We have all heard that the early bird gets the worm, but does that also mean that the early applier gets the financial aid? In a year when the FAFSA submission process has been turned on its head, students are wondering exactly how the early FAFSA availability is going to affect their financial aid opportunity.
Keep in mind that there are two types of deadlines when applying to colleges – the application deadline and the financial aid deadline. Within the application deadline, you might have the option of early decision, early action, regular admissions, or rolling admissions. Each college sets its own deadlines for each type of application.
The confusion this year is coming with the financial aid deadlines. Since the FAFSA is now available in October instead of January, colleges are trying to determine whether they need to adjust their financial aid deadlines in any way. Some have and some have not. It is very important that students and parents check each college’s website to find out whether it uses the FAFSA or CSS/PROFILE, and when it must be submitted. You don’t want to miss a deadline.
It is always best to complete the FAFSA as early as possible, as some financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. If you receive a request for verification you also want to make sure you respond to that as quickly as possible. Students for applied for early decision or early action might receive their financial aid award notices as early as December, which could start narrowing down the availability of certain types of financial aid.
Although you want to apply to college and submit the FAFSA as early as possible, make sure you have all of your financial aid award letters before making your final selection. The purpose of the early FAFSA was to make this easier, so colleges could be announcing their awards much earlier than ever. Keep a lookout in your email to make sure you don’t miss any communications from your prospective colleges. Know when your college requires a definite commitment from you, and adhere strictly to that deadline.
The early bird may get the worm, but the smart worm gets to eat all day. Plan your college application tasks wisely and you will soon be one of the wise birds who is attending your top college with the maximum amount of financial aid to which you are entitled. If you need more information on how applying for college financial aid coincides with your college application schedule, 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 including admissions deadlines, financial planning, filling out the FAFSA, award letters, searching for scholarships, and comparing student loan options. Order it now, and get the information you need to successfully navigate the financial aid journey.