Begin the Common Application essays (August).
- The standard application for college entry is released August 1 each year. Pick the questions (usually 2) you are going to answer and begin writing. Ask your English teacher to review it and give you feedback.
Meet with your guidance counselor and your College Now advisor. (August–May)
- Review your senior year courses to make sure they are preparing you for college. Make sure any College Credit Plus courses you enrolled in fit within your high school schedule.
Confirm transcript accuracy with guidance counselor. (September)
- It is very important to make sure your high school transcript is accurate in terms of credits earned, grades, and class ranking. If you took CCP courses, download an unofficial transcript and make sure it is accurate in terms of credits earned and grades. Once verified, request official transcripts through the college you attended.
Confirm teacher/guidance counselor/external recommendations. (September)
Prepare for your college applications. (September–October)
- You will need at least the following: 1–2 essays; your college resume and a short description of extracurriculars, athletics, clubs and volunteer engagement, as well as your work experience and any awards or recognitions or special training; your ACT/SAT scores; letters of recommendation; your transcripts from high school and any College Credit Plus courses you’ve taken; fee waiver statement; and parents’ information, including education and occupations. Make sure you save anything you write on a Word or Google document so you can cut and paste into the college applications.
- As you look at colleges, be sure to make note of the average GPA of accepted students. You’ll want to apply to colleges where the average GPA includes your GPA, as well as some stretch schools.
Prepare for and complete FAFSA. (October–December)
- The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) opens each year on October 1. You must complete the FAFSA, and the earlier you complete it the more likely you are to receive financial aid, both from the federal and state governments and also from colleges and universities who use FAFSA in the awarding of scholarships and grants. Complete it as soon as possible after October, but aim for no later than one week prior to winter break, or December 15 so that colleges can review it as they consider your financial aid package. After February, students who have not completed the FAFSA are unlikely to receive aid from colleges, though they are still eligible for federal aid if they complete FAFSA before fall enrollment.
- You will need at least the following to complete the FAFSA: student social security number or alien registration number if not a U.S. citizen; proof of registration for Selective Service System (male students only); student federal income tax returns, W-2s, and other records of money earned; student bank statements and records of investments (if applicable); student records of untaxed income (if applicable); and an FSA ID to sign electronically. If the student is a dependent (most students are considered dependent all through college), their parents/guardians must supply the same information as well.
- College Now advisors and school guidance counselors can support students and their parents to complete the FAFSA.
Apply for the Say Yes scholarship. (October–February)
- The Say Yes scholarship application opens to 12th grade students on October 1 each year. You must complete the application to confirm your eligibility and secure your Say Yes scholarship.
Attend the College Now/CMSD College Fair. (October)
- This fair is open to all CMSD juniors and seniors. Attend as a senior to focus on just those schools to which you plan to apply. Re-introduce yourself to recruiters and let them know you plan to apply and ask if there’s any advice or special programs they offer to prospective students such as fly-in weekends (the colleges pay!) where you can get a real feel for campus and classes.
Receive your Student Aid Report (SAR). (October–June)
- After you submit your FAFSA to apply for federal aid as well as other types of financial aid money for college, you will receive your Student Aid Report (SAR). If you provided an e-mail address, the SAR will be sent to you via e-mail a few days after your FAFSA has been processed. If you did not provide an email address, you’ll receive your SAR by mail a few weeks after your report has been processed.
- This is a very important document, because the SAR will be used to help determine your college aid eligibility. Your SAR will inform you whether you are eligible for a Federal Pell Grant, as well as for other federal grants, college loans or work-study programs.
- If you see an error, you can correct it on the Federal Student Aid website or call 1-800-4-FED-AID.
- Sometimes your SAR may state that your FAFSA has been selected for verification. If your FAFSA is selected for verification, colleges may contact you to request documentation supporting what you listed on your form. Contact your counselor or College Now advisor if this happens. You’ll have to send the requesting college copies of your or your parents’ tax transcripts as soon as possible. The SAR will also inform you if you are required to provide additional information to be eligible for federal aid.
- If no further information is needed from you, your SAR will include your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), the amount of college money you or your family is expected to contribute toward your college education. The EFC may be zero, or it may be a number that you know is unrealistic. Don’t panic. Scholarships you earn can count for EFC. Contact your school counselor and College Now advisor to discuss your SAR and what it means.
Attend the CMSD HBCU Fair. (November)
- All CMSD high school students are invited to the HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) fair. This is an excellent time to narrow down your list of HBCUs that interest you and to re-introduce yourself to recruiters and let them know you plan to apply.
Submit early college applications. (November 1–15 typically)
- Students can and should use the early application (sometimes called early action) deadline to demonstrate their enthusiasm for a particular school(s), take advantage of acceptance rates that are often higher in an early admissions round, access more college scholarships and aid from the college or university before the money runs out, and get college applications out of the way early.
- You can submit multiple early applications to colleges of your choice. Students can also apply to many HBCUs using the Common Application, with priority given to students who apply by November 15. Your guidance counselor will provide you with a fee waiver.
Submit (binding) early decision college applications. (November 30–December 1 typically)
- In limited cases, students can use the early decision deadline when they are absolutely sure they want to attend a certain school. Early decision programs are binding. When you submit your application through early decision, you agree that if the college accepts you in the early decision round, you will attend. This is a major commitment and it’s very difficult for a student to get out of an early decision contract. CMSD students should be very careful about pursuing this option.
Submit regular college applications. (January 1–February 1 typically)
- If students haven’t met the early application deadlines, they should apply through the regular application deadlines for their chosen schools. Many students wait until January to apply to college, but it does leave students at greater risk being left out of financial awards associated with the early application deadline (November 1–15), and your chances of being admitted to a college are typically better earlier.
College decisions released (January–April)
- Students will get a notification from colleges and universities letting them know if they were admitted around January/February (early admissions) and March/April (regular admissions). Several weeks after admissions letters are sent out students will receive a second notification from any college to which they’ve been admitted outlining their financial aid/scholarship package. Scholarships, like the Say Yes scholarship, can help cover possible remaining tuition costs, and other scholarships may be applied as well.
Notify school counselor and College Now advisors about acceptances (January–April).
- In fact, tell everyone! You should be proud. And then schedule a meeting with your school counselor and College Now advisor to discuss options and to go over award letters.
Develop a college budget. (April–May)
- Before you decide on what college to attend, you should develop a budget of anticipated expenses and how you will meet those expenses. Meet with your College Now advisor or attend one of their workshops on this topic. Some costs are difficult to anticipate, and many students don’t fully understand the costs associated with the various items related to college. Working with your advisor now will help to ensure a clear picture of your future financial needs.
Finalize college decision (May)
- This is a really important decision and before it’s made, students and parents should consider: can I afford tuition, room, and board without going into significant debt? Can I get home when/if I want for a reasonable cost? Do I have another college choice that I like that’s more affordable? Is the school culture/climate one in which I can see myself?