Undergrad college checklist

Applying for college while finishing your senior year of high school can feel like a whirlwind. That’s why we put together an easy-to-follow checklist of suggested steps to take to maximize your time, get the best admission and financial opportunities, and make the best choice!

The summer before your senior year

  •  Review your plan, stay involved in community work, update your list of awards and achievements, and continue saving money.
  •  Explore your scholarship options, especially local scholarships. Use free web services like fastweb.com, but research how to avoid scams, and don’t pay scholarship search firms.

Fall and winter

  •  *Apply to your top five colleges. Consider early admission — deadline is often November 1 — particularly if it will give you priority status in admissions or financial aid. Application fees can be up to $90, depending on the school. The average fee is around $37, and a fee waiver may be available.
  •  Figure out who you’ll ask to be your references, and give them at least a month to complete recommendation forms.
  •  Carefully write your admissions essays, making sure each one is customized for the specific school. Have a teacher or parent proofread your work before you submit it.
  •  Retake the SAT or ACT if needed.
  •  Revisit your top college options, and consider an overnight visit. Continue applying for both local and national scholarships, and explore what grants and scholarships are available at your prospective schools. Begin examining housing options, meal plans, and course schedules.
  •  Submit your FAFSA as soon as possible after October 1. It’s free to submit. Your family can help you collect financial documents and submit your FAFSA. Request that your potential colleges receive your information. Last chance to submit is May 1, and you won’t be eligible for state and federal aid without it.
  •  After submitting your FAFSA, you’ll receive your Student Aid Report (SAR). Review it for completeness and make sure your target schools have received it.


  •  * Review your acceptance letters and financial aid packages and decide which university you will attend. National college decision day, May 1, is your final day to make your choice. You’ll likely need to send a deposit (advance payment) to secure your spot. Deposit could be around $200.
  •  Talk with your family about how you’ll pay for college. Once you’ve received your financial aid offer, figure out your quarterly costs (tuition, housing, food, room and board, books, other expenses, and personal spending money). Note how much is covered by your various scholarships and loans, and carefully research which potential loan options would be best for you.
  •  If you plan to work part time, explore your on- and off-campus employment opportunities. Identify additional scholarship you might be eligible for.
  •  Work with your family to create a budget for your various costs (with so much food and great activities in college, personal spending money can disappear faster than you’d think).
  •  Take any remaining SAT subject tests or AP tests.
  •  Apply for housing. Your school will send information about applying for housing. Deposit could be around $300.


  •  Attend an early registration program at your school. You’ll sign up for classes, meet your future classmates, and have a chance to ask questions.
  •  Talk with your family about what you’ll take to campus (car, laptop, other electronics). Make a packing list.
  •  When you receive your housing assignment, reach out to your future roommate(s). Get to know them, and decide who will bring any shared items.

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