Beginning October 1, 2016, a much praised change in the FAFSA (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid) goes into effect. Referred to as prior-prior year (PPY), the change allows families to use tax returns completed two years before (prior-prior year) rather than 2016 tax returns to fill out the FAFSA. Among PPY’s major benefits:
- Students can file their FAFSA much earlier—as early as October 1, 2016. This will allow them to find out sooner about their eligibility for federal financial aid to pay for college rather than having to wait weeks or even months later.
- PPY allows most students to use the IRS’s Data Retrieval Tool. The data retrieval tool links up with tax data and this data is pre-filled in the FAFSA form. This makes completing the FAFSA easier and more accurate for families and students.
Two articles worth reading about PPY and how it benefits students and families:
It’s that time of year. Time to put down the video game controller or whatever your summer guilty pleasure and get to work—the Common Application is up and running as of August 1. Now it’s time to work on your personal statement.
This year the essay prompts are the same (which has been public knowledge for a few months). The “topic of your choice” was removed from the 2015-2016 CA so that remains the same. Here are the 2016-2017 CA essay prompts:
- Option 1: Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
- Option 2: The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
- Option 3: Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
- Option 4: Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma—anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
- Option 5: Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.
Consider these essays a launching pad to write about something that shows your growth and development, values, reflective nature, the things that are important to you. These essay options give you the latitude to write about something that is interesting, powerful, and meaningful to you.
On August 1, the University of California rolled out its new application for the 2017 entering class. The application required by all the UC system campuses (e.g., UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara and so forth) replaces the personal statement with new Personal Insight Questions. Students applying for fall 2017 will be required to choose three questions (out of a list of eight) and write an essay of no more than 350 words for each.
This means that UC admissions officers want to get to know you better — “your interests, ambitions, and inspirations.” If you plan to apply or are seriously considering an application to a UC campus, take time now to review and think about these questions. It’s not too early.