Paying for College

Scholarship Applications Now for Community College-Bound Senior?

Question: My son is going to start at a community college and then transfer. We do not need financial aid for the first two years. Do we need to apply now to get scholarships in place or do we wait two years? Same with FAFSA?

Depending on your family finances—and on scholarship options at the community college your son will attend—you may want to complete the FAFSA now … or not.


You say that you don’t “need” financial aid for the first two years, but is it possible that your son might qualify for it anyway? If you already know that your son will not qualify for need-based aid at the CC, then you might be wasting your time with the FAFSA. If you’re not sure if you’ll qualify for aid, try an online EFC calculator like this one: http://apps.collegeboard.com/fincalc/efc_welcome.jsp ). If your Estimated Family Contribution (using “Federal Methodology”) comes out to more than the cost of attending the CC, then your son will not get Federal Aid for this portion of his education.

However, you should also check out institution-specific scholarships offered by the college your son will attend. These will vary from school to school, but even community colleges do have them. If the college in question does offer these scholarships, you should investigate the application requirements and see if your son is eligible and if you need to complete the FAFSA to keep him in the running.

But if you know that he won’t qualify for Federal aid and if there are no scholarships at his CC that demand the FAFSA, then you don’t have to fill it out until your son is ready to transfer.

In the meantime, he may want to check out a scholarship database such as FastWeb (www.fastweb.com) where he will find a range of “outside” (private) scholarships for which he can apply. Once he completes and submits the free FastWeb questionnaire, he’ll get a list of all sorts of scholarships that fit his profile. Some will be biggies (and highly competitive) while others may be small … but they do add up and can be a blessing when there are lots of books … or pizzas … to buy. ;)

Once it’s time for your son to transfer, you should do the FAFSA then and possibly the CSS Profile form, which is also required by many colleges. But this is probably aggravation that you can defer for the moment.