Your action plan and timeline

Use this action plan and timeline as a guideline for your junior and senior years and beyond!

Junior year
A student sitting behind a pile of books and papersAttend post-secondary school information nights and career fairs. Take applicable entrance exams (your guidance counselors should have test schedules and registration materials). Explore different schools online and schedule school visits. Start a scholarship search online.

Senior Year — September
High school senior holding a reportMeet with your guidance counselor to evaluate your choice of schools, based on your placement test scores, your grade point average, and extracurricular activities. Contact schools for admission and financial aid applications. Continue your scholarship search.

Senior year — October
October calendar showing a high school student posing for a class picture in front of autumn leavesApply to several schools. Include at least one “safety” school, where you know you’ll probably be accepted, several where you’ll probably be accepted, and one or two “reach” schools. Ask teachers, employers, or other adults for written recommendations; give them at least a month to complete them. If your schools require application essays, begin thinking about topics and start drafting outlines.

Senior year — November
November calendar showing a turkeyFind out your schools’ application deadlines, and be sure your information is submitted on time. Schedule campus visits and admission interviews.

Senior year — December
December calendar showing a high school student all bundled upDecide where you want to live next year and submit your housing application. Keep an eye on scholarship deadlines.

Senior year — January
January calendar showing a person snowboardingComplete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon after January 1 as possible. (See the next screen, How to Apply for Financial Aid, for details.) Parents and students should complete their income tax forms early because these figures are needed to complete the FAFSA. Attend financial aid nights to learn more about education financing.

Senior year—February
February calendar that shows a picture of a girl with a heart drawn around her face
Provide your high school guidance counselor with the necessary mid-year grade forms, if your schools require them. Register for advanced placement tests, if applicable. Continue to complete scholarship applications.

Senior year — March
March calendar showing a girl holding a shamrock cookieAbout four weeks after submitting the FAFSA, you will receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) containing your financial information and Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Schools use this to determine our financial aid package, so be sure it’s accurate. You should begin receiving your admissions decisions from schools around this time.

Senior year — April
April calendar that shows a couple walkingCompare financial aid awards from different schools. If your financial aid package is not enough to cover your costs, consider a Federal PLUS Loan and private education loans. Make your final choice and notify the schools of your decision to accept or decline their offer of admission. Many schools have acceptance deadlines in April or early May.

Senior year — May
May calendar showing a girl sitting in a field of yellow tulipsRelax. The hard part is behind you — enjoy the last few weeks of high school! Make sure your final transcripts are sent to the school you will attend.

Two students wearing graduation caps and gownsCongratulations! You graduated!

A group of friends hanging out in the summer.Save money from your summer job and buy the things you will need for school gradually over the summer. Be aware of freshman orientation dates. If you miss your orientation, you may not be able to register for classes until you attend. Good luck in your future education!

Note: Federal PLUS Loans for parents allow parents to borrow up to the full cost of attendance minus other aid received. Click on Library to learn about Federal PLUS Loans for graduate students.

Access a printable copy of this action plan.

Click the Next button to learn how to apply for financial aid.