Why Won't My FAFSA Submit and Other FAFSA Tech Problems

There are many high school seniors, college students and adults returning to college that still need to fill out their 2021-22 FAFSA form for next Fall. For many who are currently trying to complete the FAFSA, some technical problems have popped up. 

Since the middle of February, we here at ICAN have been experiencing the same issues in completing the FAFSA form. Errors messages have come up that have prohibited some families from getting it completed. Most of the times these messages come up when trying to use the IRS Data Retrieval process to pull in parent or student taxes. The error messages have also come up right at the end when we hit the submit button.

This is not just a problem for ICAN or for Iowa families. This is a problem being reported across the country, discussed on national financial aid list servs by colleges and universities with the families they are working with too.

First, we want to tell you that if you are having any issues DO NOT GIVE UP. Though it takes a few tries, we have been able to work through the errors to get the form completed. Your patience will probably be tested. It might take 4-5 times to log back in and try to move on in the FAFSA form but eventually you will be able to get it done.

Here is some advice that has worked for us to eventually get FAFSAs completed lately:

  • Clear your browsing history or cache in the browser that you are using. Restart the browser.
  • If using Chrome, click on the three dots in the right- hand corner and select HELP and then ABOUT CHROME. This will tell if you have the latest version of Chrome. If you don’t have the latest version, it will update for you automatically.
  • If one browser keeps getting the error message try another. We have had people try in Chrome at first then switch to Microsoft Edge or Firefox and it works for them.
I can’t say that these solutions will work the first time you try but keep trying them until eventually you get the form submitted. One more time I will say- DO NOT GIVE UP! Your financial aid is too important to let the tech get the better of you.

If the frustration boils over for you, contact us to set up a virtual appointment at 877-272-4692 or schedule on-line at www.icansucceed.org/apt. We are here for you.

 Erick - ICAN Ankeny Center

Pandemic Reflections and Spring Services at ICAN

As we bring in March we are coming up on the one year anniversary of when this pandemic hit us. At ICAN that has meant working from our homes doing virtual appointments and virtual presentations.

Before this pandemic hit, I would never have bet that virtual appointments and virtual presentations would worked as well as it has.

With our virtual presentations, we are finding out that for the majority of schools, more people sign up for virtual presentations than typically show up in person. Another major benefit is that we can record the virtual presentations and have the school counselors send out a link so families can view the recording at their convenience.

Spring is when we hold most of our presentations on Career & College Planning and Financial Aid Most of our presentations are going to have to be held virtually again. Some of those presentations will be a combo presentation of both Career & College Planning and Financial Aid. All of these presentations are geared for sophomores/juniors.

You can check with your school counselor when your ICAN presentation will take place. They will be the ones that send you information on how to register for the Zoom webinar.

We are also having webinars every Wednesday at 5pm on different topic that you can check out too. Here is a link to what topics are coming up on our Wednesday Webinars: www.icansucceed.org/videos 

Even though the pandemic is a year in and still keeping us from getting back to “normal,” don’t let that stop you from planning for your future. Hope to have you attend some our ICAN presentations this Spring.

  Erick Danielson - ICAN Ankeny Center

Staying Healthy in Quarantine

Can you believe it has almost been a year since quarantine started?! It is hard to believe come March we will have been in this phase of life for a year! It has been a strange time for many of us. In some respects, the time has flown by. In others, it feels like time has paused. I think that is because for many of us, we feel that time has been robbed from us. We are not able to go about life normally and spend our time the way we want to. May it be traveling or seeing friends/family.

This year has put a lot of stress on many of us. It is so important to make sure you are physically and mentally staying healthy. One of the best ways to combat stress and anxiety is to get your body moving! This can be challenging when we are all stuck in our homes- in the middle of winter-during a global pandemic. I have some ideas that could help get your body moving and leave you feeling more accomplished and less stressed!

1- Shoveling! You cannot get through a winter in Iowa without having to shovel your driveway. Shoveling can be a great workout and a good way to get some fresh air. I type this as a winter storm is supposed to happen here in Iowa later this afternoon. 😊

2- Building a Snow fort. This can get your body moving and be a fun way to enjoy some time outdoors.

3- Signing up for a Fitness App. This can be a great way to stay motivated and get your body moving. There are tons of fitness app’s out there. My favorite is the Peloton app. It really feels like a fitness community and helps keep me motivated! It is also relatively cheap in cost.

4- Hiking. We have so many great parks around the state of Iowa. Check out this website to go on a new hiking adventure! https://www.alltrails.com/us/iowa

5- Find time to Zoom with friends/family. I know this probably does not get your heart rate up, but I think it is important to still try and maintain a good social life through quarantine. Technology helps make that possible! Utilize Zoom or FaceTime to connect with family/friends!

I know this has been a challenging past year for so many of us, but I hope 2021 brings you good health- physically and mentally as well as a renewed outlook on life! I know, I will never take a hug for granted again!

  Meghan - Eastern Iowa Advisor

Financial Aid Myths

Recently, I came across a string of posts on a friend’s Facebook page that prompted me to write this blog. The friend was asking other Facebook friends for tax advice and that led into a brief discussion on financial aid and paying for college. I was somewhat surprised to see what some parents have to say about how financial aid works. 

Unfortunately, I think a large number of parents and students get their financial aid information by asking family and friends. That's not always the wisest thing to do as regulations can change from year to year and there can be a lot of confusion when it comes to financial aid. I came up with a short list (5) of financial aid myths that I wanted to explain.

Myth #1

If I do not claim my student on my taxes for two years prior to them going to college, they will get more financial aid. That might have been partially true prior to 1992, however, since then, claiming a student or not on the parent’s tax return has no bearing on financial aid eligibility.

Myth #2

If I move out of my parent’s house, I do not have to include their information on the FAFSA. Moving out of a parent’s house does not, in and of itself, mean that a parent’s information is not used on the FAFSA. Usually a student must provide parent’s information until they either turn 24, get married, or have a child that they provide more than one half the support for.

Myth #3

If a parent or student has saved money for college, they will not get as much financial aid. Assets listed on the FAFSA do not have as large an impact on student’s eligibility as the parent’s income and household size. The way I look at it,  any money saved for college by a parent or student is probably money they will not have to borrow in a student loan.

Myth #4

We make too much money so we will not qualify for financial aid. I recently assisted a parent in completing the FAFSA who earned over $800,000 a year. Obviously, they would not qualify for need-based financial aid, however, in order for their student to receive a large scholarship from the college, they had to complete the FAFSA. Also, in order to be considered for any student loans, a student must complete the FAFSA.

Myth #5

We cannot afford college; it is just too expensive. There are many types of financial aid available from many sources to offset the cost of education. Do not initially exclude a college based on the sticker price, but eventually look at cost vs. the financial aid they might offer.

There are many more myths out there about financial aid. What bothered me the most about the posts I read were that parents were actually doing some of these things (not claiming a student in high school so they could get more financial aid, for example) based on what they thought was accurate information.

PLEASE…if you have any questions about financial aid and the FAFSA, contact a professional at ICAN. You can contact us by phone: 877-272-4692 with your questions or to set up an appointment.

You can also get a lot of information from our website www.icansucceed.org and the following links:

I urge you to utilize our resources and not to rely on friends and family for financial aid information.

  John - ICAN Waterloo and Hiawatha Centers

Quick tip for Recommendation Letters

It’s never to early to start thinking about and gathering scholarship applications. Once you accumulated an assortment of applications you may see a common request among them. Most scholarship application will ask for one to two letters of recommendation. As you progress through high school be thinking who can write you a good and effective letter of recommendation. A teacher, counselor, or coach are some obvious choices. Start building these relationships early so when the time comes you feel comfortable asking for the recommendation.

Also, try to make the letter of recommendation be from someone who plays a part in your activities resume. For example, if you are active in high school debate through leadership ask your debate coach for the recommendation as opposed to a favorite teacher. The debate coach is better equipped to play up your skills as they are directly involved with your activities.

Still need to start an activities resume? Download a template here from the ICAN website.

  Jessica - ICAN Ankeny Center

After the FAFSA - Follow-up Documents

Many families have already filed the FAFSA and were happy and relieved to check that off of the list of “things to do” this fall. You need to keep in mind that for many families is only the 1st step in completing the financial aid process. 33% of FAFSAs filed get selected for the verification process. If your FAFSA gets selected, your college(s) will notify the student and will explain what information needs to be submitted to the college financial aid office before they can proceed with packaging a financial offer.

From my experience, if you qualified for Pell, it’s very likely that you’ll be selected for verification. Also, if the parents’ marital status recently changed, the college will probably ask for verification documentation as well because that obviously had a big impact on household income. Students need to be very vigilant with their emails and college student accounts. As I mentioned, a college will not be able to proceed to the next step until they receive the information they need. If you don’t submit this information in a timely manner the student is in danger of losing out on potential aid and may not be able to register for classes.

 Lupe - ICAN Coralville and Davenport Centers

Is It Too Late to Do My FAFSA?

When is the deadline for the FAFSA? I get that question often. My answer? There isn’t really a deadline as such. Each college has a priority date, and it is definitely recommended that you get the FAFSA in to a college by its priority date. Those can really vary. In Iowa, the earliest priority date is Dec. 1 and they can range from then until July 1. If applying to and sending the FAFSA to multiple schools, you should check out all of the priority dates of those colleges and submit it by the earliest one. Submitting the FAFSA by the priority date is the best way to ensure receiving the most possible financial aid for which you qualify.

So now some of the priority date have passed. “What do I do if the priority date has passed? Is it too late to do the FAFSA?” I get those questions often as well. The answer: No – it’s not too late. Complete and submit the FAFSA as soon as possible. You may have missed out on some type of aid or a scholarship, but you can still be eligible for certain types of aid. Students – traditional and non-traditional – make decisions at very different times about going to college. In a perfect world, we’d all know exactly what we want to do way ahead of time and never ever have a problem getting that FAFSA done by any priority date. But we don’t live in a perfect world – so if you miss a priority date – do the FAFSA as soon as you can.

If you are an Iowa student going to an Iowa college, know that the priority date for any of the state aid is July 1, meaning the FAFSA must be submitted by then. This would include the Last Dollar Scholarship, which is for students going into high demand programs. Do students sometimes not decide to go to college until after that date? Absolutely. Do they miss out on that state aid then? Yes, they do – although the Last Dollar Scholarship deadline has been extended some years. Is there still federal aid available? Typically, yes – but I would never wait that late on purpose to do your FAFSA, because you just never know! (Side note: there is an extra Iowa Financial Aid Application that is the source for some extra scholarships for Iowa students going to Iowa colleges. Some of those scholarships have deadlines as early as March 1. To be eligible for any of those, you’d need to submit the FAFSA and the Iowa Financial Aid Application by March 1. The link to the Iowa Financial Aid Application: https://icaps.iowacollegeaid.gov/ICAPS/ApplicationProcess/ApplicationMainPage.aspx)

Bottom line – it is ALWAYS best to submit your FAFSA by the priority date of the college (or earliest priority date if sending to multiple schools). But, if you miss a priority date or just make a late decision about attending college, do the FAFSA anyway. It’s free. It’s the only way to be eligible for federal and state aid. Often colleges require it for their scholarships (another reason to submit by priority date and scholarship deadlines.)

For a list of Iowa college/university financial aid priority dates, visit: https://www.icansucceed.org/priority If you are sending the FAFSA to an out-of-state schools and need their financial aid priority date, check their websites, call the financial aid office of the school, or search for it online (I’ve found many of them that way). 

If you would like help with your FAFSA, we are still doing virtual appointments for anyone, and we have limited in-person appointments at our Hiawatha Office and our Davenport Office. To schedule, call us at 877-272-4692 OR book your own appointment at: https://www.icansucceed.org/apt.

 Mary Joan Dougherty - ICAN Hiawatha Center