Financial Aid For College

Financial Aid - when should I apply for?
Vanessa McHooley

Many different types of financial aid are available to you in the form of scholarships, grants, and loans. With billions of dollars at stake, it is important to begin the search process early and to apply on time. Follow these guidelines for applying for financial aid:

 Three to four years before you plan to begin college…

  • Review your high school coursework and activities. Colleges will look for challenging coursework, a good grade point average, and extracurricular activities such as sports, volunteer work, and community involvement.

  • Take the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test (PSAT) to prepare for the standardized tests (SAT and ACT) that you’ll take later. If you do well on the PSAT, you may be eligible to receive a National Merit Scholarship.

Two years before you plan to begin college…

  • Begin researching your financial aid options by talking to your career counselor and researching grants and scholarships through books and the internet

  • Start planning to take the SAT and/or ACT exams, depending on what is required by your college.

  • During your college visits, meet with a Financial Aid Officer to find out what types of aid are available.

As soon as possible after January 1 of the year in which you start college…

  • Contact the Financial Aid Offices at the colleges of your choice for deadlines and additional documents they require

  • Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Available at, this form is your key to most financial aid, and to all Federal and state grants and loans. When you complete your FAFSA, be sure to list all the schools you’re interested in attending (up to six), even if you haven’t yet been accepted. Be sure to keep copies of all of the forms you submit.

  • Fill out your tax returns as early as possible so you have accurate tax information for your FAFSA

  • Complete the CSS Financial Aid Profile if it is required by your college

  • Find out which financial aid applications your college choices require and when the forms are due.

  • Send midyear transcripts to the schools to which you have applied.

  • About four weeks after you submit your FAFSA, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) that contains federal financial aid information. Submit the SAR and, if requested, your tax forms to the Financial Aid Office. Contact each office to make certain that your application is complete. Find out what else you need to do to establish and maintain your eligibility for financial aid.

This article is distributed by NextStudent. At NextStudent, we believe that getting an education is the best investment you can make, and we're dedicated to helping you pursue your education dreams by making college funding as easy as possible. We invite you to learn more about financial aid at

About The Author

Vanessa McHooley
My goal is to help every student succeed - education is one of hte most important things a person can have, so I have made it my personal mission to help every student pay for their education. Aside from that, I am just a pretty average girl from SD.



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