Financial Aid Tips for Summer 2016

Parents and Students Must Make Financial Aid Decisions

The solstice has arrived in all its glory, and summer is finally and officially upon us. We may be anxious to roll out the “lazy, hazy, crazy” days of summer, but parents of high school and college students, and their children, have some serious decisions to make in the coming months. Packed in with all the swimming, sunning and vacationing you have to think about financial aid, student loans, and scholarships for college.

Here are a few guidelines to help you get started on what you need to do about financial aid in the summer of 2016:

  • Rising High School Seniors: Congratulations on making it to your senior year in high school. You have accomplished a lot, and now it is time to get serious about your college aspirations, especially if you have not already done so. You will be the first class to utilize the new FAFSA online date of October 1. Although you certainly do still have the option of waiting until later in the year to complete your college applications and financial aid forms, this could really speed up the application process for many students who want to head off to college in September 2017. If you try for an early admission or early decision, you may be able to have your acceptance information and financial aid package by the end of the year. You’ll need to gather all of your tax information from 2015, get an FSA ID, and make sure you’re ready to roll on your applications, so that could put a few more activities into your summer schedule.
  • Rising College Freshmen: You have graduated from high school and are set to go to college. That is a terrific achievement for you and your parents, but you might have some financial aid decisions to make during the summer, too. By now you will have your complete tuition information, and the college should have applied your financial aid package against it. There might be an amount remaining, which you will be expected to pay before classes begin. This is called the “gap amount,” and usually comes from savings accounts, private scholarships and student loans. Carefully research your student loan options, and apply first for federal student loans before turning to private student loans. Think carefully now about how much money you will be able to earn in the future, and look at whether you will realistically be able to make those loan payments after graduation. Put together a budget now so you don’t overspend during your freshman year, keep searching for scholarship money, and try to earn as much additional spending money during the summer as you can.
  • Recent College Graduates: Congratulations are in order for you as well, since you have also completed a big achievement. Now that your undergraduate career is over, you have many choices to make regarding the next step in your life. You may choose to go on for a further education, could get married, might join the military, or could be engaged in a “real” job search for the first time in your life. One thing you should not let slide, though, is your student loan debt. Don’t wait until the end of the year to start thinking about how you are going to pay those bills. The best approach is to be totally prepared and realistic. Find out the total amount of money you owe, determine whether they are private or federal student loans, and look at your monthly payments. If the total comes to more than you will be earning, you have to start thinking about loan consolidation or student loan repayment options now. These take a little while to put into place, so it is definitely easier to make decisions before the bills start arriving.

So get out the sunscreen, but don’t put those pencils away just yet. Make a schedule for your summer activities based on where you are in your educational career, and make sure you pay attention to financial aid issues.

Decisions you make and actions you take could save thousands of dollars in the years ahead.