Winter is here!

If you’re a high school senior, not only are you thinking about warming up your car and wearing five layers of clothing, but there’s one more thing on your mind: college. Now is the time where seniors begin to hear back from colleges on topics like admissions, financial aid, and scholarships!

But what about those of you who are still undecided about where you’re going to college? Are you feeling like you’ve fallen behind everyone else? Not to worry! Here are a few actions you can take now to help you gain clarity in this process:

Eliminate pressure and stress

You haven’t fallen behind, but the clock is ticking, and you do need to remain focused. Take deep breaths, get some exercise, do whatever you need to do in order to be in a positive and focused state of energy. You will soon have some big decisions to make, and you’ll need to have a clear mind to make these decisions. But first, take action and review the facts…

Apply for admissions

If you haven’t already done so, apply for admission to multiple colleges that interest you. You aren’t obligated to attend those schools and you’re not committing yourself to any particular school at this point. What you are doing is allowing the college to evaluate your academic information, and start the process of presenting you an offer of Financial Aid and Scholarships. Learn more about Navigating the Admissions Process here. There is also value in setting up a Campus Visit (or a follow-up Campus Visit) if you’re still feeling unsure about what colleges you’re interested in attending. I highly encourage a visit if you feel you need one; they are a big help! Check out this blog on Making Campus Visits Fun.

Complete the FAFSA

Complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as you can. Remember, it became available October 1 of senior year of high school. Many colleges have priority filing deadlines, so fill it out! You can list multiple colleges (up to ten!) to receive your FAFSA information. Contact EducationQuest if you need assistance filling out your FAFSA.

Apply for scholarships

Apply, apply, apply! Many deadlines will hit between January and March. If you haven’t already, identify what scholarships are relevant to you, and start applying for them (even if you don’t yet know what college you’re going to!). Check out the strategy one student used to earn over $65,000 in scholarships! Be fearless! The worst they can tell you is “no”. The best they can tell you is, well, I think you get the idea. Cha-ching!

Narrow your college selection

After you’ve been busy doing all the aforementioned actions, the colleges will start to respond with offers of financial aid and scholarships. This is where you can start to see the bottom line numbers: how much aid you are getting, and the total cost of the college. (NOTE: You may be selected for Verification by the financial aid office before they can present their offer to you. Check out this blog for more information on Verification). To narrow down your list of colleges, devise a system that works for you: compare financial aid Award Letters, create a list of pros & cons, and discuss the options with your parents and family. Put some thought into it, but don’t overthink it (if that makes sense).

This is ultimately your choice and your journey, but you now have the information you need to make well-informed decisions. #KnowledgeIsPower

Good luck everyone! Any other tips or suggestions out there?