Financial Aid Timeline: Know What to do and When

Know financial aid and student loan deadlines to get the best aid and student loans available to you

Whether you're a college-bound freshman or a senior returning for your final year, you know what an important role student loans play in financing your education. That's why it's imperative to stay on top of all the many financial aid deadlines that occur throughout the year. From filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to securing private student loans before school begins, your financial aid timeline is driven by a number of crucial deadlines throughout the year.

Important financial aid deadlines and dates

We invite you to use this financial aid timeline as a reminder of some of the more important student loan deadlines and other milestones throughout the student loan and financial aid process. If you have questions about applying for private student loans, receiving disbursements or repaying loans, talk to one of our Student Lending Specialists for more information.

College preparation and financial aid deadlines


  • If you haven’t done so, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The application opens on October 1st each year.
  • Many regular decision college applications are also due over the next two months.


  • Be sure to complete the FAFSA to secure federal aid. It's best to do this by March 1.
  • Each school has its own deadline for FAFSA. Check with the Financial Aid Office at the school to determine their deadline to complete the application.


  • Check in with your schools to make sure they have received your FAFSA and don't have additional paperwork for you.
  • Research and apply for outside scholarships.
  • Later this month, look for your financial aid award letter(s) from the schools you applied to.


  • Compare award letters from the schools you applied to.
  • Accept the financial aid package the school has offered (instructions are on your award letter).
  • After accepting, you may need to complete more forms to secure your Federal Direct Student Loans.


  • Notify your school that you plan to attend (the deadline at many schools is May 1st).
  • Make sure to have all grants, scholarships and Federal Direct Student Loans in place.



  • Make sure your on- or off-campus housing arrangements are set.
  • Contact your roommate(s) to coordinate arrangements.
  • Make sure scholarship and student loan payments are set up for disbursement to the school or your account.


  • Review your final checklist for school.
  • Make sure you have everything ready that you'll be bringing along.
  • Take one last look at your anticipated expenses.


  • Make sure you understand your student loan obligations.
  • Take advantage of your school's entrance counseling provided by the financial aid office (the government requires this for all borrowers).


  • FAFSA application opens for following academic year. (For example, application opens October 1, 2016 for the 2017-18 academic year.)
  • If you need money for upcoming semesters in the current academic year, consider applying for private student loans like our Citizens Bank Student Loan.


  • Set a reminder to reapply for federal student loans early next year.
  • Consider looking for scholarships that can help offset next year's college costs.


  • Enjoy time off with family and friends during the holiday season.
  • Assess your total student loans to date, and if you are nearing graduation, begin to prepare for repayment.

Apply for private student loans with Citizens Bank

If you decide you will be using private student loans to cover a portion of your education costs, you can apply within 180 days of the semester for which the funds are needed – or apply in October or November if you need extra funds for the spring semester. However, when deciding when to apply, make sure you give yourself enough time for the approval process between the application and when funds are due to the school. If you're ready to apply now, start your student loan application online today.


Helpful Tools & Information
Student Loan Glossary A quick guide to various terms you'll encounter in the student loan process.
FAQs Answers to frequently asked questions about student finance options.
Student Loan Calculator Use our loan calculator to estimate payments and total costs of borrowing.