My Journey Virtual Event Recorded Sessions
Your College and Career Planning Journey Starts Here!
View the following videos recorded at our recent live event, and read the questions and answers from each session. You'll learn from the experts how to prepare for college and career – from finding scholarships to transitioning to life on campus.
Closed captions are available by hovering over each video and clicking the CC icon in the lower-right corner.
Welcome from Janet Godwin,
CEO of ACT
#IApplied: Building Your College List
College Planning - Session A1
Presenter: Lisa King, Director of American College Application Campaign at ACT Center for Equity and Learning
When applying to college, building a college list is an essential first step. This session shows students and parents how to build a balanced college list together. Lisa King discusses the importance of creating a list that includes reach schools, likely schools, and target schools. Additionally, Lisa shares tools and resources to help students determine colleges with the best match and fit for their future goals. Students should consider factors such as personal values and qualities, institution type, majors and programs offered, and affordability.
Q: Can I enter a higher GPA than 4.00?
A: Yes, most college applications will allow you to enter a GPA higher than 4.0.
Q: How do sports and extracurricular activities fit into the college admissions process?
A: Sports and extracurricular activities can help shape your college list as you determine what colleges you're most interested in attending. These activities provide opportunity for self-exploration, relationship-building, and exposure and visibility. College applications will have space to add any co-curriculars, community service, sports, and jobs.
Q: How do we figure out what schools to put on our list if we don't know what major we want?
A: It's OK to not know what you want to major in when selecting a college. You want to ask yourself what are you looking for in a college and how important are each of these factors in your decision? Do you want to be close to home? In-state? Do you want the college to be big, small, or somewhere in between? The diversity of the student body, whether there’s a religious affiliation, the services offered and social aspects of the college are all things to consider. If you're not sure what you'd like to major in, visit My.ACT.Org or myOptions.org to explore and learn more about careers and majors that align with your interests and talents.
Q: Can you get accepted to college before graduating? I have heard about undergraduate programs before, but I am not quite sure how they work.
A: Once you have submitted your college application, colleges should be in touch with you via email or letter to confirm your application was received and any potential next steps. Make sure to check your email! If you have not been contacted by the school within two weeks of your submission, get in touch with the school's admissions office to inquire about your application status. Admissions decisions can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Average turnaround time is about four to six weeks.
Q: How are we supposed to make a college list without knowing what major we are going into? I'm considering some really specific majors only available at select schools.
A: If you're not sure what you'd like to major in, visit My.ACT.Org or myOptions.org to explore and learn more about careers and majors that align with your interests and talents. Also, know that it is OK to put "undecided" on your college application.
Learn more here: https://myoptions.org/tips-for-choosing-a-college-major/
Q: How do I sign up for myOptions?
A: Students can head to https://myoptions.org/students/ to create their free account.
Q: How should I start the search for colleges?
A: Reflecting on your needs and preferences will help you get started in identifying which colleges may meet those needs and preferences. Learn more at https://myoptions.org/college-planning-maxim/ and https://myoptions.org/college-search-tips/
What Does “Test Optional” Really Mean for Students?
College Planning - Session B1
Presenter: Bryan Contreras, Vice President, K12 & Education Partners at myOptions
Should I take the ACT? In this session, Bryan Contreras presents student case studies that illustrate and break down the various ways colleges use the ACT scores, the care and time needed to make the decision, and four of the most important factors that should be considered prior to applying to a college. Students and families will gain valuable insight into the entire college planning process and learn key questions related to “test optional” to ask their school counselors and the colleges on the student’s application list.
Q: When should I consider testing in my college application process, and what tests should I consider taking?
A: Building a balanced college list is the first step. Once you start the process of identifying the colleges you want to apply to, then you can decide if taking a college entrance exam is necessary. I recommend starting to build your list at the beginning of 11th grade.
Q: Will asking a college admissions office about test-optional policies hurt my chances of getting admitted?
A: Asking questions will not hurt your chances of getting into a college. Everybody involved in the process wants to find ways to help you gain admission and succeed.
Q: Outside of college admissions, what are the benefits of taking the ACT test?
A: Taking the ACT test early in high school allows students to qualify for private scholarships and enrichment programs.
Planning to Prepare for the ACT
College Planning - Session C1
Presenter: Robert Michaels, ACT Senior Product Portfolio Manager
There’s a lot of pressure to succeed on tests, especially when it comes to taking a highstakes college admissions test, such as the ACT. The good news? There are many ways to boost confidence and improve performance using strategies, tools, programs, and products leading up to the big day! In this session, Robert Michaels discusses the different approaches and resources that can help students plan and prepare for the ACT.
Q: Can you break down the scoring for the test?
A: The ACT is scored on a 1-36 scale in each section in one point increments. The four multiple choice sections (English, Math, Reading, and Science) will all have scores provided separately. This relatively small scale means that small improvements in your score can make a big difference in your percentile ranking (sometimes, a one point increase in your score can boost your percentile ranking by five points).
Once you answer all the questions and submit your scoresheet, ACT does a few things:
1) We count the number of correct questions on each section. We don’t deduct points for incorrect answers (so don't leave a question blank!)
2) Your raw scores are converted to scale scores.
3) Scale scores are averaged to create your composite score, rounded to the nearest whole number.
4) Your composite score (as well as individual section scores) are sent to the colleges you selected when you registered.
Q: Exactly where on the ACT site do I find the online practice tests for each subject with answers and scoring. I looked for those but didn't find them.
A: Create an account at https://my.act.org. Once logged in to MyACT, select Tests & Prep for options to prepare for the ACT. You will be able to start taking the ACT Free Online Test.
View our quick start guide here: https://www.act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/2021/ACT-Test-Prep-Practice-Test-User-Guide.pdf.
Q: Is the one-on-one tutoring from Kaplan a part of a purchased package?
A: The ACT Official Tutoring Powered by Kaplan is a stand alone product that is available in five options from five hours to 40 hours and includes the following:
· More than seven hours of on-demand video lessons you can watch anytime
· Five official practice tests from the makers of the ACT
· A customizable Qbank with more than 2000 official ACT questions
· Personalized homework assigned by your tutor
Learn more here: https://www.kaptest.com/act/courses/act-tutoring.
Q: When do you recommend getting a tutor rather than reviewing online?
A: That depends on your student and their preferred learning preference but if your student needs personalized instruction and support, a tutor can contribute to helping them do their best.
Learn more here: https://www.kaptest.com/act/courses/act-tutoring.
Q: Where can we find a free practice test?
A: Our free practice test is available as a PDF document and an online experience.
Q: Is one month enough time to study for a test?
A: That depends on where you are at in your learning journey. Do a self-assessment, review our checklists, and take a practice test to help you determine how prepared you are. If you don't achieve the results you want, plan to re-test and give yourself more time to practice and prepare.
Q: What do we need to study?
A: English, math, science, and reading! Check out our guides and checklists to help you prepare.
Q: How can a superscore be submitted to colleges?
A: Your superscore can be submitted after you complete your re-test(s). Learn more here: https://www.act.org/content/act/en/students-and-parents/college-planning-resources/testing-advice-for-the-act/superscore-faqs.html.
The Transition to College
College Planning - Session D1
Presenter: Beth DaLonzo, ACT K-12 Client Relations
Adjusting to life on campus can be challenging. In this session, Beth DaLonzo shares practical tips and discusses how students can make the most of being in a new setting, with new people, including preparing for dorm life, sharing your space, staying active, keeping a schedule, studying well, and getting involved.
Q: Will students receive their roommates contact information?
A: You will likely receive some contact information. It depends on the college but it will probably be a phone number or email address.
Q: What are some study tips?
A: Attend class, do your homework daily, read over your notes daily, ask for help when you need it, get to know your professors, don’t wait until the last minute to study, take advantage of the resources on campus (writing center, study centers, tutors, etc.), get involved, and stay on campus.
Q: Are students placed in dorms or other housing with a roommate from a similar major?
A: Not always. Some schools have residence halls or floors that house all the same majors. It's best to check out the college website under "housing" or "residence halls" to learn more.
Career Clusters 101
Career Navigation - Session A2
Presenter: Mary LeFebvre, ACT Director of State Government Relations
How can students learn about career options, and decide on a next step based on their skills and interests? What is a career cluster? Figuring out the answer to these questions doesn’t have to be stressful. In this session, Mary LeFebvre shares free resources that can help inform and guide students for career exploration based on their skills, interests, and career outlook information. Mary is the parent of a recent high school graduate and has leveraged data to guide both students and adults to make more informed career choices for more than 15 years.
Q: What is the easiest way for me to find state-specific career outlook information?
A: It’s as easy as doing a web search for, for example, "Iowa labor market information."
Q: What’s the best way of deciding on a career path after high school?
A: Expose yourself to part-time work, job shadowing, or internships in a career you think you are interested in before pursuing training for it. No clue? Do an interest survey and then a deeper dive researching different career options. Remember that career choices might be more limited if you want to stay close to home (especially if you are in a rural area) so think about lifestyle and geographic location too. Lastly, not all training has to be paid for by you. Some employers pay for college for employees and others for job-related training, called apprenticeships, so you have options outside of student loans to pay for career training.
Q: How do I know what skills or credentials employers will need by the time I graduate?
A: The easiest way to figure this out is to compare the career outlook information against job postings. Some might require a combination of education and certification while others just require certification, and experience.
Alternative Pathways for Success
Career Navigation - Session B2
Presenter: Jasen Jones, Director of Workforce Strategies and National Partnerships
With so many options for career and education available, making the right decision can be stressful. In this quick 30-minute session, Jasen Jones highlights the importance of having a navigation plan, often referred to as a career pathway. A career pathway can be as unique as a fingerprint, with options for training, support, and credentialing that fit the student’s needs. Discover user-friendly tips on building a pathway and the right tools to use.
ACT National Career Readiness Certificate and How You Can Use It!
Career Navigation - Session C2
Presenter: Bobby Rush, District Manager of State Organizations
Learn more about ACT’s National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) and how it can provide an edge to any student’s career journey. In this session, Bobby Rush discusses how to earn an NCRC, and how students can use it to their advantage. He also discusses WorkKeys - the assessment given to earn an NCRC - and where students might be able to take it.
Q: Would it be recommended to obtain an NCRC if you wanted to be a doctor?
A: There are more than 20,000 jobs profiled by ACT for the NCRC and several are in the healthcare field. However, doctor/physician is not a profession that commonly requires an NCRC.
Q: Where can I find more information about ways employers have used ACT WorkKeys?
A: We have a bunch of success stories online: https://www.act.org/content/act/en/workforce-solutions/resources/success-stories.html.
Tips and Tricks to Land Your Dream Job
Career Navigation - Session D2
Presenter: Jenna Cohen, ACT Lead Workforce Product Manager
Landing a dream job quickly can be achievable! In this session, Jenna Cohen will talk about the key tips and tricks for students entering the workforce, and how to land that dream job. Gain insider information around networking, what types of events will give students the biggest bang for their buck, and how to best prepare for optimal networking. Jenna also discusses resume-building skills, what skills to include, and what students might expect when they land an interview.
Q: How do you find networking events?
A: Talk to friends and colleagues, browse networking sites, and check social media and your inbox, alumni and affinity organizations, and local organizations.
Q: How long should my elevator pitch and resume be?
A: Your elevator pitch should be under one minute, just enough time for a memorable introduction. Your resume should be one page or less if you have less than 10 years of experience. If you have more than 10 years of experience, you can have more than one page.
Q: How do you know if your elevator pitch is effective?
A: After some practice you can be sure that your elevator pitch is effective if you introduce yourself, name the field you are working in or want to work in, describe the type of company or organization you'd like to work at, and name what makes you unique by sharing skills and background experience that makes you the best candidate.
Q: What have you done to find a job?
A: Personally, I have done a lot of research in the field that I specialized in, and utilized my network. LinkedIn has also been a great tool to see where openings are that meet my skill set. Lastly, networking events are a good opportunity I have used to introduce myself and see if specific organizations that I am interested in are hiring.
Q: How did you know that a job you interviewed for was the right job, or not the right job?
A: I knew a job was a good fit for me when I got “that feeling” – I felt that the job offered a culture for learning and growth and the job description matched both skills I have mastered and was wanting to grow in. The conversation with the interview committee felt productive and I was excited to learn more about doing the work it took to accomplish the posted job. Everyone has a different barometer of what feels right, and what is a good fit; trust your gut and believe in yourself.
Stand Out with an Outstanding Application Essay
Paying for College - Session A3
Presenter: Susan Schaurer, ACT Director of K-12 Relations
For many students, writing the essay can be one of the most daunting aspects of the college application process. In this session, Susan Schaurer shares insights and tips on how to successfully develop essays that will help differentiate students in the college application and competitive scholarship process. From suggestions regarding prompts, length, and word choice, to expert recommendations about humor, personal stories, and voice, this session provides guidance and practical strategies on shaping a compelling and structured essay.
Q: Is it OK to use the same essay for multiple applications or scholarships?
A: Yes, it is very common for students to use the same essay in multiple applications for admission and/or scholarship purposes. Students will want to carefully read the instructions and other information provided to ensure it does not specify that an original essay is required. Likewise, if there are multiple steps in an admission or scholarship process, students will want to be very careful and make certain they do not use an essay twice for the same application.
Q: My life has been pretty uneventful. How can I write a memorable essay if I don’t have a tragic event or some amazing scientific research to talk about?
A: Some of the most memorable essays admissions professionals have ever read are about mundane events or routine occurrences in a student’s life. An essay does not need to be about a tragic event or extraordinary achievement to be impactful. What makes an essay memorable is the impact it has on the reader.
Q: How important are those questions that ask, “Why do you want to be a student at Fill-In-The-Blank University”?
A: The importance of these types of questions vary from one institution to another. Some insight on the importance of the essay can be garnered by discerning if it is optional or required and by looking at the acceptance rate of the college or university. If in doubt, the admissions representative is always a best source of information for these types of questions.
Q: Are optional essays truly optional? Will we be “dinged" in the review process if we choose not to submit an essay with our application?
A: Optional essays are indeed optional, and so there is typically not a penalty for students who choose not to submit the optional piece of writing. Remember that essays often help students on the margins. As such, students who consider themselves questionable in terms of admission to a particular institution and who believe the essay would strengthen their application should consider submitting the optional essay. Likewise, students who want to demonstrate their strong interest in a school, program, or scholarship, may choose to use the optional essay as a demonstration of that interest.
Q: Do you need to include life insurance information for the FAFSA?
A: This is a great question and is best addressed by a financial aid expert. I would recommend you ask this particular question of a financial aid representative at an institution to which you are applying.
Q: Should you ask for letters of recommendation from teachers in advance or should these letters be personalized for each scholarship?
A: Students should ask for letters of recommendation well in advance of the required deadlines – four to six weeks, at least. Most applications will have a mechanism to allow teachers to submit their recommendations directly to the institution. For instance, through Common App, teachers upload their letters of recommendation directly on the Common App website. For other applications, the high school counselor will often transmit transcripts and letters of recommendation at the same time on behalf of a student.
If the recommendation is for a particular program and will need to address specific questions or attributes related to your candidacy, you will want to request those recommendations as the applications become available and with advanced notice for the recommender.
Q: How early should I file the FAFSA? Should I apply for financial aid in my senior year or before that?
A: High school seniors will want to begin the process of completing the FAFSA in October of their senior year. Likewise, they will want to ask each college or university to which they are applying about the FAFSA priority deadline for scholarship, grants, and all other types of financial aid.
For students graduating in spring of 2022, the FAFSA became available on October 1, 2021. Many schools will require the FAFSA to be submitted by February or March 2022 for priority consideration for financial aid.
Q: Where can I go to find local scholarships?
A: The high school counselor is often the best source for local scholarships. Students can often find invaluable information about college access and scholarship opportunities through the community-based organizations in their area.
Q: How does a good essay affect an application if it is just talking about you?
A: The best essays are the ones that share information and insights about an applicant that can’t be learned or garnered from other parts of the application. Admissions officers want to see how you will contribute to the school’s campus community, so the best essays will help the reviewer make that discernment.
Q: Can you include pictures in essay?
A: As a general rule of thumb, pictures should not be included with the essay. Further, online applications typically allow text submissions only for the essay. If you have a picture that you believe is a meaningful and critical complement to the essay, you can add it with a link (however, it will count toward the word/character limit). You could also choose to add the link in the "Additional Information" section. Many schools will have a portfolio option available to students.
Q: Are the Common App essay prompts the same from year to year?
A: The Common App is a wonderful organization that works diligently to ensure students have access to higher education. As such, it will usually release the essay prompts for the upcoming admission cycle months before the application is available for students to submit. For the 2021-2022 Common App, the essay prompts were released in February 2021 and students could begin submitting application on August 1, 2021.
The Common App prompts are very consistent, with changes occurring every couple of years. When a change does occur, students will notice that it usually only impacts one or two of the seven prompts.
Q: How do you determine the weight and importance an essay will have with a school or scholarship program?
A: The essay will typically be a secondary factor used in the admissions review process. However, the weight and importance of the essay varies from school to school and program to program. Some insight on the weight and importance of the essay can be garnered by discerning if it is optional or required, and by looking at the acceptance rate of the college or university. The admissions representative is always a best source of information for this question.
Q: How long should an essay be?
A: First and foremost, students should always adhere to all requirements and recommendations regarding the length of the essay. Particular attention should be paid to discern between a word limit and a character limit. If no guidelines are given, students should try to make certain the essay is short enough that it can be read in a matter of a few minutes, remembering that reviewers spend only about 10 minutes on the entirety of an application. Typical essays will be between 500 and 1,500 words.
Q: Is it a good idea to answer all optional essay questions for the application?
A: Optional essays are indeed optional and up to the applicant. Remember that essays often help students on the margins. As such, students who consider themselves questionable in terms of admission to a particular institution and who believe the essay would strengthen their application should consider submitting the optional essay. Likewise, students who want to demonstrate their strong interest in a school, program, or scholarship, may choose to use the optional essay as a demonstration of that interest.
Perseverance, Storytelling, and Luck: Tips for Earning Scholarships
Paying for College - Session B3
Presenter: Taylor Muñoz, Assistant Program Manager at Get Schooled Foundation
Millions of dollars -- that’s right -- there are millions of dollars out there in scholarship funds just waiting to be paired with the right students. How can students increase the likelihood of their applications being accepted? Luckily, Get Schooled, a free digital college and job advisor, has everything students need to boost scholarship eligibility, reduce stress around paying for college, and streamline the journey to college. During this session, Taylor Muñoz outlines the secret recipe for scholarship success, walking through each step to make sure every student has the information they need to succeed.
Q: When should I start applying for scholarships?
A: We recommend starting your search at the end of your junior year. While you start to look, you can also start brainstorming for any application essays and ask teachers and counselors for letters of recommendation. By the time your senior year comes around, you’ll be prepared to start applying!
Q: Should I apply for scholarships before or after I’m admitted to colleges?
A: We recommend applying to scholarships before being admitted or committing to any college or university. Give yourself enough time to look and apply for as many scholarships as possible. More time spent applying can mean more money for college!
Q: Are there scholarships that we can apply for early in high school, not as a senior?
A: Yes! There are scholarships for students of all ages (even after you start your college degree). Many scholarship websites allow you to filter scholarships by your graduation year, allowing you to only see the ones you may qualify for.
Q: Is Fastweb a good place to look for scholarships?
A: Yes! Fastweb is a reputable website scholarship that Get Schooled trusts. Click here to learn more about the other scholarship websites we always recommend to students.
Q: Are scholarship websites such as RaiseMe, Scholarship Owl, or Niche legit places to look?
A: Yes, they’re all legit websites. Be wary of how much information you share with these sites, though, because some of them may sell your personal information. If you’re ever on a website that asks you for too much information or seems sketchy, trust your gut and look somewhere else.
Q: Is the Coca-Cola scholarship legit?
A: Yes! Click here to learn more about other large scholarships available similar to the Coca-Cola scholarship.
Q: My parents make money that might not qualify me for aid through the FAFSA, but I am still responsible for paying for college. Are there opportunities for me?
A: Of course! There are so many opportunities you can find to help pay for college – especially scholarships. It’s important that you complete your FAFSA even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for need-based aid, because the FAFSA is also required for lots of merit-based scholarships. These scholarships are given based on something you do or have done, not your income. Fill out your FAFSA and then check out our guide to effectively finding and applying for scholarships here.
Q: Do I need to be a minority student to use Get Schooled’s resources?
A: Nope! Our resources are for everyone – regardless of race, gender, ability, or financial situation.
Q: Does taking a gap year hurt my scholarship chances?
A: Potentially, yes. Some scholarships are just for those going directly from high school to college. If you already received a scholarship and now are considering a gap year, be sure to communicate clearly with the scholarship organization about your plans to take a gap year to avoid any confusion down the road.
Q: How can I best stay organized when applying to lots of different scholarships?
A: We recommend using this scholarship application tracker, or find one on Pinterest!
Q: Do I have to re-apply for scholarships every school year?
A: It totally depends on the scholarship. Some are one-time and others renew each school year based on your course load and grades. When you receive a scholarship, be sure to ask about renewal requirements. You can apply for scholarships every year in college.
Q: Are many scholarships for multiple years, or are most only one year at a time?
A: It depends on the type of scholarship. Some only are one-time, while others can last multiple years. Be sure to ask about how long you’d receive funding from the scholarship you’re applying to.
Q: Are scholarships universally accepted by all colleges?
A: Yes, they should be. If your scholarship money isn’t processed by your college’s financial aid office, be sure to visit or call them to get more information. Some scholarships are offered by individual colleges and aren’t able to be used anywhere else.
Q: How can I find merit-based scholarships?
A: Different scholarship websites will have a category dedicated to merit scholarships. Check out our list of trusted scholarship websites to start your search!
Q: How are scholarships processed? Do I get a check? Does the money get sent to my school of choice?
A: It depends on the scholarship. Scholarships awarded directly to you by your college or university will be applied directly to your student aid account. Private scholarships will likely mail a check to you instead.
Q: What are the differences between grants, bursaries and scholarships?
A: Both bursaries and grants are typically given to those who have financial need. Scholarships are usually merit-based, or take into consideration other things such as qualities, demographics, hobbies, and skills.
Q: Are there scholarships for students with a GPA under 3.0?
A: Of course! Look online for scholarships that have no GPA requirements to start your search.
Q: Does having a 529 college savings plan affect your chances of getting a scholarship?
A: Potentially. We recommend reading this piece to learn more. You can still earn merit-based scholarships regardless of your financial situation.
Q: Do most scholarships require ACT scores?
A: Different scholarships have different requirements (like essays, test scores, etc.) so it’s super important to thoroughly read the requirements of each individual scholarship. Some may require SAT/ACT scores, while others won’t.
Q: How long should my essay be when applying for scholarships?
A: It depends on what scholarship you’re applying for. They’ll more than likely give you all the essential information you need before writing the essay – including the length. If they don’t specify the length, a good rule of thumb is to make it at least five paragraphs long, including an introduction and conclusion.
Q: For scholarships that require a letter of recommendation, can you reuse past letters of recommendation?
A: Typically yes – but always:
1) Check with the person who wrote you a letter of recommendation to give them a head’s up before submitting it, so they’ll be prepared in case someone reaches out to them to talk, and
2) be sure the letter of recommendation doesn’t reference a different scholarship.
Navigating the Financial Aid Process
Paying for College - Session C3
Presenter: Mark Messingschlager, Director of Financial Aid at Thomas More University
Relieve some financial stress by learning about the financial aid process, including timelines and major action points, as well as how to find a wealth of information from the federal government’s Federal Student Aid website. While the FAFSA offers helpful hints and tips as students and parents complete the process, there are still some common mistakes that can be made. During this session, Mark Messingschlager covers a high-level overview of what information the FAFSA is asking for and why. Mark also troubleshoots some common mistakes that are made on the FAFSA so that students and parents can take advantage of every dollar they are entitled to receive.
Q: If I have not lived with either parent for a few years, but both have supported me financially while I lived with a guardian, whose financial information is required for the application?
A: If you have been legally assigned a guardian by a court in your state (not a parent) prior to reaching the age of being an adult in your state, then you will be considered an independent student on the FAFSA, and you are not required to provide parental information at all. There is a question on the FAFSA that will ask if you are or were in a legal guardianship status. The schools you are applying to will likely require documentation of your legal guardianship status. If you have not been appointed a legal guardian and if you have not lived with either parent within the last year, but both are supporting you financially, you would provide the parent’s information from whom you received the most financial support over the last 12 months.
Q: Small-business assets don't count, right?
A: No, you would not count the value of a small business if your family owns and controls more than 50 percent of the business and the business has 100 or fewer full-time or full-time equivalent employees.
Q: For divorced parents, which parent's information should (or can) be used for the FAFSA?
A: If your parents are divorced or separated, answer the questions about the parent you lived with more during the past 12 months. If you did not live with one parent more than the other, give answers about the parent who provided more financial support during the past 12 months or during the most recent year that you actually received support from a parent. If this parent is remarried as of today, answer the questions about that parent and your stepparent.
Q: When should a student and parent create a FAFSA account?
A: Students and parents can create a Federal Student Aid Identification (FSA ID) at any time. FSA IDs do not expire and will be linked to the individual’s Social Security number for life. The FSA ID is a username and password that can be used to access many different areas of Federal Student Aid. If you forget your username and password, you can retrieve it securely by means of verified phone number, email address, or answering security questions.
Q: Does the first house where we live in count?
A: A family’s primary residence and real estate on which the primary residence is located is not counted as an asset on the FAFSA. A second home, or investment real estate (any property that is not linked to the family’s primary residence real estate) would be included on the FAFSA.
Q: FASFA is based on 2020 tax return, but we lost our family income February 2021. How can we reflect our 'real' ability to contribute?
A: Financial aid administrators have the flexibility to perform “professional judgments” in certain cases where the information required on the FAFSA is drastically different than the family’s situation during the actual period of enrollment covered by that FAFSA year. Examples of professional judgments include, but are not limited to, significant loss of income or extended unemployment, significant medical or dental expenses over and above what is covered by insurance plans, excessive dependent care costs, and large one-time incomes such as inheritance or retirement distributions. Each school develops its own professional-judgment policies, so it is important to reach out to the financial aid offices of each of the schools you are interested in attending for details and instructions on their specific policies.
Q: Can we list more than 10 colleges on the FAFSA?
A: Yes. This would require you to submit the FAFSA more than once. First, list the initial 10 schools on the FAFSA and submit the form. This is considered the first transaction of the FAFSA. After the first transaction is fully processed (about five business days after submission), you are able to make an update to your FAFSA. You can do this by logging back into your FAFSA and clicking on the link that allows you to update your existing FAFSA. While in the update mode, you are able to remove all 10 of the original schools and replace with 10 different schools. Then resubmit the FAFSA. This generates a second transaction, which will be received by the second set of 10 schools. If a different correction needs to be made to the FAFSA after you have done this, however, you will need to make sure that all schools receive the update.
Q: How are we supposed to get aid we need if the government doesn't account for cost of living in FAFSA calculations? My family is middle-class according to the Pew Research Center but because we live in the New York metro area, our middle class is expected to pay more than $50,000 per year for college. What am I supposed to do?
A: The FAFSA is not a perfect measurement of a family’s ability to contribute. While many factors are considered on the FAFSA, cost of living in any particular geographic region is not factored in. However, the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) on the FAFSA does not represent the actual cost that a student/family is responsible for paying for college. All colleges and universities have different costs, which may be greater or lower than your actual EFC. It is always good to express your financial concerns to financial aid offices of the schools you are interested in so that they can better understand your specific family situation.
Q: Does the FAFSA require parents' income information? What happens if parents are not U.S. citizens, but their child is?
A: Parent citizenship is not considered for FAFSA purposes. The FAFSA will still ask for parent information, including income information, as well as a Social Security number. If the parent does not have a Social Security Number, the parent is able to enter all zeros into this field and the FAFSA will recognize this answer and allow you to move forward. The parent in this case will not be able to create an FSA ID, and therefore will not be able to sign the FAFSA electronically. A physical signature will be required, and instructions will be provided on the signature page of the FAFSA. Student citizenship can become complicated depending on the student’s status. The following information is presented to students on the FAFSA in this case: If you are an eligible noncitizen, write in your eight- or nine-digit Alien Registration Number. Generally, you are an eligible noncitizen if you are (1) a permanent U.S. resident with a Permanent Resident Card (I-551); (2) a conditional permanent resident with a Conditional Green Card (I-551C); (3) the holder of an Arrival-Departure Record (I-94) from the Department of Homeland Security showing any one of the following designations: “Refugee,” “Asylum Granted,” “Parolee” (I-94 confirms that you were paroled for a minimum of one year and status has not expired), T-Visa holder (T-1, T-2, T-3, etc.) or “Cuban-Haitian Entrant;” or (4) the holder of a valid certification or eligibility letter from the Department of Health and Human Services showing a designation of “Victim of human trafficking.” If you are in the U.S. and have been granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an F1 or F2 student visa, a J1 or J2 exchange visitor visa, or a G series visa (pertaining to international organizations), select “No, I am not a citizen or eligible noncitizen.” You will not be eligible for federal student aid. If you have a Social Security Number but are not a citizen or an eligible noncitizen, including if you have been granted DACA, you should still complete the FAFSA form because you may be eligible for state or college aid.
Q: Do you know of any financial aid programs at the state level?
A: Many states have scholarship and grant programs for students. Typically, these grants require the student to live within the state AND attend college in the same state in order to utilize the state scholarship or grant. Please reach out to your high school guidance counselor or the financial aid office of the schools you are interested in attending for more specific information and eligibility criteria catered to your state of residence.
Q: Can you submit the FAFSA before you've applied to a particular school? Is there any disadvantage to doing so?
A: Yes, you can submit the FAFSA to any eligible school, whether or not you have applied to that particular school. The individual school might have differing ways of managing your FAFSA in this case. Most schools will hold the FAFSA until an application for admission arrives. It is generally better to apply for admission to the school prior to submitting the FAFSA because this is generally the most efficient way for the schools to process your information, but there is no real disadvantage to not doing so, unless the school intentionally ignores FAFSAs received from students who have not submitted an admission application.
Q: How do students find scholarship opportunities? Is there a website with all possible scholarships listed?
A: Unfortunately, there is no central source for all scholarships. The best place to start is through your school: both high school and college. Your high school may have scholarships that get awarded to graduating seniors. Also, the colleges you are applying to will likely have a scholarship resource page on their website with external scholarship opportunities. General internet searches, while very broad, can also give you resources in your local area, or opportunities for specific skills and/or attributes that you have.
College Admissions 101: Your Checklist – How Not to Be Overwhelmed
Presenter: Kenton Pauls, ACT National Director of Higher Education
Paying for College - Session D3
Deciding where to go to college is supposed to be exciting and fun, yet for many it feels mostly complicated and overwhelming. In this session, Kenton Pauls helps simplify the process to ensure the journey through the college search and admission is a successful one.
Q: If the FASFA is based on my ex-wife's household income plus mine, a single household with a much lower income, then I will have to pay half of a much higher price because aid will be based on the other household, correct? How is this fair?
A: The rules governing the FAFSA are complicated and are sometimes not easy to understand. The best counsel for specific FAFSA-related questions is to ask the financial aid professionals at the institution you're considering. There may be details in your specific situation for which the standard answer does not apply. Those who work in the complex field of financial aid will be helpful as you navigate your personal situations.
Q: After I've applied to school(s), does submission of the FAFSA have to happen pretty close to that date, or is there benefit in waiting if you have a major expense looming?
A: The 2022-2023 FAFSA will require income information from your 2020 tax return. Given that it's always your family's “prior-prior year” financial information that determines the outcome of your submitted FAFSA – meaning, tax information from two years prior – it would likely be of no value to wait for a major future expense to be completed prior to filing your FAFSA.
Q: Why do remarried folks have to include new spouses?
A: The rules that govern the FAFSA are complicated and are sometimes not easy to understand. The best council for specific FAFSA-related questions is to ask the financial aid professionals at the institution you're considering. There may be details in your specific situation for which the standard answer does not apply. Those who work in the complex field of financial aid will be helpful as you navigate your personal situations.
Q: What are merit-based scholarships (not based on financial need)?
A: Merit-based scholarships are commonly available to students based on their academic, music, athletic, artistic talents. Sometimes scholarships are also awarded to students for other things like leadership or volunteerism. Though less common, need based scholarships can be awarded to students based on some degree of financial need.
Q: Should the FASFA be filled out during a student’s junior or senior year?
A: You can fill out the FAFSA beginning on October 1st of the senior year.
Q: Can you file the FAFSA your junior year?
A: No. The earliest that a student can file the FAFSA for their freshmen-year enrollment is October 1 of their senior year. For a student who plans to enter college in the fall of 2022, the earliest they can submit the FAFSA would be October 1, 2021.
Q: Can juniors start applying for scholarships?
A: Yes. Junior year is a great time to start applying for scholarships, but you can begin applying at any point in high school.
Q: Can you describe the net price calculator again?
A: Each institution is required to post its net price calculator (NPC) on the institution's website. The best way to find the NPC is by searching for it on a general search engine, or from the search box on the institution’s website.
Q: Can you provide a link to the College Navigator resource?
A: The College Navigator provides students with a direct link to publicly available educational data for nearly 7,000 colleges and universities in the United States. If you are thinking about a large university, a small liberal arts college, a specialized college, a community college, a career or technical college, or a trade school, you can find information on all of them at https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/.
Q: When using the net price calculators through a specific college, will that institution keep that information on your record? Hence, can it hurt you in the long run?
A: According to the federal net price calculator regulations, institutions are allowed to ask for personally identifiable information (name, email address, etc.) as part of the form, but must not require it. Find more about the rules colleges have to follow at https://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/report-your-data/resource-center-net-price.
Q: How would you recommend dealing with the stress of leaving home for the first year of college?
A: Great question. It's very normal for students to feel stressed and nervous about leaving home to go to college. The degree of stress and anxiety might vary, but almost every student feels it. Here are a few guiding ideas that might help:
1) Recognize that your stresses are normal stresses. You're not alone if you are nervous about leaving home to start college.
2) Even if students around you don't look or sound nervous, they probably are.
3) Reach out to your campus early to learn about programs they have in place to help with student onboarding (many have spring, summer, and fall programs for registration and welcoming students). Knowing that the campus has a plan you can tap into may help allay student stress.
4) Plan to participate in every event your campus has planned. Don't skip out – trust me. Campuses are usually very good at onboarding their new students (especially in the fall semester). They want to help students feel less nervous and stressed. Following their plan will be one of the best decisions you'll make as a new college student.
Q: How do you search for smaller colleges that are science- and engineering-driven?
A: Most smaller colleges will have programs related to science fields, though a smaller number of these schools will also have fully accredited engineering programs. Finding the right small school that leaves both options will require some research. Scouring campus websites and search engines will help immensely, but a search of accredited engineering programs at www.abet.org will point out colleges and universities (larger and smaller, public and private) with engineering programs that are fully accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. A school that offers an ABET-accredited engineering program is held to the highest standards you can trust. It's likely most of the small schools that have ABET-accredited engineering programs will also have science programs.
Q: What is considered a "suitable" institution? As a black teenage boy on the crew team with good grades, I’d like advice on how to distinguish myself.
A: Great question. Finding the most suitable college will probably require self-examination so you can determine what you value most in a college (academic, social and athletic priorities, etc.). You’ll then want to research a few institutions to identify those that meet preferred criteria but also align on size, geographic, and financial factors. Each student has unique gifts and distinguishing qualities. Our recommendation is that you honestly display and demonstrate your unique qualities throughout the college search and application process. Doing this will result in the best possible college search and enrollment outcome. Happy hunting!
Q: UC’s admission rate is much lower than 70%; even students with higher than a 4.0 GPA are rejected.
A: Correct. These are new and challenging times as students seek to understand and predict their likelihood of being accepted into schools like the UCs. Roughly 140,000 applications for admission were received at UCLA for the class of 2021. Only about 13% were accepted. Many factors go into their review, though the specific factors are largely not understood or known by the general public.