Going to college: 15 tasks for high school seniors
(MoneyWatch) With summer just around the corner, new high school seniors need to get busy as they navigate through the college admission process. It's a great time to get a head start.
Here are 15 things high school seniors need to add to their summer to-do list:
1.Get started on college essays. Before they they start their senior year, teenagers this summer should tackle their college essays (Here is a post to provide some inspiration: 10 great opening lines from Stanford admissions essays.)
Teens who are artists, musicians, or actors may have to send in a portfolio with their application. Summer is the time to get this done.
2. Visit schools. If the family can swing it, try visiting colleges this summer. Visits can help increase an applicant's chances of getting admitted to some schools.
3. Use a calendar. The more schools teens apply to, the crazier it's going to get. The only way to keep track of college admissions and financial aid deadlines is by writing it all down in a calendar.
4. Finalize the college list. Students should boil down their lists to the serious candidates and, when applicable, decide whether to apply "early decision," "early action," or "regular decision."
5. Get a head start on recommendations. Many teachers and guidance counselors are inundated with requests for recommendations around Thanksgiving. Ask teachers for recommendations in September, when they will be less harried.
6. Retake the SAT and/or ACT. With deadlines looming, time is running out to re-take the standardized tests if your child isn't happy with his or her scores. Many schools will cherry-pick the best SAT scores. Some institutions will do the same for the ACT.
7. File the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Submit the FAFSA, which is available beginning January 1 of every year. If you hope to obtain financial aid, you need to complete this application.
8. Complete the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE. Nearly 250 mostly private, selective schools use this online form to determine eligibility for financial aid that doesn't come from the state and federal governments. You can register to use the PROFILE by visiting the College Board web site.
9. Evaluate admissions offers. Once the admission verdicts and financial aid packages are in, families may need to do some soul-searching. Parents and students should talk about the financial implications of attending different schools.
10. Take Advanced Placement tests. If students are doing well in Advanced Placement classes, they should take the appropriate AP tests that are administered in May. If they do well, they may obtain college credits. If they do poorly, they don't need to send in their AP scores to colleges.
11. Contact the also-rans. Make sure your child writes or emails the schools that didn't make the final cut so they can extend offers to other students.
12. Send in deposit. For many schools, the deadline for mailing in the enrollment form with the deposit is May 1.
13. Don't slack off. Even after receiving college acceptances, students should keep their grades up in the last semester. Colleges can rescind offers.
14. Decide whether to borrow money. Use federal college loans first. Private loans should be used sparingly.
15. Find a summer job. Teens should get a head start on paying those college bills.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Horia Varlan
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