Attention Parents of High School Seniors: Beginning January 1, 2016, you and your student can complete the FAFSA form for the 2016-2017 school year. We encourage every student to file a FAFSA. There are billions of dollars in aid available to help students pay for college, and the first step in learning what aid is available to you is to file a FAFSA. We recommend students file before April, but check with each individual college you are considering for their priority deadline.


By Lynn O'Shaughnessy | Jan 28, 2010

Here’s a financial aid question that I hear a lot:

Why should I fill out the FAFSA?

Parents who grumble about completing the FAFSA form usually assume that they have zero chance of qualifying for student financial aid. In my experience, however, most people underestimate their eligibility for student financial aid.

Here then are seven reasons to file the FAFSA:

1. You might qualify for a Pell Grant. If you earn a high enough salary, you won’t receive a Pell Grant, but many Americans who have been laid off or who are currently underemployed could. Nearly all Pell Grants — maximum amount is $5,500  — are reserved for families making adjusted gross incomes of $50,000 or less.

2.  You might qualify for a state grant.  Many states offer their own financial aid grants and in some cases the financial eligibility ceilings are much higher. You can’t qualify for state financial aid awards though without filing a FAFSA.

3. You want to qualify for federal student loans. If you don’t file the FAFSA, you won’t have access to federal student loans. The federal Stafford loans offer the best interest rates and repayment terms for student borrowers and are vastly superior to private student loans.

4. You’re divorced. With divorced parents, the FAFSA only asks about the income and assets of the custodial parent. For financial aid purposes, the custodial parent is the one who has cared for the student for the majority of 2010. If the other parent is the family’s big bread winner, a student could qualify for financial aid.

5. You will have two or more children in college. Even if you didn’t get any financial aid with one child in college, you should definitely try with two. With two in college, your expected family contribution  — what the FAFSA  formula concludes that parents can pay — drops by 50%. So if your EFC was $30,000 for one child, it would drop to $15,000 for each child when the second one starts college.

6. Your money is tied up in your home. The FAFSA doesn’t ask about home equity. So if you are house rich and cash poor, the FAFSA will give you a break.

7. Practice for unexpected circumstances and future years of filing.

Check out the Financial Aid links under the Student Resources tab!

Helping your student with course selection

You may have heard the term "rigorous curriculum" floating around in the schools or on the news. A rigorous curriculum is basically a way to get students take challenging courses in high school that will prepare them for academics in college. Ironically, high school graduation requirements often do not align with college prep requirements. So, in an effort to make our students more aware and more prepared, beginning with the 2011-2012 school year, we are going to strongly encourage ETS students to enroll in a rigorous program of study at the high school level.

What does this mean? For starters, it means a student will take:

  • 4 credits of English

  • 3 credits of social studies

  • 3 credits of math (including Algebra I and higher-level courses like Algebra II/Advanced Algebra, Geometry, Calculus, Statistics)

  • 3 credits of science (at least two of the following: Biology, Physics, Chemistry)

  • 1 credit of a foreign language

You may be wondering why your student should take a rigorous curriculum if they don't plan to go to college. Great question! The reason we are encouraging all students to take a rigorous curriculum simply has to do with choices. By not taking these courses, your student will be less prepared for the challenges of life after high school should they change their mind and choose to enroll in an apprenticeship, tech school, or university. By taking these courses, not only will they be better prepared for the challenges of college, it will also keep their options open as far as where they can apply (with a good chance of getting in).

To sum it up- taking these courses in high school will make your student more ready for the challenges of a college education, or at least provide more options for life after high school. Remember, we want your student to be prepared and be successful!