Project Opportunity: Access to Washington's Colleges'

“I know my education is the key ingredient in accomplishing my goals.”

— Cindy Rios
Whitworth University


For Seniors

Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec | Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul | Aug


Discuss your classes, college plans, and test scores with your high school counselor. Stay focused on your academics throughout your senior year. If you do poorly colleges may rescind their offer of acceptance.

Research the Application Process:

  • Request college applications from the admissions office, apply online, or download the application from the college's website.
  • Get in touch with colleges' financial aid offices. The people who work there are the best resource you have in paying for your education.
  • Visit the common application website to see if the college you're applying to participates. Some colleges will accept a copy of the application if you've applied to others that are listed on the participation list. Ask the colleges you're interested in if they will.
  • Take note if the college has an early decision, early action, or early admissions program and prepare to participate if you wish.

Arrange campus visits.

Register to take the SAT and/or ACT again, if necessary. Be sure you know what the test score deadline is for the colleges you're interested in.

If you live in the Puget Sound area, register early to get a test site closer to your home.

  • Don't use one sitting as a practice test. Use on-line resources to get ready for the tests. Consider signing up for a prep course, taking practice tests or getting some computer software to help you study.

Continue to search for free money (scholarships and grants) and other ways to pay.

Stay organized:

  • File copies of applications and correspondence.
  • Make a scholarship portfolio of resume, letter of recommendation, and transcripts. This way you can apply for scholarships quickly and easily.
  • Keep your calendar up-to-date tracking important dates and deadlines.

Think about who you want to write letters of recommendation and request them.

Outside Activities: When colleges look at your application for entrance, they're going to spend a lot of time looking at how you spent your time outside of the classroom as well as inside it. They want students with well-rounded interests, students who participate in volunteer activities, sports, social, and religious organizations. These activities give schools a better idea about the kind of person you are. If a college can see that you have strong leadership and teamwork skills because of the activities you participate in, the college is more likely to grant you entrance. If you're not involved in activities such as these already, it's never too late. Find an organization or a cause you care about and get involved.

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  • Review your high school transcripts to verify that the information is correct.
  • Send your official transcripts to your selected schools. Talk to your counselor to get an official transcript.
  • Ask for letters of recommendation. Most admissions and scholarship applications require these letters.
  • Remember to write thank you letters to those who write letters for you.
  • Get some pointers on writing admissions essays and scholarship essays.
  • Consider requesting an interview with the colleges you're interested in.

Early Decision, Early Action, Early Admission Candidates:

  • Learn whether the schools you're considering have these programs.
  • Look carefully at the timelines, requirements, and restrictions.
  • Familiarize yourself with the pros and cons of this option.
  • Complete your college applications.


  • Continue completing your college applications.
  • Finalize your resume.
  • Determine which financial aid forms the colleges on your list require.
  • Investigate college information and programs.
  • Search for additional sources of financial aid. If your school or another place in your community has financial aid workshop, attend it.
  • Familiarize yourself with financial aid deadlines.

Watch out for Scams: Don't spend money on any financial aid or scholarship information — no wonder how legitimate it might look. This information should be free. Any organization that asks for money is probably designed to steal your money, not help you get you into college.

Internet Appearance: Think about how you appear to colleges over the internet. Remember that colleges and employers may look at Myspace, Facebook, and other online profiles. If your page contains inappropriate material, either clean it out or set it to private. Also make sure you're using an e-mail address that reflects well on you.


Complete school applications ideally by December 1.

Familiarize yourself with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Take SAT and/or ACT, if registered. You should take standardized tests more than once if you can.

Stay organized:

  • Remember to keep copies of applications and correspondence.
  • Continue to track important dates and deadlines on your calendar.


  • Submit your FAFSA as soon after January 1 as possible. Most financial aid applications are due to the college by Feb. 1. Many colleges will help families with the form.
  • Some student aid programs award funds on a first-come, first-served basis; waiting too long to submit your FAFSA could be costly.

Fill out and submit required financial aid forms.

  • Follow instructions carefully and make copies.

Let your parents know that the IRS could save them money through education tax deductions and credits.


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  • Make sure you have all your applications in by the due date. Call each school to make sure they received all your materials.
  • In mid to late March you will begin to receive college decisions.
  • Discuss your options with your family and college counselor.
  • Visit the colleges that accepted you, if you haven't already.
  • Most financial aid offers are distributed in mid to late March.
  • Respond quickly to college requests for additional documentation.
  • Evaluate your offers of financial aid


Make a decision about which college you will attend.

  • Carefully follow the instructions in your acceptance letter. Along with important deadlines, these letters provide specific instructions on housing, financial aid, orientation, and more.
  • Send your tuition deposit:
    • Colleges expect that students who make this non-refundable deposit will attend. Most colleges require a response by May 1.
  • Notify the other colleges that you won't be attending (other students will be happy to take your spot).
  • If you will be living on campus send your housing or enrollment deposit (usually due May 1)

Register for Advanced Placement (AP) tests, if necessary.

Keep Your Grades Up: Just because you got accepted to college doesn't mean you can stop caring about grades. Schools have the option of rescinding admission to students who stop trying their last semester of high school.


Financial Aid:

  • Notify your financial aid office of additional funding you'll receive to pay for college (scholarships and loans, etc.).
  • Take time to understand student loans and evaluate student loan providers.
  • Learn about borrowing responsibly.
  • Important: If you take out a student loan, borrow only what you absolutely need to cover the cost of your education. Take federal loans first. They have the best student benefits. When it's time to repay, you'll have other financial obligations — like rent, car payments, and other living expenses.


  • Mail your final high school transcripts or have your counselor do it if required.
  • Save some of your graduation money for college.
  • Respond to requests from the college you will be attending.
    • Keep copies of everything you send.
  • Read and be familiar with your college catalog and class schedule.
    • Some schools will allow you to register for fall courses over the summer. Check with your admissions counselor and register if possible.
  • Talk with friends who are home from college.
  • Make travel arrangements, if necessary.
  • Send thank you notes or postcards to those who helped you get into college and to those who provided you with scholarships.


  • Register and attend a college orientation session.
  • Confirm housing arrangements and meal plans.
  • Finalize your college budget.
  • Notify the financial aid office of scholarships and loans you will receive.
  • Consider taking out a renter's insurance policy.
  • Return borrowed items, such as library books, rental videos, and things borrowed from friends.
  • Note tracking numbers of boxes you are shipping to school.
  • Check with your bank; you'll want to have a branch near campus
    • Is there a branch of your bank near campus?
      • If not, you may need to open an account at a new bank
      • If so, find out if you need to transfer your account to that branch or bank
  • Review your cell phone plan to limit roaming charges.
  • Contact your roommate and coordinate what to pack.
  • Review the housing rules to find out what is provided and what is prohibited.


Congratulations, You may be starting your first year of college!

Funded in part by a grant from
the Ben B. Cheney Foundation
published by Independent Colleges of Washington