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Timeline: Paying for college


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.  


Introduction: Paying for CollegeTiming by grade
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 grade
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 grade
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 grade
Financial Aid Application ProcessTiming by grade
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 grade
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 grade
Update your FAFSA and CSS Profile applications—Revise your financial aid application with data from your most recent tax returnsWinter 12th-Spring 12th grade
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 grade
Grants and ScholarshipsTiming by grade
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 grade
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 grade
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 grade
Work StudyTiming by grade
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 grade
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 grade
LoansTiming by grade
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 grade
Financial Aid PackagesTiming by grade
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 grade
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 grade

Want to join the conversation?

  • female robot amelia style avatar for user Miriam Adams
    Good information but what about "non traditional" students...people who already have a degree or so, and want/need to return to a college to study specific interest issues...How do afford schools now when you are struggling with expenses??
    (11 votes)
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    • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Anand Gupta
      Turn to innovative MOOCs like Khan Academy itself, Coursera, Udacity, Harvard X, Wharton Online, Georgia Tech's program, Etc. A lot of these programs offer certificates/diplomas/credentials upon successful completion at literally a fraction of the cost of going back to school...
      (4 votes)
  • ohnoes default style avatar for user Calvin
    in the beginning I think you only need to talk about it for three years because isn,t ninth grade a little early
    (3 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user Marixi
      I believe a good time to discuss it is as soon as possible. It's best to create a foundation with a child as they're starting their student career, so to speak. Ninth grade is extremely important because it contributes to a students GPA (grade point average). If a student makes low to mediocre grades in 9th grade, it can make a difference in scholarship money or grant money. My son had a GPA of 3.18 and an ACT of 32, but he needed 3.25 to get a scholarship that would have been considerably more than what he was offered. If he had a 3.5 GPA or higher than more than likely his college would have been paid for completely. Also, the time to look at shopping around for a college is not in 12th grade. It's best to start looking in 10th and even tour a few, if possible, in 11th grade. IMO
      (16 votes)
  • male robot johnny style avatar for user Noah Gaspard
    I am a student from a developing country in the Caribbean, Sain't Lucia, and therefore would like to know which scholarships and grants are also opened to us as international students.
    (5 votes)
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  • purple pi pink style avatar for user Sharon Ah Ping
    Will this timeline apply for the next 3 years?
    (6 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Marixi
    What is the best way to pay for university after attending two years at a community college?
    (4 votes)
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    • spunky sam blue style avatar for user CZ
      There are many opportunities to work on or near campus. A couple of examples: tutoring, admistrative jobs (desk work), library jobs, and on campus bistro jobs are a few options. Usually these limit how much you can work. There are many off campus jobs that you can find: working in the food industry, at a rock climbing wall, or as a janitor are all options.

      If you can find scholarships or funding via undergraduate assistantships or a fellowship...all the better, but those are fairly rare. You might also consider being a resident advisor in the dorms (although...I wouldn't necessarily recommend that path).

      Those are the options that come to my mind.
      (5 votes)
  • mr pink red style avatar for user Siddardh Mandava
    How Much does it cost for a student to study M.S in The U.S.A?And What are His Best Chances to apply to a University and his ScholorShip Info?ThankYou
    (4 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user Marixi
      Each individual college has a different cost. There are many variables to take into consideration; tuition, fees for labs and such, books are usually very expensive, if you need to stay in a dorm or plan to stay off campus. Generally private colleges have a higher cost for tuition but have more funding available for aid. However, private colleges can be harder to get accepted to attend that college. State colleges normally have fewer scholarship or financial aid dollars to award. Also, if you live out of state then you'll have to pay an out-of-state fee which can be quite a lot. The best thing to do is research the colleges in the USA that have the program of study that you're looking for and contact their financial aid department and/or admissions.
      (3 votes)
  • aqualine seed style avatar for user Reisia14
    They should make more scholarships for music programs. how would we get a scholarship for music?
    (3 votes)
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    • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Katrina
      There are actually tons of scholarships for the music program if you go to a school that has a good arts program! Often times there are specific auditions that schools hold specifically for scholarships. There are also plenty of essay scholarships that you can apply for (eww). If you play an instrument you might want to consider joining an independent youth winds band or orchestra, because they usually give scholarships to members. In a field like music connections is the biggest key on the ring. If there is a professional wind band or orchestra near a school you want to attend you might want to see if they have scholarship programs or internships that you can apply for, because sometimes you can get scholarships for being an intern. (for example, I'd love to go to A&M at Commerce, Tx, or UT at Arlington so I might want to check out the East Texas Symphony Orchestra or the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra or the Dallas Winds for possible scholarships and internships.)
      I hope this helped! :)
      (5 votes)
  • leaf green style avatar for user Nigel Cochran
    Help Question Please
    I am getting confused with divison calculations. When I see a question shown as a fraction, what determins which figure is divided into which. I have made some errors by dividing the wrong way round. Is there a video on this?
    Thank you for your help
    (3 votes)
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  • leafers sapling style avatar for user Elizabeth
    So would this be alittle bit different in a different country or would all be the same?
    (4 votes)
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  • piceratops seed style avatar for user Jacqueline23Rodriguez
    Is there a way I can get more information on this timeline?
    (4 votes)
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