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Education

Potential Uses for Chatbots and Instant Messaging Apps in Teaching and Learning

Introduction

Instant messaging is already an integral part of the average student’s life, and it can also have many uses to boost their education. Additionally, advances in technology mean chatbots are becoming increasingly versatile, and are now capable of enhancing the classroom experience in many ways. These technologies can compliment each other to support students both inside and outside of the classroom and providing additional learning opportunities and methods.

Here are 7 of the most effective potential uses of chatbots and instant messaging in the modern classroom:

1. Student Feedback

Student feedback is vital to creating a more effective classroom and teaching approach. Getting feedback from students presents several challenges however. Sending students detailed surveys and questionnaires can take up their time and get low response rates. While interviews enable teachers to dig deeper into students’ opinions and feedback, these are very time consuming for teachers. Furthermore, students may give less honest answers due to social pressure.

As a feedback tool, chatbots provide the best of both worlds. Chatbots allow students to give feedback in a conversational format, interpreting their answers and using branching surveys to respond to their feedback. Chatbot surveys can get triple the response rate of feedback requests sent via email.

2. Virtual Teaching Assistants

Chatbots can provide valuable teaching assistance both in and out of class. In class, this can enable students to ask quick questions and check information without interrupting the flow of a lesson.

For example, if a student doesn’t understand a key term or formula they could message the chatbot for clarification. For complex questions, the chatbot could forward the query to the teacher, to be answered at the end of class.

With the latest advances in AI and natural language processing, some chatbots are even able to handle the most complex questions and provide highly specific responses. For example, when Ashok Goel, a professor of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech, used a chatbot to respond to his students, most of them didn’t realise they were talking to an AI.

This also enhances learning outside of the classroom, helping students check information for their homework or revision without wasting time logging into your site or finding the right answer on Google. Besides helping students get information faster, a chatbot able to provide schedule details and FAQs can greatly reduce the number of times teachers have to send the same answer to different students.

3. Chatbot Campus Guides

Besides providing schedule information, there are many other ways a chatbot can help students stay organized. They can also be used to give new students directions to their next class, or give guidance on submitting their assignments. Asking a chatbot is often much easier than searching a school’s site for department-specific rules and requirements. Furthermore, automating routine messages like these is estimated to save an average of 30% of associated costs.

Students can also use chatbots to get information about any campus or student support services, enabling them to access those services without the need to discuss personal topics with their teacher.

4. Automated Tests and Quizzes

Chatbots can be a useful studying tool to help students revise with quizzes and tests. Making this content available through instant messaging and social media means students can always test their knowledge at a time that suits them.

As a result, students can make use of their time to answer a few questions even if they are on the move. Logging into your site to use web quizzes can be slow on a mobile connection, whereas instant messaging is fast even on a poor connection.

5. Individual Student Support

In addition to giving automated responses and scripted interactions, chatbots can pass the conversation on to teacher or tutors. This makes it easier for students to get help when they have a complex question, and is faster and less formal than sending an email.

This enables teachers to be more aware of students who are struggling to keep up and provide individual support. Being able to have their discussion with a chatbot sent on to a teacher can also make it easier for students to open up about issues they are having. Making these services easier to find and access improves student perceptions of institutional services, which is the most important factor in student retention.

6. Group Discussion

Providing group instant messaging for students lets them work together and continue to discuss what they are learning outside the classroom. Creating a classroom atmosphere when students are not able to meet up to study in person can improve motivation and productivity, as well as letting students help and teach each other. Group messaging bots can also be used to let students take part in group quizzes and tests, creating a competitive element to their independent learning.

To provide the most productive environment, it can be a good idea to use a dedicated study group app, as these are free from distracting content and unrelated social interactions.

7. Time Management

Scheduled instant messages can help students be ready for class, reminding them when to log in or arrive, and providing important deadlines and dates.

Using a texting app in education to send SMS reminders can offer additional benefits however. Texts are more likely to be opened immediately and don’t need an online connection, making them more effective for sending urgent messages. Additionally, a texting app can be integrated with your schedule to send reminders automatically, reducing human error if the schedule is changed.

Conclusion

Chatbots and instant messaging will play a key role in the future of education, not just during the current crisis. These technologies are already ubiquitous and offer many benefits to both educators and students. Adapting your teaching approach to include these technologies can upgrade your classroom experience and set students up for success.

 

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Education

EdTech in the Classroom: Nurturing Skills That Students of Today Need for Jobs of Tomorrow

I misplaced my phone a few days ago, and I went crazy until I could find it. It was almost as if I couldn’t function. The funny thing is, I didn’t even own one until a few years ago. Yet, I somehow managed to get through my days in relative peace and productivity.

Pexels

This seems to be the case with technology. As recently as a decade ago, much of the tech that streamlines our lives and jobs didn’t even exist to the extent and capability that we’ve become accustomed to today.

Imagine what our lives will be like ten years from now.

It is this kind of projection that has business leaders and educators sounding alarm bells in think tanks and industrial publications all over the world.

Some researchers predict that, by the year 2030, we could lose up to 40 percent of jobs considered essential today. That includes white-collar staples in fields like accounting, law, and medicine.

The recent pandemic has even forced us to redefine what careers are considered essential to some extent, and how many jobs we can actually get by without. There’s a fear that this trend will render the bulk of our workforce unemployable when technology dominates.

How Educators Can Keep Future Workers From Going the Way of the Dinosaur

As much as some people fear that technology will make people obsolete, at least in modern workplaces, when applied strategically and with intelligent foresight, emerging tech will enhance our lives and create new career paths.

Consider how many occupations that are common today didn’t exist in 2010, such as social media manager and digital influencer.

While many of the technologies currently in use will become obsolete by the time today’s students enter the workforce, basic technical skills and principles will remain relevant.

For example, take someone who graduated in the late 1980s with a computer science degree.

Almost all of the programming languages and methods mastered then seem like ancient hieroglyphics to today’s STEM students, and they’re completely irrelevant in the workplace. Windows and the commercial internet didn’t even exist; the information superhighway was merely a dirt road from university to university.

However, the principles of coding, such as logic and data flow, are still essential.

When assessing and using tech in the classroom, here are some skills educators can help develop in their students that will always be in demand.

Creative Collaboration

Businesses have been gradually transitioning to the cloud for some time due to the demands of data collection and storage. Recent events have forced remote learning and work and made the art of distance collaboration an essential skill. Zoom meetings and TV broadcasts demonstrate nearly unlimited potential.

We currently have cloud-based technologies like Google Drive at our disposal. They’re even loaded onto our smartphones and computers by default.

Teachers can prioritize using such platforms in the classroom by allowing students to work on projects together or exchange files and information. This teaches them to use technology to work toward a common goal without restrictions on time or geographic location, which will become the norm in the future.

Critical Thinking

Another thing that recent events have taught us is how surreal the world can be. We’re veering into an atmosphere dominated by fake news and misinformation that leaves us feeling unable to trust our own eyes and ears.

Educators can reinforce critical thinking skills and analytical capabilities by teaching students how to discern fact from fiction. This can be achieved by incorporating research and fact-checking technologies/methodology.

They can also cover the ethics of internet usage, help students understand the dangers of misinformation, and explore the methods used to create and spread false information.

Analytical Thinking

Moving further into the fourth industrial revolution – what some are calling Industry 4.0 – there is a comprehensive case to be made about the advantages of formerly “sci-fi scary” technologies like robotics, AI, and machine learning.

For example, big data is one of the driving forces behind the business in nearly every sector and industry. Once our children graduate and enter the workforce, data analysis and related technologies will dominate the landscape.

Educators can leverage existing tech and encourage analytical thinking that will be needed in the future. For example, they can have students create and conduct surveys using Google Forms and then present the information they collect. This platform is free and widely available on the internet, and it will allow students to hone their ability to collect, analyze, and present data.

Innovation and Creative Thinking

With smartphones, students have an unlimited amount of knowledge and educational resources in the palm of their hand. Google has become a verb, as well as a search platform. Teachers can leverage this unprecedented access and capability by teaching students creative ways to use the tech tools they have at their disposal.

For example, students can use 360-degree video tech to take a virtual field trip to almost any place in the world without ever leaving their classroom. Many museums and historical sites offer such access for free online.

Technology and Responsibility

With the freedom technology offers comes responsibility. Teachers need to highlight the importance of online safety and cybersecurity by using best practices in their classrooms and teaching students safety standards like passwords security and basic netiquette, such as how not to be a troll.

Communication Skills

Since we’ll be working in predominantly virtual workplaces, it’s essential to also acquire proper communication skills, which are different online than in the real world.

One of the drawbacks of online communication is that we miss many cues that we usually receive through body language. There is also the pitfall of not getting the message across, so when in doubt, overcommunicating on project goals or requirements and asking for proper feedback are the way to go.

Continuous learning and adaptability

We witness a rapid change in the technology that we use on a daily basis. When some tech becomes obsolete or is replaced by a new standard, it’s important to be able to get accustomed to these changes fast.

Luckily, even without continuing formal education, it is easier than ever to stay up to date on industry demands and standards. Case in point: our example student from the 1980s would have needed to pick up web design, JAVA Script, and HTML to stay in the industry once these technologies became a standard. However, it’s easy to do so via online courses, training, and tutorials, many of which are free.

Encouraging students to identify skill gaps and upgrading their skills when necessary will make it easier for them to adapt to any new software or equipment they might encounter in the future.

Final Thoughts

The future paradigm shifts that seem so jarring today will be gradual in reality as long as we prioritize the foundational technical knowledge future workers will need to survive.

Rather than fearing that robots will replace us, enlightened leaders in business and education are highlighting ways that tech will enhance our lives and free us to explore new horizons.

For our students to transition into a workforce that is agile and adaptable, we should veer away from an education model based on a 19th century production-based mindset. The new focus should be on a core curriculum that puts technical prowess at its foundation, combined with developing the soft skills that make us human.

 

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Education

Problem Based Learning: Med School Lessons

There are as many ways to learn as there are learners in the world. Though several tried and true techniques are emulated or replicated by students worldwide, and while certain curricula or professors require certain areas of focus and/or methodologies when it comes to learning, the method (or rather, combination of methods) that best help a student learn varies from student to student. The time it takes for students to grasp certain concepts varies; their preferred study techniques vary; the content itself varies; and the difficulty of the content varies from person to person.

For medical students, what they’re learning has a direct impact on the lives of others – their future patients. Thus, it is particularly important that medical students learn not only the foundational sciences, but how to properly care for a patient.

Before medical students even step foot in a hospital for their first rotations, they all have to build up a solid foundation. It is one thing to memorize human anatomy or which drugs treat which issues, but it is another to be able to apply that knowledge to real-world situations and to improvise when a patient doesn’t respond in a standard way. Though exams such as the USMLE® or COMLEX-USA® seek to test students on standardized patient care, there is always room for variation. One important element of both of these examinations, as well as on licensing exams from around the world, is related directly to patient care and patient interactions. It is for this part of medical studies (and future practice) that one particular learning approach is very well-suited: problem-based learning.

What is problem-based learning?

Problem-based learning, or PBL, is a learning and teaching method which approaches information first from a problem. Rather than simply teaching what the students need to know and subsequently hoping that they can translate this information into practice, problem-based learning starts with a question (or in this situation, most likely a clinical case). In a traditional classroom setting, students are then encouraged to consider the potential outcomes, then proceed with the course as usual (with the question in the back of their minds or as part of the course “road map”) to learn information related to the case, and end the class period by answering the question. Alternatively, the question could be assigned as homework in advance of the next course, so that students have a chance to work on it on their own and later contribute to a class discussion.

How does problem-based learning relate to studying?

Problem-based learning isn’t just reserved for classroom use: students can also utilize PBL on their own time, in order to review concepts learned in classes or through their own reading/studying. On examinations such as the USMLE or COMLEX, students are tested on multiple choice questions centered around patient vignettes. Students can use a Qbank like a study guide via problem-based learning. How? It’s simple:

  • Start a Qbank practice test on your preferred learning platform
  • Do the test as a test (even if you get the answers wrong, keep going)
  • Take a short break and prepare yourself for a few hours of focus
  • Spend 2-3 hours reviewing your Qbank questions (both correctly and incorrectly answered questions), noting which concepts you didn’t fully understand or didn’t pick up on for answering the questions and reviewing them as well
  • Make a list of questions you still have about the content – perhaps a study buddy, tutor, or professor can help clarify these points for you
  • Make a list of content you need to review in your next study session

Instead of just studying information without context, you’re studying the concepts you need to know as they relate to real-world situations you might someday encounter as a practicing physician.

Why use problem-based learning in your studies?

In elementary school, or for standardized tests, you might have learned that it is important to read the question first before reading through a text so you know what content or information you need to find to answer the question. Using problem-based learning for medical school isn’t all that different – of course, you’ll need a solid foundation of medical knowledge first, but then you can get started applying that knowledge.

Using a Qbank to study, not just prepare for exams, is one way to use PBL in your individual studies. Another way to bring problem-based learning into your study routine is to create your own questions as you’re learning material. As you learn and study (especially newer) material, write down quiz questions that you might think would be asked to test said material. When you’re reviewing later, you’ll already have a set of questions prepared to test your knowledge or at least focus your review.

***

As everyone studies differently, problem-based learning might not be your favorite study technique. But as you continue your career in medicine, you’ll come to find that problem-based learning is the basis for much of patient care. Starting now with PBL will only help you when the time comes to trade in the simulation for a real patient with a problem you must solve.

 

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Education

Nominations Open for Inaugural Presidential Cybersecurity Education Award

Each October, we celebrate National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and highlight the importance of cybersecurity. This year, we’re celebrating in a new way with the announcement of the Presidential Cybersecurity Education Award – with nominations opening today.


Beginning in the spring of 2020, the Award will be presented annually to two educators – one elementary and one secondary – who instill in their students the skills, knowledge, and passion for cybersecurity and related subjects. Award recipients will embody the expertise and dedication of educators who are critical to strengthening the nation’s cybersecurity workforce.

“These educators are critical to increasing the cybersecurity awareness of all students, inspiring the nation’s future cybersecurity workforce, and contributing to a more secure society.  I am grateful for their hard work and dedication to our nation that will have a lasting impact far beyond the classroom halls. We look forward to receiving award nominations and learning from educator’s stories.” – Secretary DeVos

On May 2, 2019, President Donald J. Trump signed Executive Order 13870 to strengthen America’s cybersecurity workforce. In this Executive Order, the U.S. Department of Education was called to create this new Award in consultation with the Deputy Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism at the White House’s National Security Council and the National Science Foundation.

Award nomination requirements include the following:

  • A written submission in paragraph form that describes
    • (1) The nominated educator’s superior educator accomplishments and
    • (2) The nominated educator’s superior academic achievement by the educator’s students
  • One letter of reference

To apply or nominate someone for the award, click here to find out how to apply.

Recipients of this honor will receive the following accolades, among others:

  • Acknowledgement by the President of the United States Donald J. Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos
  • Public recognition as a leader in the field of cybersecurity education
  • Professional development opportunities with the cybersecurity community

Educators from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, all U.S. territories, Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools and Tribal areas are eligible to apply or be nominated. Anyone may nominate an educator for this honor; self-nominations are permitted as well.

The nomination period opens today and will close on January 31, 2020. Nominations will be reviewed by Department staff and awardees will be recognized during Teacher Appreciation Week on May 2020.

Click here for full rules, terms, conditions, and specifics on how to apply.

 

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Education

5 Things to Do Before Making Your First Student Loan Payment

Almost time to start paying back your student loans?  Contrary to popular belief, your student loan payments don’t have to stop you from living your life. You just have to weigh your options and find a strategy that works within your budget. Here are some steps to get you started.

1. Compare monthly payment amounts

If you don’t think you can afford that amount or you want a lower monthly payment, consider switching to an income-driven repayment plan, where your monthly payment could be as low as $0 per month. Just know that when you make payments based on your income your monthly payment amount may be lower, but you will likely pay more in total over a longer period of time.The amount you pay each month toward your student loans will depend on the repayment plan you choose. If you take no action, you will be automatically enrolled in the 10-year Standard Repayment Plan.

Use our repayment calculator to compare your different repayment options.

Calculate


2. Decide whether to consolidate

If you borrowed federal student loans before 2011, you may need to consolidate any FFEL loans into the Direct Loan program before you can qualify for the better income-driven repayment plans or Public Service Loan Forgiveness. You may also want to consolidate if you have multiple loans and/or servicers and want a single monthly payment. The application takes about 10 minutes.

Consolidate my Loans


3. Choose an affordable repayment plan

If you decide to consolidate, you will choose a repayment plan from within the consolidation application.

If you aren’t going to consolidate and you’d like to enroll in one of the income-driven repayment plans, learn how to choose the right income-driven repayment plan and apply here. The application takes about 10 minutes.

If you’re interested in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, you should apply for an income-driven repayment plan and submit an Employment Certification Form.

Apply for an income-driven repayment plan

See two examples of how switching to an income-driven repayment plan could impact you below:

Rob switches to an income-driven plan to reduce his upcoming monthly loan payments. As his career advances, he’ll switch back to a standard plan when he can pay more.

Miranda wants to pay off her student loans ASAP. She switches to a repayment plan with larger monthly payments so she can reduce overall interest accrual.


4. Set up your payments

You will never pay the U.S. Department of Education directly. In most cases, federal student loan borrowers will make payments to one of our loan servicers. Loan servicers work on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education to collect your payments and provide customer service. If you don’t know who your loan servicer is, find out here.

Your loan servicer will contact to let you know when your first payment is due and how to make a payment, so it’s very important that you provide your servicer with updated contact information.

TIP: To simplify the repayment process, consider enrolling in auto debit and your payments will be automatically taken from your bank account each month. Ask your servicer how to enroll.


5. Know who to contact if you need help with your student loans

Beware of student loan scams.  You never have to pay for help with your student loans. As you’re researching repayment and forgiveness options, make sure you’re getting information from trusted sources, like .gov websites or your servicer’s website. The government and your servicer will never charge application or maintenance fees, so if you’re asked to pay, walk away.

If you have questions or need help, contact your servicer.

TIP: Save your servicer’s contact information in your phone so you can access it when you need to.

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Education

Scholarship Basics and Tips

We all know college is super expensive; not only do you have to pay tuition, but there’s also room and board (for those of you staying on campus), a meal plan (yay for cafeteria food…), and textbooks (buying hundred-dollar books for one chapter). It’s a lot. Luckily for us, there’s help: scholarships! Of course there’s no guarantee that you’ll actually be awarded any money, and sometimes it can seem like a whole lot of work for a whole lot of nothing. But that’s why I’m here! I’ve gone through the process recently (and am doing it again), and I’m at your service with suggestions and tips.

A lot of these tips come from StudentAid.gov/scholarships, so check out that page for a more comprehensive, detailed guide to scholarships.


 Types of Scholarships

There are scholarships for almost everything—all you have to do is look. Applying for scholarships doesn’t have to be tedious—find scholarships for things you’re passionate about. Some scholarships are really cool. There are scholarships for animal rescue, volunteering with the elderly, etc.; you can find them through specific organizations, too.


 Finding Scholarships

You can’t apply for scholarships if you don’t know where to find them. Here’s a handy list of places you can get money from:

  • Scholarship websites like fastweb.com (my personal fave) and collegegreenlight.com
  • A college’s financial aid office (offers scholarships just for that specific college)
  • Community/religious organizations, local businesses, community foundations (you usually have a better chance of winning these because there’s a smaller pool of applicants)
  • Your employer or your parents’ employers
  • The U.S. Department of Labor’s FREE scholarship search tool
  • Your high school counselor’s office
  • Your state higher education agency
  • Organizations related to your field of interest (give it a quick Google search)

 Who Can Apply

Anyone who is going to be attending college next year—current high school seniors and current college students. Different scholarships have different eligibility requirements, so check and make sure you meet all the requirements for a scholarship before you apply.


 When to Apply

Now. Just assume that you should be looking for and applying for scholarships right now. Even if the due date isn’t for months, it’s good to get a head start. It seems to me that “scholarship season” is in late winter/early spring for the next academic year, though, and that is when most scholarships will be offered.


 Getting Started

There are several things that often pop up as requirements for scholarship applications, so it’s good to get those things ready early. Some scholarships, along with an essay, will require:

  • FAFSA information; so file the FAFSA as soon as it becomes available
  • At least one letter of recommendation from a teacher, counselor, or someone else familiar with your academic achievements
  • A professional picture of you—it doesn’t have to be an actual professional headshot, but it has to be nice and appropriate (senior pictures are good for that)
  • Your latest transcript and GPA

 The Dreaded Essay

A lot of scholarship essay assignments are really similar and want you to answer questions like “What is your biggest accomplishment in life?” so you can do a decent amount of copying and pasting from one application to another. Many scholarship applications will ask for rather dry and academic responses, but sometimes you can use your hobbies as material for your essays. That definitely makes the essay-writing easier. If you’re looking to actually enjoy the scholarship application process, fun essay prompts do exist. My favorite one was an essay about the best food experience I’ve ever had. I wrote about eating a mango on a roof in Guatemala; it was awesome.


 Application Tips

Time for the fun part. Here are my recommendations:

  • Sort your applications by due date and do them in the order they’re due; but keep in mind that some require more work (letters of recommendation, a longer essay, etc.) and may take more time.
  • Make sure your essay follows the instructions and is within the word limit.
  • Have several people (preferably people who have recent experience with essay writing/reviewing) look over your essay to make sure it’s good.
  • Present yourself as worthy of a scholarship, but not cocky or like you’re pathetic (it’s hard, I know).
  • Try to submit your application at least a day ahead of the deadline. Right before the deadline the website can get clogged and potentially even shut down with a high influx of activity.
  • Make sure you include all the required materials and submit everything properly.

In Summary

Good luck!


Megan Friebe is a freshman at Michigan State University, where she spends her days studying public affairs and social policy, her evenings studying the same thing, and, if she’s lucky, her nights sleeping. She also manages to find time to intern with the Customer Experience team in the office of Federal Student Aid at the U.S. Department of Education.

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Education

5 Things to Do After Filing Your FAFSA® Form

Did you submit a 2020–21 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form? Wondering what happens next? Here are a few things to look out for:


1. Review Your FAFSA® Confirmation Page

After you complete the FAFSA form online and select “SUBMIT,” you’ll see a confirmation page like the one below. This is not your financial aid offer. You’ll get that separately from the school(s) you apply to and get into. Your school(s) calculate your aid.

2020-21 FAFSA Confirmation Page

2020-21 FAFSA Confirmation Page

The confirmation page provides federal aid estimates based on the information you provided on your FAFSA form. It’s important to know that these figures are truly estimates and assume the information you provided on the FAFSA form is correct. To calculate the actual amount of aid you’re eligible for, your school will take into account other factors, such as the cost to attend the school. Additionally, these estimates only take into account federal aid and not outside scholarships or state and institutional financial assistance you may also be eligible for.

TIP: Each school you are accepted to and include on your FAFSA form will send you a financial aid offer. Until you receive this notification, it may be difficult to know exactly how much aid you might be eligible to receive from a specific school. To get an idea of how much aid schools tend to give depending on your family’s income, visit CollegeScorecard.ed.gov and type in the school(s) you want to look up.
College Scorecard sample

2. Review Your Expected Family Contribution (EFC)

FAFSA - What to Expect After Submitting infographic

Infographic: What to Expect After Submitting Your FAFSA Form

The information you report on your FAFSA form is used to calculate your EFC. It’s very important to note that the EFC is not the amount of money your family will have to pay for college. Instead, the EFC is an index number used by financial aid offices to calculate your financial need. The formula they use is:

Cost of attendance
 Expected family contribution
   Your financial “need”

Each school will do its best to meet your financial need. Some schools may meet 100 percent of your financial need, and other schools may only meet 10 percent—it just depends on the school and the financial aid they have available that year. You should complete the FAFSA form annually because there are many factors that can change from year to year.

NOTE: Contrary to popular belief, the EFC formula considers more than just income. Factors such as dependency status, family size, and the number of family members who will attend college are just a few of the additional factors considered.

3. Apply for as Many Scholarships as You Can

As we mentioned previously, many schools won’t be able to meet your full financial need, so you’ll need a way to pay the difference between the financial aid your school offers and what the school costs. Scholarships are a great way to fill the gap. (Who doesn’t like free money?)

But don’t wait until after you receive your financial aid offer to start applying for scholarships. There are thousands of scholarships out there, but many have early deadlines. Set a goal for yourself; for example, maybe you aim to apply to one scholarship per week. There’s tons of free money, but you can’t get it unless you apply. Make scholarship applications your focus while you wait for your financial aid offer. The applications may take some time, but the possible pay out makes it all worth it.

If you still don’t have enough money to pay for school after financial aid and scholarships, consider these options.

How do I Find Scholarships


4. Be on the Lookout for Your Aid Offer(s)

The 2020–21 FAFSA form was made available on Oct. 1, 2019. Even if you submit it early, that doesn’t mean you’ll get an aid offer right away. Each school has a different schedule for awarding and paying out financial aid.

Remember that your school disburses your aidnot the “FAFSA people” (Federal Student Aid). Contact your school’s financial aid office for details about when they send out aid offers. If you want to see an estimate of your school’s average annual cost, visit CollegeScorecard.ed.gov. If you want to report significant changes in your family or financial situation, contact your school’s financial aid office.

TIP: After your FAFSA form has been processed successfully, it’s a good idea to make sure the schools you listed on your FAFSA form have received everything they need. You should find out if your school requires additional applications or documentation and submit any required documentation by the appropriate deadlines.


5. Make FAFSA® Corrections if You Need To

Lastly, after your FAFSA form has been processed (which takes about three days), you can go back and submit a correction to certain fields. This includes correcting a typo or adding another school to receive your FAFSA information. Log in with your FSA ID at fafsa.gov, and then select “Make FAFSA Corrections.” You can add up to 10 schools at a time. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, follow these steps.

2020-21 FAFSA Make Corrections

NOTE: Parents of dependent students can’t initiate a FAFSA correction. Students have to begin the correction process by logging in with their FSA ID at fafsa.gov, selecting “Make FAFSA Corrections,” and creating a Save Key they can share with their parent.

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Education

The Parent’s Guide to Filling Out the FAFSA® Form

2019 Parent's Guide FAFSA

While the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form is the student’s application, we know that parents often play a large role in the process. After all, students who are considered dependent have to provide parental information on the FAFSA form anyway and must have a parent sign it. While we recommend that the student start his or her own FAFSA form, we know that’s not always what happens. With that in mind, we wanted to provide instructions for parents who are starting the FAFSA form on behalf of their child so you can avoid running into issues completing the form.

If you are a parent completing the FAFSA form for your child, follow these 8 steps:


1. Create an account (FSA ID)

An FSA ID is a username and password you use on Federal Student Aid websites such as fafsa.gov and StudentLoans.gov. If your child is considered a dependent student, two unique FSA IDs are needed to complete the FAFSA form online:

  1. Parent’s FSA ID
  2. Student’s FSA ID

We recommend that you and your child register for FSA IDs ahead of time, so you don’t experience delays later in the process.

IMPORTANT: Your child must create his or her own FSA ID. You cannot create an FSA ID for your child. Also, when you register, you’ll be asked to provide an email address and mobile phone number. This is optional but highly recommended. These two items must be unique to each account. In other words, your email address and mobile phone number cannot be associated with more than one FSA ID.

You and your child should create your FSA IDs now at StudentAid.gov/fsaid.

Your FSA ID serves as your legal electronic signature throughout the federal student aid process. Do not share your FSA ID with anyone, not even your child. Your child should also not share his or her FSA ID with you. Keep your FSA ID information in a safe place. You’ll need it to renew your FAFSA form each year and to access federal student aid information online.


2. Start the FAFSA® form at fafsa.gov

  • Go to fafsa.gov and click “Start Here” under the “New to FAFSA.gov?” heading.
  • Once on the log-in page, you will see two options. If you are starting the FAFSA form on behalf of your child, choose the option on the right, “I am a parent, preparer, or student from a Freely Associated State.”

  • Enter your child’s name, Social Security number, and date of birth. Then, click next.
    • Choose which FAFSA form you’d like to complete.
      2019–20 FAFSA form if your child will be attending college between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020.
      2020–21 FAFSA form if your child will be attending college between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021.
    • Both: If your child will be attending college during both time periods and hasn’t completed the 2019–20 FAFSA form yet, complete that first, wait until it processes (one to three days), then go back in and complete the 2020–21 FAFSA form after.
    • Were you given the option to submit a FAFSA® Renewal?
      If your child is present, you should choose this option. If you do, a lot of the demographic information required will be pre-populated. Your child must be present because he or she will need to enter the student’s FSA ID to continue. If your child is not present, you should select “Start NEW FAFSA.”
  • Create a save key. A save key is a temporary password that allows you and your child to “pass” the FAFSA form back and forth. It also allows you to save your child’s FAFSA form and return to it later. Once you create a save key, share it with your child. He or she will need it to complete later steps.

IMPORTANT TIPS
— The FAFSA® form is the student’s application, not yours.
When the FAFSA form says “you” or “your,” it’s referring to the student (unless otherwise noted).
— Avoid simultaneous logins.
Your child should not be filling out their FAFSA online at the same time you are. Your progress can be lost if they click “Save” at a different point in the application.
— If you need help:
Click on the blue question mark symbol at the corner of each question.


3. Fill out the Student Demographics section

After the introduction page, you will proceed to enter basic demographic information about your child, such as name, date of birth, etc. If you chose the FAFSA renewal option in step two, a lot of his or her personal information will be pre-populated to save you time. Make sure you enter your child’s personal information exactly as it appears on his or her Social Security card so you don’t encounter any errors. (That’s right, no nicknames.)


4. List the schools to which you want your FAFSA® information sent

In the School Selection section, you’ll add all the schools you want to receive your child’s information. It is important that you add every school your child is considering, even if he or she hasn’t applied or been accepted yet. It doesn’t hurt to add more schools; colleges can’t see the other schools that have been added. In fact, you don’t even have to remove schools if your child later decides not to apply or attend. If your child doesn’t end up applying or getting accepted to a school, the school can just disregard his or her FAFSA form. You can remove schools at any time to make room for new schools. You can add up to 10 schools at a time. If your child is applying to more than 10 schools, here’s what you should do.


5. Answer the dependency status questions

In this section, you’ll be asked a series of specific questions to determine whether or not your child is required to provide your (parent) information on the FAFSA form.

  • These dependency guidelines are set by Congress and are different from those used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
  • Even if your child doesn’t live with you, supports him or herself, and files taxes separately from you, he or she may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes.
  • If your child is determined to be a dependent student, he or she will be required to report information about you. If your child is determined to be an independent student, you can skip the questions about providing parent information (unless otherwise noted by the school).

6. Fill out the Parent Demographics section

This is where you’ll provide your own demographic information. Are you divorced? Remarried? Below is a guide to determining which parent’s information needs to be included on your child’s FAFSA form. For specific guidance, review our “Reporting Parent Information” page.

Infographic: Who’s my Parent when I Fill Out myFAFSA?


7. Supply your financial information

This step is incredibly simple if you use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). The IRS DRT allows you to import your IRS tax information into the FAFSA form with just a few clicks. Using this tool also may reduce the amount of paperwork you need to provide to your child’s school. So if you’re eligible, use it!

To access the tool, indicate that you’ve “already completed” taxes on the parent finances page. If you’re eligible, you’ll see an option to “Link to IRS.”

Next, you’ll likely be asked to provide your child’s financial information.

  • If your child filed taxes, the easiest way to complete this section is to use the IRS DRT. Your child would need to be present because he or she needs to provide his or her FSA ID to use the tool. If your child is not present, save and exit the application and instruct your child to log in with his or her FSA ID, retrieve the FAFSA form using the save key, and then use the IRS DRT to complete the FAFSA form and sign it.
  • If your child did not file taxes, you can enter his or her financial information manually (if you have access to the required information). If you don’t have access to the information, save and exit the application and instruct your child to log in with his or her FSA ID, retrieve the FAFSA form using the save key, complete the FAFSA form, and sign it.

NOTE: If you need to save and exit your child’s FAFSA form so he or she can complete the remaining information, you’ll need to log back in and sign your child’s FAFSA form before your child can submit it.


8. Sign your child’s FAFSA® form

Both you and your child need to sign the FAFSA form. The quickest and easiest way to sign your child’s FAFSA form is online with your FSA ID.

If your child is not present, here’s what you do:

  1. Sign your child’s FAFSA form with your FSA ID first.
  2. Save and exit the application.
  3. Instruct your child to log in using their FSA ID and sign the FAFSA form.

Sign and Submit Tips:

  • If you or your child forgot your FSA ID, you can retrieve it
  • Make sure you and your child don’t mix up your FSA IDs. This is one of the most common errors we see, and why it’s extremely important for each person to create his/her own FSA ID and not share it with anyone.
  • Make sure the parent who is using his/her FSA ID to sign the FAFSA form chooses the right parent number. If you don’t remember whether you were listed as Parent 1 or Parent 2, you can go back to the parent demographics section to check.

2020-21 FAFSA Parent Signature

  • If you get an error saying that your FSA ID information doesn’t match the information provided on the FAFSA form, here’s what you should do. Note: This is often the result of mixing up the student and parent FSA ID.
  • We recommend signing the FAFSA form with an FSA ID because it’s the fastest way to get your child’s FAFSA form processed. However, if you and/or your child are unable to sign the FAFSA form electronically with an FSA ID, you can mail in a signature page. From the sign and submit page, select “Other options to sign and submit” and then choose “Print A Signature Page.” Just keep in mind that your child’s FAFSA form will take longer to process if you go this route.
  • If you have multiple children who need to complete the FAFSA form, you can use the same FSA ID to sign FAFSA forms for all of your children. You can also transfer your information into your other children’s applications by choosing the option provided on the FAFSA confirmation page.


Congrats you’re finished!

Your child is one step closer to getting money for college. With the hard part over, learn what your child should do next after submitting the FAFSA form.

Categories
Education

How to Fill Out the FAFSA® Form When You Have More Than One Child in College

Having one child who is heading to college can be stressful but having to help multiple children at the same time can feel overwhelming. Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about filling out the FAFSA form when you have more than one child in college:

How many FSA IDs will my children and I need?

An FSA ID is a username and password combination that serves as your legal electronic signature throughout the financial aid process. You AND each of your children will need your own FSA ID.

Note: Your FSA ID is associated with your Social Security number and is equivalent to your legal signature; therefore, each person can only have one FSA ID. If you are a parent, you will use the same FSA ID to sign each one of your children’s FAFSA forms.


How many FAFSA® forms do we have to complete?

Each of your children will need to fill out a FAFSA form. Your children will need to provide your (parent) information on their 2020–21 FAFSA forms unless they are going to graduate school, were born before Jan. 1, 1997, or can answer “yes” to any of these dependency status questions.

Example: You have three children who are going to go to college or who are in college. You’ll need four FSA IDs—one for you as the parent (only one parent needs an FSA ID) and one for each child. You’ll need to fill out three FAFSA forms, one for each child.


Can I transfer my information from one child’s FAFSA® form to another so I don’t have to reenter it?

Yes! Once your first child’s FAFSA form is complete, you’ll get to a confirmation page. At the bottom of the confirmation page, you’ll see an option that asks, “Does your brother or sister need to complete a FAFSA?” Make sure you have your pop-up blocker turned off and select the arrow at the right.

Note: This transfer option is available on fafsa.gov but it is NOT currently available on the myStudentAid app.

TIP: If you want the process to go as smoothly as possible, your second child should have his or her FSA ID handy so you’re ready for the next step.

Once you select the arrow, a new window will open, allowing your other child to start his or her FAFSA form. We recommend that your child starts the FAFSA form by entering his or her FSA ID (not your FSA ID) using the option on the left (I am the student) in the image below. However, if you are starting your child’s FAFSA form, choose the option on the right (I am a parent, preparer, or student from a Freely Associated State) and enter your child’s information.

Note:  Regardless of who starts the application from this screen, the FAFSA form remains the student’s application; so, when the FAFSA form says “you,” it means the student. If the FAFSA form is asking for parent information, it will specify that. When in doubt, refer to the ribbon at the top left of the screen. It will indicate whether you’re being asked to provide student or parent information.

After you select the FAFSA form you’d like to complete and create a save key, you’ll be brought to the introduction page, which will indicate that parental data was copied into your second child’s FAFSA form.

Once you reach the parent information page, you will see your information prepopulated. Verify this info, proceed to sign and submit the FAFSA form, and you’re done!


I have education savings accounts (529 plan, etc.) for my children. How do I report those on the FAFSA® form?

You report the value of all education savings accounts owned by you, your child, or any other dependent children in your household as a parent investment. (Read “What is the net worth of your parents’ investments?” for more information.) If you have education savings accounts for multiple children, you must report the combined current value of those accounts, even if some of those children are not in college yet or are not completing a FAFSA form.

Example: Child 1 and 2 are filling out the FAFSA form. Child 3 is in 8th grade. They each have 529 college savings plan accounts in their names.

  • Child 1 account balance: $20,000
  • Child 2 account balance: $13,000
  • Child 3 account balance: $8,000

You would add $41,000 to any other parent investments you’re required to report and input it when asked, “What is the net worth of your parents’ investments?” on each of your children’s FAFSA forms.


How does having more than one child in college impact the amount of financial aid my children qualify for?

Having multiple children enrolled in college at the same time could have an impact on your children’s eligibility for need-based federal financial aid.

TIP: We often hear about families who choose not to fill out the FAFSA form again because they believe that they won’t qualify for grants or scholarships, especially if they did not qualify the previous year. This is a huge mistake, especially if you will have additional children entering college. Read on to learn why.

Schools use the following formula to determine a student’s eligibility for need-based financial aid:

Cost of attendance (COA) – Expected Family Contribution (EFC) = financial need

Let’s break down this formula:

  • Cost of attendance: This will vary by school, so if you have two children attending different schools with different costs, their financial need may be different, even if their EFC is the same.
  • Expected Family Contribution: The information you provide on the FAFSA form is used to calculate your child’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The EFC is a combination of how much a parent and student are expected to contribute toward the student’s cost to attend college. The EFC is not necessarily the amount of money your family will have to pay for college, nor is it the amount of federal student aid you will receive. It is a number used by your child’s school to calculate how much financial aid he or she is eligible to receive. Since we recognize that as a parent, your annual ability to pay per child decreases as you have more children enroll in college, we divide the expected parent contribution portion by the number of children you expect to have in college.

Example: Let’s assume that all your dependent children have identical financial information and that the calculated EFC assuming one child in college would be $10,000. Here’s how each child’s EFC would change depending on the number of family members attending college full-time.

  • Financial need: Please note that schools differ (sometimes greatly) in their ability to meet each student’s financial need. To compare average school costs, visit the CollegeScorecard.

 

Categories
Education

8 Steps to Filling Out the FAFSA® Form


1. Create an account (FSA ID)

  • Student: An FSA ID is a username and password you need to sign the FAFSA form online. If you don’t have an FSA ID, get an FSA ID here ASAP. It takes about 10 minutes to create an FSA ID. If this will be your first time filling out the FAFSA form, you’ll be able to use your FSA ID right away to sign and submit your FAFSA form online. If this is not your first time filling out the FAFSA form, you may need to wait one to three days for us to verify your info before you can use your FSA ID to renew your FAFSA form and sign it online.

IMPORTANT:

Some of the most common FAFSA errors occur when the student and parent mix up their FSA IDs. If you don’t want your financial aid to be delayed, it’s extremely important that each parent and each student create his or her own FSA ID and that they do not share it with ANYONE, not even with each other.

2. Start the FAFSA® form at fafsa.gov

The 2020–21 FAFSA form launched October 1! Even if your state and school deadlines aren’t for a while, you should complete the FAFSA form as soon as possible because some states and schools run out of financial aid early and have limited funds. Don’t wait until the last minute to apply!

TIP: If you are the parent read, The Parent’s Guide to Filling Out the FAFSA Form.

  • If you are the student: Click “I am the student.” Enter your FSA ID username and password, and click “Next.”
  • If you are the parent: Click “I am a parent, preparer, or student from a Freely Associated State.” Provide the student’s name, Social Security number, and date of birth, and click “Next.”

Choose which FAFSA form you’d like to complete:

  • 2020–21 FAFSA form if you will be attending college between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021.
  • 2019–20 FAFSA form if you will be attending college between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020.
  • Both: If you will be attending college during both time periods and haven’t completed your 2019–20 FAFSA form yet, complete that first, wait one to three days until it processes , then go back in and complete the 2020–21 FAFSA form.

TIP: If you are given the option to complete a “renewal” FAFSA form, choose that option. When you choose to renew your FAFSA form, your demographic information from the previous year will roll over into your new application, saving you some time.

Remember, the FAFSA form is not a onetime thing. You must complete a FAFSA form for each school year.

Create a save key

  • Unlike the FSA ID, the save key is meant to be shared. A save key is a temporary password that allows you and your parent(s) to “pass” the FAFSA form back and forth. It also allows you to save the FAFSA form and return to it later. This is especially helpful if you and your parent are not in the same place.

3. Fill out the Student Demographics section

This is information such as your name, date of birth, etc. If you have completed the FAFSA form in the past or if you log into the FAFSA form with your FSA ID, a lot of your personal information will be prepopulated to save you time. Make sure you enter your personal information exactly as it appears on your Social Security card. (That’s right, no nicknames.)

Parents:
Remember that the FAFSA form is the student’s application, not yours. When the FAFSA form says “you” or “your,” it’s referring to the student (unless otherwise noted). Pay attention to whether you’re being asked for student or parent information.


4. List the schools to which you want your FAFSA® information sent

In the School Selection section, add every school you’re considering, even if you haven’t applied or been accepted yet. It doesn’t hurt your application to add more schools; colleges can’t see the other schools you’ve added. In fact, you don’t even have to remove schools if you later decide not to apply or attend. If you don’t end up applying or getting accepted to a school, the school can just disregard your FAFSA form. But, you can remove schools at any time to make room for new schools. You can add up to 10 schools at a time. If you’re applying to more than 10 schools, here’s what you should do.


5. Answer the dependency status questions

In the dependency status section, you’ll be asked a series of specific questions to determine whether you are required to provide parent information on the FAFSA form.

The dependency guidelines are set by Congress and are different from those used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Even if you live on your own, support yourself, and file taxes on your own, you may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes. If you are determined to be a dependent student, you’ll be required to report information about your parent(s). If you’re determined to be an independent student, you won’t have to provide parent information and you can skip the next step.


6. Fill out the Parent Demographics section

This is where your parent(s) will provide basic demographic information. Remember that it doesn’t matter if you don’t live with your parent(s); you still must report information about them if you were determined to be a dependent student in the step above.

Start by figuring out who counts as your parent on the FAFSA form.


7. Supply your financial information

Here is where you and your parent(s) (if applicable) will provide your financial information. This step is incredibly simple if you use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT). The IRS DRT allows you to import your IRS tax information into the FAFSA form with just a few clicks. Using this tool also may reduce the amount of paperwork you need to provide to your school. So if you’re eligible, use it!

To access the tool, indicate that you’ve “already completed” taxes on the student or parent finances page. If you’re eligible, you’ll see a “LINK TO IRS” button. Choose that option and follow the prompts.


8. Sign and submit your FAFSA form

You’re not finished with the FAFSA form until you (and your parent, if you’re a dependent student) sign it. The quickest and easiest way to sign your FAFSA form is online with your FSA ID.

Note: If you (the student) logged in to the FAFSA form with your FSA ID at the beginning, you won’t need to provide it again on this page. But, if you’re a dependent student, your parent will still need to sign before you can completely submit.

Sign and Submit Tips:

  • If you or your parent forgot your FSA ID username or password, you can retrieve it.
  • Make sure you and your parent don’t mix up your FSA IDs. This is one of the most common errors we see, and why it’s extremely important for each person to create his or her own FSA ID and not share it with anyone.
  • Make sure the parent who is using his or her FSA ID to sign the FAFSA form chooses the right parent number from the drop-down menu. If your parent doesn’t remember whether he or she was listed as Parent 1 or Parent 2, he or she can go back to the parent demographics section to check.
  • If you have siblings, your parent can use the same FSA ID to sign FAFSA forms for all of his or her children. Your parent can also transfer his or her information into your sibling’s application by choosing the option provided on the FAFSA confirmation page.

  • We recommend signing the FAFSA form with an FSA ID because it’s the fastest way to get your FAFSA form processed. However, if you and/or your parent are unable to sign the FAFSA form electronically with an FSA ID, you can mail in a signature page. From the sign and submit page, select “Other options to sign and submit” and then choose “Print A Signature Page.” Just keep in mind that your FAFSA form will take longer to process if you go this route.

 2020-21 FAFSA Signature Options


I’m finished. What’s next?

Congrats on finishing! You’re one step closer to getting money for college. With the hard part over, check out this page to learn what you should do next.