Thinking about college? You’ve got a lot to consider, including where to go, what to study and, of course, how to pay for it. Get the facts:
All seniors should complete the FAFSA. Even if you are not sure if you are going to college, or don’t think you will get financial aid, file online between October 1 and April 15 to qualify for state and federal financial aid for the following academic year. Complete the application as soon as possible to maximize opportunities with colleges that might have early deadlines. File at FAFSA.gov. It’s free and usually takes less than 30 minutes to complete. Here’s what you need to get started:
- A Federal Student Aid identification number (FSA ID) from FSAID.gov
- Driver’s license number, if you have one
- Your Social Security Number
- Student Academic information, such as GPA, test scores, and diploma type
- Parent and student untaxed income information (child support, interest income, veteran benefits)
- Asset information (investments, savings and checking account balances) and business or farm records, if applicable
- Your parent’s federal tax forms (1040EZ, 1040A or 1040 andor W-2s) and your tax forms, if you file taxes
If you are a junior, use FAFSA4caster to plan ahead. Visit fafsa.gov to enter some basic information, and the “College Cost Worksheet” will provide estimated amounts of student aid and savings to help finance your education.
Talk to your family and school counselor about your plans. As you gather information about colleges and think about your career plan, make sure you involve the adults in your life to see which options may be best for you and your family. Look at the overall cost of attendance—room and board, fees, books, and required technology can drive up the cost—and consider alternatives to lower your expenses.
Earn college credit when you can. Take advantage of every opportunity to earn college credit through Advanced Placement, Early College, or duel-credit programs. Earning college credit in high school is cheaper—or in many cases, free—and will help you adjust to college-level work and finish your college degree sooner. Check in with your school counselor during your junior and senior year and be sure you are on track for graduation and your post-high school goals.
Don’t Go It Alone
Figuring out how to pay for college can be confusing and even scary. Don’t try to figure it out on your own. Where to go for help:
- Your school counselor. Start here and discuss your goals and options.
- Take advantage of college and financial aid information sessions. Your school or community may host special events. If you are a senior, take advantage of College Goal Sunday, held annually in February. College-bound Indiana students and their families can get help completing the FAFSA with financial aid experts. Visit collegegoalsunday.org for more information.
- College admissions and financial aid offices. Talk to your colleges of choice to see how their students pay for college and what might work for you.
- Online sources. You can’t believe everything on the Internet, but you can find good advice at these sources:
- Check out investedindiana.org for loads of advice on financial literacy, student loans, and financing options for Indiana students.
- FAFSA.gov offers more than just the FAFSA. You can find timelines and college scorecards that may help you make good decisions.
- Studentaid.ed.gov covers all the basics: how to prepare for college, what types of financial aid is available, who qualifies, and how to apply.