December Financial Aid Checklist for SeniorsPosted on Wed, 12/12/2012 - 10:27
College advisor Alice Kleeman is back this month with advice for seniors on what you should be doing with regard to financial aid. Remember it is you, the student, who applies for aid. But families will need to work together to obtain the best result. Here are this month's reminders. Read, save and use them!
* Most importantly, do apply for financial aid to be sure you are considered for all assistance available. Even if you think you won't qualify, apply. You may be pleasantly surprised.
* December is a good time for families to gather all the tax-related information that is available before the year's end; this will facilitate early filing of both taxes and the FAFSA in the new year. The FAFSA can be filed based on estimates if tax returns are not completed, but beginning to assemble all the important information necessary for prompt tax filing can hasten the process for a year in which a family is applying for financial aid. Just remember, do not SUBMIT your FAFSA before January 1—it will not be processed for the correct school year!
* The list of documents needed for filing -- tax returns for the most recent year, Social Security numbers, driver's license information, student and parent W-2 forms and other records of money earned, current bank statements, etc. -- can be found on the FAFSA website here. Families can also find worksheets on the FAFSA website to fill out prior to filing.
* If you have not obtained your FAFSA PIN (Personal Identification Number), do so now. You can obtain a FAFSA PIN (Personal Identification Number) for yourself and one of your parents here. Later, when you file the FAFSA electronically, you will use the PIN to create an electronic signature. While you may obtain a PIN now, remember you will not file the FAFSA until after January 1.
* If you have begun to correspond with the financial aid offices of the colleges on your list, make sure that all communication includes your name, address, the last four digits of your social security number, and your date of birth on every page.
* Continue researching scholarships and use the winter break to tackle scholarship applications. Again, here are some resources for researching scholarships:
The Web-based Naviance system features a scholarship search service powered by Sallie Mae. Check with your counselor to see if your school offers this feature of Naviance.
* Draft a scholarship essay. Many scholarship applications ask for a personal statement that is essentially a brief autobiography. Collect all your already-prepared college essays and begin to think about creating a personal statement and drafting your scholarship essays. These could include information about your family's financial situation. But pay attention to what each application requests for the personal statement and be sure to answer the specific prompt.
* Deadlines matter! Track them carefully. You can use the Financial Aid Deadline Organizer available here. Or your high school may have an online system, such as Naviance, for tracking progress and deadlines. Check with your high school guidance or college counselor.
* If you have questions, ask your high school college counselor or speak with the college financial aid office about any concerns about the FAFSA, CSS PROFILE, deadlines or scholarships and financial aid in general!