Another school year is about to end. While it definitely had its challenges, there are still many reasons to celebrate. The Class of 2021 will graduate soon, with a significant percentage heading off to college. As the Class of 2022 prepares to move up, there are some steps rising seniors can take before the high school year ends to get their college search process off to a great start:
- Map out a testing strategy: Look at admissions requirements for your Top 10 colleges, and determine whether they require admissions tests such as the SAT or ACT. A lot changed during COVID, and some colleges are no longer requiring them. For colleges that do want test results, it might be harder to locate testing facilities with openings. Schedule any required tests far enough in advance that you leave yourself time to take them twice.
- Get those letters of recommendation: You know you will need them for your college applications, so get that task accomplished now. Talk to your teachers, coaches and mentors to find out whether they would be willing to write a letter for you. Let them know what you appreciated about their guidance, and provide them with a few insights as to what you hope to accomplish in college.
- Talk to graduating seniors: You want to say good-bye and good luck to your older classmates, but you also want to glean a little bit of advice from them. After all, they managed to get into college under some of the most challenging circumstances imaginable. Find out how they approached their college selection, testing, admissions and financial aid process during the shutdown.
- Find all deadlines: Look for all application, financial aid and scholarship deadlines. Plan to submit your documents as much in advance as possible to leave time to correct any errors or oversights.
- Make plans to use your summer wisely: It is fun to think about just enjoying your summer, but make sure you have something worthwhile in there, too. Take a class through a local college, achieve a challenging goal, or volunteer with a worthwhile organization. You might also want to work to earn extra funds to help pay for the college application fees, or to put a little money away for your freshman year.
- Set a competitive schedule for your senior classes: During the college interview process, you might be asked about your classes and activities for your senior year. While you don’t want too much stress on your time commitments, you don’t want to give yourself too easy of a schedule either. Strike a balance between allowing time to complete admissions and financial aid applications, and still presenting a good picture of a diligent, hard-working student.
- Start preparing to complete financial aid applications: You probably already know what you need to do to complete the admissions applications, but look at the financial aid pages of your college websites, too. Find out whether your colleges require the FAFSA, CSS Profile, or other applications, and learn what information is required for each form. Apply for an FSA ID for the student and parent, as you will need this to submit the FAFSA, and keep all financial aid documentation in one easily accessible location.
- Look for scholarship opportunities: Think about your unique skills and abilities, and then look for matching scholarship opportunities. Even if potential scholarships have deadlines much later in the year, there is nothing which says you can’t look at this year’s application and put together some ideas of how you would respond. Most scholarships are similar from year to year, so this is one way to get a nice head start.
Once this prep work is completed, start tackling some major college tasks during the summer. Visit a college or two, talk to your parents about finances, and maybe even take a stab at writing a few essays. To learn more about financial aid, set up a CFAA new client free strategy session. For the latest financial aid information and college application to-do lists, look for my weekly JustAskJodi emails and check out my monthly CFAA e-newsletter.