Before College: Hey High School Seniors! Dates and Deadlines Are Critical for Grants and Scholarships!

The best financial aid is “gift aid” — scholarships and grants. Needless to say, your Pre-College Finance Plan should include strategies to help you get as much of it as possible. This includes knowing, understanding, and acting within certain date ranges and deadlines.

Millions of dollars in gift aid are available, but they’re simply not enough to cover most student’s educationally-related costs. In fact, 2020 undergraduate scholarships paid only 16% of these costs, and freshman through senior-year grants covered just 10% of them. So competition for gift aid is fierce, and many students lose out on it by failing to apply in a timely manner.

In fact, you should apply for grants and scholarships as soon as possible for two reasons:

  • Financial aid offices sometimes prioritize their limited grant and scholarship dollars based on application dates, so there may not be much or any gift aid left if you’re a last-minute applicant; and
  • Sadly, would-be frauds apply for financial aid, so aid offices need time to verify data — a complex and time consuming process that generally delays the consideration of students for gift aid until it’s completed.

Probably the single most important financial aid date of the year is fast-approaching. The academic year 2021-22 Free Application for Student Financial Aid (FAFSA) on the Web becomes available beginning Thursday, October 1 at 1:00 am EDT.

FAFSA data are used to determine how much eligibility a student has for a broad array of federal, state, institutional, and private financial aid programs — grants, scholarships, loans, work-study — so it’s imperative to complete your FAFSA October 1 or as soon thereafter as possible if you’ll need help paying for college in 2021-22.

Not sure how to complete the FAFSA? You can learn all you need from the government’s instructional webpage about it. If you previously completed a FAFSA, use FAFSA on the Web’s renewal webpage to update and correct their data for 2021-22.

The last date to fill out a FAFSA varies from state to state (see here) and school to school (check with your school).

And some financial aid programs — especially loans and scholarships — have their own unique application forms even though they also use FAFSA data. So be sure to pay close attention to their application deadlines.

Don’t wait to complete the FAFSA or any other grant or scholarship application form! Be one of the first in line to request the gift aid you need!

Need help completing your FAFSA? Let College Affordability Solutions put 40 years of financial aid experience to work helping you — at no charge — by contacting it at (512) 366-5354 or emailing it at

You also need to be preparing financially for postsecondary expenses. That’s why we’re also publishing on a different Pre-College Finance Plan strategy every Wednesday this autumn. So follow this website to make sure you get the latest on ways to help make, and keep, postsecondary education something you can afford.

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