Rising high school seniors and their parents need to start mapping out the long road to college in August, before the high school year even begins. Those who already have set ideas of where they want to go can use this time to plan out an application and financial aid strategy. First up on the application journey is learning about the various deadlines. You don’t want to plan a route that takes too long and gets you there after the deadlines have passed.
One important thing you need to realize is that there are several types of deadlines, but you should never see the official deadline as your personal deadline. Always plan to complete requirements a little ahead of time in case something goes wrong, or to allow time to supply any additional requested information. Get yourself a big wall calendar or set up reminders in your smartphone to keep yourself on track. Some of the deadlines you need to be aware of include:
• College Application: This is the actual form to apply to a specific college. Some colleges use their own application form, some use the Common Application, and some use the Common App but also require additional information. Make sure you understand exactly what is required to apply in your field of study, and find out whether you have to audition, try-out, or provide a portfolio. Additional application components can require substantial time.
• Federal Financial Aid: There are several forms of federal financial aid which might help you pay for college. To determine your eligibility you must file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA comes online beginning October 1 and is available right through June of the following year. But you want to complete it as early as possible because some programs are only available on a first-come, first served basis. You will also need to complete the FAFSA to determine your federal student loan eligibility.
• State Financial Aid: Each state offers additional financial support to resident college students, but they also have individual filing deadlines. Most states use information from the FAFSA to determine eligibility, so make sure you know when your application must be submitted.
• Institutional Financial Aid: Each college has its own financial aid deadline which may be much earlier than expected. Read the website carefully to find the deadline, and learn whether you have to file the FAFSA, CSS/PROFILE, or both, and if any other specific information is required by the college.
• Scholarships: If you are applying for scholarships to help pay for college, you need to review each opportunity carefully to be crystal clear on deadlines.
Learn more about paying for college in my book, Secrets of a Financial Aid Pro! You’ll find complete information on financial aid, saving for college, completing the FAFSA, and student loans. Order it now, and start mapping out your road to college.