College & Scholarship Checklist for High School Juniors & Seniors

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 follow-up.

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?
  • Check with your guidance counselor and your school website for information about upcoming 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, 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 extracurricular activities at school.
  • Join a club, do a service project, sign up for a committee at your local church or community center. Admissions officers and scholarship providers will want to see evidence of your leadership and commitment to service when they review your applications next year.

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 college websites for any 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 freshman.
  • In September (and then once each month thereafter), search for scholarship opportunities using 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 school requires.

In the SPRING of your SENIOR year:

  • Complete and submit the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) immediately (it can be submitted any time after January 1st, so long as you are a high school senior or college student). Visit or call 1-800-4FED-AID for more information. Do not put this off for 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 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 — 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 two weeks after you have submitted your FAFSA.
  • Compare financial aid packages when you receive admissions notifications. Look for the offer that gives you the best value for your money.
  • 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 the university your final high school transcript and student loan application (if applicable).
  • 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 Preparing for College section. To find customized scholarships that you can apply for today, sign up or login to the time-saving scholarship search service. It's fast, easy and completely free.