Happy Friday! Here’s a new college acronym for you to ponder this weekend (as if you needed another one). It’s IDOC, and if your student has/is applying to an out-of-state college, and you recently submitted the CSS Profile, there is a chance that you have or will soon be contacted about IDOC. If this is you, be on the lookout for an email requesting an IDOC submission on behalf of the college.
So what it is an IDOC and how do you submit it?
First, you don’t submit an IDOC to something, you submit something (namely, your financial documents) to IDOC. IDOC stands for the College Board’s Institutional Documentation System. It was created to make the entire financial aid application process easier (theoretically, anyway) by serving as a central aggregator for your tax returns, W2 forms and certain other pertinent financial documents. If you receive an IDOC submission request, you are being asked to provide copies of these forms (once completed) to IDOC, and IDOC in turn, will submit them to the school requesting this documentation. Documents are mailed to IDOC the old-fashioned way, and to a P.O. Box so don’t think about using FedEx. Keep this in mind when considering deadlines.
Sounds reasonable, right… BUT… there’s a catch (there’s always at least one…) Some, but not all schools subscribe to this service. Other schools will instead ask you to send your completed tax returns to them directly. And still other schools don’t need (or want) your tax returns at all; rather they want you to simply update the FAFSA using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (the ‘DRT’).
Whoa! Slow down, College Pete! That’s a lot of acronyms for a Friday!
Trust me. I get it. I’ve been navigating my way through, over and around the maze of regulations, requirements, paperwork and loopholes that comprise the financial aid process for years — well before they introduced helpful, facilitative services like IDOC. Best advice: get your taxes done as soon as you can AND submit them electronically this year. Remember, all offers are contingent upon your completing your taxes. I have seen offers withheld and withdrawn because taxes are not completed prior to commencement, and I have seen paper filing significantly delay (and sometimes derail) financial aid.
I know that many of you already know this (because I’ve been saying it to you a lot — sorry to repeat myself, but a little reinforcement can go a long way). If I am working with you directly and I’m preparing your financial aid applications, please let me know about any/and all correspondence (including IDOC requests) that you receive from any of the colleges on your list!
P.S. Once again, for emphasis, my position on IDOC is this: If your child is matriculating in the Summer or Fall of 2014, Get your 2013 taxes done! And File Them Electronically!
P.P.S. If you are not working directly with me and want to learn more about how these acronym’s might affect your child’s admission’s and funding options, and more about today’s college process in general, consider coming to one of my free, public college planning classes. I’m speaking in Pembroke Pines in February. Click here to learn more about the topics I’ll be covering and how to reserve a space. And, feel free to forward this to a friend or neighbor with college-bound students. They’ll thank you for it.