Don't procrastinate to secure financial aid for college

Posted January 14, 2016 5:28 p.m. EST

— Graduation will be here in just a few short months, and high school seniors around the area are trying to lock in college plans for the fall semester, and figure out how they’re going to pay for it.

On his lunch break at Enloe High School, senior Al Reider said he’s looking forward to the future.

He applied to the honors college at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and is waiting to hear back from Appalachian State and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. His family is also applying for financial aid.

“[We’re] waiting to get back the taxes from my mom’s work. My dad passed away, so we definitely need the finical aid a lot,” said Reider.

Students at Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh are taking a number at the financial aid office.

“We’re pretty busy this time of year,” said Financial Aid Dean Regina Huggins.

In addition to college applications, students and parents are trying to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is the federal form that calculates how much financial aid students will get in the upcoming school year.

People will need their 2015 tax information to complete the form, and Huggins said don’t procrastinate.

“A lot of the schools have a much earlier deadline. March 1 or March 15. They have to make that a priority,” she said.

Huggins said students and parents need to work closely with financial aid counselors about the best strategies to pay for college.

There’s good news for the 2017-2018 school year. Parents and students will be able to file the FAFSA as early as Oct. 1, 2016 using 2015 tax information.

That should help ease the application crunch next winter but, for now, Reider is focused on what’s next.

“[I’m] trying to get through to the end of the year, then relax this summer and go from there,” he said.