Panorama Community Schools

Financial Aid for College: Steps, Online Tools, Panorama & Iowa Focused

This page largely reflects the information shared from various presenters over a couple decades of experience...
Primary sources of reliable and complete information:
  • The Federal Student Aid webpage is a complete governmental updated guide for getting aid and managing it 
  •  A comprehensive resource for Iowa families looking to understand how to help their HS senior pay for college is the IOWA COLLEGE STUDENT AID COMMISSION's, supported by the State of Iowa, so scholarships & aid specific for Iowans is included.___________________________________________________________________________________
Financial Aid Process for college through our federal government for beginners:
  • How to Pay for College; Financial Aid Process (24 min. Video Overview) - review process of getting aid for college by ICAN (same presentation given as "Financial Aid Process" for high school juniors).
  • Brochure overview, FAFSA Process -
  • Use tax return information from two years prior to the year you will begin college full-time when completing the federal government application, called a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). This means the current seniors who are graduating May 20, 2020 from Panorama, will fill out the 2020-21 FAFSA, no sooner than October 1, using the family 2018 tax return.
Breaking-down the Steps to seek college financial aid help; use the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)
a) before you apply to college, this College & Career Planning Guide helps you know what is involved (Spring&Summer Gr.11 or Early Fall Gr.12)
b) apply for scholarships using all free means possible
             b1) see free scholarship search tools link updated by ICAN at bottom of this page
             b2) look & click on $ signs for the 4 areas of scholarships shared with Panorama HS in Right Margin -->
Step 1 – Apply to colleges and receive verification of being accepted (After Grade 11 transcript is updated)
  • Iowa's private 4 year colleges tend to have free online application
  • community college applications are also free (visit their webpage)
  • online applications to U of IOWA, UNI, & ISU have a fee (their fee can be waived with help of guidance counselor who will ask school for verification of either free or reduced school lunch qualification)
  • Shop for colleges using College Scoreboard webtools from U.S. Department of Education; compare typical costs, graduation rates, average graduate salaries, and more 
Step 2FSA ID's (formerly call PIN) creation for student and a different FSA ID for the parent (the parent who will complete the FAFSA) at (EARLY FALL)
  • FSA ID video & guide
  • FSA ID Personal Worksheet - instructions & place for student & parent to document their user name, password, email (handed out at 1st Sr. Guidance Mtg.)
  • Having the FSA ID created (1 each for you and parent) will later allow you both to electronically sign & submit your FAFSA application
Step 3Complete (Student & Parent/s sections) & Submit your FAFSA after October 1, online at  
  • See list of recommended web browsers for completing online FAFSA 
  • Save time to use the IRS Data Retrieval option that is presented within the FAFSA. Here is a Penn State University webpage that explains how to do this in detail:
  • Use this decision flow chart graphic to know which parents' information to put on FAFSA (
  • Picture1-1.png

  • When parents file taxes jointly, FAFSA still wants income information for each parent, so do not enter joint income for either of the parents' fields
    • To determine how much the parent(s) earned, find the scenario that best fits your parent's tax filing status (


      • If your parent did not file taxes, include the information from his / her 2016 W-2 Forms – box numbers 1 + 8.
      • If your parent is married and uses the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT) to transfer information from a joint tax return into your FAFSA, you must manually enter income earned from work. Report each parent's earnings separately. Your parents can use their tax return, W-2s, or other earning statements to calculate their separate earning amounts. Include income that they earned from Federal Work-study or any other need-based employment, as well as the amount reported in box 14 (Code A) of IRS Schedule K-1 (Form 1065), if applicable.
      • If your parent is not married and uses the IRS DRT to transfer his/her information from the IRS into your FAFSA, the answer to this question will be identified as "Transferred from the IRS." If your parent filed a Schedule K-1 (Form 1065), you are required to report that information separately.
      • If your parent is single, divorced, separated or widowed; filed or will file a tax return; and does not use the IRS DRT to transfer his/her information from the IRS into your FAFSA, enter his / her total earnings from 2016. Your parent can use his / her tax return, W-2s, or other earning statements to calculate earning amounts. Include income earned from Federal Work-study or any other need-based employment, as well as the amount reported in box 14 (Code A) of IRS Schedule K-1 (Form 1065), if applicable.
      • If your parents are married, or unmarried and both legal parents live together, and they do not use the IRS DRT, report each parent's earnings separately. Your parents can use their tax return(s), W-2s, or other earning statements to calculate their separate earning amounts. Include income that they earned from Federal Work-study or any other need-based employment, as well as the amount reported in box 14 (Code A) of IRS Schedule K-1 (Form 1065), if applicable.
  • When entering amount of money in your current savings and checking, consider waiting to enter those amounts until your withdrawals from those are complete before entering an amount and electronically signing the FAFSA.
    • Common expenditures to deduct from your checking and savings before submitting your FAFSA may be: microwave oven, refrigerator, TV, laptop computer, bed sheets, bed foam, umbrella, etc (see an article listing things to take to college here
  • Get help completing the FAFSA from ICAN - contact me, Chris Webner Panorama Guidance Counselor, for help or go to one of the many annually located workshops for FAFSA completion/submitt = FAFSA Ready Iowa completion meetings or contact ICAN for appointment (Toll Free:  877-272-4692) at their DMACC Campus, Building 5, Ankeny
  • 14 minute Video Walk-through for how to answer questions and submit FAFSA (with 2 Utah public service message as embedded short clips, created for 2017 HS graduates, but since FAFSA changes very little each year, this is a nice video to preview)
Step 4Review SAR, Student Aid Report, also called Awards Letters, sent to you by federal government to show what information from FAFSA will be shared with college(s) you selected in FAFSA  
  • Use the SAR to Decide Which College Looks best to you financially.
  • Use the SAR to Decide Which Forms of Financial Aid You Will Accept 
    • 3 types of aid you are eligible to receive:

1. GRANTS = free money sent from federal government to college in student’s name (we all want these),
2. LOANS = guaranteed by federal government to be paid back 4-6 months after college graduation, &/or
3. WORK STUDY =  federal government gives $ to college and in return you get paid for part-time job with college while a college student (This earned money is not counted against your effort to obtain aid when you apply for next college year!). 
Here is an example of a SAR from federal government  
Here is DMACC's overview of the common types of financial aid for their students  

Step 5 (only for Panorama graduates)
Burchfield Trust Loan – loan open only to Panorama graduates; Consider applying, Burchfield Trust Loan file at bottom of this page, through Bump & Bump Law Firm for private loan to help pay for college expenses (deadline is within first couple of days in June). The 5% interest rate paid back 4 months after college graduation is an excellent offer compared to governmental & private college loans. Informational letter sent to PHS seniors' families in Feb. & May.  Due Date is Mid June Annually


Tools & Facts gathered from ICAN Financial Aid Presentations in Past Years (such local events were discontinued at most local high schools)
  • Videos from government about College Financial Aid - brief and easy to understand videos @
  • Power point created by our federal government for financial aid presentations, covers financial aid application process (see link at bottom of this page = find-money-for-college2014.ppt)
  • DMACC's 
  • FAFSA; 2018-19 pdf for printing paper copy
    • FAFSA question 29 – Panorama graduates who completed college courses while in HS respond “Never attended college/1st yr”
  • Use (NOT the with charges near $80)
  • Each college is required to have a Net Price Calculator available on its website to help students calculate an estimated net price for attendance based on their individual circumstances. Search “Net Price Calculator” on college site or find the Iowa colleges’ links at
  • ICAN Paying For College Financial Aid Process, booklet handout at past year's ICAN Fin Aid Night 
    • college’s FAFSA priority deadline pp.3-7
    • steps to follow before October 1st (you do not have to wait until January 1st as in past years) & after applying, p.8
    • Aid not needing paid back & suggested scholarship search tools, p12
    • Understanding Estimated Family Contribution, p.17
    • “If you borrow $80,000 in student loans your monthly payment will be around $800. Consider if you will be able to afford these payments on the average salary of your career choice.”, p.23
    • Federal Loan Types, pp.25-30
    • College Savings Iowa 529 plan & Coverdell Education Savings Account, p.34
  • FAFSA 4 Caster – Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) tool; created to allow an individualized estimate of aid you can expect through FAFSA process
    • In 2014-15 a 45  year old parent had a protection of $28,000, meaning at least that much of the elder parent's income would not be included in the computation of the parents' EFC.
  • ICAN encourages use of IRS Data Retrieval Tool; 2-2.5 weeks after filing taxes then file FAFSA (UC Santa Barbra's IRS/FAFSA tool utube instructional video)
  • FAFSA Audits (requires giving officially documented proof of answers to FAFSA)
    • IF your FAFSA answers are audited, use to provide verification
    • Chances of being audited for all FAFSA applicants is 1 in 3
    • Students who file as having met FAFSA guidelines for independent status are most always audited
    • University of Iowa audits 100% of FAFSA applications
FAFSA Process Related Scholarships, re-occur annually in Iowa)


FINALLY, You finished your college degree, now it is time to PAY OFF YOUR LOANS - You got all the financial aid you could for college, worked hard to get the best grades, impressed potential employers with your initiative during your internship/work experience, earned your college degree, & NOW IT IS TIME TO PAY OFF YOUR COLLEGE LOANS.  Please read about how to pay off your college can reduce the debt amount actually paid off through good debt management:

A) Government explanation of how to repay loans and options -