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TO GET FINANCIAL AID, MEET DEADLINES!
If you are a senior headed off to university this fall or a current college student of any age, money has got to be on your mind. If not, it should be!
College is expensive and in short order, someone is going to be writing some big checks.
Hopefully, you have planned well up to this point. You have optimized high school using a LeeWay strategy. You have a great College Package and you are ready to apply as soon as your senior year starts. Maybe you have even applied early and you have at least one primary scholarship offer firmly in hand. Now you just need to do one more thing.
You have to meet all the key deadlines! This sounds easy. It should be easy. But it is the number one reason students don't get all the non-loan financial aid that they deserve. Part of the problem is that there is a lot of mixed messages out there about just what those deadlines are. First, try to remember what the word "deadline" means. A deadline is not the goal date, it is the absolute last date...eeekk!
Deadline #1 - Apply
Some college websites will say that you don't have to apply until spring. That is mistake numero uno! All admission applications for all colleges should be completed no later than October 31st of the senior year! Period! No exceptions!!!
Why would a website say otherwise? Because they are telling you THEIR SPECIFIC admissions deadline. What really matters is THE NATIONAL financial aid deadline. Admissions can be staggered, late, or even rolling (year round). But financial aid is first come first serve. Get to the party late, and you won't have much fun. In the case of merit-based dollars, the party is likely to be over altogether if you don't apply by the October deadline!
Deadline #2 - Apply Again
Congrats! You applied on time and now you have a shot at merit based aid. But your job is far from over. Now you need to apply for non-primary aid, aka secondary scholarships. Secondary aid requires an application separate from the admissions app that you sent in by October 31st. Some colleges publish these secondary apps on their website or via www.commonapp.org, but many colleges don't release that information at all. What do you do when that happens?
Deadline #3 - Keep Applying
When a college doesn't offer secondary apps on their website, you have to go find your own apps. This is hard since there is not a universal site that publishes secondary scholarships. But if you do not apply for specific secondary aid then you will not get 100% of your college paid for. That is just the harsh reality.
So, how do you go about finding and applying for secondary apps? Here's what I do. I email the financial aid office of a college that I want to attend. I say,
"Hi, I will be a freshman at your college next year. I am majoring in psychology. Can you send me a list of any freshman scholarships that require a separate application from the admissions app?
More often than not, this results in a nice list of scholarships for me to check out. When it doesn't work, I head over to Google and type in some variations of, THE COLLEGE NAME + "MERIT-BASED AID" + THE STATE YOU LIVE IN. This usually equals A GOOD PLACE TO START!