Financial Aid Timeline

Planning for college can both be exciting and overwhelming, especially if you’re not sure how you are going to pay for your education. Looking ahead to your senior year of high school, it is important to be prepared for steps you will take in the financial aid process. Check out the timeline below for a monthly guide of what to expect as you start your college journey.

Summer Leading Up To Senior Year

  • Visit potential colleges and universities
  • Schedule interviews with schools of interest
  • Narrow down the schools to which you intend to apply
  • Develop a calendar of application deadlines and financial aid deadlines for your potential schools

Fall Semester of Senior Year


  • Start looking for potential grant and scholarship opportunities – you can use the Department of Education’s free scholarship search tool, or Fastweb to search for scholarships
  • Register for any exams required by your schools, including the SAT (I and II), and ACT
  • Begin to collect scholarship applications


  • Time to start asking teachers, coaches, or guidance counselors to write you a letter of recommendation.
  • Take the SAT and or ACT, and request your test scores be sent to your prospective colleges
  • If required by your schools, you may need to register for College Board’s CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE in order to apply for nonfederal aid.


  • Submit your college applications (after carefully proofreading for errors)
  • Review the financial aid materials from your prospective colleges
  • Research potential scholarship opportunities specific to your schools


  • You will start to hear back from schools to which you replied early decision.
  • For pending applications, check on the status, and make sure your schools received all necessary paperwork
  • Begin to prepare college financial and tax information for yourself and your parents.
  • Visit the FAFSA website to familiarize yourself with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid

Spring Semester of Senior Year


  • Submit the FAFSA as soon as possible once the application period begins on January 1. It is best to submit sooner rather than later because certain types of aid are awarded first come first served.
  • Submit any financial aid applications particular to your schools.
  • Complete and turn in any scholarship or grant applications.
  • If required by any schools, request that your high school forward your last semester’s transcript.


  • Get ready to review your Student Aid Report (SAR), which will include your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). You should receive this within about a month of completing the FAFSA.
  • Review your SAR and resubmit with changes if needed.
  • Stay in touch with your schools’ financial aid office and admissions office to confirm all necessary paperwork has been received.


  • All acceptance letters should be received by April 15.
  • Explore all acceptance packages thoroughly so that you understand any necessary next steps.
  • Compare your financial aid awards. Review the amount of grants and scholarships you receive compared to student loans. A package with more aid that you do not need to repay may be most favorable.
  • You do not need to accept all aid that is awarded to you, and you can turn down loans you do not need.
  • Decide whether to pursue acceptance at any schools where you were placed on the waiting list.


  • The time has come to finally decide on a school.
  • Secure your spot at your college or university by sending a deposit. It is common for schools to require a deposit and your signed acceptance letter by May 1. If you are not able to pay the deposit, you should contact your school’s financial aid office to review your options.
  • After making a decision on where to attend, notify any other schools at which you were accepted to decline their acceptance offer.
  • If enrolled in any Advanced Placement (AP) courses at your high school, take AP exams in order to potentially earn college credit. Request that your AP scores be sent to your college or university.
  • Inform your school of any private (nonfederal) funds you will receive for your education, including scholarships and grants.
  • Request that your high school submit your final transcript to your college or university.
  • Complete any loan applications.


  • Ask your school about deadlines for paying tuition and fees.
  • Congratulations on graduating from high school! Enjoy your summer and look forward to a great college experience.

Recent News

More than 90% of student debt today is in the form of federal loans. If you graduated from college recently and have a federal loan, you may have the option to temporarily postpone your payments, extend them, or lower them. The challenge is figuring out which of the eight major federal repayment plans is best for your situation.
The Federal Reserve’s decision to raise interest rates for the first time since 2006 likely won’t affect most student loan borrowers—not this year, at least.
Some of you may be familiar with the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Repayment Plan, which caps payments at 10% of a borrower’s monthly income and forgives any remaining balance on your student loans after 20 years of qualifying repayment. But this plan is only for recent borrowers. REPAYE solves this problem. Like the name implies, REPAYE has some similarities to PAYE. First and foremost, REPAYE, like PAYE, sets payments at no more than 10% of income. However, REPAYE—unlike PAYE— is available to Direct Loan borrowers regardless of when they took out their loans.
Federal lawmakers are looking to repeal a provision in the recently passed U.S. budget that allows the government to robocall and text cellphones to collect debts, including student loans.
Student loans are coming due for borrowers who graduated or left school in May. But choosing the best repayment plan while avoiding misinformation and student loan scams isn't always easy.
As part of the Obama Administration's commitment to helping students and borrowers, the Department of Education is announcing the publication of two regulatory packages that will protect students in the rapidly-expanding college debit and prepaid card marketplace and add a new income-based repayment plan so more borrowers can limit the amount of their payments to 10 percent of their income.
Repayment on the most common student loans (federal Stafford loans) starts six months after the borrower graduates. So, if like most new college grads, you donned a cap and gown in May of this year, it’s about time to pay up. Paying off student loan debt can be intimidating, but there are many things you can do to reduce the stress of the situation.
The changes, which will be implemented over the course of 2016, will significantly affect the process of filing for federal financial aid and, for some families, the amount of aid they'll receive. For families of current and prospective college students, here are the changes to be aware of – and how to manage them.
In a report that came out this September, the CFPB examined student loan servicing practices and came up with a set of guidelines for how to fix problems in this business. The CFPB and Department of Education have also issued “joint principles” on how to clean up loan servicing, although they fall short of being stringent regulations or actual laws. In the interim, here is what you need to know when dealing with your own student loan servicer.
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) helps determine a student’s eligibility for aid by asking for information on the income and assets of the student and his or her parents for the previous year. Since the FAFSA can be completed as early as January 1, and because many schools want the form filed early in the year, families commonly fill out the form with estimates of their previous year’s income and then adjust the figures later after completing their tax returns. This has sometimes created problems that affected students’ financial aid packages. To simplify and streamline the process, the Obama administration recently changed the application guidelines in a way that will affect college planning for most families.