College Plan Timeline:


Colleges have different standards for keeping your financial aid. Make sure you get to know what’s expected of you so you can keep the money rolling in!

Develop a financial aid plan before college application deadline stress rears its ugly head.

By now you’ve completed your first scholarship search and probably applied to a couple local scholarships. You’ve heard the term “financial aid” thrown around quite a bit but you might still be confused as to what the differences are between private and federal financial aid and how you get your hands on both.

What is FAFSA?

FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Spelling out this acronym tells you a lot about exactly what you’re applying for.

Your FAFSA will determine your eligibility for federal student financial aid (including Pell Grants, student loans, and work-study programs) based on a variety of factors, most notably your family’s assets and income and how much they might be able to contribute to your college education.

Your FAFSA can only be filled out after January 1 of your senior year, so you have some time. But it’s a good idea to get a grasp on exactly what you’ll be asked to do when that time comes.

Steps to Completing Your Financial Aid

The following are the quick and dirty steps to applying for financial aid:

  1. Complete your FAFSA.
  2. Receive your Student Aid Report (SAR).
  3. School contacts you requesting financial documents.
  4. School will evaluate documents and FAFSA.
  5. Award letter will be sent to you.
  6. Disbursement of funds starting the first week of school.
  7. Complete classes with passing grades and maintain financial aid.

What can you do now?

While you won’t complete your FAFSA until next year, there are some things you can do today that will ensure you’re ready for the busy fall and winter financial aid season.

  • Attend financial aid nights at your school or the colleges you’re interested in. Every college has different rules and procedures so it’s smart to get an idea of each school’s unique processes.
  • Develop a financial aid plan, including deadlines, requirements, and timetables for every source of financial aid you’ve started so far. Getting organized will help to ensure you get every dollar you can for your education.
  • Request financial information from your prospective colleges and start estimating about how much it will cost you to go there. Can your family foot the bill or will you need to rely on scholarships and loans?
  • Research more scholarships and start applying for those whose deadlines are in the fall. You’re going to be a busy boy or girl come October and November so anything you can do now to get ahead is time in your pocket in the future.

Planning ahead or a little behind?
There's a section for you!

Related Tools and Checklists

High School Junior Timeline and Checklist
High School Senior Timeline and Checklist

People Who Read This Article Also Read:

Important Financial Aid Dates and Deadlines
Financial Aid Timeline: Junior Year
10 Things You Need to Know About Paying for College
See All College Financial Aid: The Basics of Student Aid and FAFSA Articles


Visit Our Student Center

Get on track!

Visit our Student Center

And find out everything you need to know about planning for college.