Your senior year is an exciting time─you’re planning for what’s next after high school. You’re applying to colleges, imagining what your dorm will look like, and ready to claim your independence. In all the excitement, you could lose track of important financial aid dates and details.
We get it. You have a lot going on. Here’s a checklist to help you manage all the financial aid details.
Summer Before Senior Year
- Get ready for the financial aid process: Although the process kicks into full gear your senior year, you can prepare yourself the summer before. Learn about college costs. Review and update your college list. Talk to your family. Gather the information you’ll need on financial aid or scholarship deadlines.
Senior Year: Fall Semester
- Create an FSA ID: The FSA ID is a username and password you’ll use when you (electronically) sign and submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). You can’t complete the FAFSA without it, so it’s an important first step.
- Find and apply for scholarships: Scholarships can help make college more affordable. Set yourself up for success at the beginning of your senior year by creating a list of the scholarships you want to apply for, along with their requirements and deadlines. Apply for these scholarships as they become available year-round.
- Fill out and submit the CSS Profile® (if required): The CSS Profile is an online application that some colleges use to determine eligibility for nonfederal, institutional financial aid. If any of your colleges require the CSS Profile, make sure to submit it by the colleges’ priority deadlines.
November and December
- Fill out and submit the FAFSA: The FAFSA is required by all colleges to apply for financial aid. The application will return to opening in October in 2024. Submit the FAFSA as early as possible. Some financial aid is limited and awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. You should also ensure you’ve completed all the steps to apply for admission.
- Fill out and submit additional financial aid forms: You may have to submit additional applications for state and institutional aid, depending on the colleges you apply to. Check each college’s website. Contact their financial aid office for information.
Senior Year: Spring Semester
January and February
- Review your FAFSA Submission Summary: After you submit the FAFSA, you’ll be able to view your FAFSA Submission Summary. This is a summary of the information you reported on the FAFSA. It’s important to review your FAFSA Submission Summary to ensure your FAFSA is complete and to learn about next steps.
- Complete FAFSA Verification (if selected): Verification is a routine process to double-check information submitted on the FAFSA. If you’re selected for verification, you’ll receive instructions from your colleges to complete the process.
- Check the status of your financial aid: Contact the financial aid office to confirm that your financial aid application is complete. Submit any missing documents as soon as possible.
- Keep an eye out for financial aid offers: Once you’ve been accepted to a college and completed the above steps, you’ll receive a financial aid offer. The offer lists the types and amounts of financial aid the college can give you for 1 year of school. Financial aid offers may arrive by mail, email, or your college student portal. Remember to read all communications from each college.
March and April
- Review and compare your financial aid offers: How much financial aid you receive will vary between colleges and can change with each year you attend. To make a financially informed decision, pay attention to how much each college expects you to pay.
- Learn about the appeal process: If your financial or family situation has changed or you need more financial aid to make a college affordable, you may be eligible to submit a financial aid appeal. Contact the financial aid office for information about their appeal process.
Submit your tuition deposit: Before planning any next steps for enrollment, you’ll have to choose a college. When deciding, make sure you're factoring in cost, academics, and school culture, among other considerations. An important first step is reviewing your financial aid offers and comparing all options before deciding where to go.
Once you’ve decided on a college, you may need to pay an admission deposit to secure your place in the incoming freshmen class. Many colleges consider the amount and type of financial aid you may receive when determining if an admission deposit is required and may waive this fee. Tuition deposits apply toward your tuition and fee bill. Your admission office can provide more information about admission deposits and any steps you may need to take to secure your offer of admission. National College Decision Day is typically May 1, a date when most colleges require students to commit to attending their institution. Deadlines may vary based on your admission application plan and the college or university’s policies.
Summer Before College
- Complete your summer steps: The financial aid process doesn’t end once you’ve made your college decision. Over the summer you should take steps to ensure a successful college start, such as setting up your student portal and paying your fall bill.
The financial aid process is an annual process that continues throughout your time in college, although it won’t include all the same steps you took your senior year of high school. Each year, you’ll submit financial aid applications, apply for scholarships, and review your financial aid. Staying on top of your required financial aid steps will enable you to continue to receive the financial aid you deserve.