If you (or your students) are thinking about applying for college, it is probably in your best interest to consider applying for financial aid there as well.

At this time of year, we hope that most students have a pretty good idea of where they would like to apply for college already. But this isn’t the case for everyone.

Whether you’re a first-year student, or looking to transfer schools, when you complete your admissions applications, you should also plan to apply on time for financial aid. And that process starts as early as October!

If you are still putting together your final college list, it’s a good idea to rank your colleges and create a financial aid timeline. Then, when it comes time to submit the FAFSA, don’t be afraid to submit to all of the potential colleges on your list.

You might ask: “Should I submit financial aid applications even if I haven’t completed all of the admissions applications yet, or heard if I’m accepted?”

I recommend that you do, yes! Many financial aid forms like the FAFSA, institutional forms, tax documents, etc. are cost-free to submit. It should be an easy decision for you then to submit the requirements to all of your potential colleges, rather than waiting until later just to find out you’ve missed a priority deadline.

The FAFSA can be submitted to up to 10 colleges at one time, but you can always add additional colleges to your FAFSA once it’s processed. You may choose to submit the FAFSA to either the top 10 colleges on your list first, or the 10 colleges with the earliest deadlines. I’ll be covering more about this in a later post.

Keep in mind that submitting a FAFSA does not guarantee you will receive acceptance to that college. In fact, most colleges wait until after acceptances have been released before they consider financial aid awards. However, it does guarantee that your FAFSA information will be available for the college to review when you do receive your acceptance.

Often, a large part of deciding to attend one college over another has to do with finances. You can commit to submitting financial aid paperwork to your colleges without having to commit to enroll, so why not? You should plan to submit your FAFSA even if you don’t have your final college list.

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