College Prep - Checklist for 12th Graders
February 16, 2015 governmentgrants.info Staff
When senior year is on the horizon, students start to think about college and the future. Waiting until next August to start preparing for college can leave you in a frenzy, so instead, begin to plan now.
Year-Long Goals for Students
Starting off senior year with a positive attitude and a strong work ethic will help you to succeed. However, you don't want to slack off in the second half of the year. If you received a scholarship offer from a college, your second semester grades can affect your eligibility for it. Also, involve yourself in activities, clubs and leadership opportunities to show that you are a well-rounded student.
You don't want to get halfway through the year only to discover that you're on the wrong track. Set up an appointment with your guidance counselor or academic adviser to ensure that no stumbling blocks exist on your road to graduation. You are also going to need to take standardized tests for most colleges, generally the SAT and/or the ACT. Usually, you will have already taken them in junior year; however, you may have missed the deadline or wish to try again for a higher score. Find out what scores the colleges in which you are interested look at. Now is also the time to apply to those colleges and to obtain letters of recommendation, transcripts and other application materials from the necessary resources. Always read the directions and complete the applications in entirety.
Once you have sent off those college applications, you want to start applying for financial aid, if necessary. When your parents complete their income tax forms early, you can provide exact information on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which is commonly referred to as FAFSA. If the forms are not completed, you will need to estimate the amount. As soon as you can after the first of January has passed, fill out and submit those forms. FAFSA's application form is available in paper and online. To expedite the process, select the online application. Also, make sure you are adhering to the deadlines of the colleges. Remember, you may have other sources of financial aid that you want to apply to as well, including scholarships. Within three days to three weeks, you will receive your Student Air Report, also known as a SAR. Make necessary corrections and return the form right away.
If you have not already done so, visit the colleges to which you have been accepted. You will also need to review the acceptance letters to find out what type of financial aid package you have been offered. If you have questions, or if you want to find out if other opportunities are available, give the financial aid office a call. Always carefully review the information; you do not want to miss deadlines for any material that you must submit. Different schools are going to have different deadlines for acceptance of their offer and a deposit. However, in general, most schools require that you let them know by the first of May.
While you are navigating the FAFSA process, be sure to review Funding Your Education: The Guide to Federdal Student Aid. You should consult with other resources as well. For example, you want to learn the difference between federal and private loans, and you can read Your Federal Student Loans: Learn the Basics and Manage Your Debt, particularly the sections entitled "PREPARE" and "RECEIVE." Do not be afraid to ask for help. For example, you might be pushing off signing up for a test because you cannot pay the registration fee. Talk to your school counselor about waivers for these fees.
Information for Parents
Be sure to help your children when they are filling out the FAFSA. They will need your support and your assistance with providing financial details. Also, be sure to read through "Student Aid and Identity Theft." When your children are providing information for these forms and others, be sure that they are safe with distributing their personal information. You can also read through the IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education to see how federal income tax credits can help you. Even when your students are offered a loan, help them to understand what accepting it means by reading through Federal Student Loans: Learn the Basics and Manage Your Debt. Read through the material from the schools, and if the school offers a Direct PLUS Loan, review the Direct Loan Basics for Parents brochure.