For high school seniors, your last year in school will play a crucial role in researching and securing financial aid for your college education. This month-by-month calendar will guide you through the financial aid process.

Evaluate your student loan options8

September October November December

Search for scholarships to help you reduce your future college expenses.1

Continue searching for scholarships.1

Thanksgiving break is a great time to focus on your scholarship search.1

Download the FAFSA at and start filling it out.1

January February March April

File your taxes early to improve your chances for receiving more financial aid.3Complete and submit your FAFSA.2

Avoid expensive oversights by checking in with your school.4Make sure your FAFSA has been submitted.2Be on the look out for your SAR.6

Look for your SAR in the mail.6Start receiving your college acceptance and financial aid award letters in the mail.6

Continue receiving college acceptance and financial aid award letters in the mail.

May June July August

Compare your financial aid packages.7Evaluate your student loan options.8

Compare your financial aid packages.7Evaluate your student loan options8Earn and save money for college with a part-time summer job.

Pay tuition and fees.9Evaluate your student loan options8

Pay tuition and fees.9


  1. There are millions of dollars in available scholarship funding above and beyond the scholarships you may receive as part of your financial aid packages. Start researching this option before your senior year.
  2. Submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible after January 1. Do not send your FAFSA before January 1 because applications are only accepted in the year you are planning to attend. To complete your FAFSA, visit
  3. The sooner you file your taxes, the sooner you can complete the FAFSA. And, getting your FAFSA in early can improve your chances for receiving more financial aid.
  4. Some schools have deadlines for the paperwork you need to complete to retain your work-study or other school-administered financial aid that are considerably earlier than federal and state deadlines. By checking in with the school early in the year, you can ensure that you file all of the required forms in time to maximize the financial aid you receive.
  5. Each school that you noted on the FAFSA will receive a copy of your Student Aid Report (SAR) and send a financial aid package for your consideration. For help understanding your financial aid package, visit our sample financial aid package.
  6. Three to five days after you file your FAFSA electronically at, the Department of Education will send your SAR. The SAR details your expected family contribution. Be sure to double check your SAR against the information you provided on the FAFSA. If you find any mistakes, you can correct them online.
  7. Take a close look at what your schools have to offer before making a decision.
  8. Now that you know how much aid you’ll receive and have an idea how much you’ll need to borrow, it’s a great time to apply for your student loans. Compare federal and private student loans to find the loans that best fit your needs.
  9. Your tuition bill will arrive by mail and include a due date. Paying your bill before the scheduled due date will help you avoid costly late fees.
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