Aligning The Lineup

For seniors, going to college is right around the corner, and many don’t even know where to start.


Student is overwhelmed by the applications in front of them.

When you begin high school, college seems so far away. Many ignore the thought of college until their senior year, not putting any thought into their plans after high school. Four quick years later and the applications, deadlines, and expectations arrive, and now college is quickly approaching for the class of 2023. In recent years, the college application process has changed drastically. After the pandemic, many colleges became test optional, making college less stressful for some students. On the other hand, other students found themselves feeling behind and not ready for the next step, not even knowing where to start. Once applications, deadlines and expectations are hurtling themselves, the best way to get started preparing for your future is to take it step by step. 

Start by narrowing down where you could see yourself for four years. Many factors should influence where you choose to spend the next four years at. Program availability, athletics, distance from home, climate, cost, class size, and campus lifestyle among many others, should impact where you choose to apply to. A great resource to find information and compare schools, as well as find admission dates, is SCOIR.  Most schools will have their admissions deadlines in January or February, but check their website for definite dates. If you have it narrowed down to one college that doesn’t require essays, it’s recommended to apply through the college’s website to save time and effort. Applying through the college’s website takes less than 20 minutes. The Common App should be used when you’re applying to multiple schools, so you can reuse the essays and apply from one hub to make it easier on yourself.

Student is lost on where to begin with the deadlines in front of them. (Aniya Sparrow)

To apply, you’ll need basic information on yourself, similar to any other application, with the addition of your social security number and extracurricular information. You can find your GPA, class rank and other necessary information on your transcript. To get your transcript, email Mrs. Bruer, the college and career counselor. Some schools may require test scores, for example, the ACT, but some colleges may be ‘test-optional’ meaning you’ll submit your grades, courses taken, and possibly a recommendation to apply instead of submitting standardized testing scores. However, submitting test scores could create eligibility for scholarships offered from colleges that required standardized test results.

After the application is submitted, FAFSA is the next step. FAFSA is the Free Application For Federal Student Aid, used to determine federal aid eligibility. According to the College Board Blog, more than 13 million students apply for FAFSA every year and over $120 billion is awarded in grants, work-study, and low-interest loans. Similar to your college application, you’ll need basic information on yourself as well as your family’s financial status and your own financial information, if applicable. To begin a FAFSA application, create an FSA ID, which will allow you to verify your social security number, and your account becomes your electronic signature. Both you and your parents will need your own FSA account to complete the FAFSA form. If the FAFSA Data Retrieval Tool doesn’t work, be prepared to use tax records of your own to report financial information, and for the application process to take up to two hours. The last day for FAFSA priority consideration in Missouri is February 1, 2023, but forms are accepted until April 1, 2023.

If FAFSA doesn’t reward any aid to you, scholarships are the next closest way to receive ‘free-aid’ or money that doesn’t have to be paid back. The difference between scholarships and the grants given by the government through FAFSA is that both are considered “free-aid”, but scholarships are merit-based on academic achievement, extracurriculars, and chosen field of study. There are a multitude of scholarships available, with deadlines mostly falling in January or in May. Advice from suggests to “divide your scholarship applications into fall and spring semester scholarships, especially if you will have time to work on applications over winter break.” To find scholarships, search the web, prospective colleges website’s, or the college and career center. Scholarships worth your while will require more work, like an essay, interview, project, or teacher recommendation.

If scholarships don’t work out, there is one more option to receive money for college: loans. Loans are borrowed money that the borrower pays back with interest added. There are multiple different types: federal, private, and refinance. Within federal loans, there are three more options: direct subsidized loans, unsubsidized, and Direct PLUS. All three types are extended to undergraduate students, however, subsidized loans are for students with financial need, unsubsidized is for students who do not demonstrate financial need, and PLUS loans are for students and parents with a required credit check. To apply for federal loans, your college will send you your financial aid package and you can receive loans from there. On the other hand, to apply for private loans, you’ll need to find and compare interest rates of banks, credit unions, or online lenders that accept your credit. 

With applications for college, FAFSA, scholarships, and loans done, you can begin to think about your life at college. Beyond acceptance and finances holds the choice of where you live on campus, who you live with, your schedule, and your meal plan. 

Our lives are changing, and it’s not easy to handle, but it will go smoother than you think once you begin.