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Key Financial Aid Milestones

female student holding a piggy bank

It's never too early to start taking steps to get the best financial aid for college.

The sooner you learn about financial aid and make college financing plans, the more aid you're likely to get. Here's a timeline that works for most students.

Before Senior Year

  • Talk to your parents about how they can help you pay for college. Find out how much college cost they are prepared to cover.
  • Look over the FAFSA aid application with your parents.
  • Start looking for scholarships and get familiar with their requirements.
  • Take the PSAT if you hope to qualify for a National Merit Scholarship.

During Senior Year

  • Find out the aid application requirements at your colleges, especially deadlines.
  • Continue your scholarship search for private scholarships.
  • Don't let your grades slide. The better your senior grades, the better your chances of qualifying for and keeping scholarships. Do whatever it takes to excel academically.
  • Submit your FAFSA and other aid applications as soon as possible after October 1, and no later than the earliest college deadline. Send any supplementary forms required by the colleges you're applying to.
  • Review your EFC (Expected Family Contribution) on your Student Aid Report (SAR). Make sure the figures they used to calculate your EFC are accurate. If not, follow the instructions on the SAR.
  • Evaluate all aid offers before you make your decision. Determine the net price of each college.
  • Appeal an award if you have documentation to back up your claim.
  • Return the signed financial aid award letter to the college you plan to attend, keeping a copy for your records.

What's Next?

To get a preview of your potential EFC, use our EFC Calculator.

Find out more about the FAFSA and PROFILE aid applications.

Review the College Profiles to see the average merit and need-based awards at the colleges you are considering.

Financial information contained on the CollegeData website is for general informational purposes only and may not apply to you or your situation. You should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of any financial content contained on the CollegeData website without consulting with a financial or tax advisor, or your parents, high school counselors, admissions representatives or other college counseling professionals. We disclaim all liability for actions you take or fail to take based on any content on the CollegeData website.