College Planning Checklist for 12th Grade

College Planning Checklist for 12th Grade



Academic and Extra Curriculum Suggestions for 12th Graders

  • First thing to do senior year – ask teachers for recommendations. Many students may ask the same teacher and the earlier you approach him/her, the better chance you have of them accepting to write a recommendation and having the time to do it.
  • Discuss with your student whether they would like to apply Early Decision. Remember, if your student is accepted, Early Decision is a binding commitment that he/she cannot back out of (except under extenuating circumstances related to financial aid).
  • Create a list of all application due dates (Early Decision, Early Action, Early Decision II, Regular Decision, Rolling). Even if you are applying Early Decision, take advantage of any school on your list that accepts Early Action or Rolling decisions. Have your student submit their application Early Action and/or Rolling at as many schools that have it on his/her list. 
  • Don’t slough off first semester grades. Senior fall is stressful. Students still need to keep up grades for the first semester, and work on applications and essays. 
  • Attend college visits at your high school or night/weekend events held in other locations. Contact the schools on your student’s list to find out when admissions even may be held in your area. At each event, make sure you sign in so the college knows you attended. 
  • Check for schools that will be in line with your student’s profile. Still unsure which colleges to apply to that will offer the most merit scholarships? Consider using our College Insights tool, to identify colleges, based on your student’s academic profile and your financial situation, where your student has a greater likelihood of getting needs-based or merit-based scholarships.  
  • Create a list of questions for interviewers and have practice interviews with your family and friends. Some schools do require in-person interviews. This is a good opportunity for your student to really shine.
  • Confirm all schools your student applies to have received transcripts, test scores, recommendations, and financial aid forms.
  • In spring, make sure your student sends thank you notes to all teachers who wrote recommendations, and anyone else who has helped him/her through the process. 


College Financing Suggestions

  • Review all suggestions from the 9th11th grade list. They still apply.
  • Learn from others what you should know about college costs like “your EFC will likely be the minimum you will be expected to pay,” and that “college scholarships sometimes have different (earlier) deadlines than application deadlines,” and much more. 
  • Know which financial aid forms and calculations each school that is on your student’s college list uses. The financial aid forms are: FAFSA or the CSS Profile. Some schools use one of both of these form. Know that ahead of time before applying.
  • Continue your scholarship search. Local scholarships usually provide the best source of money for students. Learn these scholarship tips from a mom who knows – she helped her sons secure over $100k in scholarship to help pay for college. 
  • Fill out FAFSA and CSS Profile forms by the due dates. If you miss the date, you miss out on financial aid. FAFSA is available starting October 1st. The earlier you fill it out, the higher your probability of getting money, if you’re eligible. Review our list of frequently asked questions for FAFSA and CSS Profile.
  • Understand and review your SAR (student aid report). Don’t be afraid to appeal, if necessary. 












Debbie Schwartz is former financial services executive and founder of Road2College and the Paying For College 101 Facebook group. She's dedicated to providing families with trustworthy information about college admissions and paying for college. With data, tools and access to experts she's helping families become educated consumers of higher ed.