Road Map for October: Seniors

I hope you’ve had a great start to your senior year and are making progress on application work. If you haven’t already done so, a top priority is to connect with your school counselor to make sure you understand all the procedures for securing your letters of recommendation, transcripts, etc. and having everything sent to your colleges. It’s also a good idea to get your counselor’s feedback on your college list to be sure to have a good mix of reach, target and likely schools. We’ve been seeing a lot of changes in admission rates and practices over the last few years and your counselor will have information on how students from your high school with profiles similar to yours have fared in the application process for different colleges.

As you start submitting applications, think carefully about whether you will benefit from submitting test scores to each school. Colleges generally publish the 25th to 75th percentile score range, which you can think of as the range for the typical student. If your scores are in that middle 50% or higher, you should feel comfortable submitting to that college. If your scores are lower than the 25th percentile, they generally won’t help you and you should take advantage of test-optional policies. For schools where you are submitting test scores it’s also important to note their policies on score reporting. Some schools will take your test scores off the Common App, while others require you to enter them in their admissions portal after you’ve submitted your application, or to send the official score report from the testing company. These policies are generally outlined on the admissions departments’ websites, so read them carefully.

I also want to highlight some important financial aid updates that are unique this year. As you may know, the FAFSA normally opens October 1 but is delayed this year until December, with the exact date to be announced.  As a result, many colleges will need to adjust their usual financial aid application deadlines. However, I’m hearing that many schools have not finalized their plans and have not updated their websites, including information on their FAFSA deadlines.

  • If a college website has a FAFSA deadline on or before December 1, it is not up to date since the form will not be available by then. If the posted deadline is later in December or early in January, be sure to confirm it with the financial aid office.
  • It is especially important to understand this because there is a FAFSA form open now for the CURRENT school year, 2023-24. If you complete this form thinking it’s an application for aid in 2024-25, it’s the wrong form and cannot be used for school year 2024-25. This applies to current high school seniors, as well as families with students who are currently in college and need to submit the FAFSA every year. Everyone applying for aid in the 2024-25 school year just needs to keep an eye out for the new form and complete it when it’s available.

Families should also note that the CSS Profile is available now, on the usual schedule. Colleges that use it may rely on it even more than in typical years, since they won’t have the FAFSA for several more weeks. If you are at all unclear about when financial aid forms are due, check with the school’s financial aid office.

Finally, although the FAFSA is not yet available, the Federal Student Aid Estimator has been updated to reflect the new formulas. This is a great tool to start understanding how much federal aid you might be eligible for, including grants, subsidized and unsubsidized federal student loans, and work-study.