Planning for college can both be exciting and overwhelming, especially if you’re not sure how you are going to pay for your education. Looking ahead to your senior year of high school, it is important to be prepared for steps you will take in the financial aid process. Check out the timeline below for a monthly guide of what to expect as you start your college journey.
Summer Leading Up To Senior Year
Visit potential colleges and universities
Schedule interviews with schools of interest
Narrow down the schools to which you intend to apply
Develop a calendar of application deadlines and financial aid deadlines for your potential schools
Fall Semester of Senior Year
Start looking for potential grant and scholarship opportunities – you can use the Department of Education’s free scholarship search tool, or Fastweb to search for scholarships
Register for any exams required by your schools, including the SAT (I and II), and ACT
Begin to collect scholarship applications
Time to start asking teachers, coaches, or guidance counselors to write you a letter of recommendation.
Take the SAT and or ACT, and request your test scores be sent to your prospective colleges
Submit your college applications (after carefully proofreading for errors)
Review the financial aid materials from your prospective colleges
Research potential scholarship opportunities specific to your schools
You will start to hear back from schools to which you replied early decision.
For pending applications, check on the status, and make sure your schools received all necessary paperwork
Begin to prepare college financial and tax information for yourself and your parents.
Visit the FAFSA website to familiarize yourself with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid
Spring Semester of Senior Year
Submit the FAFSA as soon as possible once the application period begins on January 1. It is best to submit sooner rather than later because certain types of aid are awarded first come first served.
Submit any financial aid applications particular to your schools.
Complete and turn in any scholarship or grant applications.
If required by any schools, request that your high school forward your last semester’s transcript.
Get ready to review your Student Aid Report (SAR), which will include your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). You should receive this within about a month of completing the FAFSA.
Review your SAR and resubmit with changes if needed.
Stay in touch with your schools’ financial aid office and admissions office to confirm all necessary paperwork has been received.
All acceptance letters should be received by April 15.
Explore all acceptance packages thoroughly so that you understand any necessary next steps.
Compare your financial aid awards. Review the amount of grants and scholarships you receive compared to student loans. A package with more aid that you do not need to repay may be most favorable.
You do not need to accept all aid that is awarded to you, and you can turn down loans you do not need.
Decide whether to pursue acceptance at any schools where you were placed on the waiting list.
The time has come to finally decide on a school.
Secure your spot at your college or university by sending a deposit. It is common for schools to require a deposit and your signed acceptance letter by May 1. If you are not able to pay the deposit, you should contact your school’s financial aid office to review your options.
After making a decision on where to attend, notify any other schools at which you were accepted to decline their acceptance offer.
If enrolled in any Advanced Placement (AP) courses at your high school, take AP exams in order to potentially earn college credit. Request that your AP scores be sent to your college or university.
Inform your school of any private (nonfederal) funds you will receive for your education, including scholarships and grants.
Request that your high school submit your final transcript to your college or university.
Complete any loan applications.
Ask your school about deadlines for paying tuition and fees.
Congratulations on graduating from high school! Enjoy your summer and look forward to a great college experience.