It may seem that this school year has taken forever but, you'll be basking in the sun before you know it. Just because summer is coming doesn't mean you should put off thinking about the next steps to take for college. Seniors and their families should begin to crunch numbers and determine how much they will need to borrow for school, if any. Juniors, on the other hand, should continue to build a list of colleges they are interested in attending and visit the schools. Get all our college planning tips for May below.
For the past year, you've been rushing around visiting colleges, submitting college applications, completing your FAFSA, and making college enrollment decisions. You will be happy to know that you only have a few things left on your college planning list before you cross the stage and receive your diploma.
If you are in an AP class or plan on taking any other standardized tests, begin to prepare yourself for these tests. You can study for AP tests by actively participating in your AP class, completing homework assignments and readings, and reviewing your old tests.
Complete all of your necessary enrollment paperwork. This will likely come in the mail shortly after you submit your deposit. This paperwork will consist of new student information, housing applications and questionnaires, orientation information, and meal plan selection!
Get a summer job and save money for college! You're going to want to have some extra cash to pay for books and other personal expenses. You'll appreciate having this extra money when your new college friends want to start exploring all that your new town has to offer!
Make smart borrowing choices. We hope that you've exhausted all of your "free money" options for college, like scholarships and grants. But a lot of times this money doesn't totally cover the total cost of college, which is where loans come into play. It is smart to take out Federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized student loans (usually included in your award letters after you submit your FAFSA) first because these loans carry a low fixed interest rate and have many flexible repayment options to help new grads make their monthly loan payments. If you still find yourself needing more money to fill the gap, you should research your non-federal lending options (see RISLA's low interest rate options). Check out our blog on how to compare loan options!
When it comes time to apply for college, admission counselors want to see that you continued to challenge yourself during your last year of school. During your senior year, it may be tempting to take the minimum amount of courses at the easiest level but this can be a red flag for admissions counselors. Give yourself a bit of a challenge in your schedule and add in some AP, Honors, and College Prep courses. According to RI high school guidance counselors, it is better to take a harder course and receive a B than it is to take an easier course and receive an A.
Before the end of the school year, it is a good idea to get some teachers to agree to write you a letter of recommendation. A lot of students wait until they come back in the fall to ask teachers, leaving teachers overwhelmed and possibly turning students away due to too many students requesting a letter. Not sure who you should ask to write your letter? Check out this blog.
Continue to visit colleges of interest to you and finalize your top school list. Use this time to look beyond the beauty of the campus and get all the information that will impact you well beyond your four years there. Be sure to tour academic lecture halls and labs, meet with professors and career counselors, identify if you'll be able to meet your post-college goals by attending the school, and explore anything else that may be of importance to you. Application season isn't as far away as it seems: the Common App opens up August 1!
As always our counselors are available to help you at any point in your college planning process. Book an appointment with the College Planning Center!