When Should I Apply for Financial Aid?

If you in the process of applying to college, then you might already know you’ll need to file the FAFSA and the CSS Profile to be considered for financial aid. Read this post if you aren’t yet familiar with the FAFSA and Profile.

So when should you submit these important forms?

It depends on which colleges you are applying to. As soon as you decide where you’ll apply, I recommend you compile all financial aid deadlines in once place. It takes a little time, but it’s worth it. (If you sign up for the Financial Aid Program, I’ll do this for you!)

Each college posts their deadlines on their financial aid website. Note that some colleges have different deadlines for FAFSA and Profile. Make sure you get the correct deadline, as different types of applicants may have different deadlines. For example, a high school senior applying from the US during the regular admissions cycle (NOT Early Action or Early Decision) would use the deadline for “First-Time Freshmen, Regular Admission, US applicant.”

As you are doing this research, you may notice that some colleges want even MORE. All of it is important! If a college lists something as a requirement, it means they will not offer a student aid unless those things are received on time. Read about other common financial aid requirements here.

Once you have your deadlines together, make a plan for when you will complete the forms. It is most important to file BEFORE the colleges’ priority deadlines. This post about priority deadlines explains why this is so important. Since you’ll be filing the forms for all colleges at once, the earliest deadline in the list is YOUR DEADLINE. Most priority deadlines are in January or February.

Wait, you might be asking, what about my taxes? If you are like many people, your taxes won’t be ready before the January and February deadlines. Not a problem – just plan to file with ESTIMATED numbers.  Once your taxes are done, you will sign back in and submit corrections. This is completely fine, and is what many families opt to do. (If you follow this strategy, you should still complete your taxes and put in your updated numbers as early as possible, because you will not get a final aid offer from the colleges until you do so.)

However, if you can complete your taxes before you need to file the financial aid applications, do so.  Then you can use the IRS Data retrieval tool to match your taxes to your FAFSA and save yourself a lot of time.  You also will not need to submit corrections later.

So that’s it – Do your research, get your taxes done early, and don’t miss the Priority Deadlines.

If all of this makes your head spin, consider signing up for the Financial Aid Program. I know the process well, and will gladly guide you through it.

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