From identifying potential schools to paying your first college bill, planning for college requires you to be motivated, organized, and thorough. Follow our timeline to stay on track.

Spring of Junior Year

Start by having conversations about post-high school goals and review our Applying to College page to learn the basics.

  1. Attend a College Admissions seminar or watch our College Admissions webinar.
  2. Begin to develop your list of potential colleges.
  3. Take the standardized college entrance exams: SAT, applicable SAT Subject Tests, and/or ACT.
  4. If possible, visit colleges during spring vacation.
  5. Ask teachers for letters of recommendation before you leave for summer break.

Summer After Junior Year

While it’s tempting to take a break from all school-related activities during the summer, it’s important to maintain your momentum in the college application process.

  1. Begin work on your college essays.
  2. Continue to visit as many of the colleges on your list as possible.
  3. Update your resume to include relevant summer activities.
  4. Adjust your college list as your interest in specific schools increases or fades.

Fall of Senior Year

When your senior year begins, it’s time to shift the application process into high gear.

  1. Finish your college research and work on your applications.
    • Download MEFA’s College Admissions Toolkit for essay and interview tips, advice on campus visits, and more.
    • Set up an account in MEFA Pathway to keep track of applications, search for scholarships, and learn more about careers.
  2. Stay on top of application requirements and deadlines.
  3. Learn more about college costs and financial aid.
  4. Start the financial aid process.
    • Research financial aid deadlines at each college.
    • Every student applying for financial aid will need to submit the FAFSA® (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). For students entering college in the fall of 2017, the 2017-18 FAFSA  will open on October 1st.
    • Apply for Federal Student Aid FSA IDs for the student and one parent. These will serve as your electronic signatures on the FAFSA.
    • See if any of the schools on your list require the CSS PROFILE®, which is available October 1st.

Winter of Senior Year

Once your college applications are submitted, start the process of applying for financial aid.

  1. Learn the details.
  2. If you haven’t already, submit your financial aid applications.
    • Complete the FAFSA.
    • Register to attend a FAFSA Day program if you need assistance with the FAFSA.
    • If necessary, complete and submit the CSS PROFILE or any other required financial aid application.
  3. Apply for private scholarships.
    • Ask your school counselor about local scholarships that may be available.
    • Continue to search within free, online scholarship databases.

Spring of Senior Year

As you choose among the colleges where you have been accepted, think about how you will pay the bill.

  1. Attend open house programs at schools where you have been accepted.
    • Take a last look at each campus and ask questions before the May 1 deadline for selecting your college.
    • Meet with current students and faculty to get a sense of the student experience at the school.
    • Sit in on a class if possible.
    • Take advantage of financial aid presentations where you can ask important questions, presentations on career and student services, open houses in specific academic departments, and tours of the campus and residence halls.
  2. Evaluate financial aid offers.
    • Learn the important details of financial aid award letters.
    • Enter the amounts from your first financial aid award letter into our interactive My College Cost Calculator to estimate your out-of-pocket costs.
    • Repeat this step for additional colleges to compare your award letters side by side.
    • Attend a Paying the College Bill seminar to learn more about financial aid award letters, financing strategies, and how to minimize loan debt.
  3. Complete the remaining steps in the financial aid process.
    • Update the income figures on your FAFSA with the IRS Data Retrieval Tool after you submit your tax forms to the IRS.
    • Submit any additional required documentation to each college’s financial aid office.

Summer After Senior Year

After you graduate from high school, it’s time to make a final plan for paying the balance on your college bill.

  1. Determine financing options.
    • Review your family’s finances to identify resources you can tap into.
    • Contact your savings account manager to find out how you can use your savings to pay for college.
    • Reduce your borrowing costs and find the right payment option with our Loan Payment Calculator.
    • Learn about low-cost fixed rate MEFA loans that are available to Massachusetts residents, as well as non-residents who are attending a Massachusetts school.
  2. Pay the college bill.
    • Review our Paying The College Bill section, which covers college billing in more detail.
    • Apply for a private education loan, if needed.
    • Contact the financial aid office with any questions or if your financial situation changes as a result of job loss, divorce, medical expenses, or other issues. Financial aid administrators can be a great resource for families and can assist you throughout the process.