12 Changes to the FAFSA in 2024


Hello, and welcome to a new year!

We had an article last fall about the purpose and use of the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Study Aid. The application has just undergone a massive overhaul, and I wanted to take some time to talk through some of the changes.

Here are 12 changes coming to the FAFSA in 2024:

1. Simplified Application Process: The FAFSA will undergo a major overhaul to make it more user-friendly and less time-consuming. The application will be streamlined, reducing the number of questions and making it easier for students and their families to complete. 

2. Prior-Prior Year (PPY) Income Data: Starting in 2024, students will be able to use income data from two years prior to the academic year they are applying for. This change aims to provide a more accurate reflection of a family's financial situation and eliminate the need for estimates.

3. Removal of Asset Questions: The FAFSA will no longer require students and their families to report asset...

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What is the FAFSA and how is it used?


I received the following question recently:

What is the FAFSA, and how is it used?

Chances are you have heard about the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). There is a lot of confusion surrounding this application and how it is used that I would like to clear up here. There also is a NEW FAFSA that is coming out this December (normally in October), and we'll highlight some of the changes here.


What is it?

The FAFSA has become the foundational tool used by most colleges and universities to evaluate your financial standing.  You must complete the online application during the spring of your student’s high school senior year, and again during the spring of each year in college. The information you enter on the FAFSA is based on information you file on the prior prior year’s taxes (so your 2022 income for the 2024-2025 FAFSA). 



The FAFSA produces a number (previously called Expected Family Contribution or...

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What Calculator Should I Have for the ACT?

act phase 3 test prep May 15, 2023

After having tutoring ACT prep for almost 20 years, every semester I'm asked "what calculator should I have for the ACT?" So I wanted to take a bit to go through what calculators are and are not allowed on the test, and my recommendations.


The most important thing is the best calculator for the ACT is the calculator YOU ARE FAMILIAR WITH! Use the calculator you have been practicing with, and make sure that you ARE practicing with the calculator you plan on using for the ACT! It's better to use one you are familiar with that doesn't have as much functionality than one that can do everything but you don't know how to use.

ACT's official Calculator Policy can be found here. Prohibited calculators include:


  • All TI-89 and TI-92 models
  • TI-Nspire CAS (non-CAS is permitted)


  • HP Prime
  • HP 48GII
  • All model numbers beginning with HP 40G, HP 49G, and HP 50G


  • ClassPad 300, 330 and 400 (fx-CP400)
  • Algebra fx 2.0
  • All models beginning with...
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Should An Advanced Student Graduate Early?


I received the following question:

Hi! How do you handle the advanced student and how do colleges view young applicants. Is it better to stretch the younger student till the “typical” age before plugging her into high school/college prep classes or just let her “graduate” early and proceed as a young college student? I am conflicted!

It really can be a struggle to decide whether to just challenge a student, or whether to skip them ahead. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but here are a few questions to ask yourself to help determine which route is best for your family.

1. While your student is advanced academically, are they advanced in maturity? Many times students may be strong academically but are still developing in their self discipline, time management, responsibility and other aspects of personal maturity. They may not be ready to be around college-age students and have the responsibilities of college-level work.

2. Is your student ready to have...

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College Course Selection

college phase 5 Aug 25, 2022

By Kimball Bullington, Ph.D.

If you will be transferring or even considering transferring, make sure the courses you take will transfer for required courses in your major at your target university.  It is not sufficient to have courses that will transfer, they must transfer for the right courses.  Otherwise you will exceed the number of electives and courses will be wasted as far as your plan of study is concerned.  

Not all required courses are created equal. Generally, there are university requirements, college requirements, and major (departmental) requirements. University requirements are courses that are required for all degrees at that institution. You can schedule the university requirements at your target institution even if you are uncertain about the direction of your study. For instance, if you are still undecided between business and engineering, you can register for university-required courses and defer your decision.  Most, but surprisingly,...

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When Interests and Strengths Don't Match


I received the following question:

I have a 9th grade who wants to be an actor, yet tests gifted in science and math. What do I do?

It's a tricky situation, and one that a lot of parents find themselves in at some point. Having worked with many clients where the student was interested in a field but the parent knew that they were stronger in other areas, here are my top 5 tips.


1. Ask Questions

Stop and ask your teen "why?" Why are you interested in that field? What draws you to that industry? What do you think that job consists of, and why do you believe that would be a good fit for you? Sometimes asking questions can uncover an underlying interest that may lead to other career considerations. 


2. Focus on Positives Rather Than Negatives

Sometimes it helps to turn the conversation away from what you don't think would be a good fit, and instead focus on what they are naturally good at! Taking personality or strengths tests and discussing the results can be...

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Do Service Hours Need to be with an Official Nonprofit?


I received a question asking if community service hours have to be done with an official nonprofit, or it can count if you are helping an individual or unofficial organization. 

It's a great question, and the answer is a little nuanced.

First off, what kind of school are you applying to? Do they have a holistic application process? If not, then you should have no problems at all. Highly competitive, holistically-evaluating colleges are more likely to care about the specific organization that you volunteer for. However, even in those cases, they are likely still willing to accept and count the service hours for a group that isn't a nonprofit, as long as a name for the group is provided (and possibly contact information).

A lot boils down to how you present the information. It helps a lot if you can provide a letter of recommendation from the individual or group you helped. You can also discuss and explain your volunteer efforts in your essay (depending upon the prompt).


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It's Not a Task, It's a Project!


I was listening to Scott Young, who is a productivity and study skills expert, and he made an important distinction on a recent podcast episode.

Many times we confuse tasks with projects.

This is SO TRUE for both parents and students! Many times we create to-do lists, and put down as tasks activities that are actually more complicated projects that have multiple smaller tasks involved. Even things that might seem mundane, like making a purchase, might actually involve a more complicated process of researching that item, understanding different features, comparing brands, reading reviews, deciding where to buy, determining your budget, making the purchase, and then learning how to use/install/implement the item.

It's a whole project! Yet by putting it down as a "task," we oversimplify and underestimate the emount of time, energy and brainpower that will be involved in that one activity.

This is especially true when it comes to school, academics and study skills! Many times...

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What if my teen gets a bad CLEP test score?


CLEP. Seems like just about everyone is taking advantage of this credit-by-examination tool. But

Got a great question from a parent:

If a student takes a CLEP exam and does not make a high enough score, will it negatively impact their college transcript? Do you still need to turn that test score in to the college? 

It's important that you have all the details when it comes to utilizing any college prep tool, and the last thing we want is to do is negatively impact their chances of getting into their desired school/program.

Here are a few things to know:

  • You can send scores for free to 2 schools every time you take the test.
  • After the two free schools, you can send transcripts of your scores for $20/transcript.
  • For each transcript you can specify which test(s) you want to include.
  • If you re-take a test and get a higher score, the new score replaces the old score on your records.
  • You do have the option to cancel a test score at the end of a test (before you see your score),...
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Homeschooling High School in Tennessee


What are the basics you need to know if you plan to homeschool high school in Tennessee? Here are some of the top questions I get (also check out my Homeschooling High School Resource Guide here!).


What Are The Three Ways to Homeschool in Tennessee?

NOTE: I am not a lawyer, and this is not intended to give legal advice.

There are three ways to homeschool in Tennessee:

1. Register through your Local Education Association (LEA), basically your local public school. 

Advantages: Free, simple to do, only have to track the days you were schooling (minimum of 4 hours per day) for 180 days (the calendar you have to turn in can be found here)

Disadvantages: Have to test in 5th, 7th and 9th grade, do not have a homeschool-friendly advocate for you, the parent has to have a GED or high school diploma or utilize a tutor who has a GED or high school diploma, and there is no diploma/transcript issued (parents create diploma and transcript and have to send to colleges).


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