- Work hard all year—second-semester grades can affect scholarship eligibility.
- Stay involved in after-school activities, and seek leadership roles if possible.
- Meet with your school counselor to make sure you are on track to graduate and fulfill college admission requirements.
- If you haven’t done so already, register for and take the standardized tests required for college admission. Check with the colleges you are interested in to see what tests they require.
- Apply to the colleges you have chosen. Prepare your applications carefully. Follow the instructions, and PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO DEADLINES!
- Well before your application deadlines, ask your counselor and teachers to submit required documents (e.g., transcript, letters of recommendation) to the colleges to which you’re applying.
- Encourage your parent(s) to complete income tax forms early. If your parent(s) has (have) not completed tax forms, you can provide estimated information on your federal student aid application, but remember to make any necessary changes later.
- As soon as possible after Jan. 1, complete and submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), along with any other financial aid applications your school(s) of choice may require. You can complete the FAFSA online or on paper, but completing the application online is faster and easier. You should submit your FAFSA by the earliest financial aid deadline of the schools to which you are applying, usually by early February.
- After you submit the FAFSA, you should receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) within three days to three weeks. Quickly make any necessary corrections and submit them to the FAFSA processor.
- Complete any last scholarship applications.
- Visit colleges that have invited you to enroll.
- Review your college acceptances and compare the colleges’ financial aid offers.
- Contact a school’s financial aid office if you have questions about the aid that school has offered you. In fact, getting to know your financial aid staff early is a good idea no matter what—they can tell you about deadlines, other aid for which you might wish to apply, and important paperwork you might need to submit.
- When you decide which school you want to attend, notify that school of your commitment and submit any required financial deposit. Many schools require this notification and deposit by May 1.
- Refer to Funding Your Education: The Guide to Federal Student Aid for information about financial aid as you work through the FAFSA process.
- Make informed decisions about student loans; the following resources are important at this point:
- Federal Versus Private Loans
- Your Federal Student Loans: Learn the Basics and Manage Your Debt, especially the sections headed “PREPARE” (including “How are federal student loans different from private loans?”) and “RECEIVE”
REMEMBER: Register for all tests in advance and be sure to give yourself time to prepare appropriately! If you have difficulty paying a registration fee, see your school counselor about getting a fee waiver.
- Work with your child on filling out the FAFSA.
- Make sure your child’s personal information is safe when he or she applies for financial aid. For tips, read “Student Aid and Identity Theft.”
- Read IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education to see how you might benefit from federal income tax credits for education expenses.
- Understand the benefits of federal student loans.
- Help your child learn about the responsibilities involved in accepting a student loan by reviewing Your Federal Student Loans: Learn the Basics and Manage Your Debt with him or her.
- Look at communications from schools to which your child sent FAFSA information. If a school has offered Direct PLUS Loans, the Direct Loan Basics for Parents brochure might be useful to you.