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Financial Aid: Questions to Ask

Picture this: You've completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), received your Student Aid Report (SAR), and think your child's first-choice college will send a letter of acceptance. While you're excited, you're also a little nervous about the money end of things. Will you have enough to finance your child's education?

As you may have discovered by now, navigating the road to financial aid can be challenging. Not sure where to head next? The financial aid section of each college's website is a good starting point. If you still have unanswered questions, call the college's financial aid office. Here are some questions you might want to ask:

  1. What types of financial assistance do you offer: need-based, merit-based, or both?
  2. Can you provide an early estimate of what our financial aid award might be?
  3. If we don't qualify for need-based aid, what alternative financing options are available?
  4. What forms are needed to apply for financial aid?
  5. When are financial aid applications due?
  6. What costs for my student does the financial aid office consider? For example, is the aid limited to tuition, room, board, and transportation? What about additional expenses such as books, fees, computers, and personal expenses?
  7. What is included in the comprehensive fee? For example, do students have to pay extra for computer time or to attend campus events (concerts, plays, films, lectures, athletic events, etc.)?
  8. When will we be notified about the amount of assistance we can expect?
  9. Does the institution have an appeal process to review special circumstances?
  10. Is there a commitment for financial assistance beyond the first year?
  11. How and when do we apply for financial assistance after the first year?
  12. What grants, loans, and work-study opportunities does the college offer?
  13. What impact do scholarships from outside sources have on other financial aid?
  14. What happens if our family's financial situation changes substantially during the school year?
  15. Are there payment options available, such as monthly or quarterly installments?
You might want to check into College Goal Sunday, a nationwide program created by the Indiana Student Financial Aid Association and held throughout February. The program helps college-bound students and their families with the FAFSA process, provides advice from financial aid experts, and offers scholarship and other financial aid information. Assistance includes in-person or online help, depending on where you live. The program is open to students of all ages who are seeking financial aid to pay for college expenses for the upcoming academic year.

ACT Test-Taking Tips

When it comes to testing, you want to make sure the test scores reflect your child's true academic abilities.

You can take several steps to help your child succeed. In fact, ACT has the same message for every student: Take the toughest classes offered and work hard. For more information, check out the benefits of a high school core curriculum.

Unlike other tests, the ACT Test measures what's been learned in the classroom, so most students will find the questions familiar. To best prepare your student for both college and career, here's what you can do:

  1. Stress the importance of taking a core curriculum, including four years of English, at least three years of mathematics, three years of science, and three years of social studies.
  2. Read to young children and encourage older children to continue reading.
  3. Help your student set a personal benchmark score goal for each section of the ACT Test.
  4. Encourage your child to take advantage of ACT's free test preparation materials including Preparing for the ACT, Practice Test Questions, and Test Descriptions.
  5. Periodically review Tips for Taking the ACT.
Keep in mind that colleges and career training programs care about more than just your student's score. They want applicants who have talent, passion, and work hard. Grades, volunteering, personal essays, and extracurricular activities are important components of the application process. Colleges and career training programs want diversity in their student body, including diversity of ethnicities, ideas, backgrounds, geographic regions, and experiences.

Scholarship Alert

ACT's Scholarship and Recognition Services helps develop and manage several national scholarship programs. Check out these programs to see if your student qualifies.

  • Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation: The nation's oldest and largest provider of need-based scholarships to children of Marines and Navy Corpsmen, with particular attention given to those whose parent has been killed or wounded in combat, or who have demonstrated financial need. Awards vary from $6,000 to $40,000. Application deadline is March 1.

  • Kohl's Cares Scholarship Program: Every year, Kohl's recognizes and rewards young volunteers from across the country who have made a difference in their communities. In 2013, Kohl's will award 2,300 kids with more than $425,000 in scholarships and prizes. Persons aged 21 or older can nominate volunteers aged 6 to 18. Top winners each receive $10,000 for higher education. Application deadline is March 15.

  • Nordstrom Scholarship Program: The Nordstrom Scholarship Program recognizes students across the country for their exceptional scholastic achievement and community involvement. Awards of $2,500 per year; $10,000 over four years. Application deadline is May 1.

  • MassMutual Scholars Program: A national scholarship program for high-achieving college students of African American, Asian/Pacific Islander, or Hispanic descent interested in pursuing careers in the insurance and financial services industry. Awards vary from $2,500 to $5,000. Application deadline is May 3.

Vote Soon: ACT Video Contest

Your student can check out the finalists in the ACT Video Contest and vote for a favorite. Voting is February 11–18. Check this site for more information about how to vote. The deadline for entries was January 28. The winners will be announced on February 25.

The ACT Poster Contest closed January 21. Winners will be announced on February 11. The ACT Poster Contest provides the basis for the development for the ACT test-date poster that is sent to high schools across the country.

2013 ACT Test Date Schedule

Test Date Registration Deadline Late Registration Deadline
(extra fees required)
Photo Upload Deadline
April 13, 2013 March 8, 2013 March 9-22, 2013April 9, 2013
June 8, 2013 May 3, 2013 May 4-17, 2013June 4, 2013

ACT is committed to providing students a fair and equal opportunity to demonstrate their independent academic achievement. To that end, we have implemented additional safeguards to further ensure ACT score integrity. One of these safeguards is the requirement for students to provide a photo when they register.

Photos must be provided by the photo upload deadline for each test date. If the deadline is missed, the registration will be cancelled and the student will not be admitted to test.

Click here for details on all ACT test security requirements.

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