High school juniors need to step up their game when it comes to applying to college. With the new timeframe changes, the FAFSA for your freshman year will come online October 1, 2017. Evidence from this year’s application phase indicates that the majority of parents and students are completing their FAFSAs and applications by the end of the calendar year, so you will need to gear yourself towards meeting those deadlines as well. Here are five steps to take before June to make sure you don’t miss out on maximizing your financial aid:
1. Cull That College List: Start pouring over college websites or reading brochures to get an idea of schools you might like to attend. Try to come up with a list of your top twenty, along with reasons why you think they might be a good fit. Then ask your parents to help narrow the list down based on your family’s financial circumstances. Finally, see if you can arrange visits with your parents or other students from your school. You want to be able to supply a list of colleges to receive your financial information when you complete the FAFSA in October.
2. Talk to Your Parents: You need to determine whether your parents have saved any money for your college education, how much they can afford to contribute towards it, and what their expectations are regarding repaying any student loans you might need to use.
3. Align Costs with Reality: Unless you are exceptionally gifted academically or athletically, your college education is going to put a certain financial burden on your family. Make your college choice based on the reality of what your family can afford. Don’t get your heart set on an expensive college that could send you and your family into a lifetime of debt. Calculate what each college costs, project your financial aid, determine the level of student loans you will need, and then look at your potential earning power to see whether you will be able to repay those loans.
4. Look for Scholarships: Scholarships can make a big difference in your financial future, but many have deadlines by the end of the calendar year as well. Don’t miss out because you didn’t do your research early enough.
5. Save, Save, Save: Think now about how you will contribute financially to your own education. You’ve got two summers to earn money, and should try to save as much of it as possible. The more you have in the bank, the less you will have to borrow.
High school juniors need to do a lot of preliminary work before applying to college. Get it done by June and then set up your timetable of what needs to be done over the summer. You want to be able to complete the FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1, and meet early application deadlines so you have the best shot at maximizing financial aid.