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August OrganizeBuy a sturdy folder where you can file the plethora of financial aid documents you will amass over the course of your college education. Request InformationCall your potential Colleges and ask them to send you information and applications. Take note of any special requirements the college might have for admission. Travel Make use of your summer vacation to visit college campuses. Although classes may not be in session, many financial aid and advising offices stay open throughout the summer. Call ahead and schedule appointments. You can always go back in the fall to see the college in session and get a feel for the social environment.
September Talk Make an appointment with your high school guidance counselor to develop an application game plan. Ask him/her about college fairs or if the school will be hosting college representatives. Register It’s time to register--and study--for the SAT and ACT exams. However, many college programs require additional standardized testing for consideration. Find out what tests are required by your college of choice Apply EarlyConsider early application/early action session and get a feel for the social environment.
October Request FAFSA Obtain a copy of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and/or other financial aid forms from your high school or by calling 800-4FED-AID. Start Writing Get a jump start on those scholarship essays and application forms. Gather Documents Request several copies of your transcript, and ask your teacher for letters of recommendation. Go Online Research outside scholarship information. There are hundreds of search engines that will help you explore many college funding alternatives.
November Follow Up This will be your month to follow up on everything you started in October--collect your letters of recommendation, make final revisions to your essays, and complete your early admission/decision application
December Apply Complete, photocopy and submit all of your regular admission college applications
January Compete and file your FAFSA forms online or Mail the paper form to the address listed on the form Understand Your Financial Situation College financial aid offices often take special budgetary circumstances into consideration when awarding financial aid. Unusual medical expenses, unemployment, or any other circumstances that affect your family’s ability to pay for college should be communicated in writing to your college
February Call Check in with the Financial Aid Office to make sure they do not require any additional financial aid forms independent of FAFSA
March Make Corrections You should receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) shortly after filing your FAFSA. The SAR summarizes your financial aid eligibility and is where it is you make any needed corrections to your submitted information
April Watch the Mail You should be receiving college admissions letters and financial aid award letters. Do the Math Compare your financial aid awards versus the cost of attending for each school. Decide what college you will attend based on the programs of study available and your ability to meet tuition costs. Accept (or Decline) Your prize After coming up with a financial strategy with your family, decide if you will accept all or part of the financial aid offered by your college. You may decide that you do not want to accept a particular loan or work-study program that does not suit your specific needs. Once you make a decision, sign and mail all of the forms including the ones declining acceptance to the college you will not attend. The college can then relocate your financial award to other students. If necessary, apply for private loans to supplement your federal aid.
May Follow up Check the status of your financial aid package. Back up Be prepared with a back-up plan to temporarily cover immediate costs in September in case there is a delay in financial aid disbursement. Follow-up: Check on the status of your financial aid package
June Finalize You’ve filled out the forms, met the deadlines, and left yourself enough time to clear up any last minute snafus. However, confirm with your college that all documents have been filed so you won’t have to do any scrambling.
July Choose your dorm Many colleges hold orientation sessions in the middle of the summer during which you can pick your dorm. Depending on your chosen mode of transportation and personal needs, having the foresight to plan ahead will save you time and money.
Pack Your Bags! You are now prepared for a stress-free semester --financially anyway. Don’t forget to budget some of your summer job money for weekend movies and entertainment