November 2020
FAFSA logo

Getting materials together to file the FAFSA

Like with most things in life, preparation is key ‑ Olympic athletes do not compete on the global stage without training and nurses do not care for patients without having studied theory and practice. Just like the athlete or the nurse, students and their families should properly prepare to file the FAFSA so the form is simpler and quicker to complete. Use this checklist to make sure your family is ready to go:

✓ Create FSA IDs for one parent and the student. Simply put, the FSA ID is a username and password used to sign the FAFSA electronically (click here for directions on how to create an FSA ID). FSA IDs can be created by accessing the website ( or by downloading the mystudentaid app to your phone.

✓ Complile student information. The FAFSA belongs to the student which means the student is the form’s star. Students will need the following information to fully complete the form:

  • Student FSA ID that allows you to login to the form
  • List of colleges
  • Social security and/or alien registration number
  • Federal tax return for 2019 and/or W2s, 1099 or other records of money earned (if applicable). Even if you did not file taxes in 2019, you will need to list an estimate of money earned.
  • Bank account balances and records of investments like UTMA or UGMA accounts (if applicable)

✓ Compile parent information. Parent information is not required if the student is independent. Check here to see if you are considered an independent student.

  • Parent FSA ID (NOT the same as student’s)
  • FAFSA parent’s Social Security Number and date of birth (or Alien Registration Number, if applicable). If FAFSA parent is currently married, you will be asked to provide a social security number, date of birth, tax and income information for that parent’s current spouse as well.
  • Month and year of marriage or separation/divorce
  • 2019 Federal tax returns, W2s, 1099 forms or other records of money earned (if applicable)
  • Balances of savings & checking account(s)
  • Parent assets including CD’s, stocks and bonds, mutual funds, money markets (not in retirement accounts), savings bonds, balance of 529 plans for all children in the family, value of any second property, camp, or timeshare owned

Common App Image

Common App Tips

As we near the end of 2020, many high school students are beginning to submit applications to college for the 2021 ‑ 2022 academic year ‑ often using the Common App. With over 900 colleges and universities using the Common App, students can easily send one application to several colleges. Do any of the schools on your list ask for the Common App? If so, here are a few things to know about this form before you submit:

  1. There is a question concerning COVID-19. The folks at Common App understand that the pandemic has adversely impacted many students; in response, they added an official COVID-19 question to the application under the “additional information” section. In 250 words, students can describe how the pandemic impacted them and their families. Although you have an option to answer this question, it is not a requirement. The COVID-19 question accompanies a second “additional information” question that allows students to discuss circumstances that were not disclosed earlier in the application. Students have 650 words to answer this question, but again, it is not a requirement.
  2. Have your materials ready. To streamline the process, make sure to have the following items with you as you fill out the Common App: your high school transcript with individual course and grade information, your college resume or list of activities, your test scores for the SAT or ACT (if needed), and parent information like occupation and education level.
  3. What is an activity? Many students stress about the activities section. When we think of activities, we tend to think of sports and school activities, but this category is not so narrow. Do you have a job after school? Do you babysit siblings or neighbors? Did you sew masks for family, friends, or healthcare workers? Anything done outside of the classroom is an activity, not just joining the French club or the soccer team.
  4. Quality over quantity. The Common App allows students to enter up to 10 activities into the activities section. This section is designed to learn about how you spend your time outside of the classroom. So if you spend the majority of your time working or going to dance practice, that’s okay. If you are involved in several clubs and activities for only a few hours a week, that’s okay too. Colleges want to learn about your interests, and this section helps them do that. If you have more than 10 activities, make a few decisions about what is most important to you and what you have already listed. For example, if you are majoring in engineering, listing math and science club might be more important than the baking class you took last summer.
  5. Check for supplements. Although all colleges and universities using the Common App require the same application, certain colleges also ask for supplementary information. Supplemental questions might include additional information about your family or your college plans. To submit the application to an individual college requiring a supplement, both portions must be complete.

Admissions Image

Getting to Know You

The pandemic has brought out the creativity in many college admissions offices. We know that colleges often ask for the same baseline information: transcripts, recommendations, activities, etc. But did you know that many colleges also ask for additional information? Here are how a few colleges and universities are learning about YOU through the application:

  1. Yale University allows students to submit media files through the Coalition Application and then explain why they chose to submit that file in 250 words. This activity replaces the short answer questions asked in the supplement.
  2. Bowdoin College has expanded their recommendation section this year to include an “other” option, meaning a person beside the teacher or school counselor. This could be a peer, a coach, a supervisor at work, your best friend’s parent, or anyone who can speak to your personality. Bowdoin has also introduced a new application component where prospective students can record a spontaneous on-demand response to a question. This feature sends the applicant a pop-up question and the student has 30 seconds to think about the answer and then 2 minutes to answer on a video.
  3. The University of Texas at Austin offers a variety of short answer questions rather than the traditional essay. For example: “Leadership can be demonstrated in many ways. Please share how you have demonstrated leadership in either your school, job, community, and/or within your family responsibilities.”

Check-in with the colleges on your list to see how they are altering their applications to learn more about YOU!

NH Scholars Image

Spotlight on New Hampshire Scholars

Did you know most New Hampshire high school students can become New Hampshire Scholars? New Hampshire Scholars is a community-based program encouraging high school students to take a more rigorous core course of study. Students in grades 9 through 12 may currently choose from four possible pathways as a NH Scholar, the original NH Scholars Standard Core Course of Study, the NH Scholars STEM Emphasis, the NH Scholars Art Emphasis, and the NH Scholar Career Pathway.

Colleges across the country ‑ not only in New Hampshire ‑ are familiar with this program and recognize State Scholars while reviewing transcripts. Across the board, colleges encourage high school students to pursue this rigorous curriculum while in high school. A more rigorous course load can also impact financial aid because students are more likely to be awarded merit aid. View the entire list of scholarship opportunities at New Hampshire colleges here.

If this program interests you, begin the conversation with your school counselor and discuss how this program could benefit you. Additionally, students can register here with their intent to graduate with the NH Scholars distinction and receive information regarding the program, recognition, and scholarship opportunities. Juniors and seniors: it's not too late to ask your school counselor how you can benefit from this program ‑ ask today!


Graduating from high school in 2021? Consider applying for the Stephen Phillips Scholarship that offers renewable scholarship money for New England students! Awards typically range from $3,000 to $17,000. The application and requirements can be found on their website here.