College Preparation & Planning

Visit the SBISD Website:

For Seniors

What do I need to do this month?

November 2012

  • Many scholarship deadlines are fast approaching.  Make sure you are investigating all your options and have submitted the documentation and information you need to be eligible.  
  • Put together one reliable place for you to document upcoming scholarship deadlines.  Whether it's setting them in your calendar with reminders or using the same planner you use for your school work, it doesn't matter how you do it, but you'll manage the process much better if you have one place with your important deadlines.
  • There are two main types of scholarships: college/university scholarships and outside (often called "private") scholarships.  Each of these may have academic or merit based, need-based, and athletic/performance based, in addition to various other requirements. 
  • Visit the Dream it. Achieve it. website for a listing of scholarships.
Scams and How to Avoid Them

  • Unfortunately, there are many people and organizations whose only interest is in taking advantage of you and your family's dream of you attending college.  It is important that you take the necessary precautions when researching and applying for scholarships and grants.
  • Golden Rule #1: You should never have to pay money to get money.
  • Golden Rule #2: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • There are many types of scholarship "scams" that are out there.  The most common scholarship "scam" is what is usually advertised to you as a free seminar.  You've probably already received a letter or flier in the mail that advertises a free financial aid seminar or interviews for financial assistance.  Sometimes these seminars can provide some useful information, but usually at the end of your time with the organization, you'll hear a sales pitch for consulting services.  You usually and really don't need these services.  Before you sign anything, talk to your campus counselor about the organization and they will give you guidance as to whether or not this consulting service is not just worth your time, but your money.   The reality is that they usually are not.  Most of the information you need in order to wade through the scholarship and financial aid process can be found through your campus counselor or through the Spring Branch ISD administration services.  Be a smart and skeptical consumer where these "services" are concerned.  Often times these "services" will require your family to pay anywhere from $500 to upwards of $15,000!
  • Scholarships for profit are very tempting.  This is a true scan that looks and feels just like a real scholarship, but you should recognize that it is a scan as soon as you are asked to pay an application fee.  Unfortunately, what will eventually happen should you or your parents decide to pay for this application is that you will receive a very formal looking letter notifying you that you did not receive the scholarship.  Why?  Because nobody does!  And everyone who paid they application fee just made this scam that much richer!  Remember Golden Rule #1!
  • Scholarship "prizes" will notify you that you've already received an outside (non-college/university) scholarship (that you don't remember applying for) worth thousands of dollars.  Sounds great, right?  Then you will also read or be notified that in order for the money to be released, you must pay a "disbursement" or "redemption" fee for processing or tax purposes.  Golden Rule #2: If it sounds too good to be true, it is!!
  • Never give your credit card information to a "scholarship" and definitely seek guidance from your campus counselor before giving your bank account, routing, or credit/debit card information to any "consulting services".
FAFSA, TAFSA, CSS Profile and Financial Aid
  • Which financial aid application should you use?
  • Click here for information on FASA and TAFSA workshops offered by SBISD.
  • Visit the FAFSA website for detailed information.
  • While you are not able to fill out the FAFSA until after January 1, 2013, you should sign you and your parents up for a PIN number.  In order to submit the FAFSA, you must sign it.  Having a PIN number for you and for one of your parents (if you live in a two parent/guardian household, only one of them needs a PIN) allows you to sign your FAFSA electronically which means your FAFSA will begin being processed immediately after submission.  If you do not have a PIN or are unable to sign it electronically, you will be required to print, sign and mail a signature page which will delay your FAFSA processing.  The rule of financial aid is that time is money and you don't have any time to waste!
  • In order to sign up for a PIN, you will need the person's name, social security number, and date of birth.  If your parents are not computer savvy, you will need to help them sign up for a PIN.  Visit  
  • Although you cannot fill out the FAFSA until January, you can begin mentally preparing your parents now.  Talk to your parents about the need to file their taxes in January so you don't miss any of the financial aid application windows.  Most colleges or universities have priority financial aid deadlines and final financial aid deadlines.  Some of these deadlines are as early as February 15th.  If your parents understand that the earlier you file, the more likely you are to receive a better financial aid package, the better the chances you have that they will move fast in filing their taxes when January arrives.
  • Contact each college or university's Office of Financial Aid to find out when their priority and final financial aid deadlines are.  Note that there is a difference between a priority deadline and a final financial aid deadline.  Make sure to ask the financial aid officer you speak to what the difference means at that specific college or university.
  • It is important for your parents to understand that while it is best,  it is not necessary for them to submit their 2012 taxes, it is important for them to prepare their 2012 taxes as soon as possible.  The information you will need to input on your FAFSA needs to be 100% accurate as if they were submitting them that day.  One reason many adults wait to submit their taxes is because they owe money and need to save it before submitting their taxes.  Your parents can wait until it is best for them to submit (mail) their taxes and money, but it is best for you if they prepare their tax forms with all of the final numbers as soon as possible.  Before filing the FAFSA, ask your parents if for sure the numbers on their tax forms will not change.  If the numbers on their prepared tax forms are final and won't change regardless of when they submit, then fill out your FAFSA immediately after January 1, 2013.  
  • Your parents will be using their 2012 documents to fill out the 2013-2014 FAFSA.  They may need to contact their Human Resources department at work now in order to ensure that they receive their W2's or other documents as soon as possible come the new year.
  • Remember you will be filing the 2013-14 FASFA.  Many students make the mistake of filling out the FAFSA for the prior year, but seniors are seeking financial aid and making application for the following (their freshman) year of college.  This year is considered the 2013-2014 academic year.
  • If you are applying to a private college or university, whether relatively selective, but especially if highly selective, it is important that you check with the Office of Financial Aid at that school to find out whether you are required to fill out a CSS Profile  in addition to the FAFSA.  If the college or university does require a CSS Profile in addition to the FAFSA, you will not be considered for and likely will not receive the financial aid you may be entitled to until both are submitted and all documents are received for these in full.  The CSS Profile is a financial aid application created and accessed through College Board.  It is like a FAFSA, but goes into much  more detail about you and your family's financial situation.  It is much lengthier and requires more documents to submitted than the FAFSA in order to be processed so it is important to find out whether your college or university requires it as soon as possible.  If your college or university does, you must find out what their CSS Profile deadline is.   
  • If you don’t qualify for the FAFSA but you are classified as a Texas resident and otherwise hold no official documentation in regards to your immigration status in the United States, you should use this 2012-2013 TASFA Application to apply for financial aid at a Texas college or university.  Some private and public colleges and universities have their own financial aid application they might want you to fill out, so it is always best to check with what process each college prefers you to take for applying for financial aid. 
  • If you hold a current VISA or other current, official documents in regards to your immigration status in the United States, you should contact your college's Office of Financial Aid to ask about your financial aid process as a likely International Student.   
  • For more information about the TAFSA and other financial aid options for Texas students visit the College for Texans website.
Application Process - Follow Up With Admissions Office at Your School
  • Find out the method or protocol your high school has for sending the Mid-Year Report to any colleges or universities that require it.  Not sure if your college does?  Contact admissions to find out whether you need a Mid-Year Report submitted and what the deadline is.  Your high school may have a very specific and strict protocol to request the submission of a Mid-Year and it's important to make sure you are adhering to their protocol in a timely manner.  
  • Follow up, follow up, follow up.  Always follow up!  Just because you mailed or faxed documentation to a school doesn't mean it was received or filed correctly.  Call your admissions offices to confirm they have your documentation on file and your applications is up-to-date and on time.

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