Follow these steps to maximize your financial aid awards:
- Make sure you have your Department of Education PIN.
- Fill out the FAFSA as soon as possible after January 1st.
- Check with your school of choice to see if they want you to fill out a CSS Profile.
- 3 weeks after filling out the FAFSA, if you have not received your SAR by email or postal mail, call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243
- Start looking for scholarships and state financial aid.
- If you do not think your taxes currently reflect your situation see our Special Circumstances page.
- Call your school and make sure it has received your SAR.
- Once you get your Financial Aid Award Letter, go over it and make sure you are offered enough aid to cover all of your education costs.
- If you have completed your taxes and estimated them on your FAFSA, make the correction so the school gets your updated financial aid information.
- Contact school to make sure all loan paperwork is filled out prior to the beginning of classes.
Financial Aid Timeline for High School Students
High school students need to start thinking about filling out the application early in their senior year. The junior year should be spent working on your GPA, getting high test scores, and picking out the colleges to which you want to apply. Even if your family is on a tight budget, do not automatically rule out schools with high tuitions. You might be eligible for scholarships that will lower the cost drastically.
Senior Year Checklist
- Early in your senior year, start mailing out applications to various colleges. You can also start searching for federal scholarships and state scholarships and begin the applications for these.
- Fill out the FAFSA as close to January 1 as possible. The sooner you fill this out and submit it, the more likely it is that you will receive federal aid. If your parents have not yet filed their taxes, ask them to estimate their income on the form. You can always change the form later on. Make photocopies of everything before you mail them.
- Find out if you need to fill out the CSS Financial Aid PROFILE form.
- Look over the Student Aid Report and make any necessary changes to it. The SAR tells you how much money your family is expected to contribute to your education.
- March is when you should start looking out for admissions award letters in the mail and in your email. Each admissions letter may come with a separate form that tells you how much aid the school can award you. Do not make any hasty decisions until you have heard back from every school to which you applied. Some schools may offer substantially more aid than others.
- Examine each school’s financial aid offer and compare them. Figure out which school falls within your budget. Do not forget to factor in the cost of rent, commuting costs, food, and books.
- Accept the school of your choice and sign the financial aid award letter.