Whether you’re a freshman who just started high school or you are staring down the barrel of your impending graduation, organizational checklists and being prepared are keys to success. We’ve compiled a checklist with handy tips to help you keep track of important financial aid information so you do not miss out on funds that are due to you.
It’s never really too early to start planning financially for college or getting ready for a successful future.
Start looking into colleges you may be interested in. This will give you a better idea of the cost of attending different public, private, and community colleges. Understanding the difference in cost of tuition will shape all future decisions you make about which colleges you can afford to attend and how much financial aid you will need to cover the cost of attendance.
Attend a financial aid event. Not too many juniors attend financial aid events simply because they think it is too early to be thinking about this aspect. Taking the initiative to attend such an event during your junior year can give you the advantage of a head start. It helps you understand the possibilities and gives you lots to think about.
Finances looking grim? Look into an after-school job, or try to find a job over the summer.
In some states, you may be eligible for local scholarships if you get a specific score on the SAT or ACT. If you reside in one of those states, taking the SAT or ACT in your junior year can help you rack up the savings.
Brush up on your essay-writing skills. This will help you win more scholarship awards, and get you ready for writing college app essays.
Gather any financial documents you may need, including tax return information, and financial statements. When the time comes to file financial aid forms, you will have all your documentation ready.
Get to know your counselor. When it comes to college applications, acceptance, and scholarship information, your school counselor is your best friend.
First Semester, Senior Year
Any time after October 1, you can start filling out your FAFSA. You’ll need to create a user name, and password and you’ll be assigned an individualized PIN, so make sure you keep a copy of all this information handy.
Fill out your FAFSA and any local financial aid documentation you may need.
Now is the perfect time to research different types of financial aid and understand the differences between grants, scholarships, federal student loans, and private student loans.
Go to any and all financial aid events you get the opportunity to.
Start researching scholarship opportunities, both online and offline. Local scholarships tend to have less competition so check your local papers and community bulletin boards.
Second Semester, Senior Year
Check the status of your FAFSA.
Apply for any private scholarships you may have found.
Select the financial aid package you have been approved for. Make sure you do this prior to the deadline.
Get in touch with your college’s financial aid office if you need any clarifications or to negotiate a better financial aid package.
Mark the deadline to pay your first tuition bill and make sure you have all your finances in order. You definitely do not want to miss this deadline.