The College Series Pt. 0: Checklist


Daevan Mangalmurti

A college checklist

Daevan Mangalmurti, Editor

Ah, that muggy summer air. Nothing like stepping outside for five seconds and coming back into the cool AC drenched in sun, rain, or your own sweat. If you’re looking for ways to get things done and stay cool this summer, consider getting a jump start on your college work. Summer is a great time to plan for applications and aid. Here are a few things you can check off your college checklist. 

  1. Come up with a shortlist of where you think you want to apply, whether it’s a 4-year school, 2-year institution, or certificate and apprenticeship program. Some schools may have already opened their applications, so you could even get to work right now. If you’re not sure how to narrow down your list of schools, keep an eye out for the next article in this series, coming soon.
  2. Figure out how you’re going to apply to your school of choice. If you’re applying to a 4-year college or university, many take the Common App and the Coalition App, which streamline the applications process if you’re applying to multiple schools. Some 4-year schools still have their own application portals, which can be found on their websites. There’s also the QuestBridge National College Match Application, which we’ll explore in greater detail in another article- it’s specifically for high-achieving, low-income students. Trade schools, vocational schools, and community colleges all have their own application processes. Each school you look at should have information about how to apply on its website. Whatever your school prefers, take a look at their application and start thinking about how you’ll answer questions and fill in sections; think especially about who you might want to ask for letters of recommendation. Most schools asking for them prefer two from teachers in core subjects such as math or English.
  3. Figure out your financial aid options. Both the federal FAFSA and state PHEAA grant applications open on October 1st -filling them out will make you eligible for financial aid from universities, federal grants and loans, state grants and loans, and university-specific scholarships- but many non-college affiliated scholarships are open during the summer and may even be due early in the school year. Check the Pittsburgh Foundation’s website and the PPS scholarship page for information on Pittsburgh-specific scholarships. Websites like College Board, Naviance, Cappex, and Unigo have broader scholarship searches. Use tuition calculators on college websites to figure out how much your chosen schools might cost you. Last but certainly not least, remember the Pittsburgh Promise. If you’re looking at a school in Pennsylvania, the Promise offers up to $5,000 to PPS students who have attended a PPS high school and lived in the city for 4 years, and who maintain a cumulative 2.5 or higher GPA and 90% or higher attendance record.
  4. If you haven’t completed your testing, take advantage of your last opportunities to get it done. The August SAT takes place on August 24th, but registration closes on July 26th (Today! Register now on the College Board website). The September ACT is on September 14th, with registration closing on August 16th. Both tests have late registration periods, but the cost of registration rises if you register late. You’ll be able to take standardized tests during the school year, but it’ll make life easier if you study and get them out of the way during the summer.

If you’re looking to enjoy your senior year, you have to plan. Take some time before school starts to follow this checklist and do exactly that- but don’t forget to enjoy your summer, too!