It's never too early to start the money search. Use this handy tear-out timeline to help your teen stay on track.
- Encourage your teen to work hard on improving his GPA, and to take the ACT and/or SAT at least once by spring of his junior year.
- Have him keep track of his activities, so he'll have a complete record when it's time to fill out applications.
- Help him find a part-time job in order to start saving for his education. Every little bit helps.
Grade 12: Fall
- Encourage your student to keep those grades up.
- Ask her about her ACT and/or SAT scores. Discuss retaking the test(s) if she thinks it could improve her scores.
- Find out what financial assistance information your student received from her guidance counselor. Encourage her to check with the guidance counselor regularly to pick up scholarship applications. You'll be surprised at all the awards out there.
- Fill out some practice worksheets for the Free Application for Fed- eral Student Aid (FAFSA) online at fafsa.ed.gov/worksheet.htm. Make sure you or your student gets a PIN number to use online when you fill out the actual copy of the FAFSA.
- Be sure you have all the financial aid forms that are required by the colleges your student is considering.
Grade 12: Winter
- Fill out a FAFSA online at fafsa.ed.gov as soon as possible after January 1. (You can also get a FAFSA at the guidance office or the library.) Once the FAFSA is processed, you'll see what your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) will be. The EFC is the amount of money you and your child will be expected to pay for college. Information from your latest tax return (or estimates of those figures) is needed to complete the FAFSA.
- Send copies of your latest tax return to those Financial Aid offices requesting updated information. Include copies of your student's latest tax return, too, if he has one. Send everything in as soon after January 1 as possible.
- Be sure any additional forms that are required by a specific school are sent on time.
- Photocopy all forms before sending them in.
- Watch your mailbox for the Student Aid Report (SAR), which should arrive a few weeks after you complete the FAFSA. This is an opportunity to make corrections to the original figures (especially if they are estimates) and get an idea of how much money your family will have to contribute for college.
- If you update your information, send it on to the FAFSA people. Some colleges will even file these changes for you. Ask financial aid officers if they provide this service.
- If the SAR doesn't arrive within four weeks of filing the FAFSA, call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-4-FED-AID and ask about the report. You also can check the status online at fafsa.ed.gov.
- Have your teen contact the financial aid offices at colleges he's considering to find out about grants, loans and work-study opportunities.
- Keep your eyes peeled for scholarships. Your child might be eligible for awards from the colleges he is considering, based on academics, athletic ability, volunteer service or leadership potential. And don't give up on outside scholarships. Your teen should periodically see his guidance counselor for any updated information.
Grade 12: Spring
- By mid-March or early April, your student should start receiving award notices from those colleges she applied to. These notices explain what kinds of aid she will receive, how much she has been awarded, where it will all come from, and what your family will be expected to pay.
- Pray for and with your teen about which college she should attend. When she's chosen one, make sure she's sent in the Student Aid Report to that school's financial aid office (if they require it) and kept a copy for herself.
- Congratulate her on her hard work and dedication in making this decision!