College Financing Checklist

Get your financing in order early on. During your senior year of high school, check these items off your list as soon as you can:

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). States and colleges use your FAFSA information to determine your family’s eligibility for financial assistance, including federal loans and grants. You must complete a new FAFSA in every year that your family wishes to receive aid. The FAFSA form is available free online starting Jan. 1 at FAFSA.gov. The earlier you submit your FAFSA, the better your family’s chances of qualifying for certain federal aid programs that have limited funds. There is also a form at FAFSA.gov that you can use to estimate your family’s financial aid eligibility.

Scholarships and grants. Talk to your high school guidance counselor and college financial aid officers to learn about opportunities for scholarships and grants, as well as deadlines. 

Income taxes. Ask your parents to file their taxes early, as this can affect your financial aid offerings.

Savings. Determine how much your family has saved, including funds in education savings accounts, such as 529 plans. 

Getting Organized

Keeping yourself on task as you get ready to apply to colleges can be tricky, especially when you’re dealing with multiple and different deadlines. Here is a checklist to help you manage this exciting process.

Junior Year

Consider taking the SAT/ACT in the winter of your junior year if you want to apply with “early decision” or “early action.”

Begin researching colleges and adding yourself to college mailing lists. 

Narrow down your list of schools to visit and plan time to visit them in the spring.

Senior Year: Fall

Meet with your school guidance counselor to ensure you’re on track to graduate and have met all college admission requirements.

Register for any standardized tests required by the colleges to which you’re applying, such as the ACT and SAT, if you haven’t already taken them.

Request letters of recommendations from teachers, coaches and other appropriate individuals.

Collect school transcripts and begin applying to colleges.

Estimate your financial aid eligibility at FAFSA.gov.

Start researching scholarship and grant opportunities and submitting applications.

Senior Year: Winter

Ensure income taxes are completed and filed early.

Complete and submit the FAFSA, which becomes available on Jan. 1.

Review the Student Aid Report sent from your colleges of choice, make corrections and submit it to the FAFSA processor.

Senior Year: Spring

Compare financial aid offers from your chosen colleges.

Contact your school’s financial aid office to see if other scholarships, grants, loans or other aid are available if needed.

Meet with a loan representative at your credit union or bank about private loan options.

Decide on a college. Many schools require an acceptance notification and a financial deposit no later than May 1.

Summer Before College

Set up a payment schedule with the school to pay for tuition and other educational expenses.

Pay your first semester of tuition.

Choose a meal plan.

Set up a student checking account and get a debit card or secured credit card from your credit union or bank. 

Save money from a summer job to help pay for books and other college expenses.

Establish a budget for expenses outside of tuition, room and board.

Shop for dorm room furnishings and décor, clothes, and school supplies.

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