For this year’s high school juniors, college can seem like it is a long way off in the future. They might not be feeling any pressure to think about what lies ahead but, as their senior classmates are finding out this year, there is a new timeline in place which might affect the entire college application and financial aid planning schedule.
2016 is the first year that the FAFSA is available online in early October. This makes it possible to apply for early action or early decision admissions at many colleges, and to receive a financial aid determination much earlier than usual. If you are a high school junior who has not thought about applying to colleges and completing the FAFSA in the fall of 2017, here are some steps you need to take now to get prepared:
• Talk to your parents: Tell them what you are doing, ask for their advice, and get an idea of what they are thinking about in terms of a college budget.
• Start the college list: List out some of your criteria for what you are looking for in college, and research possible matches. Start a document or a file where you can store information for later review. Look at their financial aid pages to determine what the average student pays to attend each college.
• Talk to your parents again: Show them the information you have found, and find out whether the estimated costs are in line with your family’s budget. If not, you will either need to consider alternate college choices or find additional ways of paying for college. Let them know how much you are willing to work to earn money to help cover expenses if one of your favorite colleges appears to be out of financial reach.
• Schedule some visits: Work with your parents to find time where you can visit your selected colleges to get a feel for each campus and meet with the financial aid office. Perhaps you can go over the holidays or during your spring break.
• Learn about financial aid: Don’t wait until September of your senior year to start getting the financial aid facts. Do it now so you can focus on completing applications and submit next year’s FAFSA as early as possible.
• Research scholarships: If you’re good at online searches, use that skill to find scholarships that might be able to help.
If you’re thinking about the college journey, or need more information on the early FAFSA or financial aid, schedule a free strategy session with College Financial Aid Advisors now!
Get more information on financial aid in my book, Secrets of a Financial Aid Pro – it makes a great holiday gift! You’ll find information on everything from filling out the FAFSA and repaying student loans, to the financial aid timeline and saving money for college. Order it now, and share it with your parents, so you can successfully navigate the financial aid and student loan borrowing journeys.