The college admission and financial aid application process can be a challenge indeed. Most high school seniors have managed to get through the maze of filing the FAFSA and may even be starting to hear from some of their chosen colleges. Procrastinating seniors, on the other hand, might have been overwhelmed, or may not have thoroughly checked deadlines for their colleges, but time somehow got away from them.
For some, this procrastination might indicate that you really are not overly enthused about going to college. Talk to your parents and guidance counselors about options that might be a better fit to your needs. Other students decide to take a break year so they can travel or concentrate on a specific academic pursuit. Those choices are good, too, if you have the financial wherewithal to do so.
For those who still want to go to college in the fall of 2019, it might not be too late. Some colleges have later general admission deadlines, and some even have rolling admission deadlines where they accept applications right up until the last minute. Your choices might be narrower, but you can still get into a very good college. Follow these tips to get yourself back on the college train:
• Create a very short list of potential colleges: At this point, there is really no time for the luxury of having a safe, reach, and a dream school. Apply to a few colleges where you have a good chance of being accepted, and then hunker down and do a great job on those applications. This will focus your attention much better than trying to be all things to all colleges. You want to get accepted into one or two quality colleges. If it doesn’t turn out to be the best fit for you, you can think about transferring after you get your freshman year of college under your belt.
• Be super organized: Before just diving in, and starting to do things one task at a time, make a list of everything you have to do. Look at whether you need the same items for several schools on your list, determine whether some items will take more time than others and prioritize it from there. You might need letters of recommendation for two or three colleges, for example. Ask the people who agreed to recommend you if they can send the information to all colleges at the same time instead of going back to them one by one. Give them time to write their letters while you work on the application parts that only require your time.
• Make sure haste does not make waste: Because you are trying to be so fast, you are more likely to make mistakes, so be super careful about proofing your work. Maybe you can get your parents involved at this point. Don’t make foolish mistakes, like cutting and pasting information without changing the name of the college.
• Get that financial aid application finished: You might have already missed some financial aid program deadlines, or might not be eligible for programs that dispense funds on a first-come, first-served basis, but it is very important to get that financial aid application completed. You might still qualify for certain forms of aid, or your college might have a scholarship or grant you can receive. In any case, you will need to complete the FAFSA even if you already know that you will have to rely on federal student loans to pay for college.
• Don’t shirk the scholarships: Again you might have missed out on a lot of scholarships, but there are still plenty with deadlines that go well into the spring. After you get your application and FAFSA completed, take some time to search for scholarship money.
Really try not to wait until the very last minute, as there are probably others just like you around the country in a similar frenzied situation. Too many people applying at one time could crash the system, and then all of your work will be for nothing. Note to high school juniors – it’s not too early to start your college application process!