Wrapping Up Financial Aid
Financial aid deadlines are approaching, especially if your colleges require the CSS. In fact, many schools require CSS paperwork by February 1st, so pay attention to your deadlines and get the paperwork in.
Documentation for Private Scholarships
Scan or take a picture of all your acceptance letters. You may need these when you apply for private scholarships. Many times the organization granting the scholarship will want a copy of the acceptance letter and will submit the scholarship funds directly to the college on your behalf.
Keep your acceptance letters on your hard drive or in dropbox or wherever for now. And be sure to keep the hardcopy around until all your final details are settled.
FAFSA – Submit Your 2016 Tax Returns
The last part of the FAFSA process is getting your tax returns in to the IRS and then clicking the link in the FAFSA that imports your tax information into the FAFSA system. If you submit your taxes electronically, it takes a couple weeks for your tax information to be available for the FAFSA.
Most schools want your FAFSA information by March 1st, and the FAFSA process uses your 2016 tax returns, so do the work to get these in now. You don’t want to miss the FAFSA deadlines. Talk to an accountant or the school’s financial aid department if you have specific questions here.
AP Exams for Homeschooled Students
If you’re homeschooled and you plan on taking any AP exams your senior year for college credit, get in touch with a local AP coordinator by March 1st to make sure you get registered. You can find more information here.
National Merit Scholar Finalists
If you’re a National Merit Scholar finalist, first, congratulations! Your talent, hard work, studying, and practice have paid off. You have a very real opportunity to earn a full-ride scholarship to a top school with this credential. Still, you have a decision to make if you have not already made it.
If you are a National Merit Scholar you have deadlines coming up in March and May to set your first-choice school. Make sure to choose a school that has accepted you, otherwise you’ll be giving up a potentially large scholarship. Early Action decisions should be in by now, so you should know what schools have accepted you. If you’re still unsure which school to choose as your NMS finalist first-choice school, you still have until May to decide. If you defer your decision until May you’ll probably give up some scholarship money. Still you should get some money, and if you need the time to visit campuses and ensure the school fit is good, you may want to wait. It’s a personal decision. Just know, because schools allocate funding on a first-come-first-served basis, selecting your first-choice school in March is preferable and will land you substantial money. If you just aren’t sure where you want to attend you can defer this decision until May. You’ll probably get some money, but your full-ride may be off the table.
Don’t waste your first-choice on a school that has not accepted you. So wait until you’ve received all your early action decisions, or at least the ones that are most important to you, and choose one of the schools that has accepted you as your first-choice school.
Good luck in this process. You’ve earned a nice reward!
Housing options around campus dwindle pretty quickly in the spring as students plan for next year’s housing. If you plan on staying in the dorms, follow the school’s housing selection process, and get that started right away or as soon as they open it up to accepted freshmen. If you’re targeting off-campus housing in an apartment or house, get moving on this. The upperclassmen are already signing leases for the 2018-2019 school year.
The most effective strategy in off-campus housing is to look with your respective roommates, checkbooks in hand, and ready to sign a lease on the spot. There isn’t time in this process to go back and forth with parents to seek lots of advice. Make sure they know you’re looking, and get them on the phone on the spot if you need to advice to make decisions. Be prepared to hand over the deposit and sign the lease right there.
I’ve seen students lose the apartment they wanted because they had to come back the next day to sign the lease. I’ve seen landlords up the rent $100 when the students returned the next day. I’ve seen parents of roommates cause the students to lose their apartment because the parents had questions. There really isn’t time for this. Be ready to sign, love your choice, and move on. Don’t let this be a point of stress in the process.
Finishing up Financial Aid Documentation
Finish up your FAFSA if you haven’t already. Go into the FAFSA and click the button that brings your tax returns into the FAFSA process. You’ll need to do this so schools can release financial aid numbers for you.
Accepted Student Weekends
Finally, you still have until May 1 to make your final school choice. May 1 is student decision day. The schools that have accepted you will host accepted student days or weekends. If you’re on the fence about your decision, take advantage of these opportunities to get on campus and meet the people. Attend a class, meet some professors, get a feel for the community. All of these experiences will help you qualify your final decisions. And the sooner you make your decision, the sooner you can leave this stressful process behind you and start looking beyond to your college life.