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Learn How to Create a Strategy for College and Financial Aid Applications

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Learn How to Create a Strategy for College and Financial Aid Applications

College applications won’t open until the fall. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to do for rising high school seniors and their families right now. The first major step is to decide which schools your student is planning to apply to in the fall. After that’s decided, it’s time to begin a strategy for applications – both for schools and financial aid. To build your family’s strategy for college and financial aid, you need to understand the variety of deadlines you’ll come across.  You don’t want to create a strategy that takes too long – especially after the deadlines have passed.

Remember (and we cannot stress this enough): the official deadline on any piece of your application or financial aid should not be your student’s or family’s personal deadline. Always plan to complete requirements a little ahead of time in case something goes wrong, or in case you have to supply any additional requested information. Now’s a great time to get yourself a big wall calendar or set up a digital calendar with reminders to keep yourself on track. 

Here are some of the college and financial aid deadlines you need to know: 

College Applications 

This is the actual form to apply to a specific college. Some colleges use their own application form and some use the Common Application. 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 and must be considered.

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 typically (though it is in December this year!) and is available right through June of the following year. Trust us, 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.


 If you are applying for scholarships to help pay for college, you need to review each opportunity carefully to be crystal clear on deadlines. They will all vary, especially if they’re through private organizations. See more tips on scholarships here! 

Now that you’ve got an idea of what kind of deadlines to watch for, it’s time to begin pulling together whatever deadlines apply to your student and your family. Spend an afternoon reviewing what. Each school will need and add them to your calendar. Your roadmap is starting to develop! 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 with a little extra help.

Who We Are 

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 15 Minute Power Chat to learn more about finding ways to pay for college.

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