Figuring out how you are going to afford college is overwhelming. Between filing paperwork, remembering deadlines and worrying about getting into a program in the first place, it can feel like there is no end in sight! You can make applying for financial aid easier for you and your family by breaking down your to-dos by season. Here is a suggested timeline for making sure you’re on the right track.
The leaves are changing and the air is getting crisp. Not only is it time for Starbucks to bring back the pumpkin spice latte — it is time to begin your financial aid research. You’ll want to start with the deadlines, including state, program and early decision deadlines. Here are some tips for researching deadline dates:
- Federal deadlines are always between October 1 and June 1.
- State deadlines can be found via this search tool.
- College deadlines and early decision deadlines can be found on your school of interest’s website.
Discuss options with your guidance counselors and ask for their insight. They can assist you with filing for financial aid and understanding the process. You should also do a scholarship search to curb the cost of your college expenses and share your findings with your counselor.
The bulk of financial aid efforts in the winter revolves around filing paper work. You and your family need to prepare and collect information for income taxes due in mid-April, as this will be factored in with your reward. It is also best to check if your school’s financial aid office requires other documentation with your application. These differ from school to school and can include cost verification of studying abroad, asset verification and a projected income worksheet.
Students who applied early decision should expect to receive notification of whether or not they have been accepted for early decision. For those who have been accepted, they will move on with their financial aid plans with their choice program. Those who were denied aren’t out of the running yet, they’re still considered among those in the regular applicant pool.
You can stop waiting and start checking your mailbox. During the spring, the Student Aid Report (SAR) and financial aid letters are due to come in. The award letter should include the cost of attendance, aid you are being offered and if you are eligible for work study. If you’re having issues deciphering this information, your guidance counselor can help you work through the details. Now that you have all the facts, you can begin making your final college decision.
The list of tasks is almost complete. You can start filing for FAFSA in early October, but the application is due at the end of June — so be sure to get that in ASAP. If you still need some money for your education, you have this time to apply for supplemental financial aid such as the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG).
You’ve got a lot of options when it comes to paying for college. Create your financial aid action plan now so that you can be prepared for your upcoming educational expenses.