Is it possible to experience inflation, and worry about a recession at the same time? Apparently so, since that is what seems to be in the news headlines these days. We haven’t thought about the economy too much over the last few years, as we were focused on just getting through COVID, but it is back to being front and center. For parents of high school seniors, money questions all focus on the cost of being able to send their student to college.
Students who will be high school seniors in just a few short weeks know there are a lot of deadlines coming up – they have to watch their college admissions deadlines for early decision and early action applications. They also have to be ready to complete the FAFSA as soon as possible after it comes online in October. One other timeframe to be very aware of in these uncertain economic times is that for scholarships.
It can be tricky to predict exactly what college tuition will look like for the 2023-24 academic year, although net cost calculators on your colleges’ websites should give you a pretty good idea. There is also ongoing speculation on the federal level that the amount for Pell grants will be increased. While these elements are pretty much out of your control, one area where you can take action now is scholarships.
Many college scholarships are available to help cover the anticipated costs of attending college. Some scholarships are large and some are small, but they can definitely help families pay a portion or all of the bills – especially at a time when money might be especially tight due to inflation.
Scholarships have a wide variety of deadlines. Some require an application at a certain point in the senior year of high school – usually in the late fall or early winter, but some go well into the spring and even into the freshman year of college. So, I generally recommend that students put together a scholarship timeline to be aware of the various deadlines, and set aside appropriate planning time. Here are some steps to get you started:
- Get organized: Think about your unique skills and abilities, to find areas that might offer scholarship possibilities. Contact trade associations in your field that might want to support young talent. Look for friends or relatives who work in that area as well.
- Start a possibility list: Create a chart to help organize your scholarship opportunities. List out deadlines and submission qualifications, and allow sufficient time to complete everything. Be aware that some may require letters of recommendation, which can take time to obtain, so build that into your schedule.
- Set a steady pace: Don’t get so wrapped up in the scholarship side of things that you neglect the application and financial aid sides. Work out a schedule where you spend a set amount of time on each task every week.
- Get ahead of the game: Don’t wait until the last minute to apply, even if the deadline isn’t for a few months. Knock off the top scholarships on your list as soon as possible, and allow time in case you forget something.
- Stay organized: Don’t let your scholarship communications get lost among your other notices. Keep a separate file and email address so everything is easily accessible. Keep copies in case something gets lost.
Some scholarships require you to complete the FAFSA for the 2023-24 college year. That will be available October 1, 2022, so make sure to file your 2021 federal income tax return, apply for an FSA ID, and have all your financial documentation in order by then.
CFAA helps students who are planning for college with every step, 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.