Hidden Financial Aid Deadlines and Overlooked College Planning Timelines

Hi there

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about time lately.  Which do you have?

Some questions have to do with filing financial aid forms – “When are they due?  Should they be filed 12:01am on January 1st?”

Others are from parents with juniors or sophomores in high school, as in, “What’s the best time to get started?  My son/daughter is so busy right now.  He/She has no idea what college he/she wants to look at or major in.”

So I thought that I’d take some, ahem, time, to make a few comments.

Re:  financial aid form deadlines.  Each college has its own priority financial aid deadline.  If you file on or before the priority deadline, you will receive full consideration from the financial aid office.

Miss it by a day, you could be completely out of luck.

Many colleges require the FAFSA (one of the two main financial aid forms) by February 1.  Others have priority deadlines of February 15th or March 1st.

Warning:  do NOT look at the deadline listed on the FAFSA – June 30th.  It’s easy to be fooled into thinking you have more time than you really have.  Ignore the FAFSA, look up your deadlines on each college’s website.


Commercial message:  We offer a “do-it-yourself” training course on how to do the FAFSA, CSS Profile, improve your eligibility, negotiate with a college and a lot more.  Details at:


We also offer a “done-for-you” financial aid forms preparation service.  Read more at:



For parents of juniors and sophomores who are wondering when to get serious about college planning, a few facts:

  1. According to Don Betterton, member of Princeton University’s admissions committee and Director of Financial Aid for 35 years, non-academic considerations count 40% of the application!  In other words, only 60% of your application is grades and academic credentials.
  2. The moment you set foot in the halls of your high school in 9th grade, you’re creating the body of work – including the non-academic stuff -that will be scrutinized by admissions committees in senior year.  (Actually, it’s 8th grade for many kids, according to Oyster Bay High School principal Dennis O’Hara, who was kind enough to remind me about the error of my ways.:)
  3. The sooner you start planning, the more options you’ll have.  Families who put things off until the last minute have fewer options.

So when parents tell me that they don’t think they or their child is “ready” to plan for college.  Or has time…

…I understand, I speak with hundreds of families each year.  But let me offer two thoughts.

First, your child is likely competing with thousands of other kids with similar academic credentials, many of whom are somehow finding time to plan for college.

Second, the college process does not care whether you are ready or not ready.  It just rolls on.

It’s like a train leaving Penn Station.  If it’s scheduled to leave at 5:40, but you’re not there with a ticket in a seat, do you think the conductor will slam on the brakes and let you climb aboard even 30 seconds later?

I’m still interviewing Class of 2016 kids and parents who are interested in being coached through this process.  If you are interested in learning more, please schedule a free “Mini Strategy Session” on our online calendar:


Your Correspondent,

Andy Lockwood