January Financial Aid Checklist

College advisor Alice Kleeman is back with advice for seniors on what you should be doing to pay for college. Remember it is you, the student, who applies for aid. But families need to work together to obtain the best result. Here are this month's financial aid reminders:

*             Check with your high school counselor about financial aid evening workshops scheduled at your school or in the community and attend with your parents!  

*             Complete the FAFSA, reading all instructions CAREFULLY! You do NOT have to wait until you and your parents have filed your income tax returns; you may use estimates on the FAFSA and then update the information once you have filed your income tax forms. It is better to file on time with estimates than to file late!

*             Submit your FAFSA electronically as soon as possible! Once submitted, the colleges you have listed and coded will receive your information electronically.

*             Each state also has its own FAFSA deadline, which in many cases is different from the federal submission deadline each year.  Make sure to submit your FAFSA by your state's deadline or as soon as possible after the first of the year to get the most financial aid possible. Deadline information can be found here

*             Submit your CSS Profile to colleges that require it by each college's deadline. Many colleges have much earlier deadlines for the CSS Profile!

*             Alert the Financial Aid Administrators (FAA) at the colleges you hope to attend of any special financial circumstances that will affect your ability to pay for college. The FAFSA does not allow for reporting of special circumstances. This MUST be done by communicating directly with the financial aid office and the FAA at each of the colleges to which you have applied. Special circumstances might include the following: a sudden and dramatic financial change in the family such as a death or job loss; a parent who exists but is out of the picture and unreachable; a parent who is uncooperative with the process; or an unusual situation where the student does not qualify as independent by the dependency questions, but is essentially independent.

*             Continue researching and applying for scholarships. Pay attention to deadlines and requirements such as the personal statements many applications require. This is usually a brief autobiography and can include information about your family's financial situation. But pay attention to what each application requests for the personal statement and be sure to answer the specific prompt. You can see scholarship research resources here.

*             If you have questions, ask your high school college counselor or speak with the college financial aid office about any concerns about the FAFSA, CSS PROFILE, deadlines or scholarships and financial aid in general!


Alice Kleeman has served as the college advisor for 19 years in the College and Career Center of Menlo- Atherton High School, a public high school of 2,000 students in the San Francisco Bay Area. She also teaches each summer on the faculty of the College Board’s Summer Admission Institute for new admission officers, serves as an advisor to the Common Application and was named a Counselor That Changes Lives in 2014.


I love the step by step timing of this list. I wish I had it when I was an undergrad.

I love the step by step timing of this list. I wish I had it when I was an undergrad.

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