Seniors: What to do to plan for college

Planning for college is a tedious process. Here are tips to help you as you begin your college search during your senior year.


  • Take the SAT or ACT exam, if necessary.
  • Work on admissions applications essays.
  • Visit your top school choices. Interview some students, faculty, and staff.
  • Attend special programs such as college fairs and financial aid nights.
  • Find out which financial aid applications your college choices require and when the forms are due.
  • It is highly recommended that you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as you can after October 1 to ensure that you do not miss out on available aid. We highly recommend that you use the online FAFSA form.
  • Some private universities may require that you register for CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE at this time. (This determines your qualification for private school aid.)
  • Get your free email account at and start learning about the colleges you’re considering.


  • Take the SAT or ACT exam, if necessary.
  • Obtain financial aid applications from your guidance office or college of choice. Read them carefully to determine what information is required and when the applications are due.
  • Begin preparing your college applications. Check with the colleges to find out when materials must be postmarked.


  • Apply for outside funding or scholarships
  • Parents: Save your year-end payroll stub if it shows your earnings for the year. You may need it for financial aid eligibility reviews by schools.


  • January is Financial Aid Awareness Month. Look for special programs in your area.
  • Parents: It’s helpful to get your income tax returns prepaid early–schools may request them to prove eligibility for financial aid.


  • Check to see if your mid-year transcripts have been sent to the schools to which you have applied.
  • Submit your online FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form if you have not already done so, or mail if you are using a paper copy.
  • Research taking Advance Placement (AP) or College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams.
  • Rank your finalized list of colleges.


  • Look for your Student Aid Report (SAR) in the mail. Your SAR contains federal financial aid information.
  • Submit tax forms to the financial aid office if requested. Contact each office to make certain that your application is complete. Find out what else you need to do to establish and maintain your eligibility for financial aid.
  • If you have not received your Student Aid Report four weeks after sending in your FAFSA, contact the Federal Student Aid Information Center at (319) 337-5665.


  • Watch the mail for college acceptance and financial aid award letters. Compare the financial aid awards you receive.
  • Make your final decision and send in a deposit by the deadline.
  • Check with the college you’ve chosen to attend about the details of signing and returning financial aid award letters.
  • Notify the other schools that you will not be attending.
  • Watch for important deadlines at your chosen college (housing, financial aid, etc.)