Financial Literacy

FAFSA goes mobile

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Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

On October 1, it will be time to submit your FAFSA. Remember, you need to do this every single year that you’re attending college! Starting this year, students and parents will have two ways to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid): a newly redesigned FAFSA website and a new mobile app.

The website is now compatible with any device, including desktop/laptop computers, smartphones and tablets. It also features a more modern and user-friendly look and feel. New “tool tips” provide easy-to-use contextual information. The goal of the new website design is to make filling out the FAFSA as easy as possible for students and parents.

Visit the new FAFSA website here and stay tuned for information about the mobile app. The 2019-20 FAFSA will be available on October 1. Follow Iowa College Aid on FacebookTwitter or Instagram to get reminders and tips for filling out the FAFSA.

 

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Free publications available for 2018-19

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Iowa College Aid serves Iowa students and families by providing free resources to make college possible for all Iowans. These publications can be digitally downloaded any time, or physical copies can be mailed to you. Download them or order print copies here. Publications available are:

This all-encompassing guide offers help planning, preparing and paying for college. It includes a year-by-year checklist and a directory of Iowa schools. It is also available in Spanish.

This brochure provides a rundown of free state and federal aid available to Iowa college students.

This brochure covers the process of completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the Iowa Financial Aid Application (IFAA).

This brochure is a guide to student loans and repayment options, plus tips for paying off debt faster.

This brochure provides details about state and federal programs to help Iowans in high-demand jobs pay off student loans.

Loan payments too high to handle? These repayment plans can help

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Do you need a lower monthly payment on your federal student loans? Does your outstanding federal student loan debt represent a significant portion of your annual income? Income-driven repayment (IDR) plans are designed to make your student loan debt more manageable by reducing your monthly payment amount.

Some of the following income-driven plans may be right for you:

  • Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (REPAYE)
  • Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (PAYE)
  • Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR)
  • Income-Contingent Repayment Plan (ICR Plan)

You cannot use this tool if you are in default on your federal student loans. Only the ICR plan is available for Parent PLUS Loans.

Note: There is no application fee to complete an Income-Driven Repayment Request. You may be contacted by private companies that offer to help you apply for Income-Driven Repayment, for a fee. These companies have no affiliation with the U.S. Department of Education (ED) or ED’s Federal Loan Servicers. Learn more here.

What’s the Iowa Financial Aid Application?

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If you’re a senior in high school, you’re probably hearing a lot about the FAFSA. But there’s another application that should be on your radar, too.

By completing the FAFSA, you’re applying for most forms of federal and state financial aid. When you finish the FAFSA, you’ll see a prompt asking if you want to complete the Iowa Financial Aid application as well. Say yes.

That prompt actually leads to something called the “Eligibility Wizard,” a short series of simple questions to determine whether you might be eligible for additional state aid. If you’re not eligible, you’re done. If you meet initial eligibility requirements, you’ll see instructions to continue the application process for those additional grants and scholarships.

Did you already say no to the Iowa Financial Aid Application? You can find it here. It’s worth the few minutes it takes.

How to spot a scholarship scam

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Fraudulent organizations sometimes pose as legitimate agencies willing to help with scholarship searches. They often guarantee you a scholarship or promise to do all the work for you for a fee. The Federal Trade Commission advises students to be cautious of these red flags for scholarship and FAFSA scams:

  • “The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back.”
  • “We just need your credit card or bank account number to hold this scholarship.”
  • “We’ll do all the work. You just pay a processing fee.”
  • “The scholarship will cost some money.”
  • “You’ve been selected by a ‘national foundation’ to receive a scholarship.”

Busting scholarship myths

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“I won’t qualify.”

That’s the No. 1 reason students don’t apply for scholarships—and they’re often very wrong. Today we’re going to bust some common myths.

MYTH: I’d have to be a genius or a star athlete to get any money.
REALITY: Academics and athletics are just two among many criteria that could earn you a scholarship. Some awards are based or service or leadership. Others go to students who take part in certain organizations or activities. (Iowa has a scholarship just for participants in the Iowa State Fair.) Some companies offer scholarships to the children of employees. Many scholarships are downright quirky. Do a search on Unigo and you’ll find awards for students who answer questions like “What flavor ice cream would you like to be?”

MYTH: I’ll have to write dozens of different essays.
REALITY: You can’t turn in the exact same essay for every scholarship application, but you’re likely to see some common themes in the questions, like accepting challenges or embracing new ways of thinking. Save each essay that you submit, then look for sections that can be repurposed. Just make sure you do enough reworking to answer the question being asked.

MYTH: No one with any pull will give me a recommendation.
REALITY: Your recommendations don’t have to come from “big names.” In fact, choosing someone well-known can backfire if that person doesn’t really know you. You need a recommendation from someone who understands your strengths and can offer specific examples that illustrate them. Talk to the teacher of a class you enjoyed or the advisor for an activity you took part in. What a person can say about you is much more important than his or her name recognition.

MYTH: There’s so little money available, it’s a waste of time.
REALITY: There are billions of dollars available every year. Some of that money actually goes unclaimed because not enough people apply for it. Check with your high school counselor and your college financial aid office. Do a Web search for scholarships that might suit you, whether you’re a bassoon player or a comic artist or an aspiring funeral director. The money is out there.

Winning application strategies

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We’re hitting deadline season for college and scholarship applications, but you don’t need to panic. Here are some quick tips:

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Apply to more than one school. Yes, you should have a “safety school,” but also try for a “stretch school.” Some students are surprised when they’re accepted at a school they thought was out of their reach. You can’t truly compare costs of different schools until you have award letters from those schools in hand. An expensive school might end up being the most affordable option if it offers a generous financial aid package.

Apply for more than one scholarship. You can improve your odds by expanding your search. Some scholarships actually have trouble giving away all their available money because they don’t get enough applicants. Talk to counselors, teachers, coaches and mentors about scholarship possibilities.

Put some effort into your essays. These are a chance to distinguish yourself, so take your time. Make sure your essay relates to the question, and back up what you say with specific examples. Don’t just list your accomplishments. Show that you’re capable of growing and learning from challenges. Proofread at least twice, then ask someone else to read behind you.

Sell your actual strengths. Don’t exaggerate or lie. Think about the things that you truly do well, and focus on those. Having trouble identifying your best areas? Ask an adult close to you, “What makes you proud of me?”

Be sure to submit. You should see a confirmation screen or receive a confirmation email when you’re done.