Financial Aid Application Timeline
Applying for financial aid is a multi-step process. Although it can feel overwhelming, it happens over a long period of time, which helps in mapping out the financial aid application timeline. Here is a calendar to help stay on top of the requirements and meet deadlines.
- Create a Federal Student Aid (FSA) ID. Both students and parents create a FSA ID username and password to apply for the FAFSA.
- Research and track college specific financial aid deadlines. Each college communicates their financial aid requirements and deadlines.
- Determine your college financial fit. If you want to know if your top college choices will fit your family’s unique financial situation, consider using our College Cost Estimator. In a matter of minutes, you can assess the financial fit for a specific college based on personalized estimates of college costs, student debt, graduation rates and estimated earnings.
- Explore and start to apply for scholarships. Check out large scholarship search engines like the College Board’s Scholarship Search, Scholarships.com, and Fastweb. Ask your college counselor for a list of local scholarships that are available. Reach out to employers, as well as organizations you and your family are affiliated with, including religious, military, athletic or membership organizations to determine if they have a scholarship and how to apply.
- Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Beginning on October 1st of each year, you can apply for aid for the following academic year. Be prepared with financial and tax information, as well as Social Security and driver’s license or government ID numbers to complete the form. While the FAFSA can be completed until the deadline of June 30th the following year, don’t wait. Many state agencies, colleges and universities have earlier deadlines to prioritize the distribution of their scholarships and grants.
- Complete the CSS Profile. More than 400 colleges, universities and scholarship programs require applicants to use the CSS Profile. The CSS Profile costs $25 for the first college or organization. Each additional college/organization will cost $16.
- Review your Student Aid Report (SAR) for accuracy. Check the information that you submitted to the federal government in FAFSA. Also, check out any other summaries of financial aid and scholarship applications that you received to be sure they are free of errors. If any discrepancies are identified, work with the organization to correct them.
- Inspect any early decision or early action financial aid offers. If you want to compare aid offers, consider using our College Cost Estimator. Comparing aid offers doesn't take long. The first college takes about four minutes and just another two minutes for each college after that.
- Review any financial aid offers as they arrive. Our College Cost Estimator can be used at any time to calculate your net price for any college, see how far your savings and cash will stretch, and then see your eligible financing options side-by-side. This can help you to make the best financial decision to pay for college based on your unique financial situation.
- Confirm your college choice. Each college will have their own process, but most require that you complete a form and send a deposit.
- Send a copy of your final high school transcript. Many high schools let you complete a form to request the transcript to be sent well before you graduate. Ensure your final GPA meets any merit scholarship requirements.
- Apply for Federal Direct Student Loan, if applicable. If you wish to take out a Federal Direct Student Loan, you will need to complete the legally binding master promissory note that outlines the terms and conditions of repayment. In addition, you will be required to complete entrance counseling and an acknowledgement of your student loan rights and responsibilities.
- Apply for other financing options. If you use our College Cost Estimator, we will not only help you to determine the best college financial decisions for your family, but also share the next steps to secure your selected financing for example our home equity line of credit.
- Complete any other forms required by your college choice. You may be selected for a process called verification where you will need to confirm the accuracy of data provided by selected applicants on the FAFSA, CSS Profile or other financial aid applications.
- Review your first college bill. Ensure all scholarship, grant and loan funds are applied to your student account and are reflected on your college bill. If something is missing, contact the applicable organization that is giving you the funds. If all these funds are not enough to cover your entire college bill, then ensure you pay the rest by the deadline or sign up for a tuition payment plan to spread payments over three to six months for a specific enrollment period.
- Consider finding a job. If you have been awarded work-study or just interested in working part-time, most colleges have a job listing website. Be prepared to complete job applications or share your resume and interview for the job. Working less than 15 hours a week often contributes to better grades and taking less time to get your degree.