Community College Choices

Education, Affordability and Convenience

Who Me? Cheat?

Students at community colleges are caught cheating at just about the same rate as students attending four year colleges and universities.  Students normally think of cheating as taking unauthorized notes into a test, getting an old test and using the answers for your test, copying a paper that another student wrote, having another person write a paper or take a test for you and of course, there is  plagiarism.

Of those plagiarism is often viewed as the least offensive.  However, plagiarism is also one of the most grey areas and one that students sometimes even don’t realize they are guilty of.

So what constitues plagiarism?  Plagiarism is using another’s work without proper citation iincluding using footnotes and bibliography.  Students often copy material word for word right off the page of the internet without thinking they are doing anything wrong, afterall it;s the internet right? Wrong!

So just how do plagiarist get caught?  Professors can easily spot students work that is different than previous work submitted.  Also an even more obvious way is that professors are normally very familiar with their area of expertise and know all the work that has been submitted in their project area.  Professors can quickly see duplicate material which has already by written by their fellow experts. Experts tend to use certain unique phrases and when students take on those phrases without giving proper credit it quickly become obvious the work was ‘lifted” from another source.

So just how do you protect yourself and keep your integrity intact?

  • Take proper notes and use footnotes and complete bibliography documenting all of your sources.
  • All sources need to be cited whether they be written works from books, newspapers, videos, internet or in person interviews.
  • Make sure you add your own individual thoughts on topic.
  • Do not EVER buy a paper from a source thinking it will be unique.  It will not and you will pay the penalty for your lack of iniative.  Those paper producing sites have sold that paper many times, no matter how much they claim they are unique.
  • Do not work with another student on your paper unless your professor specifically indicates that the colloboration process is ok.
  • Do not wait too long to get started on your paper.  When time is running out students are often under stress and will plagiarise in order to try and catch up and get the work done on time.

Your integrity is important and how the professor views you can well effect how they will help you in emerging in your field and finding a good job.  You want your professors to view you as a credible and professional person.  They can help you get that perfect, well paying job and it is important that they are always working on your behalf.

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SAT and ACT Standardized Tests

The SAT and the ACT are two college standardized tests that colleges often require to help determine admission acceptance. Most colleges prefer one or the other. By the spring semester of your junior year in high school, if you have not already taken one of the tests, you should do so now. You may want to consider taking both of them this March or April in order to see which one better serves your needs and abilities.

The SAT and the ACT tests are offered several times a year. Most students take the SAT for the first time during the spring of their junior year and a second time during the fall of their senior year.

The SAT and SAT Subject Tests are a suite of tools designed to assess your academic readiness for college. These exams provide a path to opportunities, financial support and scholarships, in a way that’s fair to all students.

As the nation’s most widely used college admission test, the SAT is the first step toward higher education for students of all backgrounds. It’s taken by more than two million students every year and is accepted by virtually all colleges and universities.

The SAT tests the reading, writing and math skills that you learn in school and that are critical for success in college and beyond. It gives both you and colleges a sense of how you’ll be able to apply the thinking, writing and study skills required for college course work.

Subject Tests are hour-long, content-based tests that allow you to showcase achievement in specific subject areas where you excel. These are the only national admission tests where you choose the tests that best showcase your achievements and interests.

SAT Subject Tests allow you to differentiate yourself in the college admission process or send a strong message regarding your readiness to study specific majors or programs in college. In conjunction with your other admission credentials (your high school record, SAT scores, teacher recommendations, etc.), they provide a more complete picture of your academic background and interests. Some colleges also use Subject Tests to place students into the appropriate courses. Based on your performance on the test(s), you could potentially fulfill basic requirements or receive credit for introductory-level courses.

Also so please note you may want to save SAT Subject Tests, if needed, for the late spring so that you can benefit from a full year of course content before taking them.

The ACT is a national college admission test that includes the subjects of English, math, reading and science.

The differences between the ACT and the SAT are The ACT is an achievement test, measuring what a student has learned in school. The SAT is more of an aptitude test, testing reasoning and verbal abilities. The ACT has up to 5 components: English, Mathematics, Reading, Science, and an optional Writing Test. The SAT has only 3 components: Critical Reasoning, Mathematics, and a required Writing Test.

These standardized tests are important but your current classes and grades are even more important. Make sure you stay on top of your course work and grades and never allow standardized tests to distract from the priority of your classes.

Some tips in prep for the standardized tests include formal class options, test prep books and online review classes, online tutorials and practice tests. There are so many options available just check some out online and see what works best for you. Remember too if you anticipate testing will be an obstacle to your candidacy, consider investigating schools where testing is optional or flexible.

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College Applicants: Create a Stellar Online Presence

Students who have a stellar image online can improve their college admission chances.  In some cases when students apply to college their online image is put the test to see just how the student actually present themselves.

Children are going online at younger and younger ages and thus are creating an online identity that follows them into adulthood.  As a college applicant it is important that you create a stellar online presence. When someone Googles your name they quickly get an online look at who you are and admissions counselors are increasingly going to the Web to look at their candidates.  According to Kaplan Test Prep, 27% of officials said they used Google and 26 % reported they checked Facebook as a part of the applicant review process.

For applicants that means make sure you maintain a clean social media presence and make sure there are no posts or pictures that you would want a college admission’s reviewer to see.

The following are three tips to help you make the most of your online presence:

1. Enhance Your Google Search Results:  First and foremost students should do when making sure their online presence is a positive one is to Google themselves. If you don’t like what you see then getting to work replacing it with more favorable information.  One thing they can do is get interviewed by your local paper.  Newspapers all have an online presence and the best way to get positive notice is to be quoted or reported in an upbeat news article.  Things like working with a fundraiser, environmental project or receiving an academic awarded all get you where you want to be in print and on Google.

Students can also shine on Google by building a website that focuses on a positive interest or topic.  Try to include your name in the domain name in order to get to the top of search results.

2. Make those E-mails professional: When corresponding with admissions officers through E-mail, students should always be cognizant of how they’re representing themselves. Their emails should be professional, with no spelling  or grammatical mistakes.  Remember first impressions count and that first E-mail is a first impression.  Students should remember also to always sign the email.

3. Create a proactive social media presence:  Remember social media can work in your favor.  Students should upload photos and information that shows them in a positive manner such as working as a camp counselor, fund raiser or other community service project.   Being proactive in your social media is much better than being defensive and trying to block out things you would not want others to see. Also think of posting all your honors, awards, achievements on Facebook. Think of Facebook as your wall of achievement and make it shine.

Following these 3 tips can make you a stellar star both online and off and help the college of your dreams see you as a must have student.

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Finding Your Comfort Zone on Campus

Oh those high school days when you knew everyone and everyone knew you. You had your friends, your activities and your places to see and be seen. It was all so comfortable and familiar. But now, here you are in college, amongst strangers and not quite sure where you fit it and you are looking forward to finding your comfort zone on campus.

This is especially true at community colleges where the student body is so diverse. There are students from every age, many commuting students and students from all walks of life all taking classes at all hours of the day. Some of these students are so busy with their work life and home life they have little time left for a college life. So just where do you go and just how do you fit in and more importantly how do you get your campus life to seem like any kind of life at all?

First you attend the college orientation and you will find a myriad of opportunities of school groups; sport groups, academic groups, religious groups and tons of activity groups. Seeing all those groups and all those signup sheets can be a bit overwhelming. Do you know how you want to spend your time in college? Are you sure about that? Why do you not quite feel the same about the same activities you pursued in high school?

The following are some tips to help you decide and discover how you might like to spend some time with campus activities:

1. Think about why you participate in each activity listed on your college application.
You know what you like back in high school but think about why you like it? Was it because it was your friends were doing? Was it because you loved the focus of the group or was it something to do because you did not have anything else better to do that semester. If you loved it and want to stay with it you will probably like it in college too. If not then….
2. Remember the importance of trying new things – there’s no better time than college to step out of your comfort zone.
Part of the lure of a college campus is that there are so many different places to exercise the passions that were limited to one club or opportunity in high school. What can youOh those high school days when you knew everyone and everyone knew you. You had your friends, your activities and your places to see and be seen. It was all so comfortable and familiar. But now, here you are in college, amongst strangers and not quite sure where you fit it.

This is especially true at community college where the student body is so diverse. There are students from every age, many commuting students and students from all walks of life all taking classes at all hours of the day. Some of these students are so busy with their work life and home life they have little time left for a college life. So just where do you go and just how do you fit in and more importantly how do you get your campus life to seem like any kind of life at all?

First you attend the college orientation and you will find a myriad of opportunities of school groups; sport groups, academic groups, religious groups and tons of activity groups. Seeing all those groups and all those signup sheets can be a bit overwhelming. Do you know how you want to spend your time in college? Are you sure about that? Why do you not quite feel the same about the same activities you pursued in high school?

The following are some tips to help you decide and discover how you might like to spend some time with campus activities:

1. Think about why you participate in each activity listed on your college application.
You know what you like back in high school but think about why you like it? Was it because it was your friends were doing? Was it because you loved the focus of the group or was it something to do because you did not have anything else better to do that semester. If you loved it and want to stay with it you will probably like it in college too. If not then….
2. Remember the importance of trying new things – there’s no better time than college to step out of your comfort zone.
Part of the lure of a college campus is that there are so many different places to exercise the passions that were limited to one club or opportunity in high school. What can you do here that you could not do in high school? What activities do they offer you never dreamed of trying?
It may be overwhelming at first at the thought to conquering a new adventure but think about it and see if now is them and this is the place to seize the opportunity to try something new.
3. Don’t let the sheer number of organizations at your college or overwhelm you.
Standing in a blur of tables and signs and people can be terrifying as a first-year student. It’s not unusual to hear students decide to avoid the activities fair. However by avoiding the informational event you often lose the chance to at least get a glimpse at what is offered. You do not have to make any decisions or commitments today so go, see what is offered and ponder the possibilities. You might even make a new friend or two along the way.
4. Don’t worry about finding your fit on campus.
You will find your place on campus but it won’t necessarily be the first day, the first week or even the first semester. Take your time, explore the possibilities and give yourself plenty of time to adjust. If something isn’t right, try something else. These activities do not have to be lifelong commitments. College is a time of exploration and discovery and you are on a wonderful journey. Enjoy it
do here that you could not do in high school? What activities do they offer you never dreamed of trying?
It may be overwhelming at first at the thought to conquering a new adventure but think about it and see if now is them and this is the place to seize the opportunity to try something new.
3. Don’t let the sheer number of organizations at your college or overwhelm you.
Standing in a blur of tables and signs and people can be terrifying as a first-year student. It’s not unusual to hear students decide to avoid the activities fair. However by avoiding the informational event you often lose the chance to at least get a glimpse at what is offered. You do not have to make any decisions or commitments today so go, see what is offered and ponder the possibilities. You might even make a new friend or two along the way.
4. Don’t worry about finding your fit on campus.
You will find your place on campus but it won’t necessarily be the first day, the first week or even the first semester. Take your time, explore the possibilities and give yourself plenty of time to adjust. If something isn’t right, try something else. These activities do not have to be lifelong commitments. College is a time of exploration and discovery and you are on a wonderful journey. Enjoy it and soon enough you will be finding your comfort zone on campus!

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Be Prepared for a Video Interview

One new trend in interviewing prospective applicants is video interviewing with short videos which give employers a quick introductory peak at potential employees. One nice thing for employers when video conferencing the employer can ask specific challenging on the spot questions to applicants.  That is just one reason you might at some point in your professional career have to participate in a video interview.

To make the best first impression, experts say you should:

• Be enthusiastic. Being constantly upbeat when you’re staring at a computer screen may be difficult, it’s important you appear attentive, enthusiastic and motivated.

Think about why you’re passionate or excited about the job, then pump yourself up to sit down and let that show through. Think about listening to your favorite music beforehand or reading inspirational quotes to get yourself in the right frame of mind.

• Look professional.  Just because you are in front of the computer screen doesn’t mean you can be casual and wearing just any old thing or having messy hair will not make a good impression.

If you don’t appear professional, an interviewer will be distracted and you’ll convey the message you didn’t care enough about the job. Dress as you would for an in person interview and think about how the clothes look on a computer screen.  Avoid busy patterns and noisy jewelry that would clink as you move.

• Check your surroundings.   Look at what the viewer will see after they see you. Make sure your surroundings look just as professional just as you do.

Tidy up the area as much as possible, and make sure your face is lit clearly. Lighting only from above can cast shadows on your face and make you look tired.  Also noisy children and pets should be kept out of sight and audio range.

• Sit up.   This is one time you should especially remember what your mother meant when she said “Don’t Slouch” You many not even be aware how often or how often you slouch when you are sitting at your computer.

For the interview position yourself directly in front of the computer. Keep your eyes on the video camera “eye” so that it appears you’re looking directly at the person conducting the interview.  Pay attention and don’t revert to your nervous gestures such as tapping your fingers, jiggle your legs or swivel your chair.

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• Spontaneity Counts.  It is important that you speak confidently and professional but they conversation should be natural and not stiff. Don’t use written notes as it may appear that you are reading a script.

• Do your homework.  Make sure you are aware and understand the industry and the company. Think of some ways the company is committed to its customers and focus on it and why you want to work there.

Finally, to get some feedback on your interview ask a professional friend to watch it.  Look for words that you use too frequently such as “like” or any words that you tend to use often.  Feel free to practice in front of mirror but not so much that you sound rehearsed.

You need to sound confident and well-spoken during an interview. Any flaw can get you deleted quickly from an interviewer’s files even though you know you are the very best fit for the organization.

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5 Steps You Need to Take Now to Maximize Your Financial Aid

The Financial Aid search is a never attending quest whether you are a high school senior preparing to enter college or a college grad preparing to enter post graduate studies. With that in mind now is the right time to take another look at your financial aid packages.
Here are some of the things we’ve found  that are important to do at the start of a new year.
1. Review your current financial aid package: Take a look at your current aid and determine its current value and worth. Are you up for renewal or was this a one-time offering that is no longer valid. Also take a look at the requirements in order  to keep a recurring package such as number credit hours needed, any tie into a current major or tie into maintaining a certain GPA.
2. Its FAFSA Time: The new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) was made available at FAFSA.gov on January 1. Some forms of financial aid are limited and many aid is on a first come, first serve basis. Get going on your FAFSA so you don’t miss out.
3. Pay attentions to deadlines for scholarship renewals: If you have a scholarship that is nonrenewable and that needs to have a new application each year make sure you have that application prepared in plenty of time for any mandated deadlines.
4. Claim your financial aid: Make sure for any renewable scholarship, that you claim the full amount so that you do not turn down any aid. If you need to claim your financial aid package, make sure you know the process and when you need to do it in order for the amount to be deducted from your tuition bill.
5. Explore new scholarship opportunities: Search for any new opportunities that may be coming your way such as different activities and interests you have developed since you last applied. You can also often find smaller scholarships to cover the costs of attending retreats, seminars or work initiatives. These activities are not covered by normal scholarships but if you are find a scholarship to cover the cost of the event it means less overall money is coming out of your budget. If you’re doing anything at school that your tuition doesn’t cover—such as pledging a fraternity or sorority, joining an honor society, or going on a service trip—explore your options for scholarships for those endeavors as well.

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Three Tips To Help With Your Financial Aid Quest

The 2013 fall college season will be here before you know it and already those college bills are becoming due.  With that the search for college funding is on alert and folks and looking at every resource possible to secure the necessary college funding.

More than  3 million students are applying to US universities, colleges and community colleges  and many more than that are already on campus and all of them are searching for next year’s funding.  With that in mind now is the time to get out and get that funding secured.  Here are some tips to make the quest a bit easier and hopefully more successful.

  • Get your FAFSA form in early.  The earlier you submit the Free Application For Student Aid Form the better your chances of getting your share of the funding. Technically, Uncle Sam wants to see the form completed and delivered by the middle of February for the upcoming academic year.  However, the secret to FAFSA is that it’s a “first come, first serve” program so that means get it in as early as possible.
  • Make your college funding campaign a part-time job.  It is normally believe that more than $11 billion is available in merit aid from colleges and universities. Even though obtaining a good scholarship may depend on your good grades, there are still plenty of {niche” scholarships available in areas such as athletics, charity and community service for college students.   There are also scholarships out there based on local efforts and smaller schools.   To make sure you locate any and all sources possible is to ta ke the time needed to pour through all of the options. Start with Finaid.org for a huge list of available scholarships, grants and loans to see what is available for your situation.
  •  Remember you can negotiate. When it comes to college funding don’t give up without negotiating.  Colleges that have already accepted may work with you to see that get the funding you need.  Make sure you tell the school why you absolutely have to have more money, why your family situation needs the money and why you are the best student for their institution.  Make your case in a positive, professional tone.  You have nothing to lose and may even gain some additional aid.

When it comes to financial aid the harder and earlier you work the better your chances of receiving aid and funding.  The time to act  is now for a better financial situation this coming fall.

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Jump Start Your Career

 

Every year students wait until they graduate to start looking for that all important first job on their career ladder and in the job market that is a definitely a wrong move.  According to a recent study students are not aggressively preparing for their post-college careers during their time on campus making their job search even more difficult after graduation?

The study results show that although 85% of students surveyed consider internships important to their future career prospects, only one-third have a presence on LinkedIn, a key networking tool for connecting with internship opportunities. Only one in nine student respondents have an online blog presence on Word Press.

Students need to create a professional online presence, start making contacts and work to build their resumes with experience before their last semester rolls around if they want to increase their chances of gaining employment upon graduation. By starting  early, students also can begin to get a clearer idea of the kind of work they want to do, the type of work environment they want to be in, and how they want to use their skills, interests and passions.

To avoid last-minute panic  prior to and after graduation  college and career experts offer the following tips to students to get ready for the workforce and build their resumes throughout their time in college.

Find and Use the Career Center.

Make an appointment to speak with a staff member at your career center and you will  personalized advice and guidance early on.  Stop back as you advance in your degree program to revisit your goals and make sure you’re still on track.

In addition to resume and interview workshops, career centers can often put interested students in touch with alumni in their field of study to build relationships over the next few years. If you try to get help, the career services people will see that you’re putting in effort and so they will be more likely to connect you with alumni for an informational interview.
Go to Career Fairs for Dress Rehearsals

Students who attend on campus events early during their college stay will learn how they work, how to interact with prospective employers, learn what skills and experience hiring managers are looking for in candidates, as well as what to bring, how to dress and how to behave.  Companies usually send the same recruiters to campus every year, giving students the chance to show their professional persistence and create lasting connections with hiring managers.

Get Internships/Work Experience

When competing for internship opportunities, students can’t afford to wait.  Getting that first internship is important because then you know how to get an internship and you understand what the work place is like.  It  changes your life basically and there needs to be more emphasis freshman year on figuring out how to get all students internships.

While 91% of employers want prospective hires with internships they also view any kind of work-related experience can be just as valuable.  That even includes the position you may do a job on campus with the library or in an office at a front desk. By working while attending school students are gaining valuable customer service skills, team building skills, time management skills and about professionalism.

Start Creating Your Networking

The experts emphasize the importance of continuously building up professional networks, both on and offline.

Students should join LinkedIn to learn where to start looking for opportunities that interest them. Not only does it have value for possibly networking and connecting to people, it’s an extremely valuable tool for researching organizations or people who are working in certain organizations to researching alumni who might be in the geographic area you want or in an industry you want. Students are urged to create a profile and get connected with others in their field as soon as possible, even with limited work experience.

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Managing Student Loan Debt

Many students, overwhelmed with student loan debt, unwisely feel that they have no other options but defaulting on their federal students loans.  However this is an extremely bad decision which can impact their life for many years to come.

For the first time on record, the delinquency rate on student loans has jumped above the rate for credit cards, car loans, or any other kind of consumer loan.  Many of those loans will default, with stunningly harsh consequences, even though there are many good options for debt relief—deferment, forbearance, or reductions in monthly payments.

In most cases the federal government will work with borrowers from giving up and walking away from their loans. Some of the options include:

  • Borrowers who are unemployed, in the military, or back in school can ask for up to three years or full or partial deferment on repayment of a federal loan.
  • For those who have a job but don’t earn enough to cover the monthly payment, there are six options: graduated repayment, extended repayment, income-based repayment, income-contingent repayment, income-sensitive repayment, and pay-as-you-earn repayment.

If you choose to default some of the penalties include:

  •  The federal government can garnish up to 15 percent of a borrower’s wages, Social Security disability, and Social Security retirement income without a court order.
  • Unlike other debt, student loans can’t be discharged in bankruptcy. Collection charges of up to 20 percent can be skimmed off the top of payments—enough to turn a 10-year loan into a 19-year loan. To say nothing of the lasting damage to a borrower’s credit score, which will make it hard or impossible to get a credit card, auto loan, or mortgage?

Why do so many people default on their student loans?

Some may not understand their options, or put off dealing with the problem. Also, research shows that many borrowers consider their student loans illegitimate and don’t feel they should have to pay them back. In fact, default rates are four times as high for dropouts, who presumably feel they didn’t get their money’s worth.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York has reported that the percentage of student loan balances that were 90 or more day’s delinquent rose to 11 percent in the July-September quarter, higher than the delinquency rate on credit cards since the survey began in 2003. The spike comes at a time when youth unemployment remains historically high. Even for those with jobs, people are paying ever more money for educations that don’t equip them for jobs that pay them enough to cover their debts

At the same time, delinquency rates on credit cards, auto loans, and mortgages have been falling because bad credit has been washed out of the system. There’s no such cleansing mechanism for student debt, which now totals $956 billion in outstanding loans, according to the New York Fed. The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, using different methodologies, says student loan debt passed the $1 trillion mark sometime last winter.

Then there’s the fact that some of these student borrowers were probably lousy bets for repayment in the first place. The federal government, which holds 85 percent of outstanding student debt, doesn’t make loans to students based on their ability to repay them. That may sound crazy, but it is designed to ensure that students of all backgrounds and income levels get a shot at a college degree.

When it comes to managing your money and student loan debt, it is in your best interest to examine all of your options before walking away from your debt and ruining your credit for many years ahead.

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The Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

The New Year is a very important time for those students and their families who plan on attending college this coming fall.  On January 1, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA begins. Each year there are over $150 billion in grants, loans and work study funds distributed for those students who qualify.

It is important if you are filing for student financial aid that you do it early and correctly in order that you have the best chances of receiving the aid that you need especially since there are schools and states that go by the first come, first served basis. Each state has its own deadline for completion and submission for financial aid but for all students attending college this fall the FFSA apps must be received by June 30th.

Many people put off filing the FAFSA until after their taxes have been completed but that is a mistake because the earlier you file the better your chances for receiving some assistance.  It is far better to estimate your taxes than to wait and lose any money you might have otherwise received.

Some important facts in why you should complete the FAFSA are that is a valuable resource option, it is free, it is easy and it only takes 30 minutes to complete.  Those 30 minutes of your time may bring in a lot more financial opportunity that you might have otherwise received.

Some important tips to remember when completing the FAFSA are:

  • Read and follow all directions for completing the form. You certainly don’t want a clerical error to stop you from receiving aid.
  • Make sure you correctly enter the student’s legal name, social security number, and birthday
  • Do not forget to enter the PIN for the student and parent before submitting, as this serves as the electronic signature for the FAFSA
  • Answer all questions correctly and completely
  • Update the family’s financial information immediately upon completing your tax return if an estimate was given prior to doing taxes
  •  When it refers to “you,” it is referring to the student.
  • Don’t leave an income question blank—put in a zero instead.
  •  Most students under the age of 24 are still dependent.
  • Remember to sign and date the form.
  • Don’t list your adjusted gross income as equal to total income.
  • Remember to list colleges.

To assist you with completeinng the form the there is  IRS Data Retrieval Tool.  With this tool families filling out the financial details online can tap into their tax information from the IRS to automatically populate the FAFSA form. The tool this year will be available starting in early February.

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