Completing your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form is an essential step in securing state and federal financial aid for your college education. Here’s everything you need to know before filling out this important document.

Submitting Your FAFSA Form is Free

Submitting your FAFSA form is always free via the U.S. Department of Education’s FAFSA website. Beware of unscrupulous websites charging fees for submitting this form. These sites simply prey on students that don’t know better. They do not offer a premium service, despite their claims.

You Should Create Your FSA ID Early

You’ll need a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID to log in to various U.S. Department of Education websites and to complete your FAFSA form. If you are still dependent on your parents, either your mom or dad needs his or her own FSA ID, too. Creating FSA IDs via the Student Aid website is simple, but delays can hold up the process. In some cases, you might need to wait three days before using your new FSA ID. That’s why experts recommend creating your FSA ID as soon as possible, even before you’re ready to complete your FAFSA form.

Also note that you must create your own FSA ID. If a parent needs one, he or she must also create his or her own. It’s illegal for anyone to make an FSA ID on someone else’s behalf.

The IRS Data Retrieval Tool Can Reduce Human Error and Save Time

State and federal bodies consider your last tax figures when determining your aid eligibility. Inputting relevant details from your last tax return can be tedious and time-consuming. A data retrieval tool from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can prefill tax information to your FAFSA form. This will save you around 30 minutes and ensure accuracy. New increased security and privacy protections help you use the tool with confidence.

Anyone who’s filed taxes electronically within the last three weeks or by mail within the last 11 weeks can use the IRS data retrieval tool. Simply click the “Link to IRS” button, which displays in the FAFSA form after clicking the “View option to link to the IRS” hyperlink.

You Should Complete Your FAFSA Form as Soon as Possible

With a final deadline of June 30, 2020 for the 2019–2020 financial year, you might think there’s plenty of time to get your FAFSA form in. However, submitting your form as soon as it’s available on October 1 can really pay off. Many states and colleges have much earlier deadlines for some financial awards. For example, to qualify for aid in Tennessee, your FAFSA form must be submitted by mid-January.

At least 12 American states also allocate grants on a first-come, first-served basis. Therefore, if you procrastinate completing your FAFSA form, there might be nothing left. Scholarships and grants, which don’t need to be repaid as loans do, usually have earlier cutoffs than the national deadlines.

All students seeking financial aid must complete a FAFSA form. Make sure you understand this document and what it takes to complete it to give yourself the best chance of securing state or federal financial aid.

The college experience can be exciting and fun, especially when you’re making friends and enjoying on-campus activities. But the daily grind of classes, schoolwork, and studying may cause you to feel a bit tired, stressed, or overwhelmed at times. Take time to care for yourself throughout the semester with these college student self-care tips.

1. Enjoy Some Alone Time

College is filled with classes and social engagements that keep you around other students for most of the day. And if you live with roommates, private moments may be especially rare. Enjoy some time to yourself so you can recharge after a busy day or week. Find a quiet spot in the library, go for a walk across campus, or fly solo to see a movie at the theater. Use the time alone to relax and think without the frequent distractions of college life.

2. Prioritize Your Sleep Schedule

College students often stay up late studying or spending time with friends. While those late nights can provide some important test prep or turn into cherished memories, it’s not a good idea to do it all the time. Getting enough sleep is vital to your health, energy levels, and mood. Plus, a good night’s sleep helps you to learn and retain new information and boost your memory, all of which is very important when you’re in class or studying every day.

Make sure you’re getting seven to eight hours of sleep most nights of the week. Establish a bedtime routine where you take a warm shower, read a book, listen to a podcast, or meditate before dozing off. These relaxing activities can help you rest more soundly and stick to a healthy sleep schedule.

3. Make Time for Exercise

Working out is one of the best methods of self-care, but it can be hard for some college students to find the motivation to do it. Even if you have a busy schedule, however, it’s important to fit in some physical activity at least a few times a week. Regular exercise can improve your mood and boost your energy. It even helps you enjoy deeper sleep at night (as long as you don’t exercise too close to bedtime). Consider trying one or more of these workouts for college students:

Take a workout class at the on-campus gym.
Join an intramural sports team.
Go for a run across campus.
Follow YouTube exercise videos at home.
Get a friend to be your workout buddy.

4. Talk It Out

When you’re feeling stressed, it can help to talk about what’s going through your mind. Meet up with a friend and chat about how you’re feeling. Call up a parent or sibling for support. If you’re a private person, it may help just to write out your feelings in a journal.

Don’t hesitate to take advantage of your school’s mental health services as well. Most universities and colleges have health centers where you can schedule an appointment with a counselor or therapist. These professionals can help you talk through any challenges you’re facing and provide useful strategies for overcoming them.

Don’t let stress get to you this semester. Instead, use these tips to take time to care for yourself.

Transferring to a new college can be a nice change of pace, but it can also be stressful. As a transfer student, you’ve got a little more experience under your belt. Even so, you’re not starting off the academic year immersed in friend-making activities like those found at freshmen orientation, which can make starting over at a new college a lonely experience.

Don’t fret. Here are a few simple ways to readjust to college life as a transfer student.

1. Attend Orientation

You might be tempted to skip orientation due to a been there done that attitude, but you’d be missing out. Most campuses hold transfer orientations separate from freshmen orientation, allowing you to meet other transfer students who are just as eager to make lifelong friends as you are.

Attending orientation also helps you navigate campus and learn where all the important buildings are. Having some familiarity with the school layout can help you feel more comfortable, ensuring your transition goes as smoothly as possible.

2. Find Your People

Making friends is an important part of college life, but it can be difficult for transfer students to make connections. Most college students establish friend groups in freshmen housing, which can make socializing as a transfer seem overwhelming.

Consider your interests, and research clubs and organizations on campus. This could mean joining an athletic club, rushing a sorority or fraternity, or getting involved in a class study group. Work study jobs are also great for making friends. The more you can put yourself out there and meet people, the more you’ll feel like you fit in.

3. Get to Class Early

Make it a point to arrive in class five to 10 minutes early. Even if you’re standing out in the hall waiting for the previous class to let out, you’ll have more opportunities to get to know your classmates. Don’t be afraid to exchange email addresses and phone numbers with those interested in forming a study group. Your classmates may be waiting for someone else to take the initiative.

4. Meet With Your Advisor

Getting to know your advisor is essential whether you’re a transfer or not. As an incoming student, however, you’ll need to understand your degree plan, including any prerequisites and general education classes that might differ from your old college’s requirements.

Your advisor isn’t just someone who helps you figure out which classes to take. Your advisor can be your go-to person on how to improve your campus experience, so ask their advice on clubs, organizations, and local joints that will make your remaining time at college more pleasant.

5. Be Confident

The saying fake it ‘til you make it can certainly apply in college. Even if you’re feeling insecure, walking across campus with your head held high makes it easier to make friends. Smile and say hello when you pass strangers. Strike up a conversation with the classmates sitting next to you. Faking confidence eventually builds real confidence, helping you be more successful during your remaining college years.

Transferring to a new college isn’t easy. Meeting the right people, making connections, and being open to new experiences will help ensure the process goes a lot smoother than you thought possible.

High school students and early college students can feel a lot of pressure when it comes to choosing their major. Many students at this point only have a vague idea of what they are interested in or what career path they plan to pursue. Not only is it possible to change your major once you’ve chosen it, but it also might not be that big of a deal in the long-run. Here are some things to consider when facing this decision.

When Does Your College Major Come Into Play?

Depending on your plans for after college, you might be asking yourself whether your college major matters. The short answer is that in some cases it does, but in others it doesn’t. Students hoping to go into STEM careers usually need to stick with the sciences when it comes to choosing a major. But even then, they have some wiggle room.

There are two main paths after undergrad: the job path and the graduate school path. When applying for jobs and interviewing, most employers are going to be more interested in your work experience and basic skills than in your major. Liberal arts majors end up going into many different career fields. Basically, with any liberal arts degree you can show an employer that you are driven, work well with others, and have good communication skills.

Graduate school admissions officers tend to look for the same qualities. They want to see good grades, good test scores, and some work or internship experiences. For example, many lawyers start out as English majors.

Are All Majors Created Equal?

All majors are not created equal. An art history major and a chemistry major are likely to have different options when it comes to post-grad career paths. However, both an art history major and a chemistry major will have many options. It’s true that STEM majors tend to have more lucrative careers, but that only goes so far. A liberal arts major could easily be earning more than a STEM major several years down the road if they’ve worked their way up in a company and the STEM major is stuck in an entry position.

How Do You Choose a Major that Fits Your Plans?

Entry-level positions at major companies usually only require a four-year degree. Most specific job skills can be learned while on the job, so employers want to see that you can learn and work well. If you’re interested in a particular industry, but you’ve already chosen a major that might not perfectly line up, don’t panic. Focus on learning the skills that will help you break into that industry even while sticking with your chosen major.

Don’t believe the lie that you must go into a field that exactly matches your major. Not all math majors become accountants, and not all engineering majors become engineers. Choose a major that will offer you good learning opportunities and the chance to do well. Focus on getting good grades, work experience, and learning something valuable from every class you take. This will do you more good than stressing over choosing the perfect major.

For many students, living on campus will be their first time living away from family. This change means taking on new responsibilities, such as paying for housing costs. But what about keeping things eco-friendly? Whether you’re new on campus or returning for another semester, you can easily make your dorm room more environmentally friendly. Get started with these four tips.

Shop Used Instead of New

Even though most dorms include basic furniture, you’ll still need other items: clothes hangers, an alarm clock, extra lamps, bed linens, a laundry basket, decorations, and more. Hopefully, you can get some free stuff from Mom and Dad or Aunt Kathy. For almost everything else, you can buy used instead of new.

Start looking at garage sales, consignment shops, thrift stores, or even Craigslist for what you need. You can save a substantial amount of money compared to buying new items, and you’ll also help the environment. Buying secondhand reduces carbon emissions from transporting goods, eliminates the use of raw materials like wood and plastic, and saves perfectly good items from the landfill.

Reduce Phantom Power

Did you know that electrical devices can still use power while plugged in, even when they’re turned off? Your cellphone charger, TV, hair dryer, laptop, toaster oven — anything you leave plugged in all the time — continue to waste energy when you’re not using them. This wasted energy is known as phantom power.

The least expensive way to reduce phantom power is to simply unplug the devices you’re not using before you go to sleep or leave your dorm. For more convenience, however, you can invest in a power strip with switches. Some of them even come with a timer or an auto-shutoff feature. You may also want to disable your computer’s screen saver: When it’s left on, it can use up to twice as much energy.

Use Green Cleaning Products

Along with studying and meeting new people, you’ll also (hopefully!) spend some time cleaning your dorm room. Make sure to pick up some eco-friendly cleaning products. Green Works, Mrs. Meyer’s, Method, and Ecos are just a few brands that use biodegradable ingredients and eco-friendly packaging. As a bonus, you won’t have to deal with the lovely smell of bleach each time you clean your room.

Choose Energy-Efficient Appliances

Are you planning to keep a minifridge in your room? If so, try to get a unit that is Energy Star-certified. Not sure if you need a microwave? You may find that hot plates do the trick.

Some dorms include a shared kitchen. In that situation, the stove is the biggest energy vampire. When possible, use smaller appliances for your cooking instead of the stove. Boil water in an electric kettle instead of in a regular kettle on a burner. Reheat pizza in a toaster oven. When you do use the stove, you can make the most of it by cooking several items at once.

Making a few small changes here and there can make your dorm room more eco-friendly. Try at least one of these tips, and see how simple it is to start living green.

The United States is a nation of animal lovers, with nearly 7 out of 10 local households owning a pet. You might want a furry, feathered, or scaly friend dearly, but are your college years the right time to become a pet owner? Consider the pros and cons carefully before jumping in.

Pro: Pets Are Good for Your Emotional Well-Being

Your college years can be a challenging time. Most students are away from their regular support systems and out of their comfort zone. Busy schedules and academic demands and expectations can take a toll on your mental health. During all this turbulence, a pet can be a valuable touchstone. Many pets, like dogs, cats, and birds, give back plenty of love. Studies show just looking into your dog’s eyes boosts your body’s levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin.

Even less-expressive pets like mice and fish can help you feel less alone. When you feel attached to an animal your breathing slows, your blood pressure reduces, and your anxiety level falls. These are all great benefits for stressed-out college students.



Con: Pets Can Be Expensive

Pets can put a serious dent in your college finances. Buying or adopting a pet costs money upfront, and then there are ongoing costs like food, vaccinations, and vet bills to consider. According to the ASPCA, most people spend more than $1000 in their first year of pet ownership. Some pets, like fish, are relatively inexpensive, but other pets, like purebred puppies, can cost much more. If you’re already living on a shoestring, a pet could really break your budget.

Pro: Pets Teach Responsibility

Your college years are usually a period of transition from dependent high school student to more independent, responsible young adult. Pets teach responsibility because you should factor their needs into your decision-making. You must feed and supply them with water regularly and give them the attention, exercise, toilet breaks, and vet visits they need. It can be hard, but it’ll make you a better adult.

Cons: Pets and Student Accommodation Often Don’t Mix

Pets can be a barrier to finding and maintaining suitable accommodations. Many campuses ban pets of any description from their dorms. Some only allow selected pets like fish, which may not be what you have in mind. Even if you’re living off campus, you might find landlords unwilling to rent to you and pet. Make sure you know the rules about pets because if you violate them, you and Fido could find yourselves on the street.

If you find accommodation, the hard work isn’t necessarily over. Some pets can be destructive, especially if they’re left alone for hours while you’re studying or socializing. Soiled carpets, chewed windowsills, and scratched doors are all your responsibility. Are you ready to take that on?

Only you will know whether you’re ready to have a pet in college. There are some tremendous benefits to pet ownership, but some serious drawbacks, too. Consider your lifestyle and the needs of your dream pet carefully before deciding whether to get one now or to wait until after graduation.

You’re all moved into your dorm room and it’s time to say goodbye to your parents. It’s tough to see them go, but at the same time, you’re filled with excitement about your newfound independence. Luckily, you have a few days to learn more about college life before classes begin. Check out these five important tips for making the most out of your first week in college:

1. Go to New Student Orientation Events

New student orientation is specifically designed to help you learn more about campus and meet new people. It may seem intimidating at first, but jump right in and make the most out of the fun events available for new students. Expect the schedule to include a mix of social activities and educational opportunities that will help you learn more about campus resources.

2. Buy Your Books and School Supplies

In addition to having fun, use your first week as a mental jumpstart for your classes. Check out your class schedule online and make a list of the books and any other required supplies. Most classes won’t use a textbook during the first week, so you still have time to order books online. Make a trip to the store to get anything else you need.

3. Find Your Classes

College campuses have a large footprint, so use your first few days to get the lay of the land. Ask your roommate and walk around campus to each of your classrooms. If you know where everything is, you’ll be less stressed on the first day of classes. Check out the fitness center, library, and student union to learn all about what is offered for students.

4. Make New Friends

Force yourself to reach outside of your comfort zone during your first week of college. It’s important to make new friends and get involved right away in campus life. Start with your roommate. Go to the cafeteria or attend an orientation event together. You can also hang out in your dorm’s floor lounge and meet new people who live nearby. Go to a student activities fair and pick out a campus organization that interests you. If you get involved right away, you’ll make new friends that will last a lifetime.

5. Have a Great Time!

Your time in college is likely to be among the best years of your life. Seize every opportunity to learn and grow, but be sure to fit in time to relax and have fun. Remain healthy and balanced by incorporating exercise and recreation into your daily routine. College is your opportunity to plan out every moment of your day based upon what you need and want to do. Make the most of your first week of college, it will set the tone for the rest of your college career!

For you, joining a fraternity or sorority is a no-brainer. You’ve always known you’d go Greek. Or maybe you don’t think you’re cut out for rush week or the pledging process. You’d never join in a million years. Get both sides of the story and learn about the pros and cons of joining Greek life.

Pro: You’ll Have a Built-in Group of Friends

If you can’t wait to build a tightly knit group of friends, Greek life could offer just what you want. When you join a sorority or a fraternity, you’ll make dozens of friends instantly. Since you’ll be sisters or brothers, you’ll form close bonds right away and support one another throughout college and beyond. In fact, many former Greeks maintain those close bonds for decades to come.

Con: Your Friend Group Might Be Too Limited

Having a built-in group of friends can be great. But when you devote so much time and energy to your fraternity brothers or sorority sisters, you might not have the capacity to make other friends. As a result, your crew could be limited to those around you and the other Greeks your house socializes with regularly. You could miss out on meeting people at college who exist outside of the Greek life bubble.

Pro: You’ll Give Back to the Community

Greek houses are about much more than a group of friends and a place to live. Most Greek organizations are structured around the idea of philanthropy and giving back to the community. As a member, you can gain incredible volunteer experience and do charity work that helps you become a more well-rounded person.

Con: Too Much Social Time Could Compromise Your Grades

When you go Greek, you’ll have to commit a fair amount of time to doing volunteer work, socializing with brothers or sisters, and participating in house activities. Virtually every Greek organization wants you to get great grades. However, yours could suffer if you aren’t prepared to juggle the demands of Greek life with college classes and other commitments. If you’re worried, talk with current members to find out how they make it work.

Pro: You’ll Learn How to Lead and Collaborate

Learning strong leadership skills is important, even if you don’t aspire to be a CEO of a major company. Honing these skills can be hard, though. When you join a fraternity or sorority, you’ll learn how to lead and work as a team over the course of normal Greek life. Most houses have committees, hierarchies, and elections, so you’ll have tons of chances to practice.

Con: It Might Break Your Budget

Even if you think Greek life would be a perfect fit, you might not be able to afford it. With membership fees, room and board costs, and activity fees, your monthly bill can add up quickly. Be sure you understand the true cost before you go through the rush process.
Are you ready to rush or would you rather stick to the dorms? Keep these pros and cons in mind as you decide whether Greek life is right for you.

You have your acceptance letter and you can’t wait to spread your wings and leave your family home. But before you fly the nest, it’s important to get prepared. Follow our tips to get ready for your college move-in day.

Connect With Any Future Roommates

Whether you’re living in a dorm or off-campus, you’ll probably have a roommate. Don’t wait until moving day to start chatting. Connecting with your new roomie beforehand is a key part of the preparation process. It’ll reduce any first day awkwardness, so you can get straight down to having fun. You can also chat about the items you think you’ll bring, such as TV sets and microwaves, so you can avoid any double items.

Be Reasonable About What You Can Take and What You Can’t

Living with your parents, you’ve probably had ample space at your disposal. There’s your bedroom, of course, but you’ve likely got stuff in your parents’ garage, their attic, their basement, and other rooms in their house. Moving from such a generous space to a tiny dorm or apartment can be quite an adjustment. As you prepare to move to college, be realistic about what you can take and what you can’t.

Large items such as your bed and a couch might make your life more comfortable, but these items might not fit in your new space. You might find bunk beds and chairs or perhaps a futon that doubles as both a bed and a couch are more practical. Similarly, while a bike can make getting around campus easy, some students simply don’t have the space to store one. Research your new home and campus facilities to decide what you should take and what’s best left with your parents.

Start Packing Early

Packing for a move-in day is such a daunting job that procrastinating is easy. However, this won’t get the job done! Instead, take a proactive approach and start packing early. College junior and blogger Sally Stunkel suggests packing for around 30 minutes a day for around two weeks before your big move. Breaking packing down into bite-sized chunks like this makes the process far less overwhelming.

Start with the items you won’t need first, such as out-of-season clothes, sheets, towels, and books, saving items you’re using like toiletries and your favorite clothes for closer to the big day.

Have an Honest Chat With Your Parents

You might have fought like cats and dogs during your teenage years, but your parents are probably going to miss you. A lot. Chatting with your folks about what will happen on moving day will make sure you’re all on the same page.

Some students want to claim independence early and hire movers. Others are happy to move with their parents helping, but they don’t want them hanging around campus. For others, moving day provides an opportunity for one last special dinner together before the hard work of college begins. Be honest about your plans but sensitive to their feelings as well.

Moving to college is a massive job, but with careful preparation, you can make an easy transition from your family home to your new, grown-up digs.

It doesn’t matter if you’re at the top of your high school class or you’re somewhere in the middle of the pack. You’ve heard college isn’t going to be easy. But could it really be that hard? Find out how college and high school compare, and learn how tough college actually is.

Are College Courses Easier Than High School Classes?

If you took advanced placement or honors courses in high school, you’ve already passed challenging classes with flying colors. College classes have to be easier, right?

Here’s the thing: College classes usually require much more high-level reading, in-depth discussions, and academic writing. Because you get to choose the courses that interest you in college, they might seem much easier than your high school classes were.

Is It Harder to Make Friends in College?

Making friends is easy in high school. If you’re like most high school students, you either hang out with the same crew you’ve known since forever, or you make new friends naturally through sports teams and after-school activities.

The thought of starting over and making new friends in college can be intimidating. Fortunately, everyone has to make a new set of friends in college, so meeting people couldn’t be easier. Whether you become BFFs with your college roommates, your orientation crew, or your study buddies, you’ll find the perfect group in no time.

Do You Have More Responsibilities in College?

In high school, you might juggle a full slate of classes with an after-school job, a few activities, and all the socializing you can squeeze in. When you’re in college, you’ll probably have a similar number of things to juggle.

But once you move on to college, you won’t have your parents to set rules or your teachers to make sure you turn in assignments on time. That means it’s your responsibility to handle everything. Not sure if you can handle it? Your advisors, roommates, and new friends will all be there to help.

Is It Impossible to Stand Out in College?

If you attend a small school or if you’re at the top of your class, you know it’s easy to stand out and succeed in high school. In college, it doesn’t matter if you go to a huge state school or a private university. Being a star is much harder, since you’ll typically have much more competition.

Don’t consider the extra competition a downside, though. Surrounding yourself with other overachievers can help you find like-minded friends who push you to be your best.

Is It Tougher to Join Extracurricular Activities in College?

If you’re used to being the star soccer player or the first chair in your school’s orchestra, you might be worried that more competition in high school could make it too tough to join your favorite activities. While being number one will be harder, there’s a definite upside to extracurricular activities in college.

You’ll find many activities to choose from in college. Whether you’re into arts and music, languages and culture, or sports and working out, you’ll discover that it’s easier than ever to find an extracurricular with your name on it.

Making the transition from high school to college can be challenging for anyone. However, with the right mindset, you’ll settle right in and make college the best years of your life.