|Dear College Made Simple Reader,
With all you need to do before your first day of college, beginning the college selection process during your junior year is no longer considered “early.”
In fact, the most success we see are from those families that begin this process in the beginning of their Sophomore year. That said, a lot of families wait and don’t get started in this process until their junior year… and that’s why we’ve put together this checklist for college-bound high school juniors.
The checklist is broken down in three major categories:
Testing for College, Researching Colleges, and Paying for College.
Testing for College
The major to-dos on this list are taking your PSAT, ACT and SAT tests during your junior year. With all of these, your guidance counselor can inform you of times and dates of tests, how to register, and costs to take the test.
If you’re taking the PSAT…
- Sign up to take the PSAT by September of your junior year.
- By the end of October, you should have already taken it.
- By December, review your PSAT scores with your guidance counselor and parents.
ACTs are next. They are held every December, February, April, June, September and October. It’s recommended you:
- Sign up to take ACT exam by November.
- Take the December or February ACT during your junior year.
SATs are held in only four months of the year – In 2013 they were held in January, March, May and June.
- By the end of February, you should be registered to take a SAT exam and already studying for it.
- Take your first SAT by May or June.
Choosing the right college begins with gathering information about schools and programs. One of the most important tips I can give you is to stay organized.
Use separate folders for different schools. Label them. Try to organize their contents as identically as possible so you can compare information more easily. Some other recommendations:
- Attend a college fair by October or November at the latest.
- Also by November, you should have scheduled a few campus visits. A campus tour is the best way to get a feel for what a school is like.
- By January or February, you want to narrow down what you are looking for in your ideal college. Among things to consider: Tuition costs, proximity to home, large or small school, public or private, community college, academic curriculum, student-teacher ratio, and urban or rural location.
- By the end of March, your list of schools should be trimmed down considerably (think 5 to 10).
- By April, begin working on college applications and admission essays.
- By the end of summer, you should have visited most colleges you are seriously considering attending.
Paying for College
There is over $150 billion available each year from the Federal Government, states, colleges, universities, as well as private foundations and organizations. Getting your “fair share” is often just a matter of knowing how to get it.
Here is a checklist and timeline for most important things to do to financially prepare for college during your junior year.
- In September, you need to have a family talk about paying for college. Among things to discuss: Is the student going to contribute? … and if so, what are they willing to help with? Are they expecting to take on loans? Are you expecting to take on loans?
- By the end of November, your student should have searched for and identified some scholarships they intend to apply for. It’s important to do this early because scholarships have different deadlines – some as early as the summer after your junior year.
- During Christmas break, learn about student loan options and eligibility requirements for student loans.
- Also during Christmas break, learn about the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. This is one of the most critical forms you will complete as you prepare for college. Being familiar with it before applying will make applying much, much easier.
- By March, as you narrow down your list of desired schools to at most 10, estimate how much it will cost to attend each. Expand your search for scholarships to include local organizations in your community, organizations related to your desired fields of study, scholarships available only to students (or future students) of schools you desire to attend.
- By April, contact each school’s financial aid office to see what kind of payment options they have – monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, semesterly.
- Also in April, as you work on college applications and essays, begin filling out scholarship applications. It is never a bad thing to be the first one in the door.
To your college funding & admissions success,
Co-founder, College Planning Network, LLC