Starting sometime Junior year of high school, most families have an “oh crap!” moment when they realize they’ve almost gotten their kid through high school and it really is time to get serious about planning for the future. Don’t worry if you haven’t had it yet, it will come. It feels scary because most of us get bombarded with tons of disparate pieces of information about planning for college that we don’t quite understand or know how to assimilate into a coherent idea of what it’s going to be like for us personally.
Your journey will be unique, but there is also a lot that most families have in common when it comes to the process of planning for college. It helps to know what to expect so you can stay on track.
Let me break it down for you….
The College Planning Process For Juniors and Seniors
Beginning of junior year - This is when you’re still thinking about life in terms of the high school experience and blissfully unaware of what is about to hit you in the face right around the corner.
Keep doing the same things you’ve been doing all throughout high school - getting good grades, taking the hardest courses you can do well in, exploring your interests in the form of volunteering, extracurriculars, sports, arts, leadership, and keeping your eyes and ears open to the world around you for hints about what you want your future to be like.
Middle of junior year - You’ll probably start hearing about SAT and ACT testing at school.
Studying for these tests is a good idea, and, thankfully, there are plenty of free and low cost ways to do so these days like Kahn Academy, for example.
Late in Junior Year - This is when it really gets real. If you and your student haven’t started actively shopping for schools yet, you’ll want to be making a list of schools to visit. But before doing that…
Figure out the financial piece before shopping for schools, and then have the talk with your student so your whole family is on board and knows what the boundaries are in terms of school cost. The easiest way to complete this step is to contact me. In an hour or two, we can put together your EFC (Expected Family Contribution), your college budget, and start shopping for schools that meet your requirements.
Summer Between Junior And Senior Year - Visit as many schools as possible to start narrowing down what is appealing and unappealing to your student.
Be careful to stick to your financial boundaries - it's very important to avoid having your student get their hopes up that they will be able to attend a certain school only to have those hopes dashed when they realize it is unaffordable later on.
Show plenty of interest in schools you’re considering. The schools are paying attention to that interest. All else being equal, most schools would rather accept a student who demonstrates significant interest than one who never reached out.
August of Senior Year - Make an initial school list and then start adjusting it by adding or taking away schools for strategic reasons.
September of Senior Year - Finalize your school list and decide if you will apply early decision, early action or regular decision. Follow this decision up by calendaring a start date and due date for all of the applications you’ll be completing. Also, compare the applications each school will accept in hopes of completing the fewest applications possible.
October and November of Senior year - Complete your FAFSA application as well as the CSS Profile if required by any school on your list. Complete applications as they come due. Be sure to identify the teacher recommendations you will need and ask for those early on in the process.
December through April of Senior year - You will continue submitting applications as needed during this time, and, if you want to try to improve your SAT or ACT scores, you should plan to take the December exam at the latest.
As there may be somewhat of a lull in the activity at this point, it's a great time to organize your scholarship strategy.
Beyond that, it’s a waiting game as many schools won’t get back to you until March or April.
Freshman year of college and beyond - Remember to fill out your required financial aid forms each year, and keep applying for scholarships until reaching your goal..
And, that’s about it. Easy as pie!
Rest assured, I’m here to help every step of the way with personalized guidance as you need it. Expect to find helpful information coming out throughout the year as well in the form of new content added to this site. Email me to be added to the email list so you don’t miss out on anything. email@example.com