Hey, juniors — it’s finally here…you’re (almost) a senior!
We’ve put together a helpful checklist for you to follow as you begin your college search and application process. We’ll take you through what you should do during the summer months preceding your senior year, through your last year of high school, right up to the day you arrive at your dorm. Because, believe it or not, the time to start preparing for college is NOW!
In the Fall
September – December 2013
o Don’t take your classes lightly. Senior year can be a lot of fun, but you will need to maintain your grades if you want to get into college.
o Narrow down which schools you plan to apply to and start putting all requirements together.
o Discuss financial aid with your parents and prepare to fill out the FAFSA (which you will need to complete in January).
o Begin to apply for scholarships. (This is where that previous research and calendar organization will start to come in handy!)
o Take/retake the SAT or ACT.
o Request recommendation letters from teachers, employers, mentors or any other adults who might be willing to sing your praises (and help your chances of getting in to the college of your choice!).
o Pay special attention to admission deadlines. You might consider an early decision (binding) or early action (non-binding) program to lock in your college admission before the spring.
May – August 2013
o Take the SAT or ACT as soon as possible. This will give you enough time to retake the exams in the fall if need be.
o Make a list of the college campuses you would most like to visit.
o Schedule 4 to 5 college visits over the summer. Be sure to discuss travel arrangements and scheduling with your parents to coordinate each trip.
o Organize all application deadlines and requirements. It is best to keep a calendar with all of these important dates to be sure that you don’t miss a single deadline.
o If you don’t have one already, get a part-time job. Try to save some money so that you won’t have to work as hard (if at all) once you go away to school.
o Consider taking a summer course at a local college or university. You’ll likely be able to gain some college credit and build up your resumé at the same time!
o Research college scholarships. The schools you apply to will likely offer some scholarship opportunities, but there are thousands of other options if you are willing to do a little research to find them.
Tip: Check out the NextStepU Scholarships Galore section for more information (NextStepU.com/Scholarships). You can also enter to win up to $10,000 for college through our Win Free Tuition contest! Register online at NextStepU.com/WinFreeTuition by July 2, 2013.
January – March 2014
o FAFSA! Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid online at www.fafsa.ed.gov
o Once your FAFSA is processed, you’ll receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). Correct any inaccuracies to ensure you qualify for as much financial aid as possible.
o Finalize all applications. Now’s the time to make sure every single piece is in place, like essays, recommendation letters, transcripts, etc.
o Continue to search and apply for scholarships. Many are year-round.
April – June 2014
o Choose your college! If the answer isn’t glaringly obvious, compare financial aid packages. If you still can’t decide where to go, consider a final visit before you send in your deposit.
o Seal the deal. Send in any required paperwork and submit your deposit.
o Enjoy the last few months of your senior year!
o Look for a summer job or internship to help cover some college expenses like books, dorm room essentials, etc.
o Take lots of pictures on graduation day. It’s a day you will never forget. (And one to be proud of!)
The Last Summer
June – August 2014
o Keep a lookout for mail/emails from your new school. You will receive a lot of information over the next few weeks, so be sure to stay on top of it.
o If you plan to take out any student loans, now’s the time to apply. But only borrow what is absolutely necessary. Loans will have to be paid back in full, with interest, so they should be your last resort when it comes to paying for school.
o Request your final high school transcript and send it to the admissions office.
o Spend lots of time with your high school friends. You are about to embark on a new journey that won’t include spending as much time with them, if any at all.
o Reach out to your new roommate(s) and coordinate what you plan to bring. This is a great way to make a connection before ever meeting face to face. After all, you’ll be spending a lot of time together; you might as well start now!
o Go shopping for all of the college and dorm room essentials (clothing, bedding, books, supplies, snacks and more!). This is a fun way to both prepare for your transition into independent living and spend some quality time with your parents before you leave.
o Discuss how often you plan to visit home while at school. Setting up a plan now will help manage your time (and combat homesickness) once you are away.
Enjoy your summer!
While there is much to be done over the next year as you prepare for college, remember one thing: enjoy every minute! Don’t get too caught up in the stress of it all. Sure, it’s important to be organized, stay on top of deadlines and meet all of the requirements being thrown at you — but that’s why we put together this checklist for you! Take advantage of it and have some piece of mind that it will all get done, everything will work out and you’ll be living the college life in the blink of an eye.
Katie Barry is the editor of NextStepU Magazine.