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After 12 long years, it’s finally happened. You’ve made it to the top of the heap. You’re the queen/king of the castle…top of the game…head of the class. You’re a senior! You’ve worked hard to get here. I mean, passing Algebra II alone warrants some bragging rights. After everything you’ve accomplished, you’ve earned the right to have a little ‘senior swagger.’ There’s just one thing you can’t lose sight of as you reap the fruits of your labors – college planning.

Your senior year will pass quickly, and graduation day will be here before you know it. It’s important to be prepared for the next phase of your life. Don’t worry. We’re here to help! Here are five steps you can take this fall to keep on track to college.

Step 1: Decide what type of college is best for you.

If you want to be an electrician, you likely don’t need to attend a four-year liberal arts university. A community college will have the program. There’s no right or wrong answer for the type of school you attend – a four-year university, community college, or trade school – it depends on your career interest. Each option has merit. Some students start at a community college with a plan to transfer later to a four-year university. If that’s part of your plan, connect with both colleges in advance to ensure the credits you earn will transfer.

Step 2: Submit college applications this fall.

Apply to three or four schools, including your dream school, a realistic option, and a fallback. Keep track of the schools’ application deadlines so you don’t miss out on scholarship opportunities.

If you’re having trouble narrowing your college choices, check out College Profiles! This FREE tool will help you find colleges across the United States that meet your criteria. College Profiles allows you to search by school name, location, tuition costs, school type, majors, size, and more. You can save schools to your MyCollegeList, see side-by-side comparisons, and get details about each college. You can also attend a college fair (many high schools host them in the fall), visit campuses that interest you, and talk to college reps who visit your school. 

Step 3: Apply for scholarships.

It’s hard to talk about college without discussing how to pay for it. One way is scholarships. Colleges are one of the essential scholarship resources, so be sure to start there. Ask admissions reps to guide you in the right direction. Be sure to ask your school counselor about local scholarship opportunities.

You can also utilize ScholarshipQuest, EducationQuest’s FREE database that contains more than 2,000 Nebraska-based scholarships. Log in and complete a profile to be matched with a list of scholarships.

Step 4: Complete the FAFSA.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid opens for the 2024-245 academic year in late December. We recommend that every high school senior complete the application. It opens the door to scholarships, grants, work-study, and low-interest student loans. It’s your ticket to college, a degree, and a career. Our FAFSA tools can help you through the application process.  

Step 5: Stay on top of deadlines.

This is the easiest part. Sign up for our monthly email newsletter Countdown2College. You’re a busy senior! Let us do the work of keeping track of important deadlines, sending you reminders, and dispensing timely advice. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

Have an amazing senior year, friends! You’ve earned it!

By Regan Anson