Perhaps you are a parent who has already taken steps to get your high school student into a great college, or you might be one of those who are wondering what all the other parents mean when they toss out abbreviations like FAFSA, SAR and EFC. If you’re not sure about what to do next, here are some monthly suggestions that might make the process a little easier:
• September: Your child will probably need to write a few essays in the next few months, so encourage him or her to start now. If your child is applying to colleges that use the Common Application, there are essay prompts. These essays must be between 250 and 650 words. There is also an Additional Information area to share any relevant information that is not captured elsewhere in the application. If the selected school does not use the Common Application, look online for their application and essay requirements. There may also be some scholarships which require essays, so don’t throw out any ideas.
• October: On October 1 the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA goes LIVE. Usually it is best to do this as soon as possible to make sure your child gets the maximum amount of aid available. If your child has not taken that SAT or ACT yet, or is not satisfied with their scores, they can sign up to take the SAT or the ACT in August, September and October.
• November: If your child is set on a specific school, you can suggest trying for early decision or early action, both of which have November deadlines (check with your child’s desired school for the specific date). Early decision is binding and requires your child to attend that college, depending on a suitable financial aid package. Early action is a little more flexible and allows your child to apply to more than one school.
• December: If your child didn’t take advantage of any early decision or early action opportunities, then December is action time, as most regular application deadlines are January 1. This is also the time to get going on the search for college scholarships.
There will be a little time while you wait for decisions from the schools, but keep looking for scholarships and start thinking about the financial end of paying for college. A professional college financial aid advisor can guide you along each step of the way. For more information about maximizing financial aid, contact College Financial Aid Advisors (CFAA).