3 Important College Planning Tips for the Holiday Season

The holidays are already upon us, and that means most people are busier than ever – but high-school Seniors may be the busiest of all! With holiday parties and social activities, shopping, and travel plans on top of final exams, it’s also crunch time when it comes to college applications and essays – not to mention FAFSA forms!

That’s why we wanted to remind you of 3 important aspects that you need to keep in mind this month so you don’t miss any important deadlines that could hurt your chances of receiving financial aid – not to mention admission to your student’s college of choice. And if you have younger students, keep these tips in mind for the future!

1. Keep Your Eye Out for Award Letters

Award letters
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Some schools may not send these out until spring, but others start early, so your student may start receiving these soon. Be sure to have a file for these so that you can compare awards that your student receives from the various schools, and choose the proper package.

If your child receives several offers, you may even be able to leverage these to get more aid from your top choice college. This is one thing we help our clients with, but if you’re doing it on your own, you will want to keep all of the acceptance and award letters for review and comparison, and also make sure they don’t get lost in the shuffle of holiday mail!

Admissions Office
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2. Notify the Schools (Or Your College Planner) About Special Circumstances

One reason that the FAFSA forms have to be filled out every year of college is because a family’s financial circumstances can change from year to year, which can affect your eligibility for aid. If you have had a substantial change in income or family situation this year, you may be eligible for more financial aid than your initial offer shows.

If you’re working with a college planner like Eagle College Planning who will negotiate with the colleges on your behalf for more aid, be sure to notify them of any of these recent “special circumstances” which may apply to you:

  • Job loss or job change resulting in reduced income
  • Death or disability of a spouse
  • Divorce
  • Major illness or medical expenses
  • Other large unexpected expenses such as emergency home repairs or loss of a home
  • Any other unusual occurrences which may significantly impact your income and/or ability to pay for college

Otherwise, you should notify the schools themselves as soon as possible. There’s no guarantee, but they may just put together a better offer for your student.

3. Get Ready to File the FAFSA!

Tax Forms
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It may seem hard to believe, but yes, it’s already FAFSA time! The earliest you can submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid is January 1 of the Senior year. You want to get this in as close to this date as possible, in order to ensure that your student is in the first wave of award money.

In some cases, if you have a very high income and/or a lot of assets, your student may not qualify for need-based financial aid. However, don’t let this stop you from filling out the forms!

Some schools require the FAFSA even to receive any merit-based aid, so if your child has good grades, make sure you always fill out the FAFSA form even if you make a lot of money. After all, you don’t want to spend all that money on college if you don’t have to, right??

Collect all of your important financial documents, including last year’s tax returns, and keep them handy so you’ll be ready to submit the FAFSA come January 1. Or if you are working with us or another college planner, be sure to consult with your advisor to find out what information they need to get the forms in for you in a timely manner!

Be sure to keep these important items in mind this month, but above all, have a wonderful holiday season with your family, and enjoy this last Christmas at home together before your Senior heads off to college!

We work with the parents of high-school students to help make sure that your financial assets are properly arranged to minimize your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), and maximize your financial aid award.

If you would like to speak with one of our educational consultants regarding our available options to help your family, please contact us anytime at 614-536-0246.


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