Now that your college applications are in, it’s time to turn your focus to financial aid. Unfortunately, as much as college applications are nerve-wracking, financial aid documents are mind-boggling. But they are a “necessary evil.”
Students hoping to pay for school with financial aid resources are required to fill out these forms, and the sooner the better.
Here are a few other things you need to know about financial aid right now.
1. Fill out your FAFSA as soon as possible.
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Generally, financial aid is distributed on a first come, first serve basis – which means you need to fill out the FAFSA today, not tomorrow and not in one month’s time. The FAFSA
now becomes available each year on October 1, but don’t panic about the time that’s passed since the first of the year.
Keep in mind that the federal deadline for FAFSA filing falls on June 30. While you may still receive federal financial aid if you file your FAFSA on June 28, chances are that you most likely will not receive any aid dollars from your state – which we’ll tackle later.
2. A note about filing your taxes.
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You may be wondering how you can submit your taxes without first filing your taxes
. Fortunately, you can file your FAFSA without your current tax information. Use your previous year’s last pay stub as well as the full year’s brokerage/bank account statements to make estimates in the designated fields on the FAFSA.
However, you should indicate on the FAFSA that you do plan to file your taxes in April. When the time comes, you will actually receive a reminder email from the FAFSA that you need to update your form with the exact figures. You may receive your financial aid packages from schools before you supply these figures, but that’s ok. Just keep in mind that as long as you were honest in your estimates, your financial aid packages shouldn’t be affected.
3. Keep in mind state financial aid deadlines.
Finally, you need to be mindful of state deadlines
as it relates to filing the FAFSA and any other financial aid documents that your school(s) may require. While the federal deadline for the FAFSA falls on June 30, most states require the FAFSA and any other state forms to be submitted before that.
Many states have an earlier deadline so that they can compare and supplement federal aid with state aid. Colleges and universities do the same. So as you’re filling out the FAFSA, do not forget state financial aid forms as well as those for schools you plan to attend. Now, those are a lot of deadlines to keep track of so it’s paramount that you stay organized.
While there are so many factors out of your control when it comes to financial aid, these three things are totally within your control. Within the next week, make it a point to look up your state’s financial aid deadlines, fill out your FAFSA if you have yet to do so and remember to update your information once you file your taxes for the year. By staying organized and meeting deadlines, you have a better chance of getting the financial aid you need to pay for school.