We can’t stress enough how important it is to be on top of filing your 2023-24 FAFSA accurately and on time, if you haven’t already done so.
The US Department of Education has an excellent help section which will answer most of your questions and help you to avoid the most common FAFSA mistakes. Read through this list to make sure you maximize your chance of receiving financial aid.
COMPLETE THE FORM. You don’t know if you will qualify for aid if you don’t complete the form. If you want to receive aid, complete the FAFSA as soon as possible as many states have limited funds that are distributed on a first-come basis. The FAFSA is also used to determine whether you are eligible for Federal Work-Study funds, federal student loans, and even scholarships offered by your state, school or a private organization.
FILE IN TIME TO MEET THE DEADLINE. Fill out the FAFSA form as soon as possible, but you must submit before the earliest FAFSA deadline for the schools on your list. Each state and school has its own deadline. Make a list or spreadsheet to make note of deadlines so you do not miss any.
SIGN UP FOR A FAFSA USERNAME AND PASSWORD BEFORE FILING. You and your parent each need your own ID to complete the form. It can take a few days to receive your ID after signing up, so take care of this immediately in order to begin your FAFSA.
READ THE FORM CAREFULLY. The FAFSA form is requesting very specific information, so be clear on definitions and understand each question before responding.
FILL IN CORRECT INFORMATION. Re-read each question to be sure you have not input incorrect answers. Don’t confuse your information with your parent(s)’. Make sure you enter your personal info such as your name, date of birth and social security number accurately on the form.
FILL IN ALL THE REQUIRED INFORMATION. Make sure to complete all required sections relevant to you.
USE THE IRS DATA RETREIVAL TOOL. If you’re filing a 2023-24 FAFSA , you must use federal tax information from your 2021 tax return. You can do this by using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) which will automatically transfer tax information in a fast and accurate way. If you are eligible to use the tool you will be prompted to do so.
FILL IN MORE THAN ONE COLLEGE. List all the colleges you are considering, up to 10 at a time. Each school will not see the other schools on your list.
SIGN YOUR FAFSA. Be sure to use your FAFSA ID to sign.
CHECK YOUR STATUS TO CONFIRM YOUR APPLICATION HAS BEEN SUCCESSFULLY SUBMITTED. Go to fafsa.gov and log in with your ID username and password.
Scholarships help a great many college students pay for their education. Scholarships and grants do not need to be repaid and so, are the best type of financial aid to receive. By the way, the terms “grants” and “scholarships” are often used interchangeably.
Two types of scholarships are provided to students:
Need-Based Scholarships are granted to students based on financial need.
Merit Based Scholarships are grants awarded depending on a student’s academic or extracurricular record.
Start your search as soon as possible to find funds to help pay for college. When searching for scholarships, remember the following:
Most scholarship money is awarded by colleges and universities.
Many private colleges and some state schools require you to complete the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE in order to be considered for these scholarship programs as well as for non-federal financial aid.
Schools may also require their own supplemental application forms.
Deadlines vary from school to school so keep track of due dates to avoid missing out on any opportunities.
Any number of criteria including academic, athletic or artistic accomplishments can be used to award merit scholarships.
Scholarships and grants may be contingent on meeting certain requirements such as maintaining a minimum GPA.
Scholarships are awarded either as a lump sum up front or may require you to reapply annually.
Private and public sources also award a great number of scholarships, although they account for a much smaller percentage of the total pool available.
You may be eligible for scholarships offered by a variety of organizations depending on your personal profile and/or special interests.
Some scholarships may be career specific – available to students studying to become teachers, while others may be student specific – available to students from a military family or specific ethnic group, and even to students with a unique hobby.
Helpful resources to match you with scholarships include:
CSS/Profile, short for the College Scholarship Service Profile, is an online application created and maintained by the United States-based College Board that allows college students to apply for non-federal financial aid
BigFuture: College Board’s college grant and scholarship search tool
Fastweb: A comprehensive database of scholarships. Perform a detailed search to find one that’s right for you. You can sign up to receive email updates from the site when new scholarships become available
Talk to your guidance counselor for additional information and while in your guidance office pick up scholarship applications and look through the lists of special scholarships available to students in your school district and town
Make a list of scholarships you plan to apply for with their respective due dates and check them off as you complete your applications. Apply as soon as possible to maximize your chance for help funding your college education.
We hope 2023 is the start of a year filled with good news and excitement. Spend time and work hard now to set yourself up for success and cause for celebration later. Make the most of this back-to-school time after the holidays to put yourself on the right track.
Seniors, finish your last applications and submit them in time to meet the due dates. There are schools with regular decision deadlines in January as well as rolling and open decision schools you may still be thinking about or might consider looking into. Be aware, also, of any deadlines for special programs within schools to which you have already applied.
Juniors, make an appointment with your guidance counselor. If you have not already met, this is the time to introduce yourself and discuss your college bound goals. If you have already had conversations about your college process with your counselor, now is a good time to review your plans and get started.
Sophomores and First Years, attend any introductory college programs your school offers. The new year is a good time to become more aware of your high school’s graduation requirements and your own goals for your high school years. This is also the right time to learn about general college going prerequisites for different types of schools.
Make a good impression on Admissions by submitting your best application. Confirm that all the content is accurate and carefully written, and review your applications before you press “submit.” Avoid common mistakes which may reflect poorly on you and could make you seem disorganized and/or careless, this is not the introduction to Admissions you’ll want to make.
Check the following before you submityour application:
Spelling: Don’t rely on spell check and be careful of autocorrect. For example, you’re on the “Honor Roll” not the “Honor Role”. Read and re-read your application multiple times. You’ll be surprised by the number of errors you might find.
Accuracy: Check for typos or easily overlooked mistakes such as incorrect information about your counselor’s contact info or your telephone number and email address should Admissions try to get in touch. Be sure your date of birth and social security number match what is on your high school transcript. Have you listed your extracurricular activities on the Common App in the order of importance to you?
Be Specific: Make sure each essay and your short answers are detailed and specific to the school to which you are applying. If you mention the school, be sure to refer to the correct school when coping and pasting. If you’ve indicated a high level of commitment in a club or activity throughout high school, highlight and discuss your involvement on your application in order to demonstrate your interest.
Due Dates: Applications, special programs, scholarships and financial aid all have different deadlines, even within the same school. Don’t miss out on any opportunities because of a missed deadline. Look them all up on school websites and keep a calendar or agenda with each due date.
Proofread: Read and re-read your application. Have at least one other person read your application before submitting. You want to make sure you’ve conveyed your message clearly and confirmed that you haven’t overlooked any errors.
Early decisions will be released soon. Check your school’s website for details so you know when to sign on for your outcome. If you applied early decision and are accepted, you will have a few new items for follow up. If you’ve applied early action and/or rolling and receive positive news, you will also need to take action. This is what you’ll need to do:
Early decision is binding.
Send in the required non-refundable deposit by the school’s due date to confirm your intention to attend.
Withdraw all your other applications.
Check your inbox often. You’ll be receiving mailings relating to housing, medical and health forms, registration for special programs for admitted students, and invitations to special events that may require your response.
Early action is not binding.
Send your deposit and secure your spot in the class of 2027 if you’re sure this is the school for you. Although not mandatory, be considerate to other applicants and withdraw your outstanding applications to other schools.
Leave your options open if you’re not sure this is the school for you or need to evaluate your financial aid offers. Wait until you’ve received all your other admissions decisions to reply to this offer.
Rolling admission is not binding.
Do not respond until you are absolutely certain this is the school you would like to attend.
Finish your other applications and send them in by the due dates if you’re not sure this is the right school for you.
If you receive a deferral from your early decision school, consider whether this school is really your first choice. If the answer is yes, communicate that thought to your admission rep by letter, sending it both by snail mail and email. Express the reasons this is your top school and offer to provide any additional information they may want to further support your application.
Share your news with your guidance counselor. If this is your first choice, ask if they will reach out to your admissions rep to speak on behalf of your candidacy.
Complete your other applications.
If you are deferred or rejected, it may not mean you are not qualified. It may simply mean there is not enough room for all the qualified candidates who have applied. Most competitive schools receive a greater number of applications than there are available spots in their incoming class.
If you have committed to a school, reach out and thank your teachers and counselors and anyone else who has supported you in your college bound process. A hand written note is a really nice touch.
While you have good cause for celebrating, keep in mind acceptances are conditional on maintaining your grades throughout senior year. Continue working hard to finish this school year strong.
Look for an internship now to set yourself up for the summer. It’s a good idea to gain some work experience outside of school. Summer internship offer the opportunity to:
Get the chance to identify what you like doing
Acquire work experience
Build new skills
Gain an introduction to a field of interest
Identify a potential academic path to pursue
Confirm your interest before you make a long term commitment
Earn money, if it’s a paid internship
Internships may be available after school, during the school year or during the summer months. Look for internships with government agencies, private companies, non-profits and cultural organizations to name a few. If you’re thinking about an internship during the school year, consider your schedule and whether you really have the time to devote to another commitment. If not, limit your search to summer internships. Here are some helpful tips on how to begin your search:
Identify what interests you
Talk to your guidance counselor about resources to help you with your search
Ask your teachers, coaches, family and friends for leads
Look online and use social media such as LinkedIn to identify opportunities
Think about how you’ll present yourself and consider doing the following:
Create your elevator pitch to introduce yourself by preparing a short description about who you are
Share your goal(s) and objective(s)
Mention any skills you have that are aligned with the opportunity
Share something special about yourself and why you would add value
Seniors, why not consider looking into community colleges as you put together your list of colleges and universities to research and apply. Perhaps you’re not ready to commit to a four year program or you’re looking to stay close to home. These local schools offer a different pathway to earning a bachelor’s degree. An added benefit is the reduced tuition cost.
Community colleges offer many programs in a variety of fields to train students, allowing them to earn an associates degree and pursue a career in their chosen field.
For students hoping to achieve a bachelors degree, many colleges and universities have formal programs which provide a way for qualified community college students to transfer. These four year schools have expanded their outreach and support to help applicants navigate the application process. They also offer generous scholarships to help with tuition. Students may often transfer with little or no loss of academic credit. Many community colleges have partnerships with four year schools that allow their students access to programs in nursing, technology, business and science. Talk to your guidance counselor to determine if community college makes sense for you.