Let’s be realistic: business school ain’t cheap.
Now that you’ve completed the applications for admission at each of your schools and programs, you’re almost done. You’ll still need to pay for school, and in order to obtain scholarships and loans, schools require you to submit financial aid applications.
Step 8: Apply for financial aid and scholarships.
In order to apply for financial aid, you’ll need a massive stack of information. Perhaps most crucial in that stack of information: your taxes.
Gather all required application forms and information from each school’s website or other information provided to applicants.
Even if you haven’t heard anything from the programs you’ve applied to, go ahead and submit a financial aid application. Don’t wait for your decisions to start rolling in. In fact, most schools will tell you not to do so. Be sure to find all instructions and deadlines. You should have marked these dates on your application calendars a while back and you should have printed out all the required information and placed it into your application file box. Retrieve all that information now so you can complete the final step.
Retrieve or complete your current year’s tax returns.
In order to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), you’ll need your tax information (and possibly your parents’ info, too). While it’s not 100% necessary to actually file your taxes, you’ll need information that essentially requires you to complete them, so why not submit them? Generally, if you’re under age 30, you’ll also need your parents’ tax information, too. Check with the schools to which you’ve applied to find out if parental information is required; requirements vary from school to school.
Complete a FAFSA.
Virtually all schools require the submission of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Your FAFSA is used to determine any need-based grants and your loan awards. New forms are available each year starting January 1st. Get started as soon as possible, as many schools’ deadlines are as early as March 1st.
You’ll need the school codes for each program to which you’ve applied. Codes can be retrieved from each program’s website or you can search for a school/program by name and location as you complete the FAFSA online at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/.
Complete any required school-specific forms.
Some schools have a separate financial aid application you’ll need to complete, and this application is often available online or will be sent along with admissions information. If you haven’t found anything yet, make a call to the financial aid office to find out if there’s anything you should be completing and sending their way.
Apply for every possible scholarship!
Schools and private organizations often offer scholarships ranging from one-time $500 awards to renewable full-tuition awards. Usually, applicants for such a scholarship are asked to submit a topical essay and/or other information (letter of recommendation, résumé, etc.). There are tons of books available at your local bookstore and loads of information available online regarding such awards. Check your schools’ websites and hit the bookstore or your local library. Make a list of all the scholarship programs you’re eligible to apply for, and make a run at every dime you might get to help fund your education.
Research educational loans.
Chances are good you’ll need some loans to help fund your life through business school, and it’s never too soon to prepare. Get a credit report so you’re aware of your current standing, then research educational lenders. The financial aid folks at the schools you’ve applied to can offer you more information on public and private lenders with whom they work.
Hurry up and wait.
Everything is now officially on its way! Many schools will email you to confirm acceptance of your application materials, completion, and decision status, but some won’t. The waiting game you’ll play between application submission and decision notification can be nerve-wracking. Pick up a hobby. Throw yourself into work with new vigor. Read more books. You might hear in a week, but you might not hear anything for several months. Remember that each applicant is different, and try not to hedge bets on whether or not you’ll be accepted or rejected. There’s only one way to find out, and you’ve done all you can. Only time will tell.