Peace for the Journey, Spring 2013

As we move into the newness of a new spring season, full of the hope that comes as life appears again in daffodils, flowering cherry trees and the like, I am aware that I have been hunkered down through the winter.

I often, this time of year, am full of the angst born of a hunkered spirit, of finding myself in some hibernated state of mind and spirit.  Spring then, always – and I mean always – holds promise of finding myself again with Continue reading “Peace for the Journey, Spring 2013”

Oh the Stress…

The pressures for today’s student to be successful are astronomical in proportion to those faced by those of us now guiding our children through the early stages of college life.

I think of Becca, a student in my First-Year Seminar course.  As the students talked this past fall about the struggles they were experiencing making the transition to college, she fought back tears about the dilemma she faced in wanting to pursue a path toward music because her father was pushing her hard toward business or marketing.  I recognized a theme emerging from the comments she and nearly all the other students made that day.  Continue reading “Oh the Stress…”

It’s FAFSA time!

It’s time. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is how millions of students apply for federal, state and most college-based financial aid. And because government grants compose 74 percent of this $185 billion pool, it’s understandable for families to feel anxious when filling out the FAFSA.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Susan McCrackin, Senior Director Financial Aid Methodology at the College Board, offers this eight-step map to help parents and students work through the FAFSA as efficiently and effectively as possible.

1.   Gather Your Documents

It is much easier to fill out the FAFSA if you have all the needed forms in hand before you start. Here’s a list of documents to get you going. You should also get a U.S. Department of Education personal identification number (PIN.) Here’s the PIN application link.

2.   Think About Taxes

Parents’ taxes are an important part in the FAFSA process. Getting taxes done by February 1st may be unrealistic, so last year’s taxes and this year’s paystubs can help create estimates. After February 3rd, the IRS Data Retrieval Tool becomes available, allowing students and parents to access the IRS tax return information needed to complete the FAFSA and transfer the data directly into their FAFSA from the IRS website. And if you owe the government money, take note: you can complete your taxes without actually filing and cutting a check to Uncle Sam.

3.   Find Quiet Time  

The FAFSA has a lot of sections. Breaking them into smaller pieces makes the FAFSA easier to navigate. Consider these do’s and don’ts.

  1. Don’t sprint. Take questions one at a time and give yourself time to properly answer each question.
  2. Do read each question carefully and out loud. It will help you understand the question better.
  3. Don’t multi-task. Put your mobile phone away, and turn off the television.
  4. Do find a quiet place where the FAFSA will have your full attention.

4.   Stay Student Focused

Parents often forget that the student always provides information. Parents are required to provide their information if the student is dependent.

So when parents see a question that refers to “I,” remember that “I” is the student. “You” is also the student. When questions address parents, you will see questions that refer to “your parents.”  This is where parental information goes.

5.   Avoid Parent Traps

As families evolve, so do questions about who needs to provide information for the FAFSA. When you see “parents,” FAFSA is referring to the student’s biological or adoptive parents. When the parents are married, then the student and both parents complete the FAFSA.

If the parents are not together, things can get confusing.  BigFuture by the College Board created the corresponding infographic to help address some commonly asked questions.

6.   Keep Track of Deadlines

Every college has a different set of deadlines based on priority, merit, early decisions etc. BigFuture by the College Board helps families sort through these deadlines with detailed college profiles and a free, customized action plan. And, should you have specific questions about specific colleges or universities, don’t be afraid to call the college’s financial aid office and ask questions.

7.   Profile CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE®

The FAFSA opens the doors to federal aid. There’s also almost $50 billion in non-federal aid available – from colleges, states and private institutions. Some colleges and programs use the College Board’s CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE to help award these monies.

CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE is an online application that collects information used by almost 400 colleges and scholarship programs to award financial aid outside sources from the federal government. Families must complete the application and the College Board sends it to the colleges and scholarship programs they have chosen.

Here’s a list of colleges that use CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE® and where you go to complete the  CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE®.  Sending your CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE® report to one college or scholarship program costs $25. Additional reports are $16 each. There are fee waivers available for low-income families.

8.   Gain Experience

The more you experience something, the better you do. This free FAFSA webinar walks you section by section through an actual application with the College Board’s Senior Director for Financial Aid Methodology, Susan McCrackin. Families can access the free FAFSA webinar 24/7.

It’s time. Go after your piece of the more than $185 billion in financial aid to help make college possible. Use BigFuture for advice and to help create a customized plan for your child. Then follow the map. Chances are it will lead to an investment that provides returns for the rest of your child’s life.

*Posted in conjunction with: The College Board


Doesn’t get much worse than this!

This news story link below appeared on NBC last night (12/29/12).  It is certainly an extreme example of the kind of horror stories we hear about obsessive parenting.  The term “helicopter parents” doesn’t eve come close to describing what you’ll see – maybe “Apache Helicopter Parent” would be more descriptive.

I sense that even an extreme story such as this can serve as a great “check” for all of us to examine the ways in which WE may be pushing OUR agenda with our student.  Can you see it as a reminder to look honestly at the ways you have not “let go” of how you believe s/he should be …. (you can fill in the blank).

Blessings to you for a new year of peace! Dane



The Power of Vulnerability

I sat for a time this Thanksgiving weekend looking at the year that has passed and the little left that remains.  I often find myself doing this around Turkey day because of the concentration of gratitude; gratitude for what my life has become and what it continues to hold open for me.

One of those pieces happened recently.  My wife and I make a point around mid-fall to host the students from my First-Year Seminar course at our house.  The dessert fare always consists of some amazing made-from-scratch brownies and Mexican hot chocolate.  I recognize that this can be a pretty cool thing for new college students – to show up at their professor’s house, meet his wife and dog, and see where he spends his off-campus time.  I know I never had the opportunity until grad school, and then only once.

Our class spends a lot of vulnerable time together, as you might suspect in a course called: The Art of Continue reading “The Power of Vulnerability”

Mid-term is around the corner…

Mid-term exams are looming!  Most colleges and universities require mid-term grades to be posted for new students.  I am fully cognizant of the host of plausible responses that come in response to students receiving the report of their first college grades.

You may hear things such as:

What? How did that happen!?

A ‘C’ – I’ve never had less than a ‘B’ before…” — “This isn’t fair! 

I studied really hard Dad…the professor is terrible!”

Or maybe…

Wow, I did a lot better than I thought!

These responses are typical as students (and parents) address the stark reality that Continue reading “Mid-term is around the corner…”

Hitting the Road

I searched a number of sites today looking for the information being doled out as advice to students moving off to college in the next few weeks: getting along with your roommate, eating well to avoid the “freshman fifteen”, developing a healthy schedule, being disciplined about class – most of them from lists of “10 Steps to College Success”.  I get it; there is a lot riding on this new adventure.  But, underlying all that, important as this kind of information is, there is very little out there about the emotional impact for you and your daughter or son.

Thousands of you will be hitting the road this week to move all those boxes into the new “home away from home.”  As you’re buying supplies, packing boxes, I’d encourage you Continue reading “Hitting the Road”

What am I afraid of?

I spent some time with the graduating class at a local high school recently facilitating a conversation about the things they identified that were the source of their fears about going off to college.  I’m grateful to their college counselors for asking me to join them and their courage to open the dialogue.

Though I’m not surprised they are afraid of going off to this new life; this new version of themselves, it did strike me in a new way what they are afraid of.  My sense is that often when these conversations take place (and I wish there were more), the focus is on what I tend to call Continue reading “What am I afraid of?”

Perspective Check:

As the heart of spring approaches, the end of the academic year begins to come into view.  It can be a good time to step back and take a perspective look on what has transpired since the beginning of the fall semester; evaluate where you are, where your student might be, asking, “How do things look from here?”

I know it is true for me, that I’m often the last person to have a decent perspective on the narrative of what’s going on in my own story – I’m too close to it.  That’s when I know I need to take a step back; when it’s hard to see.  Much of the work of parenting a daughter or son through the college years is emotional.  Face it, we’re deeply invested: relationally and financially.  So much so, that what our student is Continue reading “Perspective Check:”

Opportunity is Knocking…

Walking across campus this morning, I saw signs for the Campus Activities Fair.  At this annual fall-semester event, held on campuses across the country, students stroll between table after table to visit with or find information on local businesses, campus organizations and clubs, local faith communities, community service groups and more.  It struck me as I watched hundreds of wide-eyed students full of hope and excitement, fear and curiosity, that this new world into which each has stepped is Continue reading “Opportunity is Knocking…”