College Action Plan for H.S. Senior

It’s crunch time!  You have one more year of high school before you’ll be heading off to college! Let’s try to take things one-step at a time here.  After all, you started planning for college way back in freshman year, right?

This year shouldn’t be unlike any other, except that all of the planning you’ve been doing over the past 3 years will now be applied.  You’ve worked hard for this moment.  Keep moving forward and the college of your dreams will be at your fingertips.


1.  Meet with your high school guidance counselor. Discuss your classes, college plans, and ACT/SAT exam scores. He or she will let you know if you’re on the right track.

2.  Request college applications for the 5-7 schools on your list that you plan to apply to. These may be available electronically on each school’s website. Also consider using the Common College Application.

3.  Arrange more campus visits. This could be for the schools on your list that you haven’t visited yet or you may just want to visit some schools for a second time.

4.  Register and study for the SAT and/or ACT (if you haven’t done so already).

5.  Continue to research ways to pay for college. Submit a CSS Financial Aid Profile, if required.

6.  Stay Organized. Keep your college planner updated and your college folder neat.


1.  Request and review your transcript to make sure all information is correct. Your guidance counselor should be able to give you a copy or show you have to request one.

2.  Schedule campus interviews. Some schools will require you to come in for an interview.  Contact each school directly to determine if this is a requirement or not.

3.  Ask for letters of recommendation. Most admissions applications will require these.

4.  Complete your college admissions essays. Don’t forget to proofread!

5.  Begin filling out the applications for your selected 5-7 schools. If you are applying for early action, applications are typically due in October or early November.


1.  Continue working on your college applications. If want to apply for early action, some schools accept application thru November 15th.

2.  Continue seeking additional sources of financial aid.

3.  Determine if additional financial aid forms (besides FAFSA) need to be completed for the colleges on your list. Contact each school’s financial aid office if you are not sure.


1.  Try to have all college applications completed by December 1st. Most regular application deadlines are somewhere between January 1st and February 15th.

2.  Understand how to fill out and submit the FAFSA form. Your guidance counselor will be a good resource.

3.  Do not fill out the FAFSA form before JANUARY 1ST. It will not be accepted or processed until after this date.

4.  Stay Organized. Keep a copy of every application and supporting documentation that you send to each school.  File away any correspondence that you receive from each college.


1.  Complete the FAFSA Form. The FAFSA should be submitted as close to January 1st as possible! The sooner you fill this out, the greater your chances are of receiving the most financial aid.  Some student aid programs are awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis.

2.  Fill out any school specific financial aid forms. Contact the school’s financial aid office if you have questions about this process.  Remember to follow the instructions carefully and make copies of everything.

February – March

1.  Your college acceptance and financial aid award letters should start to arrive soon, if you did not apply for early admission.

2.  Watch the mail for your Student Aid Report (SAR). This will summarize all of the information provided on your FAFSA form and contain your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), the number used to determine your eligibility for financial aid.

3.  If there are any special circumstances that have affected your family’s financial situation, be sure to contact the school’s financial aid office.

4.  Stay on top of any financial aid deadlines; respond quickly if any college asks for additional documentation.

5.  If you have questions about the content of your acceptance letters, contact the school’s admissions office directly.


1.  Carefully analyze each financial aid award letter. Determine which college is offering you the best financial aid package.

2.  Select your school. Sit down with your family and decide which college you’ll attend and send your tuition deposit.  Most schools require a response by May 1st.

3.  Let the other schools know that you won’t be attending. I’m sure another student will be happy to take your spot.

4.  Register for Advanced Placement (AP) Exams, if applicable. These exams are usually given in May.

5.  Carefully read and follow the instructions in your acceptance letter! They will provide the following information:

  • Important deadlines
  • Instructions for housing
  • Move-in dates
  • Financial aid information
  • Freshman orientation information


1.  Submit a copy of your final high school transcript (if required by the college).

2.  Complete and mail-in any additional forms required by the college.

3.  If you have additional financial aid, (i.e. private loans or scholarships), contact the financial aid office directly to let them know.

4.  If you took out student loans, take the time to fully understand how these loans work.

5.  Take AP Exams. Request that your scores be sent to the college you’ll be attending.


1.  Save some of your graduation money for school. You can use it to buy some of the items you’ll need when preparing to move into the dorms or to buy textbooks.

2.  Read the course catalog for the college you’ll be attending. Get familiar with the fall semester class schedule and course options.

3.  Get ready for move-in day. Make travel arrangements, if necessary.

4.  Send thank you letters to everyone who helped you with the college admissions process!


1.  Register to attend a freshman orientation session. This is where you’ll get a lot of useful information about what to expect, etc.

2.  Confirm campus housing arrangements and meal plans. You want to make sure you have a place to stay once you get to campus.

3.  Open a bank account near campus. This will help you manage your money better.

4.  Make sure your current cell phone provider has service where your school is located. Roaming charges can be expensive.

5.  Contact your roommate and coordinate what to pack. You’ll likely only need one TV, microwave, and mini refrigerator.

If you made it this far, you did it!  Congratulations!  Enjoy the next four years of your college career; it will pay off for the rest of your life.

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Lauren Anderson is a certified school counselor who's passionate about helping students all over the world successfully transition from high school to college! After spending 6 years as a business professional, she obtained her Master’s degree in School Counseling and now spends her spare time helping students.

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