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4 Tips for Making Good Financial Choices for College: Navigating Financial Aid for Juniors and Seniors

4 tips for making good financial choices for college shared by financial aid expert Jodi Okun at College Financial Aid Advisors
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College choices are popping up like flowers this spring, and let’s face it, it can be a bit overwhelming… especially when it comes to picking the right financial aid options. But don’t stress! Here are four easy steps for high school juniors and seniors to help you breeze through these decisions and make a savvy choice! Although your decisions might look a little different, the same principles still apply to you both.


The thinking and waiting process makes choosing a perfect college difficult. Certain important questions must be answered, such as: What college will students be happy at? What can parents afford? What financial aid path is best for families? These reflections will answer the majority of these questions and provide a starting point for conversations with your family.  


High school juniors  should start to reflect on what they want from their college experience. Use this time to do their research on the different types of financial aid and varying scholarships available. It’s also a great time to talk with your family about budget and funds. Being informed enables students to grasp an understanding of the financial aid process as a whole and what plan will be most favorable for all parties in the long run. 


This time of year is important for seniors to start picking what college is best for them not only with financial aid, but other attributes as well. As seniors start to approach the end of the year, college acceptances and financial aid offers/awards are rolling in. It is critical to address all aspects of each respective school with the whole family so that the final decision is clear with everyone in the family. 


Spring is the time for students to refine their list of preferred colleges. Narrowing down a list of financial aid offers, identifying the path that will accomplish what students want is a significant step in the  timeline. Students need to remember to prioritize location, size of school, financial aid offer, specific major when narrowing down their choice. Look at all aspects of the schools!   


It is never too early for high school juniors to start generating a list of colleges they are interested in and would like to investigate further. Aim for a list of five to ten colleges that they could see themselves at and do research on those specific schools. 


Students need to communicate with financial aid offices, school counselors and their families to determine what option and financial aid path is going to be the best option for everyone. Use this time to your advantage and thoroughly compare award letters and offers. Reducing the list of awards and deciding between two to three options will allow everyone to come to a consensus more effectively. 


Now is the time for high school students to start signing up for classes, clubs, tests, and other important preliminary college requirements. They also need to register and submit your financial aid form in the fall. Students and parents alike often forget that there are deadlines! High schoolers should stay in contact with their school counselor as well as the desired colleges’ financial aid office. 


Although college seems to be far off, signing up and creating an account for Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will ultimately give students a headstart when filling out financial aid forms. Contact the financial aid offices of students’ potential colleges to discuss the baseline of what a student may be eligible for or any questions they have. 


The time has come where incoming college students should be evaluating the financial aid offers from the colleges they were accepted to. Depending on the types of financial aid students end up opting for, they will  need to complete verification documents along the way. 


The final step of making sure students receive the financial aid package that best accommodates their needs is to organize their plan. It is imperative to go over the financial aid requirements and what each award is offering in advance so you know what’s available for you. . 


With upcoming deadlines, incoming seniors need to start planning and staying on track to prepare to complete all forms and applications. If students follow the three prior steps, they will not be overwhelmed with trying to rush and complete applications and make errors.


Fall is still very far away, but graduating high school seniors need to stay organized with their financial aid timeline. Follow up with the financial aid office of their college if needed. Obviously this year has been a bit different than most. Next year college students with financial aid should be well prepared to fill out the form every upcoming year of attending college as well as fulfill the requirements of the financial aid award. 

Don’t leave financial aid until the eleventh hour! The sooner you start, the more breathing room you’ll have to weigh your options. Keep in mind: today’s seeds grow tomorrow’s flowers! 

More about Jodi and College Financial Aid Advisors

Jodi is a FAFSA financial advisor who helps with the financial aid process to help families of college students maximize their financial aid. From completing the FAFSA and completing the CSS Profile to reviewing the SAR, responding to requests for verification, comparing financial aid offers and understanding student loan options, Jodi is a fantastic resource when it comes to student financial aid. Schedule a 15 Minute Power Chat to learn more about finding ways to pay for college.

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