College Planning Checklist – Senior Year

The senior year is the time to apply for admission to college and then to apply for federal student aid by filling out the FAFSA. Here is what students and parents should be doing throughout the year to stay on track at this busy time.

Students – To Do:

All Year

  • Work hard all year – the spring semester grades can affect scholarship eligibility.
  • Stay involved in school and community activities and seek leadership roles if possible.


  • If you have not already done so, register for and take the SAT or ACT. And, some colleges require or recommend that you submit SAT II Subject Tests – if so, take them early in the fall.
  • Apply to the colleges you have chosen. Prepare your applications carefully. Follow the instructions and pay close attention to deadlines.
  • You may need letters of recommendation from your teachers – make the requests early in the fall semester and allow 2-3 weeks notice.


  • Encourage your parent(s) to complete income tax forms early. If your parent(s) has (have) not completed tax forms, you can provide estimated information on your federal student aid application, but remember to make any necessary changes later.
  • As soon as possible after January 1, complete and submit your FAFSA, along with any other financial aid applications your school(s) of choice may require. You should submit the FAFSA online by the earliest financial aid deadline of the schools to which you are applying.
  • After you submit the FAFSA, you should receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) within three days to three weeks. Quickly make any corrections and submit them to the FAFSA processor.
  • Complete any last scholarship applications.


  • Visit colleges that have invited you to enroll.
  • Review your college acceptances and compare the colleges’ financial aid offers.
  • Contact a school’s financial aid office if you have questions about the aid that school has offered you. In fact, getting to know your financial aid staff early is a good idea no matter what – they can tell you about deadlines, other aid for which you might wish to apply, and important paperwork you might need to submit.
  • When you decide which school you want to attend, notify that school of your commitment and submit any required financial deposit. Most schools require this notification and deposit by May 1.


  • Work with your student on filling out the FAFSA and/or CSS Profile.

To Explore:

  • Make sure your child’s personal information is safe when he or she applies for financial aid. For tips, read “Student Aid and Identity Theft.”
  • Read IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education to see how you might benefit from federal income tax credits for education expenses.
  • Understand the benefits of federal student loans.
  • Help your student learn about the responsibilities involved in accepting a student loan by reviewing Your Federal Student Loans: Learn the Basics and Manage Your Debt with him or her.
  • Look at communications from schools to which your child sent FAFSA information. If a school has offered Direct PLUS Loans, the Direct Loan Basics for Parents brochure might be useful to you.