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There comes a point in the academic career of every high school student where the focus switches from academic performance in the classroom, to looking ahead to the next stage. For many, that means college—but there’s a lot that goes into getting into the right school. Make sure the learners you’re counseling hit these four crucial deadlines in 2017:
1. File the FAFSA.
Students applying to college for the 2017-2018 academic year have until June 30, 2017, to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, and were eligible to submit the form as of Oct. 1, 2016. Submitting early is usually a good idea since it gives students and their parents plenty of time for updates and corrections. But even if your student doesn’t submit early, they’ll still want to make sure to have up-to-date federal income tax returns, W-2 wage reports, and other records of money earned. Also, make sure parents don’t overlook the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, which can be useful for auto-populating key areas of the FAFSA. Other required documents may include bank statements and records related to any investments or untaxed income available to help cover tuition.
2. Schedule standardized tests.
Your students will need a qualifying SAT or ACT score to submit with a college application. Counsel them to get started early because the dates creep up quickly. For SAT takers looking to get their score for applying to college in the spring, the next deadline to apply is Dec. 21. Miss that and they’ll need to get an application in by either Feb. 10, April 7, or May 9 of 2017. ACT takers have just three options left for testing, with application deadlines on Jan. 13, March 3, and May 5 of 2017. More enterprising students looking ahead to entering college during the 2017-2018 academic year can start applying in August (for the ACT) and September (for the SAT).
3. Apply to the colleges of your choice.
The start of your student’s junior year is a good time to sit down and talk about the colleges they’re eyeing or may wish to attend. Chances are they won’t apply until the beginning or spring of their senior year. But at that point, they’ll know their top five or eight choices. If they are dead-set on one or two schools, set Nov. 1 of their senior academic year as the deadline to apply for an early decision. If they’re looking more broadly, set Feb. 1 as a drop-dead date for applying. By that point, they should have at least an initial response to their FAFSA application and one or more standardized test scores ready to submit with their other paperwork.
4. Make a decision and include a deposit to secure your place.
By mid-Spring of their senior years, most of your students will know which schools have accepted their applications and which have not. Don’t wait until finals to get your students in to talk about what they want and what they can realistically get. An early March call to the financial aid office of the school where one of your students wants to attend but who can’t without a better aid package could be well-placed. By mid-April, with discretionary funds for aid drying up or gone, that same call may yield nothing but a sympathetic ear. Either way, by May 1, the majority of colleges and universities will be expecting accepted students to provide a decision.
College will be the experience of a lifetime for your students who choose it. You can help them get there by setting a calendar for when to complete and submit the right paperwork to the right place.