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Paying for College

Senior Year College Planning Checklist

Take your standardized tests, write your essay, get your letters of recommendation, complete your applications, apply for financial aid, and select your college.
Female student sitting at desk in classroomIf you’re entering your senior year of high school, you have a busy school year ahead. From doing well in your academic courses, to finishing the college search and working on your applications, you have a lot to do. This checklist should help you stay organized as you plan for college and finish out your high school career strong.

September- October

  • Make a list of (and visit if possible) all the colleges to which you want to apply. Create a Common App account at

  • Register for the SAT<sup>®</sup> I or ACT<sup>®</sup> (and SAT II, if needed by your colleges) to be administered in October, November, and December. The first SAT of the school year is 10/1 and the first ACT is 10/22.

  • Create an FSA ID (for the FAFSA) online at

  • Begin to fill out your college applications.

  • If you haven’t yet, request recommendation letters from teachers. Provide your recommenders with enough time (at least 6-8 weeks) to write your recommendation.

  • Begin to work on your essay. Do not procrastinate! Let your personality stand out and individuality shine. Ask your English teacher to help you edit and proofread it. Essays should be around 500 words. (The Common app does not allow more than 650 words).

  • If you are applying through Early Decision or Early Action, complete and submit your application now.

  • Submit the FAFSA as soon after October 1st as you can at


  • Take the SAT and have your test scores sent to the colleges to which you are applying.

  • Complete and submit your applications before Thanksgiving.

  • Start researching scholarships and grants. Check with your school counselor on local scholarship opportunities.


  • Keep doing your best in your classes! Grades will continue to count throughout senior year.

  • Have your mid-year grades sent to the colleges that have requested them.

  • Complete as many scholarship applications as possible and submit them.


  • Most colleges will notify you by April 15th of your acceptance. Inform your school counselor of your acceptances and scholarships.

  • Do not take Rolling Admissions for granted. Colleges with no application deadline may reach their maximum class size quickly. Apply as early as possible.

  • Carefully review you college acceptances and financial aid packages.


  • DECISION TIME! As soon as you make your final college choice, return the acceptance form (with the deposit) to secure your spot and notify your school counselor of your choice.

  • Take AP tests and arrange for your scores to be sent to the college you will attend.


  • Request from the main office that your final transcript be sent to the college you will attend.

  • Look for information from the college about housing, roommate(s), Orientation, course selection, health records, and placement tests.

  • Last day of school. CONGRATULATIONS! You have made it through high school! Enjoy your graduation and look forward to college.

Marlene SabehMarlene Sabeh is the GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs) Lead Coordinator at New Bedford High School, New Bedford, MA. For over sixteen years, she has been assisting high school students in devising their post-secondary educational plans, submitting their financial aid applications, finding and applying for scholarships, as well as advising them on student loans. She takes pride in positively influencing the youth of her city to pursue higher education, and always looks for better ways to make the process easier and more accessible.

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