To Do Checklist – Preparing for College

News | Published: October 15, 2020

For juniors and seniors, here is what you should be doing to move the college process along.

Junior Students

  • Explore careers and their earning potential with the Occupational Outlook Handbook search tool at bls.gov/oco.
  • Learn about choosing a college at StudentAid.gov/prepare-for-college/choosing-schools.
  • Go to college fairs and college-preparation presentations hosted by college representatives.

… Fall

  • Take the PSAT/NMSQT. You must take the test in 11th Grade to qualify for scholarships and programs associated with the National Merit Scholarship Program.

… Spring

  • Register for and take exams for college admission. Register for all tests in advance and be sure to give yourself time to prepare appropriately. If you have difficulty paying a registration fee, ask your school counselor about getting the fee waived.
  • Use the free scholarship search tool at StudentAid.gov/scholarships to find scholarships for which you might want to apply. Some deadlines fall as early as the summer between the 11th and 12th grades, so prepare now to submit applications soon.
  • Learn how to avoid scholarship scams and identity theft at StudentAid.gov/scams.

Parents of Juniors

  • Take another look at the financial situation and be sure you are on the right track to pay for college.
  • Talk to your child about the schools he or she is considering. Ask why the schools appeal to them to clarify and prioritize.
  • Attend college fairs with your child, but don’t take over the conversation with the college representatives. Just listen; let your child do the talking.
  • Take your child to visit college campuses, preferably when classes are in session.
  • Attend any financial aid information events at your child’s school.
  • Learn about student and parents’ loans at StudentSid.gov/resources#loans.

Senior Students

Summer Before 12th Grade

  • Create a username and password called an FSA ID that you’d use to confirm your identity when accessing your government financial aid information and electronically to sign your federal student aid documents. You and your parent each need your own unique FSA ID. Learn about the FSA ID, and create yours, at
    StudentAid.gov/FSAID.
  • Narrow down the list of colleges you are considering attending. If you can, visit the schools that interest you.
  • Decide whether you are going to apply under a particular college’s early decision or early action program. Be sure to learn about the program’s deadlines and requirements.
  • Review requirements and deadlines for college admission applications.
  • Apply for scholarships. Your goal is to minimize the number of loan funds you borrow to reduce your student loan debt.

… All Year

  • Work hard to graduation — second-semester grades can affect scholarship eligibility.
    Stay involved in after-school activities and seek leadership roles.

… Fall

  • As soon as possible after its Oct. 1 release, complete and submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at fafsa.gov, along with any other financial aid applications your school may require. You should submit your FAFSA by the earliest deadline of the schools’ financial assistance 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. This document lists the answers to your FAFSA’s questions and gives you the necessary information about your aid eligibility.
  • If you haven’t done so already, take the SAT, SAT Subject Tests, or ACT for college admissions.
  • Apply to the colleges you have chosen. Prepare your applications carefully. Follow the instructions and pay close attention to the deadlines.
  • Well before college application deadlines, ask your counselor or teacher to submit the required documents (e.g., transcript, letter of recommendation) to the colleges you are applying.
  • Review your college acceptances and compare the college financial aid offers.
  • Contact the school’s financial aid office if you have questions about the school’s aid.
  • When you decide which school you want to attend, notify the school of your commitment, and submit any required financial deposit. Many schools require this notification by May 1.

Parents of Seniors

  • Create your own FAS ID if you don’t have one yet.
  • Review your financial situation and make sure your child is looking into or already has applied for scholarships.
  • Contact Jan Hines at jan_hines@outlook.com about eligibility for the Ed and Fern Hamel Scholarship Fund for your child.

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