College timeline for high school seniors

  • Before senior year, start the college application process.
  • Get teacher recommendation letters early in the fall.
  • Fill out the FAFSA early in January to score grants and low-cost loans.

The college admissions and financial aid process is riddled with confusing deadlines. Forget just one and you could miss out on significant free college cash. To make sure you submit all the paperwork on time, use this college timeline and keep your college financial-aid ducks in a row.

Note that the college application process really starts much earlier than senior year in high school. Bankrate's story, "College checklist for high school students," describes what sophomores and juniors should do to enhance their chances for acceptance at their school of choice with a handsome aid package. The earlier you prepare, the better. After all, the most aid goes to the students who target schools most likely to hand them a generous award package.

To maximize your financial aid eligibility and minimize college debt, spend your pre-senior years maintaining high grades, taking the PSATs to qualify for a National Merit Scholarship, getting involved with extracurricular activities and researching in- and out-of-state institutions that hand out robust financial aid packages. A good place to start is at the National Center for Education Statistics' College Navigator website where you can investigate the average net price students in your family's income bracket pay.

Below is a timeline for students to follow beginning in the summer months before their senior year of high school.

Click on the dates in the timeline for full details on what to do during that time period.

College timelineJuly - AugustSeptember - NovemberDecember - JanuaryFebruary - MarchApril - MaySummer before college





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