Archive | Getting Organized RSS feed for this section

Tips for keeping organized

24 Oct

Are you getting bogged down with college application paperwork?

Are you getting bogged down with college application paperwork?

As you are amassing stacks of brochures, applications, and other paperwork relating to your college search and financial aid process, you will quickly find you’ve got a giant mess!

The following office supplies can help you create a simple system:

  • File box (with hanging files) or large accordian file
  • Box of file folders

 

Then organize your materials like this:

College info:

  • Create a separate file folder for each different college.
  • Write passwords and other important access info on the inside of the file folder.
  • On the COVER of the file folder, write the due date of the application along with a checklist for every item you need to complete the application.
  • When  you have completed the application, print out a copy and keep it in the file.

Scholarship info:

  • Create a separate file folder for each scholarship.
  • On the COVER of the file folder, write the due date of the scholarship along with a checklist for every item you need to complete the application.
  • Keep a hard copy of all scholarship applications and responses.

Financial aid info:

  • Create separate file folders for any financial aid paperwork: FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and state grant info, as appropriate.
  • Write login info and passwords on the inside of the file folder.
  • Keep hard copies of all paperwork.

Order the files in the box, according to due date. The nearest due date should be in the front, followed by the next due item and so forth.

Then, check your file system on a daily basis, so that you stay on top of what needs to be done. You can also calendar these deadlines in your planner or on a calendar on your phone.

It’s not rocket science, senior — but this simple system will keep you on track!

Evaluating aid offers

24 Mar

Weighing offers can be confusing!

As your financial aid offers start coming in, you and your parents may be a little confused. The differing formats and terminology may seem like you’re being asked to compare apples with oranges.

Buffy Tanner, a counselor with the BOLD (Bachelor’s through Online and Local Degrees) program at Shasta College, has some helpful advice. (She was formerly part of the College OPTIONS organization, which has a mission to strengthen the college-going culture in the more rural areas of northern California by increasing opportunities for students to pursue and become informed about postsecondary education).

portland-1-jFirst, she says to make sure each college includes all five components of Cost of Attendance (some colleges don’t include all five on their award letters):

  • Tuition/Fees
  • Room/Board
  • Books/Supplies
  • Transportation
  • Personal Expenses

Tanner also says, “Students need to realize that the Cost of Attendance published by each school is an AVERAGE, ESTIMATED cost.  For some students, transportation costs may be more or less, they can save money by tripling up in a dorm, or by living at home, etc.  As much as possible, they should personalize that Cost of Attendance for each college to determine what they will REALLY need.”

The College OPTIONS organization has developed a Financial Aid Offer Comparison Worksheet that can help you evaluate financial aid offers. In this Excel document you can insert the numbers of each type of aid from a college (and then the next college and the next), so as to get an actual “apples to apples” comparison (instead of apples to alligators).  This tool is online:  http://www.collegeoptions.org/#!financial-aid/c8k2. (See the middle column “Tools for Award Letters” — the last bullet. There is also a link for instructions on how to use the tool.)

“There are MANY roads from point A to point B,” Tanner notes. “Some are more scenic than others, others are quicker, still others have hidden gems along the way that they don’t even know about.”

In any case, do not make rash decisions based on a quick glance of the financial aid offers. Weigh your options carefully and make sure any decision is done with the help of your parents.

‘Tis the FAFSA season!

4 Jan

imgres-5

Starting January 1 students and their parents have been able to file their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the U.S. government vehicle for determining how much and the various kinds of financial aid that can be offered, based on financial need–mostly grants (free money), work study (work at a job, usually on campus–nontaxable), and student and parent loans (must be repaid).

The first step in this process is to obtain the Federal Student Aid (FSA) I.D. for both the student who will be attending college in Fall 2016 and the parent(s). The FSA I.D. replaces the four-digit PIN number. This FSA I.D. will be even more secure because students and their parents will provide a personalized username, password and FIVE security questions of their own design.

Because of the addition of the personalized security questions and a later verification via email/website, this process takes longer, and financial aid officers at colleges are emphasizing the importance of getting the FSA I.D. for both student and parent(s) done in ADVANCE.

The I.D. is needed for both the student and parent to sign the FAFSA electronically.

Go to www.fafsa.ed.gov to get the FSA I.D. taken care of and to do the FAFSA, for which you will need your 2015 income information as well as current info of assets.

NOTE: The California deadline for the FAFSA is March 2 for four-year college students (later for others–but keep the first-come-first-served idea in mind!). Leave a comment here if you want to know your state’s deadline (private colleges will have their own deadlines–check with the financial aid departments).

NOTE FOR ATHLETES: Colleges will want you to do the FAFSA, so that they see you are being proactive about accessing all kinds of financial aid–not just the sports scholarship.