January: You should begin to compile financial records to help complete your financial aid applications (earnings statements, bank statements and reports of interest earned, etc.). While not a requirement, completing financial aid applications is easier after you've completed your federal income tax return.
February: You should complete and mail (or electronically file) your financial aid applications. Filing the FAFSA will automatically generate a report for the schools you list in the "School Section". Be on the lookout for a "Student Aid Report" (SAR). This report is a confirmation of the data you submitted on the FAFSA. If you need to make changes, follow the instructions or contact the school's financial aid office. You can also call 1-800-4FedAid for assistance.
Check the schools listed on the "School Section" of the SAR to ensure the correct schools were recorded on your application. You can always submit it to additional schools at a later date.
March: Many schools begin making awards in March. You should receive a package of information from the school's financial aid office that details the financial aid programs and dollar amounts of your financial aid award.
Follow the instructions and be sure to meet any deadlines for accepting your financial aid award.
Remember, financial aid rarely meets all the costs of tuition and fees, you should compare the amounts of financial aid to the costs you will incur. Contact the financial aid office (or your school's student accounts/Bursar's office) to discuss the costs.
May: Make sure you have provided all required documentation to your school and that nothing is outstanding (verification worksheets, income tax returns, etc.).
Calculate (as close as possible) your "cost less aid" and develop a strategy to meet this amount. Do you have sufficient cash to pay this amount? Does your school offer a monthly payment plan? Will you need to consider alternative/private loans? See our section on meeting costs for more information.
June - August: Begin to tie up the loose ends. First time Stafford Loan borrowers often have to fulfill an Entrance Counseling session - and many schools provide these sessions over the Internet. Check with your school.
Double check on any outside financial aid or scholarships you may be receiving.
Make sure any loans you're applying for are in progress and moving towards disbursement to your school. Keep in touch with your financial aid office to verify that your award package is in place.
Save - put as much money away as possible before starting your program. It will be easier to do now than it will be at any other time in your life!!!
Questions? Call: 1-866-471-8334