Financial Aid Calendar
Your financial aid calendar should cover all aspects of the financial aid process. Below is a month-by-month guideline and run-down of financial aid deadlines. Check with your school and scholarship providers to help your college planning go smoothly.
Beginning on January 1, you may file your FAFSA online. By filing online, your FAFSA will be processed much faster than paper FAFSA applications. Many scholarships also begin accepting applications in January.
Obtain your "Student Aid Report" (SAR). This report is a confirmation of the data you submitted on the FAFSA. If you need to make changes, follow the instructions or contact the school's financial aid office. You can also call 1-800-4-FED-AID for assistance.
Check the schools listed on the "School Section" of the SAR to ensure the correct schools were recorded on your application. You can always submit it to additional schools at a later date.
Many states have priority deadlines for the FAFSA to qualify for state aid by March 1, so file that FAFSA sooner rather than later!
Many schools begin making awards in March. You should receive a package of information from the school's financial aid office that details the amount of federal, institutional, and outside aid you are eligible for.
Remember, financial aid rarely meets all the costs of tuition and fees. To make up any gaps between federal and institutional financial aid, you may need an private college loan. Compare lenders with the tool below.
File your IRS federal income tax return no later than April 15. Even though it's not strictly financial aid related, any taxes or fees owed can negatively impact financial aid the following year.
Students who are graduating with loans to repay should start thinking about consolidation. Students still enrolled in school for another year or more should continue searching for aid, scholarships, and grants throughout the summertime.
For students who are studying abroad, May is the right time to acquire a study abroad loan. Those studying during summer semesters will need to have financial aid early.
Jobs and travel often occupy the calendars of students during the summer. Any income you make as a student can potentially impact your financial aid for the following year, so it’s worthwhile investigating internships or volunteer work to build experience.
For students taking summer courses, July is usually the beginning of Summer Semester II. Have your financial aid in order. New rates on federal student loans typically take effect on July 1 of each year.
First-time Stafford Federal Student Loan borrowers often have to fulfill an Entrance Counseling session, and many schools provide these sessions online. Check with your school for more information on this.
Look for any outside financial aid or college scholarships you may be receiving.
Any loans you're applying for should be nearing disbursement to your school. Keep in touch with your financial aid office to verify that your award package is in place.
School’s in! All your loans should be in process or disbursed, as the bills won't be far behind. If you find yourself confronted with a spate of unexpected expenses or shortfalls in aid, apply for an private college loan. You can usually obtain alternative student loans in a much shorter period of time than federal student loans.
October is the month of early decision. Many students applying to college file their college applications during October. Make sure you've got a clear understanding of a school's financial aid packages before doing an early decision application that may be binding.
Students who have graduated without consolidating their student loans will be approaching the end of their grace periods and should consider student loan consolidation.
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November is also a great month to begin writing scholarship essays, as these can be time consuming, and it's best to have them done and reviewed prior to the start of the January scholarship season.
Gather up your tax receipts, pay stubs, etc. and fill out an estimated IRS 1040 so that you can file your FAFSA as soon as the doors open on January 1. Consult with a financial planner (most community banks and credit unions offer low cost or no-cost consultations to members/customers) and review your finances to see about last minute changes you can make that impact financial aid eligibility.
Financial Aid Calendar - It is up to You
Keep your own financial aid calendar and update it regularly. Manage your deadlines and apply for as much financial aid as possible.
For more information on the financial aid process, this Financial Aid Roadmap will give you a detailed description of the timeline from childhood to post-graduate life. It’s a useful guide when creating your college action plan.