As college costs continue to rise and families find they need help paying for school, the search for financial aid becomes more important.
If you or your child needs college financial aid or funding for postsecondary education, now is the time to step up your search. February is Financial Aid Awareness Month in Idaho and across the country, and there are lots of resources to support your quest.
The application required at most colleges – FAFSA
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is an essential form for requesting financial aid. A completed FAFSA is required for federal scholarship and loan agencies; most college and other postsecondary school financial aid offices. The sooner after Jan. 1 an application is received, the greater the chances are of receiving aid that’s given on a first-come, first-served basis.
The FAFSA is an online form that must be filled out for each year of school. It can also be printed off and mailed in. Fields for information about family size and income, whether you are dependent on your parents or independent for living costs, schools of interest and other questions help determine your official financial need. Answers to many FAFSA questions can be found on tax forms, but if final tax data isn’t available, estimates are also acceptable until the information can be updated later. Schools of interest also don’t have to be final although the U.S. Department of Education automatically sends your FAFSA information to the schools indicated.
Completing the FAFSA requires time, research and care. The good news is, more and more organizations that offer financial aid also use the form – which makes your work worthwhile.
A number of schools and other organizations run FAFSA Completion Workshops in February. To find a workshop near you, ask a teacher or school counselor. (Here are some planned for the Treasure Valley area.)
Spring deadlines for many scholarships
Many scholarships have early spring deadlines, giving organizations time to review application materials, make their selections and notify recipients before school is finished for the year.
Students can apply now for scholarships from the State Board of Education including:
- Governor’s Cup Scholarship (deadline is Feb. 15)
- Opportunity Scholarship (deadline is March 1)
Idaho’s Career Information System can help students sort thousands of scholarships by deadline date. After clicking on the link, select “January ONLY,” then “Get My Results” to see scholarships with January deadlines. Do the same for February, March or any other month. Or if you’ve saved Financial Aid Sort results to your CIS Portfolio, open that list – which can be sorted by deadline month too.
Keep in mind your schools’ aid deadline
Another deadline for receiving financial aid is the one provided by the school you plan to attend. Each has its own deadline for its particular financial aid application form, the FAFSA and other materials. The earlier you apply, the better your chances are of receiving financial aid from that particular school.
To find financial aid deadlines for Idaho postsecondary schools and colleges and for colleges across the U.S., use the Career Information System. From the “Where can I study,” page, follow these steps:
- Click the round green icon next to either “State Schools” or “US Colleges and Universities.”
- Choose a college or other postsecondary school.
- From the list of “Topics” on the left, select “Financial Aid.”
“Applying for financial aid” will appear on the right and will show you the financial aid application deadline for that school. The deadlines vary widely – the University of Idaho’s is in mid-February; Boise State University’s is near the end of June.
Applying for financial aid is hard work – you have to be meticulous. Stay on top
of deadlines, follow up on all kinds of financial aid, take the time to submit complete, quality materials, and your efforts will be rewarded.
– Terry Mocettini,
training, support and marketing coordinator,
Idaho’s Career Information System