The end is near! No, not the end of the world – the end of the college application and financial aid process is near for the next high school class. It’s been a long and sometimes confusing journey, but the prize of being able to attend a favored college should be well worth the effort. In another four years, you will have a degree that should help start you on a rewarding path in life. Just to make sure everything is in place, here are the last few steps you need to take to get to the financial aid finish line:
• Make sure the FAFSA has your 2017 tax info: April 15 is almost here and you should definitely have completed your 2014 taxes by now. If you used estimated figures on your original FAFSA application, you must go back and utilize the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to update it with the most current information.
• Supply all requested information: If your application was selected for verification, you must get all the supporting documentation to the school in a timely manner so they can make a final decision regarding your financial aid.
• Let the school know if your financial situation has changed dramatically: Something may have happened since you submitted the FAFSA which could have an impact on your ability to pay college costs. If your parents got divorced, or if there was a job loss, medical emergency, or natural disaster, let the school know about it and they may be able to revise your financial aid package. You’ll need to supply documentation, so start gathering that as soon as possible.
• Look at the financial aid offer one last time: Take a few quiet moments to look at the financial aid offer from your top-choice school one last time. Compare it to any other offers you have received and make sure it is reasonably similar. If there is a noticeable difference, contact the financial aid office and ask them about it. You may be able to supply additional information to bolster your case for a higher amount of aid.
• Keep searching for scholarships: You should always be looking for scholarships to help take the bite out of college costs. There are many year-round and late-deadline scholarships that are still available.
• Compare student loan options: If everything else is in order and you know that you will definitely have to borrow some money to attend college, start comparing your student loan options now. The first path is to utilize federal student loans, but after that you will need to investigate private student loan options more closely.
Once you have your financial aid house in order, it’s time to sit down and start working on a budget for your freshman year. You want to be sure you can live within the amount of money you will have available once you get to campus.