Consider financial aid if you are worried about college tuition fees:

A) For those in the U.S.–If you are applying for early application, you will have to fill in your CSS in the fall. The FAFSA allows you to submit after October 1st.  To explain, the CSS is the College Scholarship Service, the financial aid sector of the College Board and its Profile is administered by the College Board. This is focussed on about three hundred colleges and scholarship programs. It will vary according to the school, but it often requires more information than the FAFSA and of course, it weights income and assets differently.

The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid which gives you access to aid like Pell grants or loans. Certain states and schools use the FAFSA to assess student eligibility for their own scholarships and grants. This application takes into account the student’s and parents’ assets and income information, as well as the family’s expected contribution towards a student’s education for the next year. The CSS and FAFSA Profile can also be used to see if a student qualifies for merit aid, which is not based on finances but on achievements in academics, sports or other extracurricular activities.

You will find very good offers available through subsidized federal loans as in the Perkins loans and the Direct Loans (ie. Stafford loans). However if the grants and scholarships are not enough to cover your costs, you can mention your interest in  a work-study option on your FAFSA. More information is available through each college’s financial aid office.

B) For those in Canada—Canadian universities are often less costly than American universities for a number of reasons, a key one being Canadians actually support education via higher taxes. That said, a fair number of students, who need financial aid, still apply for provincial grants, bursaries and student loans. The first level of inquiry would be through your own school. Secondly, you can also query financial aid counselors at your selected college or university which can direct you to specific sources of private education funding.

Thirdly, each province and territory has a department or organization that administers student financial aid. Student Aid, for example, in British Columbia helps students with scholarships, student loans, bursaries and grants. Sometimes one application can work for a few places, like the one at StudentAid BC which works for both the BC and Canada student loan program. Scholarships can be both large or surprisingly small; some are distributed through organizations like Scholarships Canada and International Scholarships. Finally, some lump sums and bursaries are also given outside of any school or government program, and in such situations, it’s best to take initiative and make direct inquiries or contact with organizations such as Vancity Community Foundation and the Donald George Robson Fund. While low income assistance is a key rationale, a number of bursaries are given based on merit. It can take about one to two months for any financial aid organization to verify a student’s needs and process an application as well as coordinate with the federal government. Hence, it’s always vital to do your research early for any aid as there are certain eligibility requirements that both the student and the post-secondary school must fulfill.

If necessary, remind your parents about the tax transcript for verification: There are a few colleges that will ask for verification of your financial information. Make sure to send any required college copies of your or your parents’ tax transcripts.

For early applications: A decision should be given by December. Once you’ve decided to apply early decision and if the school’s financial aid package fulfills your need, you will be expected to make an enrollment deposit by the winter of your senior year.

Ensure that you have fully reviewed most of your regular decision applications by the end of December of your senior year: Along with the other application materials, remember to go to the College Board (SAT) and ACT Student (ACT) websites to ensure your prospective colleges receive your official test score reports. Many college regular decision deadlines will fall between January 1 and March 1 of the following year.

Complete all final details such as enrollment deposit and paperwork: You will need to keep your enrollment place with a deposit by May 1. If the college has forwarded you any queries or paperwork, try to respond in a timely manner, particularly if you are hoping to lock in campus housing. If there are any doubts or questions in this last leg of the process, feel free to email or call the college admissions or housing office to avoid any stress.