September 2016 Counselor News
By Joy Rockwell, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, and Neil Leibundguth, University of St. Thomas
As the school year begins, some changes have occurred that will impact the students we work with — and your ability to assist them. Just one year ago, President Obama made an executive action to allow students to file their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) earlier.
Instead of filing a FAFSA beginning January 1 using estimated (or completed) financial information from the year prior, students and families will be able to apply for financial aid starting October 1, 2016 for the 2017-2018 school year. Because of this earlier timeframe, students will also use 2015 tax information to complete their 2017-2018 FAFSA (view handout of what's changing). Applicants will still use to-date information regarding personal and family information, such as number of family members, number in college and parental marital status. This timing adjustment better aligns the admissions and financial aid processes, and gives students and their parents more time to make informed decisions about attending college.
For this year, the new process is called “Early FAFSA.” However, as the new timing structure will be set for all subsequent years and as students and families grow accustomed to this, it will simply be “FAFSA” after this first year.
The change to Early FAFSA is not the first in recent years. The online application has become far easier for families to complete by incorporating skip-logic to enable students and parents to bypass questions that don’t apply to them and giving them the opportunity to use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool which improves the speed and accuracy in which a FAFSA is filled out.
For families, this change has significant benefits. Allowing families to apply for financial aid a full three months earlier than before using tax data that has already been filed will enable students to take more time in making their college decision — and be more informed about what the actual costs will be to attend the school of their choice.
This does not mean that colleges and universities will be able to provide full financial aid award letters to students any earlier. Many schools do not set their costs for the upcoming year until the spring, and the federal and state governments don’t give colleges information on Pell and State Grant tables until January or February. However, it will be important to monitor any timeline and priority deadlines changes some schools may make in the wake of Early FAFSA.
There may be instances when a change in employment or marital status occurred in the current or prior year, but not the year in which the taxes were used for filing the FAFSA. In such circumstances, families should work individually with schools to explain their special financial circumstances.
Overall, this change may in some ways end up feeling like a more significant change within higher education. For families, the move to using earlier tax return information should be a welcome development. We are excited to provide students and their families the opportunity to better educate themselves and give themselves the critical information they need to make the best college decision.
Joy and Neil led discussion on the early FAFSA changes at a breakout session during MACAC’s spring tri-state meeting.
Fall is a great time for students and families to learn more about our campus — while classes are in session. All of our campuses host special events and tours for high school seniors and juniors. Many include an overview of admissions and financial aid information as well as a campus tour. Some may also include:
- meeting with faculty or sessions on specific areas of study
- sitting in on a class
- eating lunch in the dining hall
- watching a sporting event
We have a full list of fall visit events for prospective students on our website with links to more information on teach college’s website.
Families can learn more about our colleges on Oct. 4-5 at the Minnesota National College Fair, held at the Minneapolis Convention Center. The Council also will have a table in the resource area. Stop by!
Minnesota Education Fairs are held throughout the state at high schools and other venues and are intended for anyone interested in post-secondary education and military opportunities. Most fairs are scheduled in the fall. Students are encouraged to pre-register.
Minnesota’s College Knowledge Month emphasizes exploring college options and preparing applications in October — and, just as importantly, that application fees should not be a barrier to applying to college. View the handout prepared for the month that shows the free application opportunities at Minnesota’s college and universities. And yes, there are options for students to apply to our colleges for free year round.
Need to check the deadlines for more than one of our campuses? We’ve gathered them in one place, along with links to each institutions online application. We have a simple outline of the general application requirements for each college too!
Looking for a timeline of tasks to help keep juniors and seniors on track? Then check out our timeline for preparing for college.
Which skills are employers looking for in new hires? According to research and data, the answer is pretty conclusive: soft skills.
Sara Johnson, employer and alumni relations manager at Concordia College, researched full-time job postings (more than 382,000!) from the last two years for new bachelor’s degree holders in our five-state area using a tool that pulls together and analyzes job postings. Unsurprisingly, the top sought skill was oral and written communication.
“That’s always number one. Looking at our data from job postings, we see demand for communications skills is two times more in demand than any other skill,” Johnson said.
|Ten of the top skills sought in new hires with bachelor’s degrees|
|# of postings that mentioned skill|
|Oral and written communications||149,631|
Source: TalentNeuron Recruit
Data for May 2014 to May 2016, for full-time, entry-level positions for those with bachelor’s degrees in Minnesota and bordering states
And looking at those soft skills in greatest demand is good news for the new grads from our colleges: they can show that they’ve got what today’s hiring managers want.
“The liberal arts colleges really have an advantage in helping students develop these high demand skill sets and preparing them for the workforce,” she said. “There’s always a transition — when you’re a new employee. These soft skills, they’re people skills and they give an advantage to liberal arts students, helping them be productive sooner. That’s a huge value to an employer, they’re a quick learner.”
One of the strengths of studying at a liberal arts college is that it can prepare you for almost any career you can imagine and choose to pursue. Another is that it encourages students to find their passion and work that into a career. We recently featured five young alums who did just that. Read excerpts of their stories— and be inspired!
Why I was wrong about liberal-arts majors
The Wall Street Journal, Jun. 1, 2016
Why America's business majors are in desperate need of a liberal-arts education
The Atlantic Magazine, Jun. 28, 2016
What does it take to get students ready for college?
The Hechinger Report, Aug. 16, 2016
A solution as obvious as it is rare: Making high school graduates ready for college
The Hechinger Report, Aug. 18, 2016