By Lhee Santos, Northern Illinois University
My name is Lhee Santos, Admission Counselor, at Northern Illinois University. I am a recipient of the 2016 Illinois Association for College Admission Counseling Conference Grant for the 2016 Be Extraordinary Conference held May 4 through 6, 2016.
I learned that saying “early FAFSA” rather than “prior-prior” is most beneficial for the students and parents to understand what the new process is.
The session entitled New Fundamentals of Financial Aid was the most helpful for me during the 2016 IACAC Conference. During this session, the most important information was regarding the changes happening with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. I learned that saying “early FAFSA” rather than “prior-prior” is most beneficial for the students and parents to understand what the new process is. When I speak to rising seniors about the FAFSA process, I will tell them that they will be able to file their FAFSA beginning on October 1, and they will use tax information from 2015, which is the most current tax information submitted.
The phrase early FAFSA is clear where prior-prior is murkier and could be confusing for students and families. This will be especially helpful during college fairs and high school visits when time is at a premium. I have already let other admission counselors at NIU know to use the phrase early FAFSA rather than prior-prior.
I also learned that early FAFSA does not necessarily mean an early financial aid package. That really depends on each individual school. This is something all admission counselors should keep an eye on and stay in contact with their financial aid departments in order to get an estimate of when aid packages are distributed.
Application issues that arise from these simple mistakes can delay the student’s FAFSA process significantly.
Learning that students will now request a FAFSA username and password rather than a PIN was very helpful. The password expiring every 18 months is a good thing for admission counselors to be aware of, so the students will be better prepared in the future when completing their FAFSAs each year. Learning about FAFSA application issues was also helpful. The importance of having their name appear exactly as it does on their social security card and making sure that there are no extra blank spaces before or after their name is a fact that I will be sure to highlight for my students. Application issues that arise from these simple mistakes can delay the student’s FAFSA process significantly.
Overall, this was the most helpful session at IACAC for me. It enhanced my knowledge regarding the new early FAFSA process, and the FAFSA application overall. I appreciate the opportunity that I had to attend this year’s IACAC conference with the help of the conference grant that was awarded to me. I was the only admission counselor from NIU that had the opportunity to attend the entire conference. Now I will have the chance to share my extraordinary IACAC knowledge with my colleagues and future students!