Get Organized, Stay on Track
Narrow your list of target schools. Talk with your teachers, guidance counselors, and parents to pare down your list to a manageable number. Make sure to include a range of schools. Colleges are becoming more selective in terms of who gets in and who gets scarce financial aid, so be realistic when you make your list.
Get applications. Make sure you understand the requirements and deadlines for all aspects of the application process, including financial aid.
Make a master calendar. Include college admissions and financial aid applications deadlines, test registration and administration dates, targets for requesting and getting back recommendations, writing your essays, applying for Bright Futures, FAFSA, local scholarships. Consult this schedule regularly to make sure you stay on track.
Take standardized tests. Take the SAT and/or ACT in the fall of your senior year, if you have not already taken them or want to try and improve your score. Scholarship Foundation applicants must meet minimum standards for SAT/ACT scores that are set each year (see Apply for Award). Scores must appear on your HS transcript or be submitted with your application. It takes at least 2-3 weeks to get scores back, so the last test dates we will accept are in January (SAT) or December (ACT). Colleges have their own deadlines, so be sure you consider these when you plan your schedule. If you have not been praticing, do so. Any preparation is better than none, as those familiar with the tests always do better than those unfamiliar with the test.
Request letters of recommendation and transcripts. Do this far enough in advance to ensure that teachers, mentors, employers or guidance counselors you ask for this favor have time to compose an evaluation which reflects you and your accomplishments. Follow up with them periodically to make sure they will be able to meet your deadline. It is your responsibility to make sure the deadlines are met.
Write your essays. Make sure you answer the question asked, not turn in a generic essay. As schools become more selective, they will see your attention to their application requirements as an indication of your interest in their school. Have a teacher, adult or friend proofread your essay, not only for grammar and mistakes, but to see if it makes sense and answers the question(s) asked. Don't leave this important step for the last minute.
Search for scholarships. Your high school's website will have a list of the local scholarships available in Indian River County. Start locally, where your chances are best. Many scholarships are geared to students with particular goals, interest talents or backgrounds. So make sure you've done your self-assessment, then use some of the free, online scholarship search services. You should never have to pay for these, so watch out for scams.
Refine your budget. Find out all the costs associated with the schools you're applying to, including tuition, room and board, fees, books and personal expenses. Investigate housing options and costs. Some schools will require on campus housing, while at others you may prefer or be required to live off campus. Research options and costs so you can include this in your planning. Consider your lifestyle in making your budget. Find out if the department or major you are interested in has additional fees, including private lessons, lab fees, internship fees, uniforms, etc. Use one of the online budgeting tools to create a student budget detailing all the costs and a family budget, reflecting how they help you pay.