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3 Tips for December College Applications

3 Tips for December College Applications

By Herbie Walker

Nov. 30th 2020

Many students have not started the college application process. Due to nationwide lockdowns and distance education being the norm, the industry sees a record drop in college applications. The problem is more pronounced with first-generation students but let’s not let the data bring us down instead of focusing on what you can do today.

Look local

For most students starting the application process now, the best place to go first is your local state college and university systems. Many of them have application deadlines that go into the spring, so they will always be a great option to lean on. You should be mindful that though many still accept applications, the odds of additional scholarships or financial aid from the university will diminish the longer you wait to start the process. This is because of the limited funding that many state schools have and prioritizing early applicants receive the most funding. You will have to lean on external scholarships and federal aid if finances are a concern.

Many state colleges’ application requirements tend to be in line with state high school graduation requirements with an additional GPA minimum. They also tend to have application waivers for qualifying families that you can get, and you can find information on their website or with your high school guidance counselor.

Consider smaller private schools

Smaller liberal arts private schools are an excellent option for students who are just starting their college journeys with hundreds of available options. They often have deadlines in January and require a complete application package that includes personal statements, resumes, and recommendation letters. 

A handy tool to narrow down your private college options is NACACs College Openings finder that easily lists all the colleges still accepting applications. You can narrow your search by the availability of Finacial aid, whether they take transfer students and housing options. Though the sticker price on many private schools can be shocking, they tend to be very generous with financial aid and scholarships. Be sure to check each respective school’s website to see what scholarships you qualify for.

Financial Aid is still available

Though the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the 2021-2022 school year has been open since October 1st, your family can still be eligible for up to $6,345 in free financial assistance for college. The FAFSA is the cornerstone of financial aid for any college that you plan to attend and many families often think it is too late to apply this late in the process. But the good news is that the Pell Grant is a federal level funding and does not have the same limitations that you find in local and state funding.

You must select the correct FAFSA to submit (it must be the 2021-2022 version of the application). I have seen many families get this wrong and fill out the application for spring 2021 and believe that all their documents are in on time. As a current high school senior, you DO NOT fill out the 2020-2021 version of the FAFSA as that is reserved for those planning to enroll in the spring.

The FAFSA can be a tricky application, but there are a lot of resources available to help. First, check with your high school to see what your counselor may help you with, as they often have partnerships with organizations and universities that will help you complete it. Some universities’ financial aid departments also hold information sessions that are free to attend. Lastly, you can also work with a tax professional or independent counselor to help your family complete the application accurately so that you can receive funds in time for your first day of school.