College costs are continuously increasing, fortunately, financial aid is available to help reduce education expenses. However, many students and families miss out on financial aid solely because they do not apply or they apply too late. Keep reading to make sure you're making the most of these financial aid opportunities, and remember, don't miss your deadlines!
How do you Apply for Financial Aid?
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the one form all students seeking federal financial aid must complete. The FAFSA becomes available October 1 of the year prior to the year in which the student will be attending college. For example, if the student will attend college in the Fall of 2021, the 2021-2022 FAFSA would become available for students to complete starting Oct. 1, 2020. Want to learn more about what goes into the FAFSA? check out “Everything You Need to Know about the FAFSA."
The FAFSA may not be the only form that students need to complete. Some colleges, usually private colleges, will require that the students complete the CSS PROFILE. Unlike the FAFASA, the CSS PROFILE is not free and will ask for more detailed financial information, such as non-custodial parent’s information. The CSS PROFILE offers fee waivers for students who qualify. To see if your institution requires the CSS PROFILE you may visit the CSS PROFILE’s website or the financial aid offices’ website for your school to see what forms are required.
The final form that may be required is an institution’s financial aid form. Typically, if a school requires the CSS PROFILE they will not require their own institutional form.
The best way to know which forms are required will be to visit the websites of all schools where the student is applying. The schools will list the required forms and deadlines. Students should apply for financial aid even before knowing if they have been admitted into the school.
Importance of Deadlines
Waiting too long to apply for financial aid, or even missing the deadline, could reduce how much aid students receive. Most schools will have different financial aid deadlines. Here are some tips to make sure you meet those deadlines:
- Make a list. Visit each school’s financial aid website and make a list of the different deadlines and forms required.
- Apply for financial aid to ALL schools you're considering by the earliest deadline. Choose the earliest financial aid deadline and plan on submitting all financial aid forms (to all schools) by that date.
- Submit your forms early! Submit the forms at least a week before the earliest deadline. Life happens! To ensure that you won’t miss the deadlines, plan to submit at least a week before.
- Double check on your submitted forms BEFORE the deadline. Confirm that your forms were received at least 3 business days before the official deadline.
- Don't forget to re-apply every year. Remember to apply for financial aid every year the student will be in school.
Staying organized will help students and families access all the financial aid they are eligible to receive. If you ever have questions, reach out to the financial aid offices of the universities you're considering as soon as you can. Financial aid counselors are there to help you through the process. The earlier you reach out, the earlier they can help.
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