So you're planning to go to college once you finish high school, right? But
are you really ready?
Planning for college is a two-year process. And unless a rich uncle is going
to write that $30,000 check for you, it is going to involve acquiring and
submitting financial aid forms, scholarship applications, and grant
applications. But don't despair. By following the suggestions below, and by
carefully monitoring the process, you should be buying college textbooks before
you know it. Keep in mind, however, that this is a process; it isn't like taking
one test and getting an A. It requires diligence, double-checking, and
When you are a high school JUNIOR:
- Take the SAT and/or ACT...this is a must.
- Keep your grades up! Remember that colleges look at your entire high school
academic record when making admissions decisions: what you do in 9th through
11th grade is just as important as what you do as a high school senior.
- Consider college options. Decide what is important to you: Location?
Curriculum? Size? Diversity? Athletics? Social life?
- Keep an eye on your local papers and community bulletin boards for college
nights and open houses; talking to representatives at college fairs is a great
way to find out about the colleges you are considering.
- Research your scholarship and grant options. Utilize the most accurate
customized scholarship search service available on the Internet,
ScholarshipExperts.com. You just can't mimic our resources yourself; we will
save you time and headaches, and help you avoid scams.
- Send away for scholarship information and applications with early deadlines.
It's never too soon to do so since some scholarship and grant applications need
to be received during your junior year of high school.
- Make an effort to be involved in your community or in extra-curricular
activities at school.
- Join a club, do a service project, sign up for a committee at your church.
Admissions officers and scholarship providers will want to see evidence of your
leadership and commitment to service when they review your applications next
In the FALL of your SENIOR year:
- Select the colleges that interest you most, as soon as you enter your high
school homeroom. Don't delay. Send away for information and applications; be
sure to check out web sites for information you can obtain online.
- Sign up to re-take the SAT or ACT. Buy a study guide or sign up for a test
prep course to take before the actual test date. Believe it or not, you CAN
improve your test scores by taking them a second time, and better scores could
affect your ability to get scholarships!
- If possible, visit any colleges you can. Find out when there are prospective
student activities or if you can sign up to "shadow" an existing college
- In September (and then once each month thereafter), search for scholarship
ScholarshipExperts.com. Take time to fill out your entire profile on the
site, making sure to ask your parents about their work experiences and
association/union memberships for optimal results.
- Pay attention to early admission deadlines. By October or November, submit
applications for early decision programs.
- Attend a financial aid presentation. These are offered at schools,
libraries, and college campuses.
- Narrow your list of intended colleges, and make sure you have all the
financial aid forms required by each school. Required documents may not be the
same at each school, so pay close attention to what each requires.
In the SPRING of your SENIOR year:
- Complete and submit the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) immediately
(it can be submitted anytime after January 1st, so long as you are a high school
senior or college student). Call 1-800-4-fed-aid; the online address is
http://www.fafsa.ed.gov. The FAFSA form can also be obtained from high
schools, colleges, and local libraries. Do not put this off for months and
months as some state funding programs require submission of this federal form as
early as mid-March. Make a copy for yourself. Parents should compile income tax
information and complete taxes early. Remember, all U.S. students should
complete this form, regardless of income, as it is required not only for federal
funding, but also for some state and institutional funding as well.
- Verify that you have submitted all required financial aid forms in a timely
manner to the financial aid offices of the colleges you've applied to.
- Be sure to send in your scholarship applications on time; several
scholarships have spring deadlines. Check back regularly with
ScholarshipExperts.com to find even more awards during the spring and summer
months; you should update your profile each month to generate new, customized
award lists. (And no, parents, it is not too late to become a member of
ScholarshipExperts.com -- scholarship searching is a year round event for most
students from high school through college and graduate school!)
- Verify that you have received your Student Aid Report (SAR); it should
arrive about four weeks after you have submitted your FAFSA.
- Compare financial aid packages when you receive admissions notifications.
Look for the best rather than the most.
- Finalize your college choice and notify the college of your plans to enroll.
- Sign and return financial aid forms to the university you plan to attend.
- Send your final transcript and student loan application.
- Notify the schools whose enrollment offers you decline.
Now celebrate! You are about to enter one of the most amazing times of your
life, and one that will change you forever. Make the most of your college
experience, and remember to study. It is important to maintain your GPA so that
you can maintain your scholarships throughout your college career.
For more information about college, return to the College Life
section. To find customized scholarships that you can apply for today, sign up
or login to the ScholarshipExperts.com time-saving scholarship search service.
It's fast, easy and completely free.