Mapping Your Future: It's a great time to be a high school junior - especially for college financial aid planning


It's a great time to be a high school junior - especially for college financial aid planning

By Catherine Mueller

April 02, 2018

If you are a high school junior, you probably have some college or career dreams for life after high school. Now is the time to take action to make those dreams a reality.

Changes to the financial aid application process in recent years makes it increasingly important for juniors do research on colleges or schools. Understanding tuition costs and programs of study will enable those students to begin the financial aid process soon after they start their senior year.

In 2016, the financial aid application process changed so that you can complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) beginning on Oct. 1 in the year prior to attending postsecondary education. If you are a high school junior now, you can complete the FAFSA beginning on Oct. 1, 2018, for college or postsecondary training for the 2019-2020 academic year.

Because the FAFSA is available so soon after you start your senior year in high school, you need to start your research now to be ready when the application becomes available. Know what schools match your career interests and are affordable. Understand how to complete the FAFSA and begin gathering the information you need. It's important to complete the FAFSA as soon as possible – even though it is available for several months – because some financial aid is distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Another change from 2016 helps high school juniors get a better estimate of their eligibility for federal financial aid. Federal officials changed the FAFSA so you if plan to attend college beginning in the fall of 2019, you will provide your family's income from 2017. You can get a much better estimate of the amount of financial aid you may receive because you can base it on your family's 2017 income tax return that has already been completed. This can help prepare and have a better understanding how much money your family will need to contribute to pay for your education.