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4 things to do after your college applications are in

College • January 29, 2019 • Reyna Gobel

What you’ll learn

  • That it’s never too late to apply for scholarships
  • What to do if your finances aren’t accurate on your FAFSA
  • How to get closer to choosing your college major

Once you’ve applied to college, waiting for the results seems like all you can do. But there’s actually so much more, like applying for scholarships, financial aid award letter pre-negotiating, and maintaining your GPA.

Here’s what to do when your college applications are in:

  1. Apply for scholarships

    It’s never too late to get college scholarship money. In fact, thousands of dollars in scholarship money goes unclaimed each year. Set an appointment with your counselor and discuss a plan for acquiring scholarship dollars.

  2. Fill out special circumstances forms if needed

    You’ll also want to double check your FAFSA and state financial aid applications to make sure you’ve completed all forms accurately. For instance, are all the schools on your final list on your FAFSA form? If not, you may not be on their list of students who need financial aid.

    The FAFSA form doesn’t always provide the most accurate financial information about your current situation. This is because the FAFSA requires your taxes from two years before. If your family or individual income has changed since then, you’ll need to fill out a special circumstances form for each college you may want to attend.

    The special circumstances form is available at financial aid offices and provides a way to share more details about your current finances. You can also talk to financial aid counselors about extenuating circumstances. Filling the form out as soon as possible helps you avoid being overlooked for first-come, first-serve scholarship and college grant funding.

  3. Develop your strategy for 529 college savings plan withdrawals

    If you have a 529 savings plan, now’s the time to think about how much you’d like to withdraw each year, depending on how much scholarship money you’re offered, and other varying circumstances.

    If you bought tuition in advance via a prepaid tuition plan, you have different concerns. Bob Cole, president of Private College 529 Plan says, “Before taking money from your prepaid account to redeem tuition, you should work with your plan or tax advisor, or both, to ensure the best use of your tuition.”

    “If you are paying some of the college expenses (not room and board) from current income or non-529 savings, you might be able to claim the American Opportunity Tax Credit when you file your federal taxes,” Cole says. “You can’t ‘double-dip’ by using 529 funds and claiming the credit for the same expense.”

  4. Do shadow days and other career exploration activities

    While you’re waiting to find out which schools accept you, it’s the perfect time to think about your college major.

    Shadow days are essentially mini internships you can do in as little as a couple of hours. You’ll ask questions of someone in your field in a job you’d like to have in the future. You may also just observe their day. High school counselors can help advise you on how and where to arrange shadow days. Try to do five in a semester.

Get college ready

Use your time between applying and attending college wisely. By researching both career and financial options now, you’ll be better prepared to evaluate your colleges’ major options and financial aid award packages when your acceptance letters arrive.

Reyna Gobel is a journalist, author, professional speaker, and educator who's been quoted by Money Magazine, Real Simple, and The Washington Post. She’s spoken at hundreds of colleges across the country about student debt—and she’s the author of "CliffsNotes Graduation Debt" and “CliffsNotes Parents’ Guide to Paying for College and Repaying Student Loans.” Reyna was compensated for this article.

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Sallie Mae does not provide financial, tax, or legal advice and the information contained in this article does not constitute tax, legal, or financial advice. Sallie Mae does not make any claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained in this article. Readers should consult their own attorneys or other tax advisors regarding any financial strategies mentioned in this article. These materials are for informational purposes only and do not necessarily reflect the views or endorsement of Sallie Mae.