Background

Throughout this section of the resource, we focus on what activities you can pursue to pay for college.  This timeline gives you a guideline as to when in your high school career each activity is particularly relevant.  

Timeline

Introduction: Paying for CollegeTiming
Begin an ongoing dialogue with your parents about how to pay for college—Start discussing ASAP, both in terms of why you want to go to college and how you’re going to pay for it. That way, you and your family will be comfortable with the topic when it’s crunch time in 11th and 12th grade.Fall 9th-Summer 12th
Start saving for college—Even if you can only put aside a few dollars each month, every little bit helps. Creating a college savings account makes the idea of going on to higher education much more real.Fall 9th-Summer 12th
Outline your financial aid plan—Use the financial aid calculators found on individual college websites—also known as net price calculators—to determine how much your family will need to contribute for your college education. Create a list of all the financial aid options you plan to pursue along with the deadlines for each.Summer 11th-Summer 12th
Financial Aid Application ProcessTiming
Fill out and submit the FAFSA—FAFSA, the main determinant of federal financial aid, can be submitted after Oct 1 of your senior year. Submit ASAP, as schools often give aid on a first-come, first-serve basis.Fall 12th
Fill out and submit the CSS Profile or other school-based aid forms—Certain schools require the CSS Profile in addition to the FAFSA to determine financial aid. Submit ASAP, as schools often give aid on a first-come, first-serve basis.Fall 12th-Winter 12th
Update your FAFSA and CSS Profile applications—Revise your financial aid application with data from your most recent tax returnsWinter 12th-Spring 12th
Send tax transcript for verification, if requested—Certain colleges may require verification of your financial information. Follow up your financial aid applications by sending the requesting college copies of your / your parents’ tax transcripts.Spring 12th
Grants and ScholarshipsTiming
Search and apply for non-traditional scholarships—Though many scholarships are only available for seniors applying to college, there are some scholarships that are available regardless of where you are in your high school career.Fall 9th-Summer 12th
Search for traditional scholarships—Once you are mid-way through your junior year, it’s time to begin searching for traditional scholarships—those that you can apply for senior year.Winter 11th-Summer 11th
Apply for traditional scholarships—Many seniors apply to 30+ scholarships. Don’t shy away from local options or ones that require essays; since fewer students apply for these, you often have a better chance.Summer 11th-Summer 12th
Work StudyTiming
Consider work-study—Many students consider work-study options offered by their college if they cannot fully cover the cost of attendance through grants and scholarships. You can indicate your interest for work-study on the FAFSA and by contacting your college’s financial aid office.Winter 12th-Summer 12th
Conduct work-study job search—Coordinate with financial aid office to identify work-study options. Finalize your job search the summer before college begins or in Fall of freshman year.Summer 12th
LoansTiming
Consider loans—Many students consider loans for college if they cannot fully cover the cost of attendance through grants, scholarships, and work-study. The best deals are often from subsidized federal loans, specifically Stafford loans (now called Direct Loans) and Perkins loans.Winter 12th-Summer 12th
Financial Aid PackagesTiming
Compare financial aid packages from multiple schools—After you are accepted, colleges will offer an aid package. Determine the amount you must contribute during college and the loan payments required after graduation.Winter 12th-Spring 12th
Consider a financial aid appeal—If your family’s circumstances have changed, or if a college’s financial aid package does not meet your need, reach out to the financial aid office ASAP to appeal the offer.Winter 12th-Spring 12th
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