FINANCIAL AID 101: FOR HIGH SCHOOLERS
considering applying for financial aid in any form, start
early. Put this on your "to do" list as you begin
your senior year of high school. Why the rush? Because schools
tend to award financial aid on a first-come, first-served
basis. Plus, applications take time to complete, review, and
approve. Many require financial details you'll need to get
from your parents or guardians as well as end-of-the-year
tax documents you won't be able to get until after January
1 of your senior year. You also may be required to write essays
explaining your financial situation. All this takes time.
As you are looking to go to college, here's how you start:
Do your research. Learn
as much as you can about the colleges that interest you, and
make sure to look at their Web sites. Go and visit them, either
during a scheduled "preview" day or by making arrangements
with the admissions office to go on your own. Also, make sure
to connect with the financial aid offices early in the admissions
processdon't wait until your first day of college to
get to know them.
Get friendly with the FAFSA. Learn
about and fill out the Free Application for Federal Student
Aid (FAFSA) form. Generally speaking, this form is your ticket
to accessing federal, state, or college/university financial
aid funds. You can fill this out online at www.fafsa.ed.gov.
Complete the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE.
About 600 schools nationwide require students to fill out
the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE to determine eligibility for
non-federal forms of financial aid. This form is more detailed
than the FAFSA and will ask a lot of questions about your
family's assets. Also, unlike the FAFSA, there's a cost associated
with the PROFILE; there's a $5 fee for filing online and you'll
pay $18 for every school to which you have the results sent.
You can complete the PROFILE online at profileonline.collegeboard.com/index.jsp.
Here are some additional hints for maximizing your financial
- Read the instructions carefully. Terms like "household"
or "parent or guardian" have a specific meaning
when it comes to financial aid. To answer the questions
correctly, pay close attention to the instructions.
- Apply early. We can't say this often enough. Apply as
soon after January 1 of your senior year in high school
as you can. The earlier you get started, the better your
chances for getting financial aid. File by Feb. 1 of your
senior year in high school if possible.
- You don't need to file your tax return before you submit
your FAFSA. Filling out your tax return first will make
completing the FAFSA easier. However, you do not need to
submit your tax return to the IRS before you submit your
FAFSA. You can submit an updated form after your tax return
- Keep your paperwork. Save everything you used to complete
the form, such as tax records, driver's license, etc. Also,
print a copy of your completed FAFSA and keep it with your
- Remember to reapply next year! Your FAFSA is good for
one year only. You must complete a new FAFSA form for every
year you attend college.
Review the SAR
About four weeks after you send in the FAFSA, you will receive
the Student Aid Report (SAR). Review it carefully and make
sure it is complete and accurate (this is why you save those
records!). If you find an error or need to make changes to
the information on your SAR, you may want to speak with your
high school counselor or the financial aid office at your
selected college before mailing in corrections.
If your SAR is complete and accurate, it should list the
Expected Family Contribution or EFC. This is the amount your
family is expected to put toward the cost of your education.
The college you plan to attend will receive your EFC, along
with the rest of your information. The school then will use
this information to prepare a financial aid package for you.
Research and Apply for Scholarships
Visit your high school career/college counselor for advice.
And start surfing the Web. Web sites like FastWeb,
offer free online scholarship search tools). Also, check with
the financial aid office at your college of choice for special
scholarships for which you might qualify. The Ventures
Scholars Web site is also a great resource for scholarships.
Some school-sponsored scholarships are awarded automatically
based on your college applicationsoften because you
have good grades and/or high SAT or ACT scoresand your
FAFSA. But some scholarships require separate applications
and essays and have hard-and-fast deadlines. Be sure you know
the requirements and due dates for each scholarship.
Financial Aid Calculators
Want the inside scoop on how much financial aid you can expect?
Use an online financial aid calculator. Some colleges offer
financial aid calculators on their Web sites. You can also
check the calculators on the "Pay for College" page
of the student section of www.collegeboard.com,
or go to the calculators at www.finaid.org.
Plug in your information and the calculator will tell you
what you can expect. Remember, these are merely estimates,
but they can help with your college financial planning.
Here are Other Areas to Link to:
AID 101: FOR HIGH SCHOOLERS
AID 201: FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS
YOUR WAY THROUGH