As winter vacation and the holidays come to an end, it is time to get back on track when it comes to college planning. January tends to be a slower month for both high school juniors and seniors, resulting in an easy transition back into school mode. But don't let the month pass you by. Be proactive and take the next steps to build a successful future. Stay on track with these timelines and tips.
Keep in touch with your school counselor to make sure they sent off your first semester grades to your selected colleges.
If you haven't already, submit your FAFSA. If you find yourself stuck trying to fill out your FAFSA, make an appointment with the RISLA College Planning Center for free help. The FAFSA helps determine whether students are eligible for federal loans, grants or work-study programs. Many colleges also require it to be filed to aware their own need-based aid packages.
Continue to apply for scholarships and start your search if you haven't already. RIScholarships is a great place to start searching for local scholarships. Scholarships are free money you can use to finance your college degree. Sure, you have to apply for them, which takes time and effort, but consider this: if you spend 2 hours working on an application for a $2,000 scholarship and win it – your investment translates to $1,000 an hour.
Before you know it, you'll begin to receive award letters in the mail. It's important to compare award letters side-by-side to see which is the best deal for you and your family. If you need assistance comparing award letters, book an appointment with one of our College Planning Center counselors.
Continue to narrow down your list of colleges. Developing a list of colleges to apply to is no easy task. Each school must address all of the characteristics you are looking for and you should be happy to attend any college on your list. Creating a college list is a big research project, but one worth your investment in time.
Tips for narrowing choices
- College is expensive. At schools where you credentials are better than the typical student's, you may be eligible for merit-based scholarships. It's worth having a few of these on your list.
- "Good value" schools are those that provide a good education for the price. As an example, Rhode Island College has a great reputation for its teaching program. The low in-state tuition makes it a great value for students looking to become teachers.
- Don't completely rule out higher priced colleges. Use the "Net Price Calculator" on the college's website to first get an idea of what that college would cost a family like yours.
Visit colleges over the course of the semester. It's best to visit when school is in session so you can see the types of students at the college, this will give you a feel of how you'll fit in on campus. While on a tour don't forget to ask questions! Ask questions about living options, extra curricular activities and academics. You want to make sure you'll be happy at the school you end up attending!