When to Apply for Financial Aid

By Julie Gross

Your student’s senior year of high school is now in full swing and they are diligently working on their college admission applications.  As parents, we are starting to sweat a bit over the astronomical costs ahead. Instead of just worrying about it, we can do something productive and apply for financial aid. Every family with a high school senior should be submitting a FAFSA this fall as many colleges will require the FAFSA in order to be eligible for merit-based and need-based scholarships.

When and how does this work?

The FAFSA and CSS Profile are the two main financial aid applications required when applying for financial aid.  Both forms are available online on October 1st. These forms are not due October 1st. As a matter of fact, most colleges do not start processing financial aid applications until November. I can tell you this from both professional and personal experience.  Your student should submit an admission application before you submit any financial aid applications and you should make yourself aware of pertinent deadlines. Required forms and deadlines are readily available on all college websites. You should not, under any circumstances, wait until your student is admitted to apply for financial aid or scholarships. Missing important deadlines can result in a reduction in aid and disqualification for valuable scholarships. 

As we eagerly await October, you can take steps now to get yourself prepared.  The first step is to obtain FSA IDs for one parent and the student. The 2020-21 FAFSA and CSS Profile will require your 2018 income information.  You should gather your 2018 federal tax returns and W-2s and keep PDF files on your computer ready to submit to the colleges upon request. Both financial aid applications will require income information for one year only. You can also make yourself a calendar of admission and financial aid application deadlines so you can make sure to have all forms submitted on time. It will help you tremendously to stay organized and remember to work together as a family.  Always remember to check our blog for helpful tips for success.