This timeline represents a hypothetical scenario and is meant for illustrative purposes only.
Freshmen, Sophomore, and Junior year in High School
First of all, it is never too early to start. If you are going to use our services for financial aid planning either call our office or email us for an appointment. Usually during this time period you should be starting to work with your guidance department at your high school. They are experts and have all the resources for any non-need, merit, academic, or athletic scholarships, along with the overall admissions process for the colleges that you are targeting for admissions. They are a great resource and you should utilize their expertise in these areas.
Fall of Senior Year
Typically admissions and merit types of scholarships are applied for when your student starts their senior year. Again work closely with the guidance department on requirements, deadlines, and the overall process of admissions.
October of Senior Year
You are able to submit both a FAFSA and CSS Profile (if your college requires the CSS) in October of your Senior Year. You will need to apply for both a parent and student Federal Student Aid ID (FSAID). This FSAID is your electronic signature and you will need one for either parent and the student that is applying for aid. You can go to https://fsaid.ed.gov/npas/index.htm to apply for your FSAID. You will also need the Student CSS Profile User Name and Password if a Profile is required. Check with you colleges to see if they require the CSS Profile to be filed or not.
November of Senior Year
This is also typically when you would write and submit a special circumstance letter to each college’s office of financial aid. A special circumstance would be loss of job, income is less than the previous year, high medical, or another unusual situation that is not noted on the FAFSA. Make sure that you follow the procedure of each college when submitting these types of letters. Yes, you need to do one for each college.
December of Senior Year
As a result of completing the FAFSA you are going to receive an SAR (Student Aid Report). It is just a report and NOT an award letter. Check with each of your colleges to make sure that they have everything they need in order to issue an award letter. Did they get your FAFSA, CSS Profile, and/or your Special Circumstance Letter? What about verification? At this point you may be require to complete a verification form and/or provide each college with copies of both the parents and students federal return along with copies of W-2’s. Don’t be alarmed if this happens it is not unusual and is just part of the process.
February-May of Senior Year
In this time period you will start to receive award letters back from each of the colleges in which you were accepted. Wait until you get all of your award letters back so that you can compare and contrast them. Once you have received all the award letters now is the time to talk to the financial aid officer at the college about “appealing” an award letter if it is not a “fair” offer. Remember some colleges are historically much better at meeting all of the need than others and many times the award letter may be the final offer. However, that is not always the case, especially if you have a competitive situation with a student (talent, athletics, or academics) or maybe a special circumstance that wasn’t taken into account.
May 1st of Senior Year
This is when colleges want your final decision. This is also typically when you will work out any payment plans, apply for any loans that were offered, or start to look for alternative student loans if needed.