There is a free tool called Swift Student (https://formswift.com/swift-student) that will guide families through the process of requesting additional financial aid.

Swift Student was created to offer a one-stop-shop resource on the financial aid appeal process. The site is designed to support families in answering several questions pertaining to eligibility for additional financial aid, determining what documents are needed, how best to write an appeal letter and where the letter needs to be submitted. The timeliness of the launch of the Swift Student website coincides with the distribution of several million dollars of Cares Act funding to provide aid to students impacted by Covid-19. Students’ data will not be sold or shared with any third parties.

An Update on College Testing – October 2020

Today, more than two-thirds of the colleges in the United States are test-optional for the class of 2021. For many high school students, the beginning of this school year began as last year’s ended, with cancellations of the SAT or ACT test. However, since mid-September, more students have been able to safely take these exams. Families are once again asking me whether students should submit their test scores.

My answer continues to be NO, unless the student is applying to a college that continues to require the test. Florida is the only state that is requiring the test for admission. So, take the test if you can but don’t submit the scores.

A Meditation Moment

I am a long-time meditator and believe strongly in the benefits it provides in reducing stress. October and November are two of the most stressful months in the college admissions’ process. Listed below is a quick one-minute meditation technique I use to help manage my stress. Try it! It works!

1. While standing or sitting be aware of your feet grounded on the floor. Close your eyes.
2. Take a deep breath in, scanning your entire body up and down, from your toes to the top of your head, then back down again while breathing out.
3. As you inhale and exhale, breath deep into your chest so your belly fills with the air. When exhaling, control the air as it leaves your lungs.
4. Make breathing in and out your only responsibility. Listen to your breath as it goes in and out of your nose. Feel it as it fills your lungs. Control it as your lungs empty.
5. Do this for one minute. At the end of the meditation, open your eyes.

If you have any questions about any aspect of the college admissions process, financial aid, essays or scholarships, give me a call. I can be reached at dianne@launchingcollegesuccess.com or 240-285-1920