If you are the parent of, or a student about to enter high school and think you’ve got three years before you have to start thinking about and preparing for college, think again. If you wait until senior year you will be scrambling at the last minute and probably won’t be accepted by your first choice institution.
Some colleges and universities begin accepting applications for the next year’s freshmen class in the Fall of a high schooler’s senior year. Deadlines for applications can be as early as December with many falling on January 1st. Early action and early decision mean even earlier deadlines.
By senior year you should have most of the required core courses behind you. Admissions committees take a dim view of club, sports and/or volunteer participation that has only taken place senior year. It is also getting awfully late to make campus visits. If your student is not a strong writer, they will struggle with required application essays.
A major question facing parents/guardians and prospective students is, “How will you pay for college?” One source will be grants and scholarships. Waiting until senior year to compile a list of possible grants and scholarships is too late. One student discovered too late that had he applied before November 15 for a particular scholarship the organization would have forwarded his application to other organizations offering scholarships.
Parents/guardians need to start gathering information that will help them fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly referred to by its initials FAFSA. The information on the FAFSA document calculates the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) towards tuition, fees, books and room and board. Financial aid offices use the information in determining and offering the student’s financial aid package. Some colleges use the CSS Financial Aid Profile, which can run more than 30 pages. We will cover more on financial aid in later columns.
Does this mean that if your child is a freshman or sophomore and you haven’t done anything about college that you should panic? No, there’s still time. What if you have a junior? Well, you have a lot of work between now and the start of their senior year in August. If your senior is graduating this Spring you already know that you are behind the eight-ball.
If you are reading this and it is January or later of senior year, then your best bet at this point is to concentrate on those colleges that have rolling admissions. There is a website, list after list. which will tell you that rolling admissions is where “…a candidate is invited to submit his application to the university anytime within a large window. The window is usually over six months long, and some schools do not have a previously specified end date (the window simply closes when all spots are filled).”
f you go to the list after list website, you will find a list of colleges that have a rolling admissions policy. Don’t overlook community or junior colleges in your area.
Starting with our next column, we are going to work backwards from senior to freshman year and take a look at what you should be doing to get ready for college.