Here are the tasks you and your teen will need to take care of during his senior year. (Expect him to do as much as possible; it's a great way to learn the way the world works.)
- Call the financial aid offices at each college your teen is interested in. Ask for a packet of financial aid information, and find out what deadlines you must meet.
- If your teen is considering applying for early decision, ask the college whether you can get early financial aid estimates. If not, and financial aid is crucial, your teen will just have to apply as a regular applicant so he'll be able to apply to several places and compare offers from different schools.
- Request a FAFSA form from the guidance office, and plan to fill it out in December. You'll want to mail it shortly after the first of January.
- Start gathering the personal information you'll need to fill out financial aid applications. The type of information is very similar to an income tax form. You'll need:
- Fill out the form and photocopy it for your records before mailing it.
- After processing, a Student Aid Report will be sent to you. Check it carefully for accuracy. If it's inaccurate, follow the instructions provided for making corrections. After you have a correct form in hand, send it to the appropriate colleges.
- Most colleges will want a copy of your federal tax return, and some may want state tax returns, medical and dental expense records, or other documents as well.
Your last paycheck stub
Bank statements, including checking and savings accounts, money market funds, certificates of deposit
Investment statements from brokers, mutual funds, partnerships or other income sources
Property records showing the purchase price, value, and outstanding debt on second homes or other real estate (the value of your primary residence is not part of the financial need calculation)
Business or farm records to establish value and debt levels
For Further Info
The financial aid process can be intimidating and confusing to the best of parents. Luckily, there are several resources you can turn to for help:
- If your teen's high school has a financial aid counselor on staff, you're very fortunate. He or she can advise you on the best packages possible and can help you navigate through the intricacies of getting financial aid.
- In some schools, your teen's guidance counselor is the right person to contact.
- For more specific information, phone the admissions office, financial aid office, or academic counselor at your teen's target schools. (Save yourself time by drawing up a list of questions you want to ask before you make the call.)