College: Navigating the Steps to Post-Secondary Education
Sunday, November 20, 2016

Photo by Kenn W. Kiser

By Michele Strasz, Capital Area College Access Network, 

The Capital Area College Access Network (CapCAN) is dedicated to increasing college attainment in our community.  We support seniors with our partner high schools to help students and families navigate the process of applying for college and filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
As we are out in the community, many students and parents have questions about the college access process.  Nearly 70% of the jobs in our Greater Lansing area will require a minimum of an associate‚Äôs degree by the year 2020. We tell students and parents that college is any post-secondary program including two and four year degrees, and credentials for career and technical education.
Here are the steps high school seniors should complete to transition into post-secondary education: 
Apply to at least three different colleges
Capital Area high school seniors are encouraged to take the time to thoroughly research their college options by attending campus visits, college fairs, and in-school visits as well as looking into postsecondary resources online. It is recommended that all students in the Capital Area maximize the college choice process by employing the match and fit ( method. Choosing at least three schools: including a safe school, a target school and reach school will provide each student with dreams and hopefully, by College Signing Day in the spring, some options in making an important decision.
Estimate your aid with FAFSA4caster
Families can prepare for the FAFSA by using the FAFSA4caster. The FAFSA4caster will give you a sense of the amount of aid the student could be awarded by the federal government to go to college. FAFSA4caster estimates the student's eligibility for federal grants (free money) and federal loans (borrowed money with no/low interest rates) as well as part-time on-campus employment opportunities. Federal grants, loans and work-study opportunities are awarded on a first come first serve basis so it's vital that the student and family organize your financial information to complete your FAFSA as soon as possible.
Set-up FSA ID
The Federal Student Aid ID allows students and parents to link themselves electronically to FSA Web sites. Parent and student must each have a separate FSA ID made up of a username, password, and security questions to log into FAFSA on the Web. While you are not required to have an FSA ID to complete and submit a FAFSA, the web application is the fastest way to submit your application and have it processed. It is also the only way to access or correct your information online, or to pre-fill a FAFSA on the Web application with information from your previous year's FAFSA. To create a FSA ID visit 
Complete the FAFSA
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)  is the form that students fill-out to apply for financial aid and can be completed as early as October 1 for 2017-18 academic year. This year students and their families can use their financial information from the 2015 tax year to fill out the FAFSA. All colleges and universities recommend completing the FAFSA even to access institutional aid, scholarships, and work study. Don't assume you will not be eligible for financial aid! 
Verify status with TIP 
High school seniors that have ever been enrolled in Medicaid can utilize TIP as part of their financial aid package to attend a college in Michigan. Students and families should verify their status with State of Michigan. While the State of Michigan's Student Financial Services Bureau offers scholarships and grants both merit-based and academic-based, one of their most advantageous programs is the Tuition Incentive Program (TIP). 
This was printed in the November 13, 2016 - November 26, 2016

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