November 27, 2023

College Applications: 7 Frequently Asked Questions

Applying to colleges can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. To help you prepare, we sat down with our three college access teams to discuss the questions they get the most from students. 

About Our College Access Programs 

Before we jump into the questions, let’s learn a little bit about our college access programs: 

  • Ask Benji: The financial aid process can be stressful – and that is why we created AskBenji, a chatbot that combines AI and human responses to help students, parents, and educators get familiar with FAFSA.  
  • AdviseAZ: Funded by AmeriCorps, AdviseAZ is a unique program where college students and graduates are paired with low-income, first-generation, and/or students of color in high school to help them navigate their college-going concerns. Know anyone who would be a great mentor? Encourage them to apply!
  • College Knowing & Going (CKG): Our CKG program focuses on preparing Arizona high school juniors and seniors for postsecondary success with the support of partner organizations. Explore CKG resources

FAQs Surrounding the FAFSA and the College Application Process

Below are some of the common questions our college access teams receive about the college application process: 

Why should I fill out the FAFSA? 

Completing the FAFSA unlocks various forms of financial aid for students, including college grants, work-study funds, federal student loans, and even some state-based aid.

In 2022, Arizona high school graduates who did not complete the FAFSA application left $101 million in PELL grants unused! There are sufficient funds to help you achieve a college education in an affordable manner. 

How do I start the  FAFSA process? 

  1. Start by reviewing this overview of the FAFSA application
  2. Create an FSA ID for both the student and parent. 
  3. Complete the student and parent portions of the FAFSA online by adding the school codes for the colleges you’re applying to. 

Be sure to submit your FAFSA before your college or university priority deadline. If you and your family need more 1:1 help, you can…

  • Use Ask Benji, our intelligent AI chatbot, to get answers to your FAFSA questions via text messages. Text “Hi Benji” to 602-786-8171 to get started! 
  • Connect with our partners at the Statewide FAFSA Completion Support team to get virtual assistance in Spanish and English. Schedule your appointment here

Can I still qualify for financial aid if my parents make too much?  

Your parents’ or legal guardian’s income can impact the federal grants you might be eligible for, but it won’t limit you from getting access to work study or scholarships. Colleges and universities will use the FAFSA application to help factor in other internal school aid amounts. 

How do I start applying to colleges? 

Start by researching colleges based on your preferences (location, size, programs offered). After finding universities that you want to apply to, check the application deadlines and requirements for each college. You can apply online through the school’s website, in person at some campuses, or by using resources like the Common Application online, which sends your application to as many schools as you’d like based on your preferences. 

Most schools do have an application fee that varies from $25 – $100, but many students are eligible for application fee waivers if they receive Free & Reduced Lunch at school.

How do I pick the “right” school? 

Picking the right school for you is extremely important, and not an easy decision to make. There are a lot of ways to figure out which is the “right” school for you, but a good place to start is by asking yourself these key questions:

  • Does the school have the right degree/program of study for me and my career?
  • Do I feel comfortable living away from home, or is it better to stay close to family and friends?
  • What resources does the school offer that can help me succeed both academically and emotionally?

You can always ask for campus tours or do a campus visit to out-of-state schools you may be considering so you can learn more about the programs and resources available there. Consider reaching out to the school’s alumni network to connect with former students to get their perspective. 

Lean on your friends, family, teachers, or others in your support network to fully explore all your options. Choosing the right school is a decision that only YOU can make for yourself. By asking the right questions and talking to the right people at home and at your future college/university, you can prepare yourself with the tools to make the best choice. 

How many schools should I apply to? 

There is no limit to how many schools you can apply for, but you do want to be considerate of your time. Each application will require you to answer several questions as well as provide a personal essay and letters of recommendation, which can be a lot of work. 

Thanks to recent updates to the FAFSA, you can now submit your FAFSA application to up to 20 schools at once. We recommend narrowing down your choices to 1-3 dream schools, and 5-7 match schools.

What do I need to know about transferring my dual enrollment credits?

If you completed any college classes during high school, like dual enrollment or concurrent enrollment courses, you may be able to transfer these credits to your future college or university.

The first place to start is with your high school counselor. They will be able to help you determine which college courses can be transferred. It is important to note that not all college credits transfer into all programs of study or all colleges or universities. You should speak with your counselor to make sure you understand all the requirements for your college/university.

Once you have determined that, you will need to get an official transcript from the institution that granted you the college credit –usually a community college or university in your area. Most schools have a transcript fee that you will need to pay for each transcript you send, so if you are sending transcripts to multiple schools, you may need to pay multiple fees. You can typically send an electronic transcript, but make sure you confirm with the receiving school to ensure that they will accept an electronic transcript or request a paper copy to be mailed to them directly.

Always remember, you are capable of achieving postsecondary education, and you have resources and support surrounding you. Take the next step towards reaching a higher education by starting on your college applications this month!