Campus visits are important to the decision-making process. If you have not yet visited the top colleges you’re considering, make arrangements. Fall is an especially good time to visit a college since classes are in session – you can sit in on a class and get a true feel of the campus environment. If you cannot visit a school, look online for virtual tours or forums where you can discuss questions with current and former students. For more tips on on-campus visits, check out the Campus Visit Checklist.
Your senior year is going to be a busy one. There are tests to take, college fairs and financial-aid seminars to attend and multiple deadlines to keep track of. Stay organized by marking your calendar in advance with important dates like each college’s application deadline, including Early Decision and Early Action, test dates and scholarship deadlines.
Make sure the class schedule you have set up for your senior year continues to put you in a good position for college and have your school guidance counselor help you stay on track with admissions requirements. Inform him or her of the colleges you’re considering and of any transcripts, score reports or letters you need sent. Write out a list prior to your visits and include your name so that your school counselor won’t have to remember what he or she needs to send for you. Do this sooner rather than later so your counselor has ample time and doesn’t push any deadlines.
You researched. You visited. You evaluated. And now is the time for you to finalize your college list. Settle on five to 10 prospective college choices. It’s OK to include schools you think are going to be a challenge to get into; just make sure to also include some schools you think you can get into easily. Get an application and financial-aid form from each. Don’t forget about the fees associated with each application; this may alter the number you fill out.
Submitting Early Decision or Early Action to a college allows you to find out if you have been accepted to a school earlier than regular admission notifications. Knowing earlier, however, requires submitting earlier, so get started on Early Decision or Early Action applications right away; most deadlines tend to fall in October and November.
The college essay is an important part of the application process. Have a teacher or parent proofread your essay for mistakes and to provide feedback. To learn more about what a college essay should include, click here.
You’ve done the practice tests, and now it’s time for the real thing. Register and take the ACT, SAT or SAT Subject Tests, depending on what’s required by the schools to which you wish to apply. Whatever test it is, make sure to request online or via mail that your results get sent to the schools of your choice.
If you haven’t requested them already, now’s the time to start approaching teachers and counselors for recommendation letters or follow up with those you already requested them from. Most colleges now require letters of recommendation as part of the application process, and they can prove very influential.
Once you’re confident that every detail has been taken care of, mail in or submit your application online. Follow up with your high school’s guidance department to make sure they have sent everything that’s required, such as transcripts and test scores. You want everything in before the beginning of winter, so you are not pushing any deadlines.
You should talk with your parents or guardian about what they can and can’t afford and start learning more about financial-aid opportunities for which you qualify. Also, take your own finances into consideration. Talk to your counselor for information and see if there are any financial-aid events, such as school-sponsored seminars, in your area.
Finish any scholarship submissions you’re working on and send them in. Also, check with the schools you’re applying to and find out if they have any special scholarships for which you may qualify. Schools often offer their own unique scholarships, and it could be a great way for you to save on tuition.
Make sure that each college received the necessary materials: tests scores, transcripts, application form and recommendations. You may either call or email the admissions office.
The FAFSA is a very important document in the financial-aid process. If you would like to receive any federal financial aid, fill yours out and submit it as soon as possible after January 1. You can do this either online (www.fafsa.org) or by obtaining the written form from your high school guidance counselor.
The PROFILE is another common financial-aid form and is required by select schools. Figure out if the schools you’re applying to require it, and if so, file online at www.profileonline.collegeboard.com.
Some colleges request that you send your senior year first semester grades as part of the application process. Have your counselor send these out to the schools that require them.
Responses from Early Decision or Early Action applications will start arriving. If you have been accepted Early Decision, you will need to withdraw your applications from all other schools. If you have been accepted Early Action, you can either choose to accept now or wait to receive responses from the other schools to which you applied.
If you submitted a FAFSA, about one month after you filed (three to five days if you filed online), you will receive your Student Aid Report or SAR. The SAR will list all the information you put on your FAFSA and, most importantly, tell you how much your family is expected to pay for your education. Review the document for errors and discuss the contribution amount listed with your parents.
Admission letters should start arriving between March and April, followed by financial-aid award letters. Check your mailbox daily – this is what you’ve been waiting for!
Make sure you thoroughly read each decision document, as sometimes they require action on your part (for example, mailing back documents or acceptance forms).
The federal government selects 30 percent of all FAFSA financial-aid applications for verification. If selected for verification, a college will require you to submit additional documents such as signed copies of your tax returns, your parents’/guardian’s tax returns, your W-2s and your parents’/guardian’s W-2s. Send these in as soon as you receive the request.
Financial aid may be a large part of your final decision, so go over each school’s package thoroughly with your parents or guardian. Talk to a financial-aid officer at the college if you have questions or if you feel the package isn’t enough and want to explore additional financing plans.
Fully prepare yourself to make an educated final decision by first experiencing what it’s like on campus.
Choose the college that’s right for you by May 1. Mail in the corresponding enrollment form, deposit check and signed financial-aid package.
Once you have decided on the school you want to attend, make sure to inform the other schools that accepted you that you won’t be attending. This frees up a spot for another student.
Earn college credit for any AP classes you took during high school by taking AP exams. Yes, it is one more standardized test, but it could save you time and money next year.
Upon accepting a school’s offer, you’ll receive a package with information on classes, orientation, housing and more. Complete any forms included in this package and submit them by the deadline.
Many colleges require a final high school transcript. Contact your high school counselor to make sure this gets sent.
Your school guidance counselor. Your recommendation writers. Your teachers. Your college interviewer. You should thank anyone who was especially helpful during the college application process. Showing your appreciation with a formal letter or an in-person thank-you will ensure your supporters’ testimony for years to come.
There are several questionnaires and tests that have been developed in order to help you figure out not only which careers you might be good at, but also which you might enjoy most. One of the more popular and thoroughly tested versions of these tests is the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). The ASVAB was originally developed to encourage students to increase awareness of their skills and interests, and to understand how those skills and interests could translate into military and civilian occupations. However, the current version of the ASVAB is designed to assist all students, whether they’re planning on getting a job right out of high school, joining the Military or going to a university, community college or vocational school.
The ASVAB provides you with scores in several different areas that are specifically designed to help you narrow your search for careers (or majors). The results will be provided to you on a summary sheet that not only lets you know how you scored, but also how you compare to other people who took the test. The summary sheet explains each of the scores, what they mean and gives you suggestions on how to proceed.
The ASVAB is only one of many options available in terms of testing, but – besides being well established and thoroughly tested – the ASVAB is free, which makes it worth looking into. Ask your guidance counselor if the ASVAB is offered at your school.
Whether it’s taking summer classes through a local community organization or at the college you will be attending in the fall, summer classes can help prepare you for your upcoming college-level courses, or provide a jump-start on required classes. Some schools even accept students on the condition that they complete summer school before beginning their first semester. Talk to your high school counselor to find out what programs are available in your area, and what kind of classes you should consider. If you end up taking summer classes at a school other than the college you will be attending in the fall, look into the credit transfer policy.
Sign up for orientation. Figure out where you’ll be living. Purchase items you’ll need for your first year. Make travel plans if your school is far away. And schedule your first-semester courses.
Make sure you stop and appreciate those around you. You want to make the most of the time you have before heading off to school.