Is College in Your Future?

Yolanda Keith | March 13th, 2013
Sarah Stanfield - Guilford - Copy

Sarah Stanfield (Photo by Sarah Stanfield)

With graduation on the way, the senior classes of Ben. L. Smith and James B. Dudley High Schools are looking forward to the future. Students at both schools strive for greatness with the help of their administrators, faculty, staff and their college adviser. The college adviser at Dudley and Smith is Sarah Stanfield. As a first generation graduate of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2011, she connects with students using her own challenges and successes while being an undergraduate student as inspiration. Having just gone through the stressful financial aid and application processes recently, she vividly remembers the emotion behind the complicated steps.

Both schools are partnered with the Carolina College Advising Corps of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The College Advising Corps hires recent graduates of the university intentionally to follow a near-peer model. The program aims to support the schools in increasing college enrollment of first generation and underrepresented students. College advisers assist students and parents with the financial aid and application processes, college searches, and are charged to empower the students to successfully enroll into four and two-year post-secondary institutions.

This time of year, Stanfield is in a “FAFSA state of mind”. The FAFSA application stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It is one of the primary ways students across the nation get assistance to pay for college. Stanfield says, “All of our students and parents should fill out the FAFSA.” The form is used by the government to issue federal grants and loans to students who are in need of financial assistance.

Colleges and universities also use it to offer a select number of need-based scholarships and institutional aid. “If a student fills out an application to get into college, they should also fill out the FAFSA to pay for college. This also includes community college students,” says Stanfield.
Currently, Stanfield is doing outreach to promote the FAFSA and its importance to her students. Many colleges and universities have priority deadlines to receive the FAFSA, so the earlier it is filled out the better. She also recommends filling it out within a few days of filing out tax forms. If taxes have not been filed, applicants are able to estimate earnings from the previous year or their last pay stub for the year. She acknowledges this as a viable option to meet deadlines. “Just remember, you will need to update the information in the FAFSA system once you file your taxes,” says Stanfield.

Paying for college is often complicated and stressful to think about—Stanfield has laid out a few tips to help:
· Fill out your taxes early and Apply EARLY—The FAFSA is available starting January 1. In most cases, the early bird gets the worm. Grant funds for the government and colleges run out. The early you can get your application in, the better. Try to adhere to the March 1 deadline to get it done, even if you have to estimate.

  • Keep copies – Remember to retain copies of your PIN, your completion sheet, passwords and usernames. Also keep a copy of your W-2 and social security numbers on hand. You may need to verify information sometime before enrolling into college and make sure you have everything handy.
  • Send the FAFSA to all the schools you apply to — You will be asked where you want the FAFSA to be sent. Add all interested schools, even if you have not heard back about admission yet. Once accepted, all the schools you acknowledged will issue you a financial aid package. This can help you weigh options when deciding on where to attend and save time in the long run.
  • Watch your mail and e-mail daily – If additional information is needed from your schools, they will contact you. If they do, be ready to respond quickly with needed information.
  • Get help – You do not have to go through the process alone. Students of Dudley and Smith can contact Stanfield anytime by calling the school or walking into her office, but they can also reach out to their counseling staff as well. Parents and students can also contact the school’s students plan on applying to or the federal financial aid office directly. See below for resources.

For additional information about FAFSA or paying for college visit the following websites:
College Foundation of North Carolina
http://www.cfnc.org/pay/pay.jsp
Federal Student Aid—Office of US Department of Education:
http://studentaid.ed.gov/prepare-for-college

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