What You Need to Know About College Applications and FAFSA

By Michelle Sandoval, Leader Program Manager, Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera

College applications are now available, which typically excites and stresses out many students. I thought it would be a great opportunity to answer some of the most common questions that I’m typically asked about the process. And since we’re on the topic of applications, I’m also going to address the importance of filling out and submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as early as possible, as it determines each student’s eligibility for student aid.

Here’s what you need to know:

College Applications and Deadlines

There are four types of college applications and each with their own deadlines.
1. University of California application deadline is November 30th, but you can submit them as early as November 1st.
2. California State University application deadline is November 30th, but they have been accepting applications since October 1st.
3. Private university applications are submitted through the Common Application, and application deadlines vary by university so it’s important to check each school’s website for details.
4. Private university applications that will be submitted through the University’s individual website also have varying deadlines, so please check each school’s website for details.
Fee Waivers for College Applications
If students have not submitted their application for Free or Reduced Lunch this academic year, we recommend they do so ASAP. Qualifying for Free or Reduced Lunch will provide students with SAT/ACT exam waivers (for Juniors and Seniors). Students who qualify for Free or Reduced Lunch typically qualify for fee waivers for most college applications. If a student finds that they are not eligible for a college application fee waiver due to their household income but know that his/her family will have a hard time covering the application cost, I recommend that the student contact each school’s admissions office to explain their situation. The individual college admissions office may be able to provide a code to waive the fee of that specific application for the student.

Maintain Your GPA!!!

“Senioritis” is real for a lot of students; however, now is not the time to slack off. Students may find that juggling all of the senior year festivities, plus the weight of rigorous courses takes a lot of energy. While senior year grades will not be added into college applications there are TWO main reasons why you should not slack off:
1. Colleges like to see that students are continuing to challenge themselves throughout their ENTIRE high school career. College applications will require that you report which classes you are/will be taking during you senior year.
2. Colleges will hold you accountable for successfully completing the classes you noted in your application. This means you definitely should not be failing out of any courses. Some colleges will also require that you submit a mid-year report after the first semester. Changes in your schedule or failed courses could result in your college admission letters being revoked!
FAFSA/Dream Act – This is the financial aid part, so read with care…

As we all know, college is by no means inexpensive. That is why it is imperative that students submit FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) applications as early as possible as it determines eligibility for student financial aid. But please proceed with care and do not submit the application without having it checked by a counselor or knowledgeable representative on your campus. Each year the FAFSA application changes ever so slightly, so filling out the application to the best of your knowledge, and then reviewing it with a counselor or knowledgeable representative is highly recommended. Questions are very specific to each individual household and one tiny error can cost a student to lose thousands of dollars in financial aid. And please start the process early! Review the requirements and get any confusing or unclear questions clarified. Submitting a thoroughly reviewed FAFSA application prevents the need to make corrections down the road, which could cause students to miss the FAFSA deadline or affect the overall financial aid total.

Before applying for FAFSA, a student should gather the following important documents:
1. Social Security numbers for students and parents, or Alien Registration Numbers for non-U.S. citizens.
2. Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID – create an FSA ID online, which gives you access to Federal Student Aid’s online systems.
3. Driver’s license or other eligible government ID.
4. Tax returns for students and/or parents.
5. Asset records such as bank statements and investments.
6. Records of untaxed income, such as child support.
7. Federal school codes for the schools you will apply to. We have those readily available at the ERHS College and Career Center.
Gathering the documents you’ll need to complete the FAFSA could actually take more time than filling out the application, so please start this process early. On average, it only takes about 31 minutes to fill out the FAFSA/Dream Act if a student comes in with all documents on hand! The deadline for California schools is March 2, 2018 for eligible California and Federal aid. AND keep in mind that individual colleges and universities may have different financial aid deadlines, so always be sure to check each school’s website.

Finally, Ask for Help!
If you or your parent(s) need additional help or have a question about college applications or FAFSA, please don’t hesitate to contact me. It’s a lot of information to process and many dates to track, so I’m happy to help everyone have a positive application process.