I’ve been receiving more than the usual inquiries about the upcoming financial aid deadlines, and I can hear more than the usual panic in peoples’ voices. It appears as if there’s some confusion not only about the various financial aid forms but also the Florida Bright Futures application. Many folks are under the mistaken impression that they must complete and file everything by January 1. Not so.
To clarify, there is not a single school with a January 1 financial aid deadline for students applying ‘regular’ decision.
The FAFSA application, which is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, opens on January 1. New Years Day marks the first day that you can complete this form for the 2012-13 school year. The first major financial aid priority deadline for the incoming class (FALL 2012) is usually February 1, but you should check with the individual schools for the actual deadline. Some schools have a priority deadline of February 15 or even March 1 (or later).
In addition to the FAFSA (a must for all students applying for student aid, including for students who are applying for FL Bright Futures merit awards), some schools also require supplemental financial aid forms such as the CSS Profile. The Profile, which is administered by the College Board, ‘opened’ on Oct 1 and was due in November for students who applied early at schools that use it.
Regarding the Bright Futures scholarship application, this link opened on December 1 for students graduating in 2012. Please keep in mind that whether your student plans to attend college in Florida or go out of state, they should complete the simple Bright Futures application before they graduate from high school. Stuff happens, and even if your student starts college out of state s/he just might end up transfering back home to a Florida school, and a Bright Futures application cannot be completed retroactively.
(Note: Returning college students tend to have later financial aid deadlines, often after April 1. Schools like to deal with the first year students first, then address the financial needs of returning students. This gives parents of returning students a little more breathing room this time around.)
A good rule to live by with all college forms, but financial aid in particular is – EARLY IS BETTER! Financial aid is often awarded on a first-come, first-served basis and therefore everyone should endeavor to have all of the requested financial aid forms submitted on or before the priority deadlines. Missing the priority deadline can mean that your aid package may be a little light on cash and a bit heavier on loans or self-help.
One final note: Meeting these deadlines is but a small, albeit important, piece of the award puzzle. It’s also important to complete the applications accurately, and with proper planning, so you can significantly enhance your student’s financial aid award. For some 12th grade parents it may be too late to complete this planning, although I’ve been able to assist some folks at the very last minute. For 11th or 10th grade parents, the time to act is now, NOT at the last minute when your student is completing his/her applications.
I’m finished holding public workshops for 2011, but starting in January I will be sharing tips and strategies on the financial aid process, both in Miami-Dade and Broward. Click here for more information on what I’ll cover, and to register for a comfy seat.
There is no cost to attend, but missing out on this valuable information could cost you thousands.
P.S. Many college applications for admissions ARE due at the end of the month, or January 1. Once again, early is better. Don’t wait for the last second to hit submit as we have seen technical and logistical difficulties derail students at the 11th hour. There’s no reason to unnecessarily spoil the New Year.