Planning for College? Complete This Checklist before Earning Your High School Diploma

Written by James Madison High School on Thursday, 24 September 2015. Posted in College Bound

Planning for College? Complete This Checklist before Earning Your High School Diploma

For seniors, with a little more hard work, a high school diploma is just around the corner. If you plan on continuing on with your education and going to college, one of the most important tasks you'll responsible for is completing applications. Keeping up with all of the requirements can be tricky, so having a plan in place is essential. Consider the following checklist designed to help you stay on top of things during senior year:


1. Create a calendar. Jot down the following dates:

  • Standardized test registration deadline and testing dates
  • Financial aid application deadlines
  • Final college application due date

2. Register for SAT. Although some schools have moved away from standardized test requirements, many still ask for SAT scores. If you haven't taken these exams yet, or want another shot at improving your score, sign up now, and do it early. It takes time for the scores to be graded and your scores must be sent directly from the testing agencies to the college admissions office.

3. Write and edit essay. Most colleges ask for a brief essay based on a general prompt. Essays can weigh heavily in an admission counselor's decision whether to accept a student into their program. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to write, edit, and rewrite. It is a good idea to have another set of eyes check it over to catch any little mistakes you may have missed. Grammar mistakes could prove costly!


5. Submit FAFSA. The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) can be submitted beginning January 1. It determines how much financial aid you are eligible to receive. You can fill it out online or ask your high school guidance counselor for assistance.

6. Collect letters of recommendation. Typically, applications require a minimum of two letters of recommendation from people who have personally witnessed your high school academics, community involvement, or past employment. Try to find someone who you have made a personal connection with to write this letter, they will have the most insight as well as the most complimentary things to say!

7. Request transcripts. The admissions office asks applicants to arrange for all official high school and college transcripts to be submitted directly to them from each previously attended institution. In January, you can arrange for your first semester senior year transcripts to be sent from your school. After you receive your online high school diploma, they can send your entire transcript.

8. Submit final application. The deadlines for most college applications are in January and February. If you haven't already applied for an early decision, make sure you get all of your forms in by the official deadline. These will be different for each school so make sure you know when the deadline is and don't leave your applications for the last minute!


9. Review acceptance packages. As you begin to receive acceptance letters and offers of financial aid, compare your options. If you haven't already visited your top choices, this is the time to do so.

10. Make final decision. A commitment and deposit to the school you plan to attend will be due around May 1 in many cases. That means it must be postmarked by that date. Follow the instructions for financial aid if you will be accepting it.

Applying to college may seem overwhelming, but if you take it one step at a time, it will be fine. You also have resources at James Madison High School to help you with this challenging but exciting time. Before you know it, you will have your high school diploma in hand, entering the world as an official college freshman.

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James Madison High School

James Madison High School

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