May and June are “moving up” months in most high schools. The seniors graduate and head off to college, while juniors become the “rising seniors.” With one final exciting year of high school remaining, applying for college can often be the last thing on juniors’ minds. They need to be aware, however, that they might need to take college action much earlier than anticipated because the system of applying for financial aid has changed.
It might seem like October is a long time into the future, but rising seniors might need to complete the FAFSA and/or the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE shortly after the applications come online. Take a close look at prospective colleges and find out their admissions and financial aid application deadlines. This will give you a good idea of the timeframe you need to shoot for, especially if your student is interested in an early decision or early action application.
Another reason to target October 1 is that the FAFSA is the gateway to most forms of federal, state and institutional financial aid. These can all be a great help in paying for college, but some have limited amounts of money available. Awards are only granted until the funds run out. To get started, here are things you can do to prepare your junior/rising senior for upcoming October college deadlines:
• Know your costs: Have an honest discussion with your student about what it costs the family to support someone in college. You still have to run your household, plus you will have the additional burden of supporting another person who may be living a separate life in another town or state. There are many costs involved in this such as tuition, room and board, travel, and living expenses that the family does not have to shoulder now. Be aware of what is involved, and know what you can afford.
• Project your financial aid: There are some good calculators available which can give you an estimate of the college financial aid you might be able to receive. These figures are not set in granite until each individual college makes an official financial aid offer, but they can give you a good idea of what to expect. If the figures don’t fit your family’s finances now, you’ve got some work to do over the summer. You may need to consider other colleges, research student loans or look for scholarships that can help bridge the gap.
• Get prepared: Find out what you need to know about the FAFSA now, and get your documentation in order so that you don’t get behind the eight ball. It is not known whether the IRS Data Retrieval Tool will be back online by fall, so be prepared to have all your documentation easily accessible.
Congratulations to the high school classes of 2018 – you have made it the next rung on the ladder to your future, so keep on climbing!