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College Preparation Checklist

Date: 10/1/2017

Author: Financial Hotline

It is never too early for high schoolers to begin preparing for college. Much of what you begin as a freshman will be repeated as you begin each subsequent grade. StudentAid.Ed.Gov offers the following tips to stay on track.


- Estimate your potential financial aid using FAFSA4caster at fafsa.gov.

- Meet with your high school counselor to identify what courses you should take to improve your college acceptances.

- Find out what Advanced Placement courses are available and how to enroll in them.

- Get involved in school or community-based activities that interest you or let you explore career interests.

- Consider working or volunteering. Remember that it’s quality—not quantity—that counts

- Check out The Four Steps to College, at www.knowhow2go.org

- Watch videos on the “Prepare for College” playlist at www.YouTube.com/FederalStudentAid.

- Explore StudentAid.gov/parent for information on saving for college, borrowing for college, applying for financial aid, getting tax benefits to help make college affordable, and more.

- Use the career search at StudentAid.gov/careersearch to research your career options.

- Start compiling a list of your awards, honors, extracurricular activities, and paid and volunteer work.

- Consider participating in academic enrichment programs, summer workshops, and camps with specialty focuses such as music, arts, or science.

- Visit StudentAid.gov/whycollege

- Find ways to get help prepare for college at StudentAid.gov/prepare-for-college/help.

- Make sure you are fully aware of the provisions of any college savings accounts you have established.


- Meet with your school counselor to discuss colleges and their admissions requirements.

- Review the info at www.collegeboard.org and www.act.org and consider taking a practice Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®) orPSATTM 10, or the PreACTTM

- Use your summer wisely: Work, volunteer, or take a summer course at a local college.

- Go to career information events. Research majors that might be a good match for you.

Access and complete a career search at StudentAid.gov/careersearch.

- Learn the differences between grants, loans, workstudy, and scholarships at StudentAid.gov/types.

- Check out collegescorecard.ed.gov to explore schools

- Find out if your high school has college nights and plan to attend

- Check out StudentAid.gov/glance.

- Meet with your school counselor to create a yearly course schedule for meeting graduation requirements.

- Meet your advisor or school counselor to review your progress on AP and honors courses.

- Stay involved with community-based and leadership-oriented activities.

- Attend college and career information events.


- Take the PSAT. Students must take the test in 11th grade to qualify for National Merit scholarships and programs.

- Attend in-person or online college fairs and college-prep presentations.

- Explore careers and their earning potentials in the Occupational Outlook Handbook.

- Register for college admission exams such as the SAT and ACT; take practice tests to prepare before the big day.

- Define your funding plans for college.

- Identify scholarship opportunities to pursue; note deadlines on calendar.

- Contact colleges to request information and applications.

- Start college visits and narrow down the colleges being considered.

- Make decisions regarding early decision or early action programs.

- Enter and/or update information in the FAFSA4caster.


- Resist the urge to slack off. Keep up grades and continue school and community activities.

- Take (or retake) the SAT and/or ACT, if not already done.

- Complete and submit college applications prior to deadlines.

- Complete and submit scholarship applications prior to deadlines.

- Request transcripts and letters of recommendation.

- Register for a Federal Student Aid PIN.

- Meet with a counselor to verify that graduation requirements will be met on schedule.

- Work with parents to complete and submit the FAFSA.

- Review and make any necessary changes/corrections to the Student Aid Report.

- Finish submitting scholarship applications.

- Visit colleges on your “short list.”

- Consider college acceptances; compare financial aid packages offered.

- Call or meet with college financial aid representatives to explore all options available to you.

- Decide on the college to attend.

- Review StudentAid.gov to make informed decisions on financial aid and loans.

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