Step by Step Guide

Step by step guide

Follow the steps and resources below to keep track of your progress and upcoming deadlines for testing, admissions, and financial aid.  It is important to stay organized and keep working hard all year long.  Soon all the preparation and planning that you have done during your high school career will begin to pave the way for a smooth transition to college!


Take Action With your Academics

  • Check-in with your guidance counselor to find out about graduation requirements and your current status. 

  • Keep up the academic rigor all year!  Second semester grades can affect scholarship eligibilty.

  • Register to take the assessment(s) required by post-secondary institutions.

    • SAT: This entrance exam is required for admissions into most 4 year colleges/universities.

    • ACT: This entrance exam is required for admissions into most 4-year and 2 year colleges/universities.

    • ASVAB: This entrance exam is required for admissions into all military branches.


Do Your Research on Post-secondary options 

  • Use Naviance to help weigh ALL of your options.

  • Understand the difference between a 2 year or 4 year college.

  • Learn about technical schools and programs that are offered.

  • Explore the requirements and benefits of joining the military. 

  • Register for and attend at least one college fair.


Make a plan to FINANCE your ambitions

  • Apply for FAFSA. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid determines a student’s eligibility for financial aid and can be completed any time after October 1st. Students will be asked to include financial information about their family or themselves if they qualify as an independent adult. 

  • Talk to your parents/guardians about the financial aid process and the importance of getting taxes completed as soon as possible.

  • Research and apply for scholarships and other financial assistance.

  • Find out college application fees and look for fee waivers.


APPLY to your top CHOICES before their deadlines

  • Make yourself aware of the specific admission requirements of the programs you choose to apply to. Early decision applications must be submitted by December, but students planning to submit during the regular application period typically send theirs between January and March.

  • Students should take note of any rolling admissions schools because decisions are made as applications are received and places may fill up quickly.

  • Collect the necessary documents needed to submit.

  • Make time to write admission essays (if required). Try to review prompts as soon as they’re posted online and spend a few weeks crafting a thoughtful outline before setting hands to keyboard.

  • Ask for personal references/recommendation letters early in the year, preferably 2 weeks before any deadlines (talk to teachers, counselors, principals, employers).

  • Not all schools require interviews, but it allows students to demonstrate the unique qualities they will bring to the institution. Some are conducted on campus or virtually, although students further afield may interview with an alumnus in their area.


Accept and celebrate! 

  • Most schools send out all acceptance letters by April, except for those with rolling admissions. Whether electing to gather all acceptance letters before making a decision or judging them individually as they arrive, some of the biggest things to consider during this process are cost versus awarded aid, location, options for study, and alumni success rates.

  • Collect your acceptance letters as they arrive by mail and/or email.

  • Make a final decision about which college to attend and notify the school of your decision.

  • Inform your HS counselor of your acceptance letter(s) and final decision.


Finalize your plans

  • Your acceptance letter provides information on available federal aid and internal scholarships. Students should then add any other external scholarships or grants to this amount to see how much money they’ll need to pay each academic year.

  • Some students may decide to take out loans, while others may consider a school with cheaper tuition or one that provided more institutional funding.

  • Continue to search and apply for scholarships.

  • Notify the schools that you will not be attending.

  • Continue to keep track of important financial aid and scholarship deadlines.

  • Sign and send in promissory notes if you are borrowing money.

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