Summeris long over and it is time for seniors to prepare for college. This processincludes writing essays, taking SATs, working on resumes, and applying forfinancial aid.
Seniors, if you have not already taken the SATs, do sobefore January. If you need, or want, to take the SAT IIs, decide which one andsign up as soon as possible. The SAT IIs are subject tests that can be taken formath, English, history, science and foreign languages. Usually students take theSAT II most similar to the subject they plan to study in college.
Youshould also begin searching for scholarships; it is recommended to apply for atleast ten scholarships, which are the best type of financial aid since they donot have to be repaid. Do not, however, count on financing your entire collegeeducation with scholarships. Be prepared to pursue all forms of financial aid.After searching for scholarships, fill out an FAFSA (Federal Application forStudent Aid) from your school's guidance office. This allows you to apply for"federal student grants, work-study money, and loans ... [and] most stateand some private aid" (fafsa.ed.gov). Send this to the agency in charge offederal student aid; from there the information will be forwarded to the schoolsof your choice.
Once the colleges receive all your materials they willlet you know whether you have been accepted. If you are, they will send you anoutline of the financial package available to you.
Each collegedesigns unique financial packages for each student based on his or her FAFSAform. The outline of your package will give you the total expenses for attendingthat college, including books, room, board, tuition, and other living costs. Theoutline will then state your family's expected contribution and tell you how muchmoney the school is willing to give you that must be paid back. Third, it willstate how much money the school is willing to give you in grants andscholarships.
In addition to the FAFSA, you should also fill out TheProfile, which follows the same process, but is run by The College Board. Thiscan be helpful so the schools have as much information as possible. You shouldalso work on creating a resumé and preparing three to five essays. Yourguidance office should have copies of common essay topics.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.