When Should I Start to Apply for Financial Aid for College?

Applying for Financial AidIf you are planning to apply for financial aid when you are applying to college, you may be wondering when to start applying for financial aid for college. All too often, prospective students will compare different schools before applying for admissions, but these students oversee the importance of submitting a Federal Financial Aid application, or FAFSA, early for quick processing. If you want to avoid submitting your application during the peak season, when all students are filling out applications online, below is a guide explaining when to apply.

When to Start Researching Financial Aid

When you are in high school, your high school counselor will sit down with you and tell you about many of the financial aid packages that are available to students in your position. However, some students take a break after high school, before entering college. If you are in high school or starting college after a break, you should start doing your research on all of the federal scholarships, grants and loans programs that are available to you. You can visit a prospective school’s website to determine which types of aid are offered through the school, or visit the Federal Student Aid¬†website directly to compare current programs. By doing this at least one year in advance of when you plan to attend school, you will have time to submit your applications early.

When to Fill Out Your Application for Aid

If you already know which college you plan on attending, contact the financial aid department of the college to ask about the FAFSA deadlines. You should contact the school at least 9 to 12 months before you plan on attending to give yourself plenty of time. It is best to submit your FAFSA in January of the year you plan on attending college. If you are going to start school in the fall semester, you would apply in January. By having the FAFSA in for the year, you will get approved for both fall and spring semesters when you receive your reward offer.

FAFSA applications are submitted online. As you fill out your information, you will be asked for the school code that you plan on attending. You can list multiple schools if you are not quite sure of which college you will officially attend. Be sure to include all of your potential options so that you do not have to revise your application when the peak season comes around. Typically, there are delays in processing FAFSA applications submitted between April and July. This can lower the amount of aid offered. Typically, the sooner you submit your request for financial aid, the more grants you would qualify for.

Related Resource: Financial Aid for Graduate School

Benefit of Applying Early

In many cases, the financial aid department will request additional verification information. This delays the processing of your financial aid, and can also disqualify you for eligibility if you do not submit what is being requested. Be sure to have your taxes, your proof of income and your parent’s financial statements when you are a dependent student to avoid delays. This is a main reason why you would need to apply for Financial Aid as soon as you can. If you need to correct any forms or supply additional verification, doing so early, helps to get you the biggest aid package possible.

After you apply for financial aid, you will receive a Student Aid Report that details your income and how much you may be able to receive. Make sure to take advantages of all of your opportunities, and never overlook the importance of planning. When to start applying for financial aid for college may vary, but be sure you apply early.