Spring Into Action and Get a Head Start on Financial Aid

Spring Into Action and Get a Head Start on Financial Aid

When we review the first October FAFSA in 2016, one of the takeaways will be that it helps to be prepared. Although “Be prepared” is the well-known Scout motto, even students who participated in Scouting seem to forget its many benefits when it comes time to think about paying for college.

Although many high school seniors and their parents completed both the college application and financial aid application process in a timely manner, others felt overwhelmed by the rush to get everything done on time. Although it might seem early in the calendar year for current high school juniors, they are really rising seniors who suddenly find themselves with a lot to accomplish in a very short timeframe. Here are some steps students and parents can take in the spring to get a head start on financial aid:

• Know your deadlines: One sad reason students miss out on financial aid is because they don’t know their deadlines. Each college has its own financial aid application deadline you simply cannot miss, or you risk not even being considered for any financial help.

• Save those tax returns: Beginning October 1, 2017, the FAFSA will come online for the 2018-19 academic year. This means that anyone who is planning on attending college in the fall of 2018 must complete this application in order to be considered for financial aid at the colleges which they hope to attend. Using the prior-prior-year theory, this year’s FAFSA will rely on data from your 2016 federal income tax return in order to calculate your Estimated Family Contribution, or EFC. While applicants were previously able to utilize the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, or DRT, there have been some complications with that function and it is currently unavailable. In case it is not back online by October, you will need to have easy access to your 2016 returns and supporting documentation so you can submit the information manually.

• Document any changes in your family’s financial situation: Since this year’s FAFSA will rely on information from last year, it is possible that there could be changes in your family’s financial situation in 2017. Although you must still utilize the 2016 information on your FAFSA, document any changes and submit them directly to your colleges once the FAFSA has been completed.

• Research student loans now: Although you might not know exactly how much money you will need to borrow right now, you don’t want to make a bad decision about student loans in the future because you are pressed for time. Learn about the differences between federal and private student loans now, so you will know what your options are once the financial aid offers start to arrive.

If you complete those tasks, you can always look for scholarships. Leave yourself a little flexibility this summer and spring into action now to get a head start on your college financial aid.