American College Funding

FAQs and Timeline

How much will college cost?

The total cost for attending college includes tuition, fees, room and board, as well as an allowance for personal expenses, such as travel, laundry and an occasional pizza. Most college catalogs include the cost of attendance. Also, check publications from the financial aid offices. Your financial aid award letter will have the most accurate costs based on your program of study.

Why should I apply for financial aid?

There are federal, state, institutional and private monies to help you and your family meet some of the costs of postsecondary education. Aid may be based on need or other factors such as academic, artistic or athletic talent.

What types of financial aid are available?

Grants and Scholarships: Gift aid from federal, institutional, state and private sources that does not have to be repaid.

Student Loans: The principal and interest payments on most loans begin after you leave school. With some loans, you might be required to pay the interest while you are still in school.

Work Study: At most schools, work study jobs average 10-15 hours per week. The money earned can be used to cover personal expenses, such as telephone calls, laundry, books and supplies.

Aid Package: A combination of financial aid (scholarships, grants, work study and/or loans) offered to prospective students by the financial aid office to help the student and family manage the costs of higher education.

Cost of Attendance (COA): The total cost of attending a postsecondary institution for one academic year. This figure usually includes tuition, fees, room, board, supplies, transportation and personal expenses.

When do I apply for financial aid?

Each college may have a different deadline for filing the financial aid forms. These dates usually range from February 1 to March 15. Check with each school to be sure you know the school’s filing dates. At most schools, institutional financial aid is granted on a first-come, first-served basis to need-eligible students. Missing a posted deadline could mean a significant reduction in the amount of aid received.

Here is a typical Financial Aid Timeline

Summer/Fall (Preceding Senior Year): During your campus visit, ask the Admissions or the Financial Aid Office what forms are needed to apply for financial aid.

Be sure to note the deadlines! Financial aid and admissions deadlines normally differ at each school. Research the availability of scholarships – check with your guidance counselor about local opportunities and free scholarship search web sites such as and

November/December: Attend a local financial aid workshop. Visit our calendar for dates and times. Ask about our complimentary early estimate of eligibility for federal student aid.

January: File the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible after January 1, but DO NOT MISS THE EARLIEST COLLEGE DEADLINE! The FAFSA must be filed to determine your eligibility for the Federal Pell Grant Program, Federal Stafford/Direct Loans, Federal
Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG), National SMART Grant
and Federal Campus-based Programs (i.e. SEOG, Perkins, and
Work Study). If schools you are applying to require the CSS
PROFILE, register online at You will
receive a customized application.

February/March: A few weeks after filing your FAFSA the Department of Education will send you a Student Aid Report (SAR). This report determines whether you will be eligible for a Pell Grant and shows the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). It may also need to be amended if you had to file your FAFSA and Profile forms prior to filing your tax returns. Consult a College Funding counselor if this is the case.

Federal grants have strict need-based eligibility requirements. Do not despair if you are not Pell Grant eligible, as most people are not. Pay close attention to the instructions that are included with the SAR and be sure to do what is asked. You may still be eligible for other federal and institutional financial aid.

April/May: You should receive an award letter from each of the schools to which you applied. If you applied to more than one school, make sure you compare award letters carefully.

You should view your college financial aid and admissions process as you would any business relationship. You would never buy a car or house on the first offer. You probably should not "buy" your child's college education on the first offer either! If you feel you need to appeal the award (and many people do with excellent results) contact a College Funding counselor. 

May 1: National Candidate Reply Date. This is the deadline for accepting the offer of admission and your award package and forwarding your
initial tuition deposit that ensures your enrollment at the chosen school.

June/July: Begin the student loan application process. Most schools will include a set of instructions with your award letter. You will be required to
complete an application and promissory note which you can obtain from your state guaranty agency, school or lender. At the same time, parents and students should identify how they will meet the remaining costs

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