Most high schools are back in session by now and it’s time for seniors to start applying for colleges. You don’t have much time left: this is the year of action! You should know where you’re going by the time you graduate. Below are five things you should be doing your senior year of high school to get ready for college.
1. Test. Test. Test.
Test as many times as you can! Even if you scored higher than the minimum required score for the college you “know” you want to go to, test again. Many things can happen between now and when you enroll in college. There is a chance you may change your mind about what college you choose to attend. Some schools will take a “Super Score” of your tests, which means they’ll take the highest of each subject to create a new total or composite score. You may also find that some scholarships are based on your standardized test scores.
PLEASE do not wait until the last testing opportunity to take the exam for the first time. This adds even more pressure on you to get it right the first time. In addition, the last exam dates for the year are in June and July, and by these months you should already be accepted into schools and comparing your financial aid packages.
Go to www.CollegeBoard.com and www.ACT.com to get the test dates for this school year and write them down. Check with your high school guidance counselor to see if you qualify for a fee waiver for the exam.
2. File Your FAFSA
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) opens on October 1, 2017 for students enrolling in college during the 2018-2019 academic year. The federal government, states, colleges and other organizations use the FAFSA to award financial aid to students. Submitting it is your key to accessing grants, scholarships, work-study programs and student loans. It’s a good idea to file your FAFSA as early as possible as there are many first-come-first-serve grants and scholarships available to the early filers.
For help, go to the free government website Completing the FAFSA . It has a detailed question-by-question guide to filling out the FAFSA.
3. Apply for Scholarships
There are many scholarship search websites that you can use such as FastWeb, College Board, or Scholarship Monkey. Also, check with your high school guidance counselor. Some school districts will have scholarship programs for their specific district. If you need help applying for scholarships, check with your guidance counselor. A scholarship is never too small to apply for; you may be the only one applying, which increases your chances. Small scholarships add up!
Many times, a student may have a balance after their financial aid has been awarded. These scholarships can help reduce this balance or completely cover it. Some scholarships might pay for a student’s books as well.
4. Compare Prices
Most colleges and universities in the United States now have their own online net price calculator, a tool that allows prospective students and parents to discover what higher education might actually cost them.
College is a great investment but you need to be sure that the bottom line is something you and your family can afford. If you plan on borrowing federal student loans to pay for your college, remember that these loans will have you in repayment for at least 10 years.
There are also federal student loan yearly and lifetime limits, which may result in your loans not covering your full balance. Talk with the Financial Aid Office at the school(s) you are considering if you have questions about your financial aid availability.
In the Spring, schools will start sending financial aid award letters to their accepted students. Some schools may only send the award letter out to students who have a valid FAFSA, so check with your school’s Financial Aid Office after you’ve been accepted to be sure you’ve submitted all required documents.
5. Visit Schools
Some students wait until their acceptance letters arrive before visiting colleges but ideally, you’ll visit first. The best way to experience colleges is by stepping foot on campus. You can get a feel for the classrooms, athletic facilities, professors, academic offices and the school’s overall atmosphere. You’re going to be spending the next four years there so you’ll want to be sure you’re comfortable there.
If you can’t visit, check out virtual campus tours that many colleges post on their websites. Check out the school’s social media pages to see what they have going on throughout the year and what students are saying about the school.
The college/university selection process may be stressful at times, but overall it is an exciting process! Take each step one at a time and enjoy the ride!