High school senior year and your college checklist

Female student at desk, working on tablet

Don’t overlook these key details as you plan for your final year of high school.

Senior year can go by in the blink of an eye. Now is a great time to stay organized, review remaining tasks, and tie up any loose ends.

Financial aid and scholarship applications

Be sure your family stays on top of any financial aid and scholarship applications. First, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to figure out your expected family contribution — it’s available to complete on October 1 each year. Determine early on which types of aid you’ll be applying for: federal student loans, private student loans, scholarships, grants, or work-study. The sooner you get the applications complete, the better to help ensure that everything is in place for a smooth transition to college in the fall.

Be sure to check out our 5 step guide to paying for college, which includes a helpful to-do list that will get you started on your college journey this fall and tips on which types of aid you should apply for first.

Letters of recommendation

Well before the application deadlines, ask your teachers and counselors for letters of recommendation, making sure you provide them with a link to any letter-of-recommendation forms and a copy of your high school resume for their reference. Discuss post-high-school goals with each teacher so they’ll be more prepared to write a well-thought-out letter.

Standardized testing

If you haven’t done so already, register for and take any standardized tests required for college. Make sure you check with the schools you’re interested in to see what tests they require. As a note: If you’re a senior, typically the January SAT is the last one colleges will be able to consider.

If you’ve received official scores from taking the ACT, SAT, or AP test, make sure they’re included in your admissions packages, whether they’re mailed or digital. Currently, you can send four free SAT and ACT score reports to schools for up to nine days after the test — plus there’s no fee with this option!

Think you’ll need to send more than four SAT score reports? Your school counselor or an authorized community-based organization may be able to help you get a fee waiver to avoid extra costs. Unfortunately, the ACT doesn’t currently offer any fee waivers for more than four reports.

College admission checklist

Make sure you turn in everything the school has requested, including any deposits, transcripts, etc., by the deadline — usually May 1. If final transcripts are required, set a reminder to get those before the last day of school — school administrators may be harder to contact after graduation day.

And don’t forget about orientation. Register for orientation as soon as possible to secure a date that works for your family.

Beware of senioritis

Although college planning and preparation are important, try your best to stay motivated and finish your last year strong — avoid senioritis! Once an acceptance letter comes in, it’s tempting for students to coast to the end of senior year and disregard their performance in the classroom. But  colleges do check on final transcripts, so final grades are still important to success in college.

Want to read more about managing your senior year tasks?

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