FAFSA: Five things to know

What is the FAFSA and why is it so important?

The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It is the primary application for receiving need-based aid at American colleges and universities. If you need help paying for college, submitting your FAFSA is the first step in applying for financial aid from most colleges and universities in the United States.

When do I submit my FAFSA?

The FAFSA is available annually beginning on October 1. It is to your advantage to complete the application early in order for colleges and universities to have the information they need to offer you an aid package sooner upon admission. Hope’s priority deadline is March 1 each year.

What information do I need for the FAFSA?

First, apply for a federal student aid ID number from the federal government. This is your username and password for federal student aid websites such as FAFSA.gov and studentloans.gov.

Second, gather your and your parents’ previous year’s tax information, social security numbers and your driver’s license. The FAFSA will ask for data from each of these sources.

Next, be sure to add Hope College’s school code to your FAFSA. Our code is 002273.

Students applying to Hope will also need to complete Hope’s Supplemental Application for Student Aid (SAF) in addition to the FAFSA.

Where can I get help with my FAFSA?

There are many resources available to answer your questions and assist you with completing your FAFSA, including your high school guidance counselor, your Hope College Admissions representative and the Hope College Office of Financial Aid Office. FAFSA.gov also offers a free web chat tool.

What happens after I submit my FAFSA?

Processing your FAFSA takes time. Once the federal government has reviewed your information, they will send your data to the colleges and universities you requested. Those schools will then use your FAFSA data to prepare your financial aid package. In some cases, you may be required to submit additional documentation to verify the data on your FAFSA. This verification process is required by the U.S. Department of Education.

Financial aid notifications are typically sent to students in early February. More information about how financial aid is calculated is available on our Financial Aid website.

What else do I need to know?

Completing the FAFSA is free and quick, and you only have to do it once a year, so don’t be intimated! Feel free to contact the Hope College Office of Financial Aid with your questions. Their website is also a great resource for additional information about the FAFSA process.

Find Your Home

By Rourke Mullins, Hope College Senior

Here it is, you’re 18 years old and the moment in life has come where you are asked to answer one of the most important questions of your life, “Where are you going to college?” It’s a daunting question that for myself, created a pit in my stomach. I didn’t know how to navigate my way through these feelings and the endless amounts of college mail my mom would throw on my desk. I know I am not alone in this feeling. So, the question is, how do we answer this question that carries more weight than most of us have ever dealt with?

For myself, I swung and missed at my first try. I had decided to attend a university for all of the wrong reasons. I choose it because, in reality, it was a cop out. It was a choice that had the lowest amount of risk and a choice that revolved around things that did not matter. I quickly realized this and had to force myself back to square one and ask, “Where am I going to college?” This time, the once impossible and scary question now seemed so clear. I am going to go home. Not back where I grew up home but a place where I feel at home. This moment is when it all changed for me.

I made a list of all the reasons of why I loved home and some of them were comfort, peace, and the feeling of being wanted. I took on my new college search with clear eyes and a heart that was looking for this new home that I was so hungry for. By the grace of God, I was led to this small Liberal Arts College on the West side of Michigan called Hope College. A place where you walk down the street and are able to say hi to your friends or complete strangers, a place where you can get incredible coffee and have conversations that will change your life forever, a place that hold’s you close during dark times and celebrates your good times. It’s a place that I now call home. A place where I feel comfort, peace, and the feeling of being wanted.

Here I am 3 years later looking  back on my experience and what a journey it has been. So if you are in the place that I was in, scared by the thought of where you will attend college, I encourage you to change your perspective. Allow yourself to look at colleges not as where you will be leaving your home to go to, but look at colleges as were your next home will be. For myself, I have found a home in Hope forever.

Are you asking these 6 questions on your college tours?

By Kristin Diekevers ’07, Associate Director of Admissions

Ahhhh, the changing of the seasons. We are about two weeks shy of the official start of fall (it’s September 22 if you were wondering), and colleges are back in session. That means many of you are doing yourself the awesome favor of scheduling college visits — seriously, there is nothing you can do to get to know a college better than by visiting.

Colleges are ready with their welcome mats and most tour guides are ready for the typical questions (and if they aren’t, be skeptical). How many students go here? What’s the average class size? Are freshmen allowed to have cars? How are roommates determined? What do students do on the weekends?

Four students walking on sidewalk under trees.

But you want to be a savvy consumer, right? Dig a little deeper into the college experience and consider asking these 6 questions on every college tour.

  1. What aren’t you showing me? There might be good reasons for limiting what you see — time length of tour, spaces reserved for faculty/staff, building hours, etc. However, it’s worth asking because you might also uncover areas of deferred maintenance or areas of concern for the college. In either case, you might consider circling back to these areas by yourself before you leave the campus.
  2. Take time to smell the flowers. Yes, this is a statement, not a question, but it’s important. Pay attention to your surroundings at all times. How are students interacting with one another? With faculty or staff? With you? What is on the bulletin boards and what signs are hanging up on campus? Are there literally flowers you can smell (hey, there is something to be said for well-kept grounds)?
  3. What faculty or staff member helped you the most your freshman year? How so? People matter. Connections matter. Connected people are generally happier and more successful both in college and in the long-term. Asking this question will help you learn if students make an early and lasting connection with an employee of the college.
  4. How is conflict recognized and addressed on campus? Given our current political climate, I think this is a fair question. College is an important time for young people to further develop conflict resolution skills. We hope they have good examples of people doing this on their college campus at all levels. Is there dialogue or dogmatism? Are there forums or fear?
  5. What was your favorite lecture, arts performance, guest speaker or chapel message this past year? “Bueller?…Bueller?…Bueller?” (If you have not watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, please do so the minute you are done reading this blog. You’re welcome.) Lots of students can listen and comprehend, but are they being inspired? A lasting impression made by a lecture fuels a student’s learning, development and success as a human being.
  6. What would you miss the most if you graduated tomorrow? Why? Make sure you add: “You can’t just say your friends.” This all goes back to how connected to their eventual alma mater they feel. Do they swell with pride in talking about their school and show enthusiasm? Do you get those feels when they share their experience? It’s a good signal you’re making a connection too.

I’ve said to ask these questions on every college tour, but really, these questions could be repeated over and over to any person — faculty, student, staff, administrator, coach — you meet on campus. Your tour guide will have one experience, but if you’re really interested in the college, talk to everyone you meet!

Ready to ask these questions within the Hope community? We’re ready to welcome you!

10 Tips for writing an unforgettable college essay

By Kristin Diekevers ’07, Associate Director of Admissions

A 17-year old me is sitting at my basement computer, fingers lightly touching the good ol’ Gateway keyboard from yesteryear and…nothing. I’m blank. I’m here to write my college essay, and I’m straining not only on the first sentence, but the topic itself. Sound familiar?

The Common Application is set to go live August 1; it’s time to think about your college essay. Thrilling, right? I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be painful, and it can even be enlightening.

After a decade of reading thousands of college essays submitted to Hope College for admission, here are my top 10 Tips for Writing an Unforgettable College Essay:

  1. Your topic is not OSFA (One Size Fits All). Ask yourself this question: can anyone else write this essay? If the answer is yes, it’s back to the drawing board. Sure others may have a similar topic, but the way you tell your story should be uniquely you.
  2. We want the feels from the start. How do you want us to feel after reading your introduction? Are we balancing on a cliff eager to find out what comes next? Are we shocked by your personal admission? Are we nervous standing on stage with you at your first high school musical? An emotional connection leaves us excited to continue reading.
  3. Reeeelllllaaaaxxxx. Right now, you have time on your side. If you’re feeling wound up trying to organize your thoughts, just start writing and concern yourself with structure later. If writing in your bedroom makes you feel isolated and stuck, a change of scenery could help. It might even be that typing on a computer seems too permanent; grab a notebook and pencil instead.
  4. Review, revise, repeat x3. Remember Writer’s Workshop in elementary school? The writing process is important and should certainly be applied to your college essay, so be sure to proofread after each draft. You may have to rewrite entire sections of your essay, and though it can be frustrating, the end result will be something you’re proud to submit.
  5. It’s not a text, tweet or #nofilter. Don’t write like it is. You must use capital letters and punctuation. A series of generic one-liners will not produce a cohesive story nor can 140 characters. You may find inspiration through your social media, but put your filter on knowing your writing will be read by professionals.
  6. Develop your narrative. No term papers allowed. I have no doubt you did your research when you wrote about Kate Chopin’s motivation for writing The Awakening or the religious principles of the Puritans who settled in the United States. I will also be eager to learn about this when we talk. For your college essay, though, it’s all about painting a picture through the story you tell.
  7. Does your essay sound like you? It should. Over your high school career you have developed your own writing style, your own voice. That includes how you organize your thoughts, use punctuation, and what words you use (and don’t use). If one of your editors suggests a word that you know instantly doesn’t sound like you, don’t take his/her advice.
  8. We’ve read the rest of your application. Don’t pretend like we haven’t. When you apply for a job, your cover letter should not simply restate everything that can be found on your resume. Similarly, I end an application review by reading the essay. Though you may highlight an event or activity listed in your application, it should not be a summary of it or what you gained from each activity of which you were a part.
  9. Who else has read it? Admissions committees are made up of diverse individuals and personalities. It’s important the people reading your essay before you turn it in are diverse too. Choose people who know you well (parent, grandparent, teacher, coach, youth pastor) and those who don’t (a parent’s co-worker, a teacher’s spouse, the gang who has coffee with your grandpa every Friday morning). Collect their feedback and refer to #4 above.
  10. All good things must come to an end…a really good one. It’s time to wrap it up no more than 650 words later. Ending your story well is as important as starting it. Establish your take-aways and remember those feels.

Keep this in mind: your essay will be one piece of your larger application, and for most colleges, it will not be the sole item that makes (or breaks) your chances for admission. Head over to Common Application and get started (or continue) telling your story.

What to Expect for First Year Advising

Freshman advising is an incredibly laid back experience. The process depends on whether you declare a major your first year.

Not sure on your major yet?

If you don’t declare a major your first year, your advisor won’t change. Your First Year Seminar professor will be your advisor until you declare your major. There’s no need to worry if you don’t know what you’re going to major in, most programs can still be completed in four years if you declare your sophomore (and in some cases, junior) year. Before classes even begin (during Orientation week), you are required to meet with your advisor to go over the classes you’re enrolled in. Then, at the end of your first semester (and all semesters to follow), you are required to again meet with your professor and go through the classes you’re planning on taking for the following semester.

Declare a major

You can request a professor from the department for your major directly on the major declaration sheet, or you may be assigned an advising professor. You should meet with your new advisor, especially if you’ve never met them before, just so the two of you can get to know each other outside of the constraints of a classroom. From there, your advisor can give you specific, thoughtful advice regarding your major, and the classes they believe would be best for you.

Your advisor is the person who can help you with just about anything and everything. They’re there for you and they want to help you, and watch you succeed. They can help you figure out what classes would be best for you and help you find internships and summer jobs. They can be excellent references on resumes, and a great source of guidance.

Your responsibilities are to take initiative in scheduling appointments and having a valid reason to meet with your advisor. Whatever you schedule an appointment for, you should be prepared for the meeting. For example, when you have your semestral meeting with your advisor regarding classes to take, you should have the classes you’re planning on taking already in mind to share with them.

Exploring majors

Hope’s liberal arts emphasis allows you to explore multiple possible majors, while still working towards graduation. This means that you’re free to take courses ranging from the arts to math, and still receive helpful credits along the way. Hope also offers a career development center where you can take tests that show you which field you would be best in. Your advisor is another great source of advice when exploring majors and planning for your future. 

Fly-In Weekend

This past weekend “Fly-In Weekend” happened and I was one of your hosts, so if you are prospective student, this is something that you may want to think about.

The Fly-In program kicked off on Thursday night at 7:00 p.m., where the visiting students gathered with their hosts in front of the fireplace in Phelps Dining Hall. By the way, it is called Fly-in Weekend because students fly in to Hope from all different states, like New York, Utah or California. Continuing back, we gathered at 7 p.m. to play some ice breaking game and to have a little informative session of what is happening for next 48 hours the stay.

On Friday, the prospective students had an all-day program and then we went to a basketball game. The day starts at 8:30 a.m., where there is a student panels, actual classes visits, campus tour and trip in the Holland area and to the beach. The we went to a dinner and 7:30 p.m. basketball game. The next day, they were flying back to their respective states.

It is a great event for anybody who really wants to experience a Hope College over the night. You sleep with an actual student for two nights and everything is set up for you. So definitely something to think about if you are highly interested in Hope College.

How Do You Make Summer Internship a Reality as an International Student at Hope College?

Internships are part of the college experience for many students. A lot of students do not start to think about it until later in their college careers, so it is unique for me, since I am only a freshman. At least that’s what the Career Development Center said when entered their office in October 2015. Nevertheless, here is what does it take to make a summer internship a reality from the international student standpoint.

All international students studying in the United States are on a student F-1 Visa, which strictly disallows work outside of campus. This is because the primary purpose of the student is to study, not to work, which make sense, but it just makes things complicated for international students. So in order to have summer internship outside college campus, the international students need to plan the internship through school and make it part of a class or/and major requirement.

Firstly, students need to declare a major. Without declaring a major, international students are unable to “connect” the internship to a school experience. When the student declares a major, one gets a adviser.

Secondly, the adviser within the major helps the student pick the summer internship class. Also, this adviser is the college official that evaluates and grades student’s work.

Thirdly, the international student gets one page CPT (Curricular Practical Training)* from from the International Office. The student fills it out together with the academic adviser.

Next, the student registers for summer internship class, ranging from 1-4 credits.

Lastly, the company or firm sends a letter confirming details of the student´s employment, which is required with as part of CPT form. So when student gets the letter, one turns it in together with the CPT form to the international student office.

And there you go. Internship is all set up.

*CPT is a “a work authorization that will allow you to do internship”

Sukumar, Raghuram. “What Is the Difference Between OPT and CPT?” Happy Schools. Happy Schools, 13 Nov. 2014. Web. 14 Apr. 2016.