The beginning of senior year is often an exciting and busy time. If you’re planning to attend college after high school, your senior year is the time to start applying for college and applying for financial aid. To make the financial aid process as easy as possible and ensure you maximize your financial aid opportunities, it’s helpful to know what steps you should take, and when. Use the timeline as a guide to apply for financial aid during your senior year of high school.
Summer Before Senior Year
- Get ready for the financial aid process: Although the process shifts 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. Begin to gather the information you’ll need.
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®), a financial aid application.
- 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 FAFSA: The FAFSA is required by all colleges to apply for financial aid. It’s available starting October 1 . 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 the CSS Profile (if required): The CSS Profile is an online application that some colleges use to determine eligibility for non-federal, 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
- Review your Student Aid Report (SAR): After you submit the FAFSA, you’ll be able to view your SAR on fafsa.gov. The SAR is a summary of the information you reported on the FAFSA. It’s important to review your SAR to ascertain your FAFSA is complete and to learn about next steps.
- Complete 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.
- Fill out and submit additional financial aid forms: You may have to submit additional applications for state and/or 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
- 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 communication 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, be careful to understand how much each college expects you to pay. Use a college cost calculator to compare your financial aid offers before you make a decision.
- Learn about the appeal process: If your financial situation has changed or you need more financial aid to make a college affordable for you, 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: Finalize your college decision by May. Most colleges require a tuition deposit to secure your spot, which can range from a few hundred to more than a thousand dollars. May 1 is the decision deadline for most colleges. If you’re concerned about affording this payment, reach out to your college before May 1 to review your options. If you apply for admission under an early action or early decision plan, your deadlines may be earlier.
Summer Before College
- Complete your summer steps: The financial aid process doesn't end when you make 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.
Although you’ll take a few extra steps during your senior year, you’ll find that the financial aid process is an annual process that continues throughout your time in college. This includes submitting financial aid applications, applying for scholarships, and reviewing your financial aid. Staying on top of your required financial aid steps will enable you to continue to receive the financial aid you deserve.