I’m procrastinating.

I need to polish off the financial aid applications to all the schools where our daughter applied.  Instead, I’m writing this blog about it.  I figured some of you may be in my boat. The essays are written. The admissions applications were wrapped up two weeks ago.  But the sticker shock is still shocking, and now, hopefully, Junior is forwarding the emails about financial aid application deadlines.

The priority financial aid application deadline for most colleges falls around February 1.  To get the specifics, visit the financial services website for each of the colleges where your student has applied.  If you are unsure of anything, call them.  Ask questions.  Coach your student to call and ask questions.  Just don’t put it off because it could be worth thousands of dollars next fall.

Next, go back and read my two previous posts concerning the FAFSA and the CSS Profile. The FAFSA is required if you would like access to federal student loans and often is needed if your state awards scholarship money based on GPA, SAT, or ACT scores.  If you know that loans are part of your college financing equation, please don’t skip the FAFSA.  The interest rates you get on federal loans will beat what you are offered anywhere else and do not require a rigorous credit check.  The CSS Profile is utilized by private schools when granting aid from their endowments and affiliated scholarships.

Never assume you make too much to receive aid.  As an example, last year there were 266 freshmen at the University of Notre Dame whose families had an adjusted gross income (Line 37 on your 1040 tax form) of over $200,000, and their students still received an average university need-based scholarship of $18,328.  The average need based scholarship for the incoming class was $38,900.  The lesson here is if you do not apply, you do not give them the chance to lay out all your possible opportunities and options.

After filling out the FAFSA and possibly the CSS Profile, some schools will ask you to submit tax documents and W2 forms.  Look for emails or further instructions on their website that lay out the process for doing that.  Each school can be a little bit different.  Again, if in doubt, email or call someone at the school.

Financial aid award letters typically arrive with the acceptance letter to the school.  That letter is not necessarily the final offer from the school.  Later this spring, I will come back to this topic to discuss the calls to make and the questions to ask once that award letter is in your student’s hand!

As always, if you would like to schedule a free chat to ask more questions about this or any personal finance topic, please don’t hesitate to schedule using the “Drop Me A Line” button on the website, or the “Book Now” button on Facebook.  If you know someone going through this process with their student, please share this blog.

(…and now I think I’ll go make one more cup of coffee before I get to that paperwork…)

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