Does being a new high school senior surprise, scare, or excite you? For those who want to attend college in the fall the road ahead can be a little overwhelming, but you can take actions now to get in front of the college application curve. If you conduct some basic research and get organized, you will be prepared once the flurry of the application season begins. Here are some steps you can take now to formulate a college application summer action plan:
• Narrow Down Your List: Some students think they are increasing their odds of acceptance by applying to as many colleges as possible. But this can take a lot of time and effort, and also cost you a lot of money in application fees. A better use of time is to really research possible colleges to come up with a realistic list of options. Make sure they are within your family’s price range so you are not setting yourself up for disappointment later. If you have a few top choices, talk to your parents or friends about making some campus visits this summer. Be prepared to ask a lot of questions when you meet with the financial aid representatives.
• Chart a Course: Find out the application and financial aid deadlines for each of your prospective colleges, and list out exactly what you need to complete for each of them. Then work backwards to make sure you leave yourself enough time to complete all the requirements, so you don’t miss any deadlines and don’t have a frantic rush as the deadlines loom.
• Talk to Your Parents About Money: It can be difficult having adult conversations with your parents, but you need to start getting in the habit now so you can make more informed decisions as your life progresses. Talk to your parents about how much money they have saved for college, how much they can afford to spend, what kind of budget you will have, how much you need to borrow, and how much they expect you to repay. Yes, it’s uncomfortable, but it’s better than being surprised later when you find yourself over your head in debt.
• Take Some Money Responsibility: Don’t let your parents do all the work. Find out what information is needed to complete the FAFSA, and help pull it together. Earn as much money as you can over the summer to help reduce out-of-pocket costs for next year. Search for scholarships that will help keep costs down. This is a group effort, and you play a big part in its success.
Learn about savings for college and college financial aid in my book, Secrets of a Financial Aid Pro! You’ll find information on applying to college, completing the FAFSA, paying for college, comparing financial aid offers, and borrowing money through student loans. Order it now, and get all the information you need to be fully prepared for college life.