Your Money Matters: Tips for securing financial aid for college students

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Cliff Morgan
Strategic Wealth Partners

Financial Aid/Scholarships

FAFSA:  (Free Application for Financial Aid)
Work on and submit December/January.  Used to apply to Federal programs such as Stafford, Perkins Loans, and Pell Grants.

CSS Profile: (College Scholarship Service)
While the CSS Profile form has no specific deadline, you should submit it at least two weeks before the financial aid deadline at your school. Used to apply for scholarships and programs offered by individual schools.

Other Scholarships:
Excellent resource is  The site includes links to scholarships by state, type, major, sports scholarships, minority scholarships, unusual scholarships, and includes details and deadlines.

How to Find Out the Application Deadlines for US Colleges
Most applications will indicate the deadline somewhere on the form. Each school’s website should have their application deadlines listed, but the dates can be difficult to find. You can always call a school’s admissions department during business hours to find out for sure.


Early Application: generally need to get applications in by either November 1 or November 15th.
Early Action
Early Decision (binding)
Single Choice Early Action (not allowed to apply to any other schools during early action period only)
*Some colleges have also added a second deadline for early decision applicants which is usually January 1.

Regular Decision: Deadline is normally between January 1 and February 1, depending on the college.  Get most of your essays done and decide who will write your recommendations in November, so you won’t have a lot of last-minute work to do during the holiday season.

Transfer and Rolling Admission: Transfer applicants generally have a deadline of around May 1 for following fall semester.  Some accept even later.  Rolling admissions schools recommend that you get your application in by March 1 or earlier for best chances.



August before Senior Year

  • Register for the September ACT if appropriate
  • Come up with a preliminary list of colleges that includes reach, match and safety schools.
  • Explore the websites of the colleges that interest you to learn about admissions requirements.
  • Look over the Common Application and begin thinking about potential topics for your personal essay.
  • Visit campuses and interview with college representatives if appropriate.


  • Register for October or November SAT and SAT Subject exams (check SAT dates).
  • Meet with your guidance counselor to discuss the colleges to which you're thinking of applying.
  • Request letters of recommendation, especially if you are applying early.
  • Continue to visit campuses and interview with college admissions representatives.
  • Request applications from all the schools to which you might apply. Create an account with The Common Application if the colleges you've selected use it.
  • Create a chart of deadlines. Pay particular attention to early decision, early action, and preferred application deadlines.
  • If appropriate, register for the October ACT exam.
  • Work on your college essays.


  • Take the SAT, SAT Subject exams, and/or ACT as appropriate.
  • Complete your applications if you are applying early decision or early action.
  • Research financial aid and scholarships. Find out whether your parents' places of employment offer college scholarships for employee children?
  • Get your college essay in shape. Get feedback on your writing from a guidance counselor and a teacher.
  • Request your high school transcript and check it for accuracy.
  • Keep track of all application components and deadlines: applications, test scores, letters of recommendation, and financial aid materials. An incomplete application will ruin your chances for admission.


  • Register for the December SAT or ACT if appropriate.
  • Take the November SAT if appropriate.
  • Make sure you've submitted all components of your applications if you are applying to colleges with November deadlines for early decision or preferred application.
  • Put the final touches on your application essays, and get feedback on your essays from counselors and/or teachers.
  • Continue to research scholarships.

December - January

  • Complete your applications for regular admissions.
  • Make sure you've had your test scores sent to all colleges that require them.
  • Confirm that your letters of recommendation have been sent.
  • Submit the FAFSA (Free Application for Financial Aid).
  • If you are accepted to a school through early decision, be sure to follow directions carefully. Submit required forms, and notify the other schools to which you applied of your decision.
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