Winter is coming. No, this is not a Game of Thrones post. Rather, as most parents of seniors can now appreciate, winter’s approach means that early application deadlines have passed, the FAFSA has (likely) been submitted, and you are finally able to take a deep breath again. Before the pace of holiday season picks up, follow these 5 post-FAFSA financial aid tips:
1. Review your Student Aid Report (SAR)
Within three days to three weeks after submitting the FAFSA, you will be able to see your Student Aid Report (SAR) by logging in to your account at FAFSA.gov. The SAR is a summary of the information you submitted with the FAFSA and will have your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) in the top right corner. Ensure that all information reflected on the SAR is accurate. If you find a mistake or have updated information, you can edit/update your FAFSA by logging in to your account. For more tips on what to expect if you edit your FAFSA, click here.
2. Begin (or continue) the search for college-based scholarships
Although many colleges/universities will automatically consider students for merit scholarships based on their application, leave no stone unturned when looking for additional institutional money. For every school to which you have applied, be sure to go to the “Financial Aid & Scholarships” page on their website. In fact, be sure to scour every corner of the site for links to ensure you know of all possible undergrad scholarships.
3. Get serious about local and student-specific scholarships
Over ten years of working with high school students, I’ve heard one phrase repeatedly when it comes to searching for scholarships, “It’s like having a part-time job to do it right!” So true. I recommend setting aside two or three hours a week dedicated exclusively to scholarship searching and applications. If I told you this time would earn you $5,000 at the end of the school year, you may find it’s worth it! There are likely many local scholarship opportunities available and these scholarships generally have the smallest competition pool which increases your odds of getting some of that cash.
4. Pay attention to the family budget
How much does it cost for a soon-to-be college student to live at home? It’s not free! Therefore, determine how much is allocated per month to house, clothe, feed, clean, and educate our pre-college student. This monthly outgoing cash flow can simply be reallocated to paying for college once he/she begins post-secondary study as each family is already used to paying it! Also consider monthly 529 contributions in this formula. Before you know it, you may find $300 -$400 per month!
5. The spirit of giving
Remember those approaching holidays I mentioned earlier? As a senior soon to embark on the next chapter, request monetary gifts, practical dorm or education-related gifts that can be used next year, or gift cards to places you plan to shop for your college-related items. Although you may have wants right now, you can save yourself some money by planning for what you need at college…which is usually $$$!