Make the Most of Your Senior Year

Make-Most-of-Senior-Year

If you’re planning to go to college after you graduate from high school, you may find yourself overwhelmed as you try to prepare for next year and enjoy this one at the same time. The timeline below can help you make sure you do both well.

All Year Long

No matter where you are in the process, a few things should remain constant from now until you head off for move-in day.

  • Organization is key. You’ll have a lot of paper and deadlines to deal with. Keep it together with a frequently updated calendar and separate folders or binders for each school you’re considering.
  • Enjoy your time with family and high school friends. Have fun and relax once in a while. If you need help, ask your friends and family for advice — they know you best, after all.
  • Meet people! One of the reasons new college freshmen get anxious is that they aren’t sure how to meet new people. Use this year to get comfortable introducing yourself to and making small talk with strangers.
  • Keep your priorities straight. Even after you’re accepted into a college, your grades and behavior may affect your admission and scholarship opportunities.

Fall

  • Now is the time to act if you need to improve your grades or become more involved in volunteering, extracurriculars or a job related to your career choice.
  • Take the ACT or SAT if you haven’t yet or want to try to improve your previous score.
  • Finalize your list of potential colleges.
  • Draft essays and collect recommendations for college applications.
  • Fill out the Common App if several of the colleges on your list accept it.
  • Start researching scholarship and grant opportunities.
  • Visit your final choices of schools to help you narrow down your choices.
  • Take dual enrollment courses to earn college credit before you graduate.

Winter

  • Include a “safety school” or two in your application process. These are schools you know will accept you if you don’t get into your top choices.
  • Submit applications and letters of recommendation to your final list of schools.
  • Keep looking for scholarships and applications.
  • Talk to your parents about financial aid and how much they expect to contribute to your college funding.
  • Prepare for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) so you can file shortly after Jan. 1. Get your FSA ID, a user name and password that you’ll use to sign the FAFSA, and start gathering the required information.
  • Keep working hard academically. It may be a good idea to meet with your school counselor to be sure you’re on track for graduation.
  • Think about your college major and how that affects the college you choose and the classes you’ll take your freshman year.

Spring

  • Write thank-you notes to the teachers and references who wrote you letters of recommendation.
  • Watch for admission and financial aid letters. Compare them carefully to understand any requirements for admission, scholarships and their renewal, and available loan amounts.
  • Once you make your final choice of college, complete the required steps to accept your admission, sign up for classes and housing, schedule summer orientation and find a roommate as soon as possible.
  • Don’t forget to let other schools know you won’t be attending.
  • Consider summer courses at a community college or a summer job that will give you experience in your chosen field.

See our Summer To-Do List for College Prep.

By: Iowa Student Loan

5 Ways to Start Senior Year Right

Summer’s ending and school is rolling back around! For those who graduated in June, that means starting up college, but for another group of students, it means that their high school senior year and all its thrills, hurdles and achievements is just beginning.

Senior year brings with it a lot of exciting moments, but it also brings a lot of stress and decision-making as well. Here are some tips for going back to school to help get you through your final year of high school.

Start-Senior-Year-Right

1. Get planning and meet deadlines.

The idea of going back to school can seem easier if you ease your way into it, taking it slow. There’s so much going on between catching up with friends, getting back into activities and figuring out your last round of classes. It can seem that the last thing you want to do is start a heavy to-do list for college.

BUT — the earlier you get planning and organized, the easier the process is going to be. Do you want to avoid major headaches and stress-out moments over the next few months? Then get a planner and start writing out a schedule for your final campus visits, your college application deadlines, housing and financial aid deadlines, and final SAT or ACT test dates, and get an outline going on your plan for scholarships.

Trust us. Making a deadline might be stressful now, but when you meet that deadline, the relief and feeling of success that rolls off will make it all worth it.

2. Don’t neglect your actual schoolwork.

We just listed A LOT of new to-dos for your senior year. With all the new stuff to focus on while getting ready for life after high school, it’s really tempting to put off a paper here and a project there.

Don’t do it!

Your schoolwork is extremely important. You don’t want to let your grades slip your final year. Colleges look at your work all the way through your last day of senior year, and those grades can really impact the opportunities that are open to you next year.

This brings us back to tip 1 — planning. The more you plan ahead, the more you will be able to schedule things out and fit everything you need to get done into your schedule.

3. Ask for help.

This year may get overwhelming at times. Don’t feel like you have to brave it all alone; ask for help. It’s a good idea to talk out your ideas for the future with the adults in your life. Talk with your parents, your grandparents, close friends, teachers or your school counselor. They will all be able to give you good advice and help you through stressful moments.

4. Think about ALL your options.

You have so many options open to you right now; don’t close any doors. Use this year to explore new things and try to discover what really piques your interests and gets you excited. Take a self-assessment test and see how the results line up your interests with potential college majors and careers. Make sure those line up with the colleges you are considering.

5. Don’t forget to have fun.

Senior year isn’t just about planning for life after senior year is over. It’s also about enjoying your final year of high school with your friends. Take the time to be a teenager. Hang out with friends, go to the school dance, attend homecoming and try something new. If you’ve always done athletics, try out for the play. Get involved in the community with a new volunteer opportunity. This is your last year of high school; make some memories and have a good time.

By: Iowa College Access Network

www.icansucceed.org

This is Contributed Content. Any opinions, advice, statements, services, offers, or other information contained in Contributed Content are solely those of the respective author(s) or contributor(s) and do not necessarily state or reflect the opinion of Iowa Student Loan and/or this blog. See the “About” page for additional important information about Contributed Content.

What Is the FSA ID?

Students headed to college and borrowers repaying federal student loans are familiar with the PIN, or personal identification number, that was needed to access the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the U.S. Department of Education’s websites.

FSAIDTo better protect consumers’ privacy and make access easier, the Federal Student Aid (FSA) office of the U.S. Department of Education has now transitioned to a secure login system called FSA ID. Here are the top questions and answers for the FSA ID.

Q: Do I need an FSA ID?

A: If you have or plan to take out federal student loans, or you are the parent of a dependent student who will have federal student loans, yes, you will need an FSA ID. You will use it to complete, update and sign the FAFSA; complete required entrance and exit counseling; sign for federal student loans; view information about your federal student loans and other repayment activities.

Q: Which sites do I access with the FSA ID?

A: You will need an FSA ID to access the following FSA and Department websites:

  • fafsa.gov to complete, update and sign the Free Application for Federal Student Aid
  • http://studentaid.ed.gov to learn about and apply for financial aid and to manage federal student loans
  • nslds.ed.gov to view information about all your federal student loans
  • http://studentloans.gov to complete entrance and exit counseling, sign Master Promissory Notes (MPNs), estimate payment amounts and complete agreements and counseling for the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant (TEACH Grant) program
  • teach-ats.ed.gov to apply for and manage the TEACH Grant

Q: How do I set up the FSA ID?

A: Go to http://studentaid.gov/FSAID to learn more about the FSA ID and create yours. You will need to supply a valid email, a unique username and password; enter personal information and agree to the terms and conditions. You have the option to verify your email address, which will let you retrieve your username or reset your password without answering challenge questions.

The entire process only takes a few minutes, and you’ll be able to use your FSA ID to access the above sites within one to three days.

Q: Can I still use my Federal Student Aid PIN?

A: No. But you can link your Federal Student Aid PIN to your FSA ID to gain immediate access to the sites above while your FSA ID information is verified.

Q: What if I don’t remember my Federal Student Aid PIN or don’t have one?

A: You don’t need a Federal Student Aid PIN to create an FSA ID.

By: Iowa Student Loan

Financial Aid Myths

Have you heard that applying for financial aid isn’t worth it because your parents earn too much or because it takes too long to complete? Don’t be tempted by these common myths to skip completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You could be passing up free money. And that’s the last thing you want to do when it comes to paying for college.

FAFSA-Myths-Image

Financial Aid Myth — You won’t receive financial aid because of how much money your parents earn.

Income is not the only determining factor when it comes to whether or not you’re eligible for federal student aid. And there is no income level that automatically disqualifies you for aid. Taking the time to complete the FAFSA is the only way to qualify for federal student aid and you won’t know if you qualify until you do that step, so completing the FAFSA every year you are in school is important.

Also, did you know that the FAFSA is used for more than just federal financial aid? State and school aid is also awarded based on your FAFSA results. If you don’t complete the FAFSA, you could also be missing out on these other sources of financial aid.

Financial Aid Myth — The FAFSA is difficult to complete.

The FAFSA has changed a lot since it was first introduced, and the application is revised often to make the process smoother. The online process uses logic to limit questions to ones that are relevant and completing it online instead of filling out a paper application lessens the chance for mistakes. According to the federal government, completing the FAFSA now takes less than 21 minutes on average. That’s not too bad if the outcome is grants, scholarships and other funds to help lower your college expenses, is it?

Financial Aid Myth — You need to have your taxes filed before starting the FAFSA.

While you will eventually need final annual tax information for your FAFSA, you can start and even submit it with estimated information. It’s really important not to wait until your or your family’s taxes are filed to submit your FAFSA, especially if your college or university’s priority deadline is well before April 15. Financial aid is distributed first to those students who file their FAFSA by the school’s deadline, so if you miss that by waiting until you file your taxes, you may miss out on important opportunities.

If your taxes won’t be filed until closer to the tax deadline, you can estimate your information using last year’s tax return. Then once your taxes for this year are completed, you can update that information online. Remember, there is no penalty for using estimated information.

Financial Aid Myth — You only need to complete the FAFSA once.

If you complete the FAFSA before starting college, you may think you don’t need to file it ever again. But you should file the FAFSA every year as soon after Jan. 1 as possible if you intend to enroll in classes during the next academic year. This is especially important if your family’s circumstances change because you may be eligible for new or more aid next year. Even if there are no major changes to your family, though, other factors such as how financial need is calculated may mean you are eligible for different options next year. And, once you complete the FAFSA the first time, it will take even less time to complete the following years.

Financial Aid Myth — Your parents are not supporting you financially in college so you don’t have to include their information on the FAFSA.

Unfortunately you may still be considered a dependent student for federal student aid purposes, even if you are paying for all your college expenses yourself. You will need to answer questions in the FAFSA to determine if you are considered a dependent student or an independent student. If you are considered a dependent student, you will need to report your parents’ information on the FAFSA. If you are unsure how what type of student you are, contact your college or university’s financial aid office for assistance.

By: Iowa Student Loan

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