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Hebron - December 28, 2005

Counselor’s Corner


By
Dr. Gaylynn Becker
National Certified Career Counselor
Hebron & New Salem High Schools


College Financial Aid
It is Financial Aid Application time of year again for students who plan to attend post-secondary education in the fall of 2006. While we had a Financial Aid Workshop for parents and students on November 28th, I write this article more for those who couldn’t attend as well as for those who have previously graduated from high school and are now planning to attend college and need some sort of college financial assistance. This article is in the format of questions I hear and my responses. I hope you find it helpful.

What is the FAFSA?
The Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the Federal form that is required for students who need federal financial aid for attending college. Pell Grants, Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants, State Grants, College Work Study, and both subsidized and unsubsidized student loans all require the FAFSA to be completed prior to students receiving financial aid.

When should I have the FAFSA form completed and mailed?
In order to be considered for the best possible financial aid package and not miss out on a chance at the State Grants, I recommend that the FAFSA be mailed by February 15th. This means that the Federal Income Tax forms need to be completed by the end of January or early February. The reason for this is because the FAFSA requires information from various lines on the completed 1040 income tax form. The 1040 and other income tax forms do not need to be submitted until the April 15th deadline.

Where can I get the FAFSA?
A paper FAFSA can be obtained from me in my counseling office. An electronic form can be accessed at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov. The United States Department of Education prefers the electronic online FAFSA. It is quicker for the applicant and there is less chance of an error occurring. In addition, I have paper copies of the FAFSA that can be completed and mailed. These paper copies arrived in December.

About how long does FAFSA processing take?
Allow about 4 weeks for paper FAFSAs to be processed and approximately 2 weeks for online versions.

What if I don’t get the FAFSA completed until the summer?
FAFSAs are processed year round. However, depending upon when they are completed various deadlines may have been missed and less financial aid may be available. The State grant is one grant that will be missed by not completing the FAFSA early. In addition, many colleges prefer completing the FAFSA and applying to the college for admission, scholarships, and financial aid so that they can provide you with the best possible financial aid package possible.

What is a PIN?
PIN stands for Personal Identification Number. It is used as a signature for doing a FAFSA online. The PIN serves as your electronic signature as well as your access code to your FAFSA information on the Internet. A PIN number can be obtained by accessing the following website: http://www.pin.ed.gov. The PIN site can also be accessed from the FAFSA web site.

How long does it take to get a PIN number?
It usually takes less than 2 days to get your PIN number after the electronic request is made. I’ve heard some reports of people receiving it within 24 hours. PIN numbers are sent via e-mail. Once you receive it, please record it in a secure place so that no one else can find it.

It seems like a lot of terms I need to know. Are there additional financial aid terms I should know?
Yes, there are additional financial aid terms that students and their parents should know. Here are some of them.

Cost of Attending College includes tuition, fees, room and board, books, and supplies.
Sometimes indirect costs such as travel to and from college, computer, clothes, paper,
pens, laundry, phone, entertainment, etc. are also included in the cost of attending
college.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is the amount the student’s family is expected to pay
toward a student’s educational costs.
Financial Aid Package is the amount of financial aid a student receives, including grants,
scholarships, work-study, and loans.
Financial Need equals the cost of attending college minus the Expected Family Contribution
(EFC).

Unmet Need is the difference between a student’s cost of attending college minus the sum of the financial aid package from the college and the Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

What is a Financial Aid Calculator?
A financial aid calculator provides immediate feedback of any of several estimates. The one I most frequently use is “The Smart Student Guide to Financial Aid.” This calculator can be accessed by going to my website at http://cplanning.org. Once there, select “Scholarships & Financial Aid.” Then select “Financial Aid Calculators.” Some of the estimates this calculator will provide immediate feedback on are: expected family contribution (EFC), college cost projector, savings plan designer, loan payment calculator, etc. I use the loan payment calculator to assist students and others in finding out how much any loan will cost provided you know the loan amount and in how many months you plan to pay off the loan.

What should I do now?
The first thing I would do now is for you and your parents to plan to complete your income tax forms by the end of January or early February. The earlier this is done the better. In the meantime, obtain your PIN number and look at the FAFSA in either paper format or electronic version. I have two paper copies. One paper copy is for completing the FAFSA on paper only. The other paper copy I have is to be used when completing the FAFSA online. The online copy is the copy that was distributed at the Family Financial Aid Night on November 28, 2005. Good luck!

For more information on financial aid, career information and links, please see my Career Planning website at http://cplanning.org. If you have any questions on career, counseling, or assessment topics, please contact me at Hebron High School at 878-4442, New Salem High School at 843-7610, or at my residence at 222-3222.

Have a Happy New Year!