It’s senior year, and your college days are just around the corner. Hopefully, you have begun the college application process, but don’t panic if you haven’t. There is still time, but you’ll have to move quickly. Here are a few steps to remember:
Good recommendations are important, for both college and scholarship applications. Colleges will have your grades, but they will be interested in knowing you personally. To ace this part of the application process, maintain relationships with your teachers, coaches, and volunteer directors. Pick out those who know you best, and ask them for a letter of recommendation. Be sure to give them sufficient time and to thank them when they have finished.
Almost all colleges will require that you take the ACT (American College Test) or the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test). If you plan to take the ACT, be prepared to take it between the months of September and June. It is offered 6 times a year, and each registration deadline is about a month before the test. Dates are similar if you plan on taking the SAT. It is offered once a month between October and June, and you have to register at least a month in advance. You can have your scores submitted to several schools for free when you take either test.
The submission of application materials is the most important part of the college application process. Pay close attention to your grammar and spelling as you complete the required forms. When writing your essay, personalize it to the school of your choice. Including reasons for your interest in each school shows that you have put forth an effort and have done your research. Deadlines for an early decision are usually in early November. Regular deadlines are generally between January and February. Applying early is your best bet. You stand a better chance of getting in if all of your information is in before the deadlines. Near the cut-off dates, most admissions offices are swamped with entries. It is possible for things to get misplaced or lost, and having time to resend application materials is important.
Begin in September, see what is available and what is coming up so you will have time to apply for those best suited to you and ramp-up your efforts, month after month. In January, you really need to be ready to begin applying for the scholarships that are best suited to you. Using our free scholarship search, you will probably find well over a hundred scholarships for which you qualify and you may want to pick your top ten or twenty to begin with and then come back to the remainder once you have applied for each of your top selections. It's easy to do by simply marking your favorites, applying for them and then, when you are finished with them, you can "x" them out and concentrate on the next ten or twenty.
The deadline for completing the FAFSA on the Web varies by state and can be as early as January or February. However, even if your state has a later priority deadline you should try to submit it as soon after January 1st as possible. You will need to have a copy of your parents’ and, if applicable, your own tax returns before beginning. It is easiest to submit your FAFSA form online (although a paper version is available). This can be done at fafsa.ed.gov. Beware of sites that charge you for applying for financial aid. Remember, FAFSA is the FREE application for federal student aid, so if you have to pay, you’re on the wrong site.
Most colleges will let you know their decisions by the beginning of May. Once you have received the results, consider your options. Take into consideration your financial need, the location, and the reputation of each college. Let each school know if you have accepted their offer as soon as you can. Now you can release a big sigh of relief. Admittedly, the application process can get a little tedious, but finishing feels great. Just sit back and relax. This is in the bag.
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