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Ultimate College Checklist

If you or someone you know is thinking about going to college, this checklist is for you! No matter where you are in the process, our advisors and colleagues across the state have compiled this Ultimate College Checklist as one more tool for you to use. Start at the beginning or anywhere along the list and you’ll discover issues and actions we feel you need to address in a timely fashion.

Getting Started
Save for college. The more you save today, the less you'll need to borrow tomorrow. See MEFA Saving for College...
Start to explore your career interests/goals and potential salaries. Goals help to identify your potentail career. Having a clear career in mind will help you identify the right major. Your major will then determine what courses you'll be taking. See My Next Move...
Take the PSAT. Learn how PSAT results can help you with your academic and career planning. See CollegeBoard PSAT information...
Know financial aid terms. Paying for college is usually a combination of family contributions, scholarships, grants and loans. See the Federal Student Aid Types of Aid... 
Junior and Senior Years
Get your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) estimate. Know how much a college expects you and your family to contribute toward one year of full-time schooling. See the MEFA Expected Family Contribution (EFC) Calculator...
Know the difference between sticker price and net price. Sticker price is the total cost of attendance. Net price, what you'll actually pay, is the total cost of attendance minus scholarships and grants. See CollegeBoard "Focus on Net Price, Not Sticker Price"...
Use net price calculators. If possible, get an estimate of what a college might offer you for financial aid before you decide to apply. See U.S. Department of Education Net Price Calculator Center...
Learn how to borrow responsibly. About 10% of your projected monthly income is reasonable for a monthly student loan payment. See the FinAid Loan Calculator...
Investigate colleges for academic/career and financial fit. A good financial fit college for you is one whose financial aid offer minimizes how much you need to borrow to cover costs. See the FinAid Loan Calculator...
Attend college fairs. Be prepared with a list of questions that include total cost of attendance for one year, graduation rate and average student indebtedness.
Visit colleges. Be prepared with a list of questions that include total cost of attendance for one year, graduation rate and average student indebtedness
Take required tests; ACT, AP, SAT/SAT Subject Tests. Late junior and early senior year are ideal times for most tests.
Request letters of recommendation. Request letters as early as late junior year to give teachers and school counselors plenty of time.
Request an interview with prospective colleges if interviews are required. Not all schools require or even grant interviews. Some that do are just for information purposes; others may impact an admission decision. Ask how interviews are used.
Start drafting your college essay(s). Summer between junior and senior year is an ideal time to start drafting!
Know application and financial aid deadlines. Missing a financial aid or scholarship deadline could cost you thousands of dollars in aid!
Start applying for scholarships. Your school counselor is usually a good source of information for local scholarships. See Scholarships.com... and Fastweb...
Obtain your FSA ID. An FSA ID is a username and password that gives you access to Federal Student Aid’s online systems and can serve as your legal signature. See Federal Student Aid FSA ID...
File your FAFSA. Your FAFSA can be filed starting October 1 for the following fall semester. The form must be completed for each year you plan to attend college. Be mindful of specific college deadlines. See Federal Student Aid FAFSA...
FAFSA Verification If your FAFSA is selected for verification, provide the requested documentation as quickly as possible. If you are not able to use the Data Retrieval Tool (DRT), order a free tax transcript for verification purposes. See Federal Student Aid verification information... and IRS's Get Transcript...
File the CSS Profile (if required). This financial aid form is required by some 300 colleges and scholarship programs. See CollegeBoard CSS Profile...
Review and submit Common App/college applications. The Common App is used by some 900 colleges and universities. See Common App...
Request your high school transcript. Colleges will require an official copy of your high school transcript as part of the application process.
Compare financial aid offers (FACT Sheet). The FACT sheet was designed so that students have a better way of comparing financial aid offers. See the MassEdCO Financial Aid Comparison Tool (FACT)...
Accept your financial aid offer. Before accepting a financial aid offer, know all the repercussions of any and all borrowing, not just for one year but for the total time you'll be enrolled. Only accept loan amounts that you need for that semester.
Submit deposit (if required). Most but not all colleges will require a deposit to reserve your place; some will require a separate housing deposit.
Deposit if accepted from wait list. If selected from a wait list, and the financial aid offer works for you and your family, a deposit is usually required to reserve your place.
Transition to College
Submit final transcript. Request a final transcript be forwarded to the college you plan to attend.
Monitor your new college-assigned email. Most colleges will assign you a college email; check it at least twice a week!
Investigate payment plan options. Most colleges will offer payment plans. Learn the details as soon as possible if you plan to use one. See the CollegeBoard College Tuition Payment Plans...
Proceed with caution if applying for private loans. If you're exploring private loans, make sure you've exhausted all federal student loan options first. Keep in mind that your total monthly payment for ALL your student loans, including graduate school, should be no more than 10% of your projected monthly income. See ELMSelect...
Consider credits by exam. If you've already studied a specific subject, there may be opportunities for you to sit for an exam and get college credit. See the CollegeBoard CLEP information...
Waive college health insurance if eligible. If you are already covered by a health plan, you can waive the college health insurance. Check with the college's billing department.
Take placement test or TOEFL if required Placement tests, like Accuplacer, determine your eligibility for college level course work. It is highly recommended that you study and practice in advance. See the CollegeBoard ACCUPLACER information...
Register for classes ASAP To better ensure you get the courses you need each semester, you should register ASAP! Registering late could mean you don’t get all the courses you need when you need them.
Complete Master Promissory Note (MPN) and Entrance Counseling. Borrow only what's needed. As with any loan, required paperwork needs to be reviewed and signed before dispersing the funds. Only borrow what you need!
Pay semester bill. Most colleges will require a semester's bill be paid before classes start. If you are anticipating a problem, check with the financial aid office ASAP.
Buy/rent books or seek Open Educational Resources (OER) options. Books can be expensive. Explore whether it's better to buy or rent. Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching and learning resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license and may be used free of charge.
Know add/drop deadlines. Typically once classes start, you a have a small period of time to withdraw from a class and get 100% of your money back. Know that deadline!
Check for additional financial aid Some colleges may find themselves with additional financial aid after the add/drop period. Check with your financial aid office.
Know the consequences of withdrawing after add/drop. Withdrawing after the add/drop period will usually appear on your transcript as a W or whatever grade a professor deems appropriate, including an F.
Know the consequences of changing your major, both in terms of time and money. Many students will change their major. Know what the added cost of time and money is before doing so. Check with your advisor.
Complete your FAFSA for next academic year. The FAFSA can be completed as early as October 1 for the following fall semester.
Register for next semester's classes ASAP! The earlier you register, the better your chances for getting all the classes you want and need.