NC Countdown to College FAQs
Parent and Family
During a student’s college application process, there are forms that ask for a variety of information from students and families. Each college application, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and the NC Residency Determination Service (RDS) are completed using parent/family information for dependent students, and college-specific forms and scholarships may also ask for family information. Navigating FAFSA and RDS is a great resource to help families complete FAFSA and RDS.
Families can also support students by sharing their own career and college journeys, encouraging students to actively research and visit colleges to find the right fit for them, and discussing ways to pay for college such as a college savings plan, applying for financial aid and finding scholarships. Students and families can find lots of information and resources to help with these on CFNC.org and the Countdown to College pages.
NC Countdown to College (C2C) is a month full of support for students and families going through the college application process during October of each year. During this time we encourage and assist students and families in completing the 3 steps to college enrollment: admissions applications, financial aid applications, and residency determination.
College Application Week is from 7:30 am on October 17 through 11:59 pm on October 21. During this week, many North Carolina colleges and universities waive their application fees. Qualifying students can use the College Board or ACT fee waiver for institutions not waiving their application fees (see your high school counselor for more information). CFNC Application Hub
Colleges have different types of application deadlines with different timelines. Once senior year arrives, encourage your student to visit college websites to learn about the deadlines for each college. Be mindful of the difference between early action, early decision, regular decision, and rolling admission deadlines. Some may be as early as October, while other deadlines aren’t until the spring. For NC Colleges, take a look at this summary of deadlines from CFNC: NC College Admissions Deadlines
There is great information on the many ways to pay for college on CFNC’s Paying for College page, but one key date to put on the calendar is Oct. 1st. This marks the opening of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to apply for aid the following academic year. This free application (from the U.S. Dept of Ed) is used to determine a student’s eligibility for federal and state financial aid. College deadlines and requirements vary, so encourage students to check college financial aid pages, in addition to looking for scholarships year-round.
You are in the right place! CFNC.org has many resources to help your student (and you) navigate this process. We recommend looking through each section of the site to find the tools to plan for a career, find colleges, apply to college, apply for financial aid, locate scholarships, and start (or continue) saving for college.
During October, the Countdown to College page also contains special event links and resources tailored to the needs of students and families during the application process.
The FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is the primary form for students seeking federal and state aid, and is also used by colleges and universities to help determine what students qualify for in need-based aid. Students who wish to apply must meet the basic requirements to qualify for federal aid and complete the FAFSA.
The FAFSA is completed by the student seeking financial aid, and it will need to be completed for each year a student plans to attend college/request student financial aid. Dependent students will need a parent to help complete the FAFSA. For more information about who may be a parent on the FAFSA, read the Federal Student Aid guidelines.
If no tax return was filed, the taxpayer’s W-2 and 1099 statements and/or the last pay stub can be used to complete the FAFSA. In the event that the taxpayer is self-employed, a signed statement confirming the amount of adjusted gross income may be used.
Yes. Students must meet the basic requirements to qualify for federal aid and complete the FAFSA. Federal and state financial aid eligibility is based on the student and is not determined by the parent’s citizenship. Additionally, there are institutional and private scholarship funds for students with a variety of citizenship statuses. See the CFNC.org Scholarship Search, each college’s website, and other local and national scholarship searches for more information.
The RDS is a centralized service to determine if a student qualifies for in-state tuition at NC public colleges and universities and is eligible for NC state grant consideration at all NC colleges and universities. For more information see the Top10ToKnow.
Any undergraduate or graduate student applying for admission, readmission, or transfer to a state-supported college or university and claiming residency must use RDS for residency determination.
Additionally, students applying to, or enrolled at, a North Carolina Independent College or University who wishes to be considered for a North Carolina state grant must use RDS to determine residency prior to consideration.
A detailed listing of when to use RDS is listed in the Tuition Benefits section under the RDS and Campus-Level Residency Determinations section.
It is beneficial for students to complete their NC Residency Determination Service application prior to any NC college admissions application submissions.
The NC RDS classification remains effective for 15 months (455 days) after it is completed. Because a student will need this determination to be active upon enrollment, high school students applying for Fall admission should consider completing the RDS form no earlier than July prior to their final year of high school.
Residency classifications only need to be completed once as long as the student maintains continuous enrollment at the same institution.
A student’s free CFNC.org account is also the login for RDS. If a student already has a CFNC account login, they should use this to log on to the RDS system. If the student does not yet have a CFNC account, they can create one on the CFNC.org page or the NCResidency.org page.
Parents are welcome to create a FREE CFNC account, but a parent account is not needed to assist students with college applications or residency determination. The student should use their own CFNC login to complete these tasks.
If a student isn’t sure how or where to apply to a college, the CFNC Application Hub is a great place to start for colleges and universities in North Carolina. The Application Hub allows students to connect to and complete applications at all 111 NC institutions, 2-year or 4-year, public or private. It also allows students to track online applications and transcripts in a single place. For out-of-state options, the admissions website for each college will provide a link to their preferred online application(s).
Each college admissions website will have information on college application fees. NC Community College applications are free, but there may be fees to apply to other colleges and universities.
Free College Applications on the CFNC Application Hub during College Application Week! College Application Week is traditionally held during the 3rd week of October. During this week, many North Carolina colleges and universities waive their application fees. Find the list of colleges waiving fees on the NC Countdown to College pages.
Qualifying students can use the College Board, ACT, or NACAC fee waiver for institutions not waiving their application fees (see your high school counselor for more information).