For rising seniors when it comes to preparing for college, timing is everything. This year there are some big changes to the process and the deadlines which are all this fall!
1) Know the priority application dates. Most college applications open in August and September with rolling deadlines. Applying by the priority deadline is important to ensure you’re at the top of the list for admission, but it may also qualify you for additional merit scholarships that the colleges offer. Some colleges have a separate Admissions Merit Scholarship date, so it’s crucial to know the deadlines for each school you’re applying to.
2) The FAFSA opens October 1st. The starting date for filing the 2017-18 FAFSA will be on October 1, 2016, instead of January 1, 2017. You’ll want to complete it before November 30, 2016 to ensure your eligible for the maximum state and federal aid awards. It’s critical that every student completes the FAFSA. Whether you think you’ll qualify for federal aid or not, you still have to complete it to be considered for institutional aid and most scholarships. Most colleges and universities use your FAFSA completion date to determine if you are eligible for their institutional scholarships. Applying early ensures you will receive the maximum amount of assistance available.
3) You’ll use your 2015 taxes. When you complete the 2017-18 FAFSA you’ll use your (and your parents) taxes from 2015. Instead of waiting to file your tax return, or estimating income, you will be able to use the FAFSA IRS Retrieval Tool to verify income from your 2015 return. Remember, if you are a student and worked in 2015 you may be required to file a federal tax return. Check https://www.irs.gov/publications/p554/ch01.html to determine if you’re required to file.
4) Apply for your FSA ID now! Every student and parent who completes a FAFSA needs to have and FSA ID. Your FSA ID identifies you as someone who has the right to access your personal information. The student and parent must use separate email addresses to establish their FSA ID. If you have an older sibling or parent who has completed a FAFSA, your parent may already have an account and PIN number. Your parent can update their account and request an FSA ID. Once you submit your FSA ID it may take 3-5 for your FSA ID to be validated so you and your parent need to apply for one now. This is a new security measure to protect your information and ensure you are you. Visit https://fsaid.ed.gov/npas/index.htm to create an FSA ID.
5) List an in-state public college first when completing the FAFSA in order to be eligible for state aid. It’s also a good idea to list the colleges with the earliest financial aid deadlines first to ensure that they get your information in time. Schools can’t see the other schools you’ve listed, but state aid agencies can check to see who is listed first in order to award state aid.