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Just the (FAFSA) Facts, Ma’am

Tips and Tricks for Filing This Oft-Dreaded Application

March 9, 2012

Just the (FAFSA) Facts, Ma’am

by Radha Jhatakia

For those of us who cannot afford large out-of-pocket expenses for college, financial aid is our only option. Many, if not all, universities require their students to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid – aka the FAFSA – which uses your family’s finances and taxes in order to best determine how much aid you get. It can be confusing but it is definitely worth your time to file the application.

Depending on the state of the school you attend and live in, the FAFSA has different deadlines. States offer different grants and scholarships as long as you qualify and apply by the stated deadline and private schools also have different deadlines for private funding which can be found on their websites. The dates for states can all be found on the print out form on the FAFSA’s website. Remember to use this official government website – other sites charge fees.

The FAFSA requires you to have a federal PIN number. To apply for one, request one from the FAFSA website. (Make sure to do this even if you don’t have your tax returns, as the PIN number sometimes takes some time to receive.) Also, a new procedure that the FAFSA has is the IRS data retrieval tool, which takes the tax information directly from the IRS database and filters it into the FAFSA. This option not only makes life easier for those filing the FAFSA but it helps college financial aid offices, as they won’t require you to turn in additional documents to verify if the information is correct.

Always try to have yours and your parents' tax returns completed as soon as possible to have your FAFSA completed on time; however, since required documents like W-2s and other federal papers often aren’t available when you need them, file the FAFSA and select the option “Will File” rather than “Already Completed” for the question asking if you have already filed the tax returns. Use the tax information from the previous year so that you can have it completed by the deadline and once your tax returns are complete, go back into the FAFSA and use the “Make Corrections” option to update the information.

Happy filing, everyone!

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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Communicating with Authority Figures

by Radha Jhatakia

Whether it’s a parent, professor or employer, communicating with authority figures can be a challenge, as a certain level of respect and acknowledgement must be given. You may not always see eye-to-eye with your superiors but these tips will help you to keep the lines of communication as open and effective as possible.

One of the most important aspects of communicating with authority figures is having an appropriate attitude. No one will want to speak to you if you have a displeased look or closed-off body language. Knowing your surroundings and having a welcoming demeanor will make you appear more approachable; displaying confidence in what you have to say will win you points as well.

The method you use to communicate is also important. Email is a very convenient in that it allows us to get a message to someone quickly but with the convenience of this technology, many people do not practice proper “netiquette,” which means using proper spelling, grammar and formal language rather than texting language. Being appropriate in your emails means not using emoticons and having a signature with your contact information. Communicating effectively with authority figures often relies on your level of maturity and this will help demonstrate it.

However expedient emails may be, sometimes phone calls or in-person meetings are necessary. Often when employers are considering candidates, someone who has sent an email may not seem as appealing as someone who has sent an email and followed up with a phone call. In-person conversations work better when the matter is important and is something that may be misconstrued in an email or phone conversation. An example would be if you need to speak to a professor about a grade you felt was unfair. Approach them as a concerned student who wants to know how to improve from the mistakes they cited, then explain why the errors don’t seem wrong to you. A positive attitude will go a long way; you may be angry but verbally attacking the professor will make them far less likely to help you out.

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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Computer Programs Every College Student Needs

by Radha Jhatakia

As college students, we are dependent upon computers when working on papers, presentations and other class assignments. Many times, we are required to have certain technology to complete these tasks and whether you use a Mac or PC, these programs can help you.

For document reading and creation: Adobe Reader is a program used to read PDF files which are often used as virtual documents you can fill out using a computer. CutePDF Writer is a program used to create PDF files. You can write documents or turn JPEGs (picture files) into PDFs by selecting to print files as PDF. (Doing so turns them into virtual documents.)

For word processing: Microsoft Word is essential to anyone who has or will ever need to write a paper. Macs have a different version that comes pre-installed in the computers; however, these files are only compatible with Macs, thus professors often require that students use Microsoft Word when emailing and writing documents.

For presentations: PowerPoint is another Microsoft program designed to create presentations and it's filled with different formats, backgrounds, charts and smart objects you can utilize to customize your projects. PowerPoint is also very popular in the workplace so learning how to use it while attending college is a big plus.

For data analysis: Microsoft Excel is necessary during and after college. The software can be used to input data to be calculated much easier and also to analyze with efficiency. Excel can be tricky but there are classes you can take (and tech-savvy classmates you can ask) to learn how to use the program.

For all the rest: A few various programs that you can keep on hand which may or may not come in handy depending on your personal interests or major are iTunes and Adobe Photoshop. These programs are more artistic and provide access to music and photo editing. Purchase these programs legally, as they will last for a while and provide free updates.

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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Not Ready for London 2012? Try the College Olympics First

by Radha Jhatakia

Recently, the College of Business clubs at San Jose State University held a Business Olympics. In this mini-Olympics, students from the various CoB clubs participated in many different athletic games and fun activities where students had the opportunity to get good workouts, blow off some steam and socialize with others.

According to the club board members who united to host the CoB Olympics, there was a great deal of planning involved. They had to ensure a date, time and space on campus where the games could be held, as well as find faculty members who would be willing to oversee the event since it was an on-campus activity. They also needed enough of the clubs in the College of Business to join so that there would be enough participants for a competition and needed to plan which games to play (touch football and volleyball tournaments, a five-legged race, a balloon stomp game, tug-of-war and business trivia). This being the bare minimum, the board members of the clubs went above and beyond for the event: They even found sponsors for the OlympicsMonster (energy drinks), State Farm Insurance and WiLD 94.9 (a local radio station) – that provided supplies, t-shirts, snacks, water and food for a barbeque after the event. After the eight-hour competition filled with bumps and bruises, we all left having made new connections with students from other clubs and the successful nature of the event will be continued in a now semi-annual College Olympics.

Depending on the department or major you are in, you can tailor the Olympics to fit your criteria and the great part is that this kind of event can be held by any organization on campus. Does your school have any Olympic-like event like SJSU's? If not, will this article help you in planning your own?

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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Handy Phone Apps for College Students

by Radha Jhatakia

The majority of college students today own smartphones and use these devices more for apps, browsing the web, checking email and texting than actually making phone calls. Here are a few that will benefit most students...and most are available for both Android devices and iPhones.

My top most recommended apps are Amazon Student and Kindle for iPhone or Android. Amazon Student has deals for students on books, electronics and much more and if you are a member of Amazon Student, you only have to pay half price ($39) for Prime membership, which gives you access to movies, TV shows and music online plus free two-day shipping anytime. The Kindle app allows you to access e-textbooks on your phone for those few minutes before class when you remember you had a reading assignment to do.

Students also have schedules filled with schoolwork, extracurricular activities, jobs and more. How do they keep it all straight? Some apps to make things convenient include The Weather Channel, Wells Fargo, Discover and Evernote. A weather app allows you to check the weather outside so you can dress accordingly, a bank or credit card app will make it convenient for you to pay your bills on the go (some even have ways for you to make check deposits without setting a foot in the bank) and note apps allow you make to-do lists and take notes which you can sync with your calendar.

Other convenient apps include translators, dictionaries and games for stress relieving. As long as you don’t mind some ads, these apps are available for free (but you can purchase ad-free versions for about $.99). What are your favorite apps?

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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Selling/Buying Items for School

by Radha Jhatakia

It’s the end of the academic year which means summer vacation, summer school and, for many students, moving home until the fall. Moving out is never a simple process but for the items and supplies that you do not want to keep, selling them or giving them away for free are some options. This is also the best time for students to purchase furniture and other household items especially if they are living off campus – they might be second hand but it will save you quite a bit of money!

College students who want to sell items have a variety of outlets to consider. Create a free Craigslist posting – all you need to do is take a picture of the item you’re selling, give a brief description and list a price and some contact information so interested buyers can reach you. Advertising on campus through flyers in the student union and dorms is also an option; student buyers might be more willing to meet with you if they know you are another student. Lastly, if you are moving or graduating and taking items with you isn’t an option or storing them is too inconvenient, you can donate the items or give them away for free – believe me, students trying to furnish their abodes will thank you.

The dorms at SJSU did something innovative this year to help students get rid of things they didn’t need in a convenient manner and for students to find something they might need: We used a spare lounge in the dorms to pile up items including mini-fridges, TVs, game consoles, bookshelves, clothing, books and so much more. Many students found it useful and were able to take whatever they wanted for free; everything that was left at the end was donated. Success all around!

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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Recognizing Alcohol Abuse

by Radha Jhatakia

It seems that social norms of college life revolve around alcohol. However responsible you think you are, know that this lifestyle comes with great danger not only to you but to those around you. There is no such thing as drinking responsibly so it is important to be able to recognize the signs of alcohol abuse before it’s too late.

As common as drinking may be on college campuses, there is a lot of risk associated with it. Drunk driving, alcohol poisoning, abuse, harassment and dependency are all related to alcohol. Driving should be completely avoided even if you’ve only had a few drinks and feel fine. It’s better to be safe than sorry, as you risk the lives of others if you drive intoxicated or knowingly let someone who has imbibed get behind the wheel.

Alcohol poisoning occurs more often than people realize and can be fatal. Symptoms can include vomiting, passing out, low breathing and blue skin pigmentation from lack of oxygen. If any of these signs are present, monitor them closely and be prepared to take the person to the hospital or call an ambulance: The symptoms of alcohol poisoning may not seem urgent at first but can quickly worsen.

Abuse and harassment are common with drinking as well, thus recognizing when someone has had enough alcohol is important. Slurred speech and inability to concentrate are results of high alcohol consumption; when someone can't control the situation around them, there could be dangerous consequences.

Alcohol dependency is also a big issue. The first step to helping a friend overcome this problem is by helping them to realize the problem and take steps to remedy it. If you can’t do it alone, Alcoholics Anonymous program information is generally available in school health offices.

It’s never easy admitting you or someone you know has a problem but doing so can possibly save a life...in college and beyond.

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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Want to Learn Something New? Give Student-Run Seminars a Try!

by Radha Jhatakia

One of the best ways for a student to learn something is to teach it. This is an ideology that many professors use by assigning students projects in which they must demonstrate something to their classmates. When these projects expand to outside the classroom and become open for any students to attend, it becomes a seminar and an opportunity for other students to learn something.

Student-run seminars are growing in popularity because they allow students an access to knowledge and allow other students to hone their teaching and presenting abilities. At SJSU, the College of Social Sciences hosts “COMM Week” – five days devoted to projects presented by students in seminars that are open for all students to attend. Professors in the communications department give students guidelines and the students have the entire semester to conduct research for their presentations. An example of one project was to design and market an app for a smartphone. Students conducted research on what apps were profitable and how to sell their app and then proceeded to create interfaces, pamphlets and websites to promote their ideas. (A few students even turned their innovative ideas into career opportunities, as these projects were presented at a trade show with investors from different companies.) Another project included conducting a training workshop for students to assist them learning something such as presenting, networking and other skills valued by employers. Companies pay trainers to teach employees different procedures and policies within a company so really, the students who were successful with their seminars could continue to train as a form of work.

Whenever students ask when or how they will use something they learned in the classroom in the real world, they should know that what they learn in school gives them skills to use in life after college. Any of these or other school projects can even be used to jumpstart a career!

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


Comments

Easy Health and Fitness Plans for the Semester

by Radha Jhatakia

Everyone struggles with keeping up a healthy diet and fitness schedule in college, especially if you work part time or are involved in organization on campus in addition to taking classes. Here are some simple tips that could help you squeeze in some time to work on your fitness.

  • It’s all about scheduling the time and making the commitment. I know at the end of a long day, we just want to get those extra 20 minutes of shut-eye but most likely, that time isn't going to make you feel more rested. (It’s like hitting snooze every five minutes in the morning – it won’t do anything but make you late!) Instead of crawling into bed, head over to the rec center or embark on a walk or run around campus for at least 30 minutes a day.
  • There are websites that have amazing and healthy recipes. Womenshealthmag.com and eatthis.menshealth.com are just a few sites that offer quick and easy work-out routines and meal plans you can follow. The latter website also has restaurant guides so you can enjoy a meal outside your own kitchen or dining hall and still maintain a balanced diet.
  • When you buy your groceries, plan out meals for the week before you go. Also, don't hit the store when you're hungry because you'll end up buying a lot of junk food and other items you don't really need. It’s alright to indulge in that one pack of cookies while you’re studying – trust me, we all get the late-night studying munchies – but don’t overdo it.
  • And last but not least, get a work-out buddy! Having a friend with you every step of the way is a great motivator for both parties involved. Find a buddy who has similar goals and plan gym days or grocery shopping trips so you can help each other stay on track. I’ve started doing that this semester and it’s going great: We haven’t missed a day at the gym yet...though we may get a little carried away with our shopping lists!

Getting fit shouldn’t be a chore – have fun with it and you will enjoy the results even more!

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


Comments

Your College Application Guide

by Radha Jhatakia

For seniors in high school, it’s about that time to dive into your college applications. The process is rather involved and has the potential to become very stressful but here’s how you can go about it while retaining your sanity.

First, you likely already have a list of colleges you are considering but start narrowing down your top contenders. Look at the majors they offer and see if they have the programs you’re interested in. Check the cost – financial aid may play a key role in what college you attend – and also see if they have activities that interest you (a sport you want to play, a specific student organization, a Greek system, an honors program, etc.). What’s the on-campus housing situation and could you see yourself living in the dorms? Consider these questions and more when deciding whether or not to apply to a college.

Second, check all the application deadlines. Remember, besides the actual application, you must submit test scores, transcripts, recommendation letters and personal statements and you need adequate time to procure all of these items. Also, review the fees associated with each application; some schools let you apply for free or a discounted rate online but you should also consider requesting application fee waivers if money is tight.

Third, the personal statement is the biggest part of the college application because it represents your personality. You may have a high GPA, AP classes and extracurricular activities but so do many other students – what will set you apart from the rest of the application pool is how you present yourself in the personal statement. Have a teacher or parent review your personal statement and edit it for you before submitting it to your college of choice.

Fourth – and although this is fourth on this list, you still want to get it done early – request recommendation letters. Ask teachers you’ve worked with and trust well in advance if they can write on your behalf. Have two or three for each college that requires one. Along with your personal information/resume/school involvement list, give the teacher an envelope that is stamped and addressed to the college(s) to which you’re applying so they can submit their letters directly.

Last but not least, take all your tests on time. If you haven’t taken the ACT, SAT or SAT II tests, register for the next available date; check which tests your colleges require and sign up for those ASAP!

Radha Jhatakia is a communications major at San Jose State University. She's a transfer student who had some ups and downs in school and many obstacles to face; these challenges – plus support from family, friends and cat – have only made Radha stronger and have given her the experience to help others with the same issues. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, cooking, sewing and designing. A social butterfly, Radha hopes to work in public relations and marketing upon graduation.


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