February Financial Aid ChecklistPosted on Mon, 02/11/2013 - 16:22
February is Financial Aid Awareness Month! And college advisor Alice Kleeman is back with advice on what students and families should be doing this month in applying for financial aid.
* Because February is Financial Aid Awareness Month, there are usually numerous initiatives to educate families during these weeks. Look for financial aid nights at local high schools, any "open office hours" a financial aid office might hold for prospective students, national programs such as College Goal Sundays or state programs such as California's Cash for College Workshops. Attend with your family so that you are sure you've done everything possible in pursuing financial aid opportunities.
* Finish the FAFSA if you have not already done so! Again, 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!
* Pay attention to deadlines this month! February is a time when many deadlines kick in.
* Make sure you have submitted your CSS Profile to colleges by their deadlines. Check with each college to which you are applying.
* 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. Deadline information can be found here.
* February is a BIG month for applying for local scholarships! Students could check with local service organizations, such as Rotary International or Lions Clubs, to find out about the scholarships they are offering. Pay attention to announcements about scholarships in your local paper and check with your high school college counselor or guidance counselor.
* February is a BIG month for applying for scholarships in general. Check with the schools to which you have applied about their scholarship programs. Research professional associations, ask your parents to inquire about whether their places of employment offer scholarship opportunities, and even look for national contests sponsored by corporations such as Wells Fargo, Best Buy, and Dr. Pepper. Both Fastweb.com and FinAid.org have great resource databases.
* 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.
* We can't say it enough: Pay attention to deadlines!
* And if you have questions, ask your high school college counselor or call the college financial aid office about any concerns about the FAFSA, CSS PROFILE, deadlines, scholarships and financial aid in general!
Alice Kleeman has served as the college advisor for 18 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.
As a private college counselor, I think this is one of the most complete lists for financial aid for February I have seen. It is critical for families to realize that the sooner they apply, the more financial opportunities they will have.