If you grew up in Ohio, you might think your neighbor to the west — Indiana — is pretty much the same as your home state. Both states are midwestern, featuring rural landscapes punctuated by a handful of smaller industrial cities and anchored by larger metropolitan areas.
Everybody could use more money for college, especially when it comes as a scholarship—the kind of aid you never need to repay.
Scholarships come in all shapes, sizes, and amounts. Groups ranging from charitable foundations to corporations to trade associations and more offer money for college.
It’s summer 2017, college is starting in the fall, and you’re still not sure how you’re going to pay for it.
With the cost of college creeping up year after year, you’re not alone. Millions of students across the country are hoping to reduce their reliance on federal and private loans (and the debt that comes with them) and find alternative funding sources for their educations.
Here are a few tips for firming up your financial footing before embarking on your college career.
Ah, the FAFSA—that time-honored tradition of getting a crash course in your parents’ tax
information from two years ago. (But hey, it helps you keep college affordable, so it’s worth
poring over the details of IRS deductions and withholdings.)
We’ve written a lot about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), including filing tips for parents, six things you’ll need to finish the FAFSA, and a first-timer’s guide to filling it out.
However, in 2017, the Department of Education is making a few changes to how the FAFSA works that are important to note, especially for first-time filers.
You can now submit earlier
In the past, you had to wait until January 1 to file your FAFSA, but that’s no longer the case. If you’re filing for the 2017–18 school year, you can file now—submissions opened on October 1.
The new, earlier submission date is permanent, so you’ll be able to file your FAFSA beginning October 1 from here on out.
You will now be asked for income information from earlier years
If you filed your FAFSA for the 2016–17 school year, you would have been asked for income information from 2015 only. That’s changed, however. The new FAFSA will ask for income information for two previous years.
So, if you’re filing for 2017–18, you’ll need to provide income and tax information for 2016 and 2015.
If you’re filling out the FAFSA for the first time, be sure to download our FAFSA Checklist so you can be better prepared for what to expect.
If you’re all caught up on your November checklist for college applications, it’s time to keep moving in the month of December.
(We know it’s tempting to take a break over the holidays, but you’ll be glad you kept on top of things once January rolls around.)
For High School Juniors
- Keep doing your best in your classes
- Look for ways to get involved in clubs, organizations, or volunteer work
- Take the PSAT Exams (if you haven’t already)
- Continue researching colleges and universities
- List the important priorities for you
- Talk to your school counselor
- Reach out to your colleges’ admissions teams
- Attend college fairs and meet with the admissions reps
- Follow schools on social media
For High School Seniors
- Check your list of deadlines from November, including:
- Application deadlines
- Scholarship deadlines
- Financial aid deadlines
- Recommendation letter deadlines
- Check your Common App deadlines (if you’re using Common App)
- Retake the SAT/ACT (if necessary, and if you didn’t in November). Remember: schools allow you to apply with your best scores from each section of the test, so taking the SAT/ACT multiple times can help improve your chances of getting into college
- Research and apply for at least two scholarships
Keep checking your list throughout the month, and try to knock something out every week. You’re making great progress, and spring is just around the corner.
Want to know how to prepare for the rest of the year? Be sure to download our Ultimate College Decision Timeline.