The College Application Process is tedious and time consuming. We highly recommend that students entering High School for the first time should start the College Planning process early (especially as it relates to the SAT and ACT tests). It is especially important for students, before starting their Senior year in High School, that they accelerate the College Application Process quickly in order to successfully apply to College in the Fall. The above chart outlines the steps necessary for this process. Below we will provide more detail on the different steps involved in this process.
The College Search process includes determining which Colleges a student would like to attend, conducting Campus visits to see if the school appeals to a student, and then finalizing the College List for the schools to apply to. Many factors go into determining which schools to include in the College List. These factors include matching the College to a student’s desired Major, finding the best College “environment” for a student’s personality, and most importantly, determining the “affordability” of a College. The “affordability” of a College factors in both the “cost of attendance” and the Financial Aid Package a school will offer a student. There are times when a more expensive private college becomes more “affordable” then a state college, once the Financial Aid Package is taken into account.
The College Application Preparation process typically occurs between July through October. This includes the different steps that are required for the College Applications. Many schools require student’s to write a Personal Essay. We recommend that a student starts their Personal Essay early, so that they have time to develop them fully and will feel comfortable turning them in. Students should also start requesting Letters of Recommendation from their school and community early in the process, as it sometimes takes time to receive them back. The earlier they can ask for them, the better. There are multiple Financial Aid Forms (starting with the FAFSA) that will need to be filled out, depending on the school. A student should work with their parents to determine what each school needs so that they can gather the right information. Finally, a student must verify and organize the timelines for each school, as each college is different and there are multiple deadlines for every school.
The Financial Aid process starts with the federal form called the FAFSA. Families can start filing the FAFSA form by October 1st using their previous year’s taxes. There are other Financial Aid forms that maybe required by the different schools including the CSS Profile Form (for private colleges), Institutional Forms that are specific to many elite colleges, and specialized forms if a family owns a Business or a Farm. In addition, the deadlines for the various Financial Aid Forms must be taken into account. If a deadline is missed on these financial forms, less Financial Aid will be available for a student. Schools have a limited amount of Financial Aid that they can offer, so it is best to get these complicated forms in on time.
The College Application dates for Early Action and Early Decision are typically due by November 1st. Those students applying for Regular Decision have, in most cases, until January 1st to apply. Please note that each school’s Application due date is different and some may be earlier then these dates. Each individual school’s Application Date should be verified in advance so that these important due dates are not missed!
The notifications from the Colleges on a student’s application typically occur by Jan 1st for the Early Action and Early Decision. Remember, Early Decision plans are binding — a student who is accepted as an ED applicant must attend the college. Early Action plans are nonbinding — students receive an early response to their application but do not have to commit to the college until the normal reply date of May 1st. For Regular Decision applicants, the College will notify students around March 1st. The more popular Colleges will take longer, with some select College’s waiting until mid-April to notify students.
Financial Aid Awards Letters are typically sent out by the Colleges for Regular Decision by the March / April time period. The Financial Aid offer can consist of a number of options including Grants, Loans, Work-Study Programs, and others. The amount of Financial Aid can vary widely from family to family, depending on a number of factors including how families position their income and assets on the Financial Aid forms. With properly positioned income and assets in a Strategic Financial Plan, a family maybe able to obtain additional College Financial Aid for their child. This in turn, will reduce the overall cost of college for a student.
The College Decision Day for Regular Decision is May 1st. While students can declare before this date, this is typically the last date most colleges allow for a commitment. This is when a student must let a College know that they plan on attending their school in the Fall.
We hope that the above information has given you a good starting point on understanding the College Application Process. We at The Stedge Group work with families all the time to develop a Strategic Plan for College so that their student can attend their Dream School.
And if you want to learn more, contact us at The Stedge Group.
We offer a Free 1-Hour Consultation for families planning for College! This consultation includes My Tuition Score, which estimates your Expected Family Contribution and Financial Aid Package.
The Stedge Group
Phone: (818) 222-0515