Tagged: CSS Profile

What Is IDOC?

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I’m happy to welcome back to the blog Blaine Blontz, Admitster’s knowledgeable Financial Aid Consultant! Blaine is the founder of Financial Aid Coach, one of the country’s leading financial aid consulting firms, and has helped countless families to navigate the complex and oftentimes confusing financial aid process. If you have any financial aid questions, you can reach him at e-mail address blaine@admitster.com


So you’ve submitted the CSS Profile, which certainly wouldn’t be mistaken for a short application, and you feel some sense of accomplishment. You’ve finished the financial aid process!

But wait, on the confirmation page you see that there could be other documents requested from schools. And there are these four letters that CSS Profile schools keep mentioning:

I-D-O-C

So what is IDOC? Well, it’s short for Institutional Documentation Service, and it’s the official online system that the College Board uses to collect families’ federal tax returns and other documents on behalf of participating colleges and programs. If you applied to several CSS Profile schools, chances are good that you will need to submit some documents via IDOC.

GirlsAtComputerTo log in, simply follow this link. Don’t worry, you DO NOT need all three pieces of information to log in. While most families won’t know their IDOC ID, that’s OK. You can simply use the student’s social security number and date of birth to log in. You’ll then be taken to a screen that lists the tax forms that are required and the schools that are requiring them. While you have the option to mail these forms to the College Board to submit directly, it’s recommended that you scan and upload the forms instead.

Here are the common forms requested by schools via IDOC. These examples are for those applying for the 2016-17 school year:

  • Parent 2015 tax return
  • Parent 2015 W-2
  • Parent 2015 1099s
  • Student 2015 tax return
  • Student 2015 W-2
  • Student 2015 1099s
  • Non-Custodial Parent 2015 tax return (if applicable)

Some schools will also request other forms. You’ll also need to complete steps even if you don’t have the forms listed. For example, if the student wasn’t required to file taxes, they will still need to complete, sign and upload a non-filer form provided through IDOC.

One thing to note is the request that all files scanned and uploaded be less than 9 MB in size. Some of these documents are going to be fairly long in terms of pages, and thus they will take up significant file size. One trick to this is to use a tool like Small PDF to compress the files to a more manageable size in order to allow for upload.

So, there you have it. That’s what schools mean when they refer to IDOC. Feel free to let me know if you have any questions related to this or other financial aid matters!

The Benefits of Change

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My Dear Readers, 

Today I’m pleased to introduce to you a new colleague of mine, Mr. Blaine Blontz, Admitster’s Financial Aid Consultant.  Blaine founded Financial Aid Coach, one of the country’s leading financial aid consulting firms, and has helped countless families to navigate the complex and oftentimes confusing financial aid process.  He earned his MBA in Finance from La Salle University and has also worked as a financial aid counselor at several colleges and universities.  We’re thrilled to have him on board, just as he’s thrilled to share his pearls of financial wisdom with you on this blog, where you’ll be privy to many posts he’s penned. If you have any specific questions relating to financial aid, please don’t hesitate to contact him at blaine@admitster.com.  Below you’ll find Blaine’s two cents on the changes that were recently made to the FAFSA – important information!

All the best,

Katie Z


The President recently unveiled significant changes to the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form. What do these changes mean for students and families preparing for college?

First of all, before families with a current senior in high school (Class of 2016) get too excited, know that these changes won’t go info effect until next year. This means that they will NOT impact students applying for aid for the 2016-17 school year, but rather for the 2017-18 school year. In other words, these changes impact families with teenagers who are high school juniors and younger.

Under the new system, the Federal government will allow aid applications based on reported income from two years prior to the application, rather than the current process of using information from only the previous year. That is, whereas the FAFSA can currently not be completed prior to January 1, the President’s office will change the process so families can submit the form as early as October of the student’s senior year of high school.  Overall, the changes to the FAFSA form match the preexisting advantage of the CSS (College Scholarship Service) Profile. For years, many schools have used the CSS Profile to provide families with financial aid award information earlier than FAFSA, but this will now change. FAFSA is on a new track!

change

Think of it this way. Many students apply to schools in the fall of their senior year, and perhaps even earlier to those institutions that utilize rolling admissions. Before this change to the FAFSA, these same students had to wait until at least January, with most deadlines falling between February and March, to complete the FAFSA. Without the FAFSA, schools were unable to provide financial aid award figures for families at the same time as admissions decisions. While admissions decisions play a vital role in determining where a family will choose to send their teenager to college, a family can’t make a fully informed decision until they know how much, if any, financial aid the school is going to offer. Pushing back the date that families can begin completing the FAFSA will allow for earlier financial aid award offers. This will help families to make better decisions earlier, when they still have time to change their mind or look into other college options.

While the CSS Profile currently offers families the ability to submit information earlier than January 1, it does so by requiring intricate estimates of a family’s income and assets. This is required because the financial aid offer is based off the current year’s income. For example, if you were completing the FAFSA or CSS Profile this winter, you would not be able to correctly submit this without either having detailed estimates of your 2015 income and assets or having filed your 2015 taxes. The President’s changes will cut out this step of estimating earnings by allowing families to use tax information from forms they already filed. Additionally, families will be able to easily complete a FAFSA using information from their previous year’s tax return, as the government now offers a way for families to auto-fill their tax information by linking to the IRS.

My first-hand experience as a financial aid counselor suggests that this change is much needed. For instance, I met with several families in the late spring that essentially had to take the offer received since it was too late to apply to additional schools. In all, these changes will both make the FAFSA easier to complete and allow families to learn of financial aid award offers sooner than they previously could. These changes will certainly benefit families on their journey to college!