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There is a lot to love about turning the page on a calendar year – with this reset comes a new beginning.

There is a lot to love about turning the page on a calendar year – with this reset comes a new beginning. Congratulations on this new beginning if you are a graduating senior or parent. It is worth taking this moment to honor the significance of this year and the magnitude of change that the new year will bring.

By this time, most of your college applications likely have been submitted, and some may be seeing acceptances begin to trickle in. Given this state of limbo, January and the following months may be stressful anxiety-inducing times for students and their parents. And while it may look as if there is little to be done but wait, there may be some final things to think about doing now – things which will leave you in good stead once decisions need to be faced.

1. Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

I’ve heard parents share that because they make too much income, their student will not qualify for financial aid or federal funds, so it would be a waste of time to fill out the FAFSA form. I couldn’t disagree more. Not only is the FAFSA form easy to complete, but there are tremendous student benefits to having completed it. FAFSA filers have access to grants, scholarships, and merit/need-based institutional funds provided to students by colleges as well as other organizations. My own recent college graduates received merit-based grants from their respective universities. These funds were available to them because they completed the FAFSA form every year.

The FAFSA form for the academic year 2023-24 opened on October 1, 2022, and is available online until June 30, 2023. Student applicants will use their parent’s and their own 2021 tax information when filling out the form.

2. One final check of your application status

Now is also an excellent time to do one last final check of your application status. With their application portals, schools make it very easy for students to verify whether their applications are complete or whether there are outstanding items. Not long ago, in applying to college, a young friend had assumed that their test scores had been received by each of the universities they had applied to when, in fact, they had not. Unfortunately, they discovered this too late, in March of their senior year, only upon receiving the rejection letter from each school they had applied to. While they quickly pivoted to attending a community college instead, ultimately graduating from their dream University of California campus, this proved a lesson learned the hard way. While many schools seem to be waiving test scores these days, an institution may have other items it requires for complete admissions consideration.

With these behind you, I’d recommend taking a breather and some time to enjoy the return to school to enjoy your final term as a high school senior.


A mom of two recent college graduates, Vivian has been a vocal advocate of saving early and often for loved ones’ educations through college savings programs. She has served in management and leadership roles with financial services organizations TIAA, BlackRock and Morgan Stanley, and has worked in San Francisco, Hong Kong, Taipei, Los Angeles and New York. Vivian is a Certified Investment Management Analyst and a Certified Private Wealth Advisor and has been the Chair of the College Savings Foundation since 2020. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.