College-Bound Student? Fill Out FAFSA Now

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application period began October 1, and families in Illinois with a college-bound student should fill out the form as quickly as possible. The reason for that is that Illinois’s Monetary Award Program (MAP) grants are provided on a first-come, first-served basis until the funds are depleted, and the state usually provides no more than a 24-hour warning for when those funds are gone.

When filling out the FAFSA, be sure to avoid these 12 common mistakes:

  1. Not completing the FAFSA form.
  2. Not using the correct website.
  3. Not filling out the FAFSA form as soon as it’s available.
  4. Not filing the FAFSA form by the deadline.
  5. Not getting an FSA ID before filling out the FAFSA form.
  6. Not suing your FSA ID to start the FAFSA form.
  7. Not using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (IRS DRT).
  8. Not reading definitions carefully.
  9. Inputting incorrect information.
  10. Not reporting required information.
  11. Listing only one college.
  12. Not signing the FAFSA form.

Finally, don’t forget to check out the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) website for additional information and help in filling out the FAFSA.

Help Your Child Develop Financial Literacy

As part of Illinois PTA’s continuing effort to implement the Resolution on Financial Literacy passed at the 2017 Illinois PTA Convention, we have been providing local units and councils with information to share with their families on the topic. A new financial literacy resource, Better Money Habits, has been created through a partnership of Bank of America and Khan Academy.

The Better Money Habits website offers families a variety of topics specifically concerning children and money. Among the topics are:

  • Top questions kids ask about money (and how to answer)
  • How teens manage their money: What parents need to know
  • How to establish money rules for your child at any age
  • Teachable money moments for your child

The partnership with Khan Academy includes a collection of videos focused on careers that ask young adults in those jobs how they are handling their personal and professional financial responsibilities. The videos provide insight into what their job duties are and what their typical day is like. Careers highlighted in the videos include:

  • Salon Owner
  • Firefighter
  • Architectural Designer
  • Commercial Pilot
  • Education Resource Specialist
  • Senior Product Manager

Check out the Better Money Habits section on children and money, the Khan Academy videos, and the Better Money Habits website as a whole to help your child improve their financial literacy and prepare for a life after high school graduation.

Photo © 2003 by Jacob Edward under Creative Commons license.

September 20 is National School Backpack Awareness Day

Backpacks that are too heavy or worn incorrectly can cause problems for children and teenagers. Improperly used backpacks may injure muscles and joints which can lead to more severe back, neck and shoulder pain as well as posture problems. However, when used correctly they are a good way to carry the necessities of the school day. They are designed to distribute the weight of the load among some of the body’s strongest muscles.

When selecting a backpack, a few items to look for:

  • The correct size for your child. It shouldn’t be wider or longer than your child’s torso or hang more than 4 inches below your child’s waist.
  • Wide padded shoulder straps to prevent from digging into shoulders.
  • Two shoulder straps and multiple compartments help distribute the weight equivalently.
  • A lightweight backpack is best so there isn’t additional weight from the backpack itself. Recommended guideline is the backpack shouldn’t weigh more than 10% of the child’s weight.

To help prevent injury encourage your child to use both straps, tighten the straps so it is close to their body, use both knees when bending, and only carry necessary items at one time. Remember, the more space there is to fill, the more likely your child will fill it.

Keeping Kids Safe in the Car

Next week, September 17-23, is Child Passenger Safety Week, with September 23 being National Seat Check Saturday. Here’s some information on how to keep your child safe in the car and what PTAs can do to support child car safety.

Did You Know?

  • Car crashes are a leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 13. Many times, deaths and injuries can be prevented by proper use of car seats, booster seats, and seat belts.
  • Illinois requires all children under the age of 8 be property secured in an appropriate child safety restraint system. This includes the use of booster seats, which must only be used with a lap/shoulder safety belt. A child weighing more than 40 pounds may be transported in the back seat without a booster seat, secured with a lap belt only.
  • The Illinois Secretary of State’s office provides child safety seat inspections by certified child safety seat technicians at many Driver Services Facilities throughout the state through its Keep Me in a Safe Seat Program. To schedule a child safety seat inspection, please call 866-247-0213 or complete a Child Safety Seat Inspection Form.

Child Safety Seat Guidelines

  • Read and follow the child safety seat and vehicle manufacturer’s instructions for installation and height/weight guidelines.
  • Newborn to 12 months and weighing less than 20 pounds should always ride in a rear0facing infant seat.
  • Ages 1 to 4 years: Children should remain in rear-facing safety seat until age 2, or until they are at the upper height or weight limit of the seat. Once they out-grow a rear-facing safety seat, they may transition to a forward-facing seat with harness system.
  • Ages 4 to 8 years: Children should be secured in a forward-facing safety seat with internal harness system until they reach the upper height or weight limit allowed by car seat manufacturer. Once they out-grow the forward-facing seat, they may transition to a belt-positioning booster seat.
  • Ages 8 to 12: Children should stay in belt-positioning booster seat until they are tall enough to properly fit in an adult lap/shoulder belt.

Parents and Caregivers

  • Set an example by wearing seat belt on every trip no matter how short.
  • Make sure children are properly buckled up in a car seat, booster seat, or seat belt, whichever is appropriate for their age, height, and weight.
  • Have all children age 12 and under sit properly buckled in the back seat. If possible, properly buckle children in the middle back seat because it is the safest spot in the vehicle.
  • Never place a rear-facing child safety seat in front of an air bag.

What PTAs Can Do

  • Partner with local emergency personnel, hospitals, or other organizations to schedule a “Safety Seat Check”
  • Contact the Illinois Secretary of State’s office to do a Child Passenger Safety Presentation for your parents and community. To schedule a presentation call 866-247-0213 or complete a Traffic Safety Program Request form and select “Child Passenger Safety Presentation.”

Additional Resources