Financial aid may be the last thing on your mind when you’re in high school. You’re already juggling a lot. But the sooner you understand how financial aid works, the better. Here are 3 critical financial aid tips for high school seniors.
Why it’s So Important to Start Exploring Financial Aid in High School
College is expensive. Take a look at the tuition fees of your shortlisted colleges. (Which you can easily do with a free College Raptor account). Most families in America find it impossible to pay the full cost of college without some sort of financial aid.
Senior year is the time to start looking into the different types of aid. The financial aid process can take time. The funding establishments receive hundreds of thousands of applications every year. They have to assess every single application and calculate the aid each applicant qualifies for. Moreover, different types of financial aid have different deadlines. It would be a shame to discover an opportunity you qualify for, only to find that it’s past the deadline.
Here are some valuable financial aid tips for high school seniors.
Tip #1. Educate Yourself on the Types of Financial Aid
Financial aid for college can come from several different sources, from the federal and state governments to colleges and private organizations. Each source sets their own unique eligibility criteria for receiving funds. Depending on your financial circumstances, a large part of the costs may be covered by the combined aid received from different sources. You only have to cover the balance you’re your personal funds. Receiving financial aid is what makes college affordable for most students.
Educating yourself on the different types of financial aid available is the first step. The next step is to review each type in greater detail to determine the eligibility criteria and application deadlines. Use this information to maximize the amount that you receive.
These are some of the types of financial aid available for college students:
- Federal Student Aid – offered by the federal government
- State Aid – offered by your state of residence
- Grants – offered by the federal governments and some states
- Scholarships – offered by federal and state governments as well as colleges and private organizations
- Institutional Aid – offered by the college you attend
- Work Study – offered by the federal government
- Corporate Employee Benefits Programs – may be offered by your parents’ employers
Tip #2. File the FAFSA
Filing the FAFSA is the first step to accessing almost all types of financial aid. FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. This application is a mandatory requirement for getting any type of federal, state and institutional aid and some scholarships.
The form is available on October 1, that’s during the first semester of your high school senior year. Although the form remains open for several months, it’s best to submit the completed application as close as possible to the opening date. The earlier you apply, the better your chances of receiving the maximum aid that you qualify for. Also, some states and colleges have early submission deadlines. Filing the FAFSA early ensures that you don’t miss crucial deadlines.
Filling the FAFSA can be time-consuming. You need to provide your personal information as well as detailed financial information. Your parents will also have to provide their personal and financial details. You can expedite the FAFSA process by doing your prep work ahead of time. Make sure you have all the information and documentation you need to fill out the forms correctly. This includes your Social Security Number, driver’s license number, and details of your savings and investments. Your parents will also need to keep all of this information ready.
Tip #3. Explore & Shortlist Scholarship Opportunities
Scholarships are a fantastic way to get free money towards college. You may have to work towards earning a scholarship, but that’s totally worth it. You don’t have to return any money that you win, neither do you have to pay any interest on it. Scholarships are available throughout the year. Every award has its own unique requirements.
College Raptor’s Scholarship Search Tool makes finding scholarships a breeze. Simply fill in some academic information and we’ll find institutional, federal, and private scholarships that you actually qualify for. Quick, easy, and free! What’s not to love?