Well, we are coming to the end of the first year for the revised timeframe in financial aid. Starting with the early FAFSA in October and ending with May’s Decision Day, college-bound high school students have been learning to adapt to a new order of things when it comes to paying for college.
Although some families may still choose to spread their activities over a longer timeframe, many have found that the process is now more condensed into the period from September through December. This can put a lot of pressure on families that are not aware of the new approach. To ease a lot of stress later on, here are some things that can be done during late spring and summer to be prepared for the fall rush:
• Application and Financial Aid Deadlines: Current high school juniors who will be entering their senior year in the fall need to pay particular attention to a variety of deadlines. Start getting that college list together now, visit some campuses over the summer, and narrow the possibilities to a strong top ten. Then look carefully at each of their websites to find their application and financial aid deadlines. They may be earlier than you think which could really alter what you need to do to be prepared.
• FAFSA Availability: Once again, the new FAFSA timeframe is that it will be available online beginning October 1. That means that anyone who plans on attending college during the 2018-2019 academic year – both new and returning students – needs to be prepared to complete this application as soon as possible after its availability date. Although it is technically available well into next year, the best strategy is to complete it as soon as practical so you don’t miss out on any possible financial aid. Learn about the FAFSA, and gather all the information and documentation you will need in advance so you won’t have to scramble at the last minute.
• Scholarships: Some scholarships are available year-round, but many do have a late fall or end-of-year application deadline. If you are busy at that time completing admissions and financial aid forms, you might find yourself too busy to complete any scholarship applications as well. Don’t lose out on money you might be eligible to receive simply because you are unprepared. Look for scholarships now, and start submitting applications as soon as they become available.
• Student Loans: If you have never borrowed money through a federal or private student loan, take time to learn more about them now. If you are a returning student, re-evaluate your student loan usage from this year, and determine if there are any ways you could do better next year.
Spring and summer are usually times of fun and frivolity. If you plan on going to college in the fall, though, you need to schedule in some serious financial aid work as well.