Information for Parents

As a parent, we know you want your student to have all the resources they need to be prepared for college.

NC Countdown to College is an annual event to support high school seniors in completing three important college enrollment steps:

  1. Residency
  2. FAFSA
  3. Applications

Use this page and the Countdown to College Application Checklist as a guide to help you and your student get started.

Remember, your student will need some of your personal information when preparing for college.  Reviewing the sections below will help you know what information is needed.

Helpful Resources

  • Is your student still unsure of their future career plans?  Have them try a Career Assessment.
  • Use the CFNC College Search to find more colleges to apply to and which schools offer your student’s intended major.
  • Visit CFNC “Pay” to learn more about financial aid, scholarships, NC Assist, and more.
  • Understand Financial Basics, giving your student information on how to budget, earn, save and spend before heading off to college.
  • Learn about the College Redirection Pool, open each year from April 1 – August 31.
  • Have younger students at home?  Consider a 529 Plan.


In order to qualify for in-state tuition, state grants, and certain financial aid, students must show they are a resident of North Carolina. Proving residency is vital in helping to cut down on tuition costs and for financial aid eligibility.

In North Carolina, residency is based on where parents live and their residency information, so you will need to assist your student with this important step. Understanding the basics will help you understand what information you will need to provide to determine residency.

Getting this done early ensures timely processing of your child’s residency. Remember, RDS and CFNC share the same account login information.


One of the smartest ways to make college more affordable is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  The FAFSA gives your student access to the largest sources of financial aid to pay for college, enabling your student to apply for federal student aid, such as federal grants, work-study programs on campus, and loans.

A dependent student will need to have one of his or her legal parents sign the student’s FAFSA form, so one parent needs an FSA ID as well. An FSA ID can be created before Countdown to College, so go ahead and get a head start by visiting the FSA ID siteAs a parent, if you do not have a Social Security Number, you will not be able to get an FSA ID. In that case you will need to print, sign, and mail in a paper signature page.

For faster FAFSA completion, use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to import your tax return information.

What is FAFSA?

What can I do as a parent?

The FAFSA on the Web Worksheet provides a preview of the questions that may be asked while completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) online at


Before your student starts applying to any colleges, you should help them research and decide which Admissions Stream is right for them.

Use CFNC’s College Search to help them research colleges.  There you can learn about a college’s average incoming GPA and test scores from last year so you can feel confident about when you want your student to apply.

If your student is applying during October (C2C Month), suggest that they apply during College Application Week when many NC colleges and universities waive their application fees.

Application Hub Overview


What happens after Countdown to College?


Your student may have to provide documentation to complete residency; remember to log in to check their status and, if needed, provide that information as quickly as possible.  Use this RDS Guide to help navigate the Residency Status Page.

Call RDS at 844.319.3640 if you have questions.

Feel that their determination is incorrect? Follow these instructions for the Residency Determination Service (RDS) Reconsideration and Appeal Process.

Their Residency Certification Number (RCN) is good for all colleges in NC and they do not need to complete the process again unless they stop out or transfer.

Remember, record your student’s RCN somewhere safe.


Your student’s FAFSA results will be sent to the colleges they selected on the FAFSA form.

Once they have been admitted, their Financial Aid Office will offer them an Award Letter electronically or in the mail.  This will provide your family with information about federal and state gift aid they have been awarded to pay for college, as well as some self-help financial aid.

These letters are sent out at different times, so be sure to communicate any questions your family might have with your Financial Aid Office.

Find out additional information about Financial Aid Offer Letters at Federal Student Aidincluding which financial aid type is best for your student,  types of loans to accept, and when to expect the financial aid offered.


Now that your student has applied, you should both understand the Next Steps in the Application process.

Your student’s applications can be tracked through CFNC’s Application Hub.  If your student attends an NC Public High School, the Application Hub can also be used to send their electronic transcripts to NC Colleges for free.

Your colleges will reach out to your student with any questions or concerns – hopefully they will receive those acceptance letters soon!

Other admissions decisions may allow your student to attend their college of choice, even if they are not initially accepted.  These admissions decisions may include:

  • Wait-listed
  • We need future test scores
  • We need first semester grades

If your student has any questions about what these and other admissions decisions mean, they can contact the colleges to which they have applied.