Another school year is coming to a close, and I hope everyone is looking forward to a great summer. Before you set your mind on vacay-mode, however, there are a few last minute financial aid details to manage, so you don’t lose your financial aid eligibility. Here is what high school juniors and graduating seniors need to do:
Current High School Juniors/Rising Seniors:
Your summer will probably be packed with college visits and college applications, but don’t forget that you will be submitting financial aid applications beginning October 1 – just about four months from now. Here are some steps you can take to get ready:
- Use a free scholarship searchto find scholarships for which you might want to apply. Some deadlines fall as early as the summer between 11th and 12th grades, so prepare to submit applications soon.
- FSA ID: Create a unique username and password that you’ll use to confirm your identity when accessing your government financial aid information and electronically signing your federal student aid documents. You can learn about the FSA ID and create yours now. You must create your own FSA ID; if your parent creates it for you, that’ll cause confusion later and will slow down the financial aid application process.
- Narrow down the list of colleges you are considering attending. If you can, visit the schools that interest you. Contact those colleges to request information and applications for admission. Ask about financial aid, admission requirements, and deadlines.
- Decide whether you are going to apply for admission under a particular college’s early decision, early action, or regular decision program. Be sure to learn about the program deadlines and requirements.
- Use the Federal Student Aid Estimator, and compare the results to the actual costs at the colleges to which you will apply.
Graduating High School Seniors/Rising College Freshmen:
You might already feel like a freshman, with just a few months to go before the actual experience begins. Here are some steps you can take to make sure your financial aid is on track:
- Decide Which Student Loans to Accept: Accept only the student loans with the most favorable terms and conditions; usually, those are federal student loans. If you are considering getting a state loan, school loan, or private student loan, learn about the differences between federal and other loans. If you have questions or don’t understand what types of loans are in your aid offer, contact the school for information about what you’re accepting and the repayment terms. Borrow only what you need! If your living expenses are not going to be as high as the amount estimated by your school, you can turn down the loan or request a lower loan amount. Your school will tell you how to do this in your aid offer.
- Inform Your School About the Financial Aid You Will Accept: Your student financial aid offer will include directions on accepting aid. Follow those directions carefully. You might have to enter the amounts you’re accepting in an online form and then submit the form. If you receive a paper aid offer, you might have to sign it and mail it back to the school. Accepting a loan or grant listed in the aid offer may involve additional steps, which vary depending on the type of loan or grant you’re receiving. Saying yes may be as simple as signing a promissory note or it may include entrance counselingif this is your first federal loan.
Congratulations on successfully making it through another year. Have a great summer, and best of luck with all your college and future plans!
Remember that CFAA helps with every step of the financial aid process, from completing the FAFSA and completing the CSS Profile to comparing financial aid offers and understanding student loan options. Rising seniors can set a CFAA new client free strategy session or a 15 Minute Power Chat to learn about finding ways to pay for college. To get the latest financial aid information and college application to-do lists, look for my bi-weekly JustAskJodi emails and check out my monthly CFAA e-newsletter.