High school juniors need to step up their game when it comes to applying to college. Believe it or not, the FAFSA for your freshman year in college will come online October 1, 2023. Parents and students are completing their FAFSA applications by the end of the calendar year, so it’s important that you do the same. While the fall seems far off, now is the perfect time to start preparing to complete your applications. Today, we’re sharing five steps to help your high school junior prepare for college applications. These tasks will help ensure they’re maximizing opportunities for financial aid!
#1: Narrow Down Your College List
Start reviewing college websites or reading brochures to get an idea of schools you’re interested in. We recommend preparing a list of 20 colleges and why they’re a good fit for you. From there, speaking with your family can help you narrow down the list based on fit and financial needs. Finally, begin to plan visits with your parents or other students. Nothing beats seeing a campus in person!
#2: Talk to Your Parents
You need to determine whether your parents have saved any money for your college education before anything else. After you know that, work with your parents to determine how much they can afford to contribute towards your education and what their expectations are regarding repaying any student loans you might need to use. While this is a difficult conversation, it’s one of the most important ones you need to have together.
#3: Reality Cost Check
Unless you are exceptionally gifted academically or athletically, your college education is going to put a certain financial burden on your family. Make your college choice based on the reality of what your family can afford. Don’t get your heart set on an expensive college that could send you and your family into a lifetime of debt. Calculate what each college’s costs and project your financial aid. Determine the level of student loans you will need, and then look at your potential earning power to see whether you will be able to repay those loans after graduation. College decisions aren’t all emotional.
#4: Look for Scholarships
Scholarships can make a big difference in your financial future. Many have deadlines by the end of the calendar year as well so starting to look and work on applications now can help you in the long run! Don’t miss out because you didn’t do your research early enough. Get creative and look online, as well as locally, for scholarship opportunities.
#5: Save, Save, Save
Think now about how you will contribute financially to your own education. You’ve got two summers to earn money, and should try to save as much of it as possible to put towards your education. The more you have in the bank, the less you will have to borrow. Now is a great time to pick up a job or save gifted money.
Before the applications even begin, high school juniors have a lot of preliminary work to do. Spend time researching and determining what’s going to be the best fit for you, your family, and your financial needs. Remember to complete your FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1st and meet any early deadlines you have to give yourself the best shot of maximizing your financial aid!
Want to learn more about saving for college? Check out my book: Secrets of a Financial Aid Pro. This book contains information on completing the FAFSA, applying for financial aid, paying for college, and repaying student loans. Order it now and find out how to make your college journey easier!
Who is CFAA?
CFAA helps with the financial aid process, from completing the FAFSA and completing the CSS Profile to reviewing the SAR, responding to requests for verification, comparing financial aid offers and understanding student loan options. Schedule a CFAA new client free strategy session or a 15 Minute Power Chat to learn more about finding ways to pay for college. To get the latest financial aid information and college application to-do lists, look for my JustAskJodi emails. Make sure to check out my monthly CFAA e-newsletter, too.