Senior Year Checklist to Prepare for College

It’s here…senior year. You’re child has worked hard and this will be the culminating event of their high school career. They will likely be busy with school and extracurricular activities so having a plan and staying organized will be critical. This senior year checklist will help guide both you, the parent, and your student through the critical activities regarding your college journey.

Summer between Junior and Senior Year – Students

☐ Build/Refine Your List of Potential Colleges

  • Continue to research potential colleges and universities based on your interests, academic goals, and desired location
  • Check out college fairs and information sessions
  • Visit college campuses, if possible, or take virtual tours to get a sense of the campus environment and the type of college environment you’re looking for

☐ Standardized tests (SAT or ACT), if you plan to take/retake them

  • Study for the test and practice sample questions
  • Consider signing up for test preparation courses or online resources to improve your scores

☐ Start exploring scholarship and financial aid opportunities to understand what options are available

  • Make sure you’re considering local scholarships as they will often have less competition

☐ Request recommendation letters from teachers or mentors who know you well

☐ Build or update your resume/activity list to include any accomplishments, extracurricular activities, or volunteer work

☐ Take advantage of summer programs, internships, or job opportunities to enhance your skills and experiences

☐ Begin working on your college application essays and personal statements. Seek feedback from teachers, counselors, or mentors

  • The Common Application essay prompts can be found here:

Summer between Junior and Senior Year – Parents

☐ Create your FSA ID so you’re prepared to file the FAFSA

☐ Review your financial situation and budget for college.

  • Check out the schools Net Price Calculator to get an idea of what you might be expected to pay
  • Next Mission Financial Planning has a comprehensive database of school costs and school scholarships so consider setting up a meeting if you need help

☐ Help your child find relevant scholarships they might be able to apply for

☐ Keep the communication flowing so your child understands which schools might or might not be financially feasible.

Fall Semester of Senior Year – Student

☐ Finalize your list of colleges you will apply to, considering factors such as admission requirements and affordability

  • Build a spreadsheet to track requirements and deadlines

☐ Sign up and take the SAT or ACT exams if you haven’t done so already. Consider retaking the test if you are not satisfied with your scores.

  • Check to see if your school publishes a list of scholarships and required test scores / GPA. If so, see if improving your score a little bit pushes to a higher-level award. Sometimes 1 point on the ACT can mean thousands of dollars in scholarships.

☐ Continue working on your college application essays and personal statements

☐ Talk with your school’s college counselor if you need help with the application process

☐ Consider attending a college application workshop to gain insights into the application process

☐ Request transcripts from your high school to be sent to the colleges you are applying to

☐ Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine your eligibility for financial aid

  • Get your FSA ID prior to FAFSA release (typically 1 Oct, but for 2023 the new FAFSA won’t be available until December according to the Department of Ed)

☐ Submit early decision or early action applications if you have identified a college as your top choice

  • Early decision is binding so ensure you understand how much you’ll be expected to pay if you decide to go this route

☐ Prepare and organize all the necessary documents, including application forms, essays, recommendation letters, and test scores

Fall Semester of Senior Year – Parents

☐ Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine your eligibility for financial aid and CSS Profile (if applying at schools that use this)

  • The FAFSA is typically released 1 Oct, but for 2023 the new FAFSA won’t be available until December according to the Department of Education
  • Wait a few days after the release to start the process. It allows the Department of Education to iron out any bugs and the systems to stabilize
  • File by the end of Oct (normal years) and end of December 2023 as some financial aid is available first come, first served

Spring Semester of Senior Year – Student

☐ Submit regular decision applications by the specified deadlines for the remaining colleges on your list

☐ Keep track of application deadlines, and ensure that all necessary materials are submitted on time

☐ Continue researching and applying for scholarships and financial aid opportunities

  • Many scholarships are due between January and April so ensure you are tracking these

☐ Stay focused on your academics and maintain a strong academic record throughout your senior year

☐ Receive acceptance letters and compare financial aid packages from different colleges

☐ Make a final decision on the college you will attend and notify the institution of your choice

☐ Submit any required deposits to secure your spot at the chosen college

Spring Semester of Senior Year – Parents

☐ Review financial aid packages from different colleges

  • Ensure you are comparing the out-of-pocket costs
  • Check out this article on our blog for more information

☐ Consider submitting a financial aid appeal if your situation has changed or if a similar school  more aid than the one your child would ideally like to attend

☐ Continue to look for scholarships

☐ Submit deposits for housing and attendance

Summer after Senior Year

☐ Attend orientation sessions or summer programs offered by your college

☐ Take care of administrative tasks, such as signing up for housing and selecting your courses

☐ Finalize your financial aid arrangements and ensure all necessary paperwork is submitted

☐ Take time to relax and enjoy your summer before embarking on your college journey!

Congratulations! You made it. While this isn’t the end of the journey you can be proud of your and your student’s accomplishments and getting to this point.  Hopefully this senior-year checklist helped identify the big things you need to do to make it easier.

If you want to read more about paying for college check out this post on Getting The Big Things Right with College Funding (link) and this one on Where To Find More Scholarship Money (link).  If you’d like to talk about your situation, Next Mission Financial Planning offers College Planning & Funding consultation.  Click here to schedule a call (link) to see if it’s a fit for you.


  • Mike Hunsberger, ChFC®, CFP®, CCFC

    Mike Hunsberger, ChFC®, CFP®, CCFC is the owner of Next Mission Financial Planning located in Saint Charles, Missouri serving clients across the US and wherever the military takes them. After 25 years in the Air Force he started his firm to support military, former military, and retirees through values-based financial planning enabling clients to live their best lives.

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