Your acceptance letter is in the mail.
If you’re a senior at an Idaho public high school, the State Board of Education is sending you a very important college acceptance letter.
In September, you and your parents will be receiving nearly identical letters that will tell you (and your parents) which Idaho colleges and/or universities have pre-accepted you based on your grades and SAT/ACT scores.
- Learn more about what you’re supposed to do once you get your letter.
- Use the Idaho Schools Directory to research your options.
- Compare your options side by side.
- Think about visiting an Idaho college campus.
- Use Apply Idaho to submit applications to the Idaho colleges and universities you may want to attend, with no application fee.
- Figure out how to fill out and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Focus on financial aid opportunities.
The downtime after applications have been sent is a great time to seek out extra money for school.
Keep an eye out for important scholarship and financial aid information. Check with your counselor to see if there are any new opportunities you should be aware of. Your counselor can help you figure out what you might be eligible for.
- Check with the colleges about their financial aid application deadlines and ask colleges about scholarships you may qualify for.
- Make sure you understand the different types of financial aid: grants, scholarships, and loans and how you can apply for each
- Learn more about Idaho Opportunity Scholarship for Idaho high school students who plan to attend one of Idaho’s public institutions.
- Take a look at scholarships available to students entering technical college programs.
- Use the Career Information System (CIS) to search for national and local scholarship opportunities
- Check out the College Board’s scholarship search to broaden your research
- Consider enrolling in programs that help you earn college credit while you are in high school, like Advanced Placement (AP) and Dual Enrollment.
Check in with your counselor.
They're there to help you stay on track and prioritize your goals.
Now is the time to let your counselor know what you are planning to do after high school. Counselors can help connect you with the right resources and advise you on the application process. By doing just a bit of preparation before going into these conversations, you can ensure that you get a most out of them.
- Use this guide to help you prepare and ask the right questions: Talking to Your Counselor – Questions to Consider in 12th Grade
Don't lose your focus.
Your grades and extracurricular activities still matter this year.
Employers, colleges, and training schools will look at what you accomplished your senior year. Stay focused on your classwork and maintain a commitment to your extracurricular activities.
- If you haven’t done so, make a list of all your school and community service activities along with high school classes and awards. This list will help when it’s time to start filling out admission applications.
- Consider finding an internship in a field that interests you so you get an idea of what it’s like to work in that environment.
- Check out this article about the importance of extracurricular activities
- Keep studying!
Organize your senior year calendar.
No matter what you plan to do after high school, you’ll probably be filling out lots of forms this year, so it’s important to know which form is due when.
Make a tracker showing the application deadlines for apprenticeship programs, college or training program admissions, or military service. If you plan to go on to further schooling, be sure to include the deadlines for financial aid, and scholarships. Make sure to use this sheet to keep track of when you submit each form and confirm with your counselor that transcripts, test scores and recommendations have all been submitted.
Visit schools this fall.
If you haven't yet, plan a campus visit (or two or three).
Now is a great time to look at the schools on your college list because classes are in session and you are better able to meet and talk with students and professors. You may even be able to sit in on a class or two. Call ahead to schedule tours, appointments, and even an overnight visit.
- Use this Next Steps mini-directory to access the contact information for Idaho’s colleges and universities and plan your visit.
- Attend as many college and career fairs and financial aid workshops as possible.
- Ask your counselor if any colleges will be hosting information sessions at your school.
- Take along our list of things to think about while you’re on a college visit and take notes so you can remember the things you liked, and those you didn’t like.
Finalize your college list.
It's time to decide where you're going to apply!
Use the information you’ve gathered from college visits, interviews, and your own research to decide which schools you will apply to. It’s okay to apply to colleges that you think will be more difficult to get into. But it’s also important to put a few safety schools (where you’re pretty sure you’ll get in) on your list.
- Compare Idaho colleges and universities to figure out which one(s) offer what you are looking for in a college or university.
- Use the Idaho Career Information System (CIS) “Compare Schools” tool, to see up to three colleges compared side by side
- Talk to counselors, teachers, and your family about your choices.
Ask for letters of recommendation.
Connect with teachers and counselors early this fall and let them know you'd like a letter of recommendation.
Think about who knows you best: your accomplishments, the challenges you've faced, your unique strengths and personality traits. Decide whom you're going to ask and give them plenty of notice. The most thoughtful and personal letters are those that are not rushed.
- Schedule appointments with each teacher to discuss your goals and ambitions so they’ll be more prepared to write about you.
- Don’t be afraid to remind them of your accomplishments, your hobbies or extracurricular activities and any obstacles you’ve overcome.
- Provide teachers with a copy of your high school resume so they have a quick point of reference.
- Give letter of recommendation forms to the teachers you have chosen, along with stamped, addressed envelopes so they can send them directly to the colleges. Be sure to fill out your name and address and the school name on each form. Don’t forget to call out the application deadline for each.
- Check out this article about how to get a great letter of recommendation.
Take the SAT or ACT again if you need to.
It's common for students to take these tests more than once.
You may need a higher score to meet admission requirements or to be eligible for certain scholarships. Or you may be taking the test for the first time if you did not take it last year. Try to get the highest score possible to maximize admissions and scholarship opportunities.
- Find out which tests are required by the schools you’re interested in applying for.
- Read this article on the difference between ACT & SAT – “How to Choose Between Taking the ACT, SAT”
- Register for the SAT. Use the free, online SAT study guide.
- Register for the ACT.
- Use the free, online SAT practices tools from the Khan Academy.
Make sure your family is prepared for the financial aid process.
Your family will need to help you fill out the forms and provide critical information required to submit financial aid applications.
Remind your parents to prepare their income tax statements for the previous tax year as early as possible (long before the April 15 deadline), since you will need the information to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
- Collect and review your financial aid information.
- Get a three-ring binder to organize all the paperwork so you have original documents together and can make copies when needed.
- Attend financial aid workshops with your parents or adults who are helping you complete your applications.
Tackle the FAFSA.
The first step to getting grants or loans from the federal government, state government, or institution is to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).
This process takes some time and effort. Be ready to spend a couple of hours gathering the documents you need and filling out the form completely. The time spent will be worth it.
- Get an overview of the FAFSA here.
- Consider using the online form—you’ll be able to submit the completed form electronically.
- Download the worksheet and guide for submitting your FAFSA online here.
- Complete and submit the FAFSA. You can submit the form anytime after starting this October for the following fall semester. While the federal deadline isn’t until June 30, the deadline for grants from the state of Idaho is March 1. Some colleges may also require earlier submission.
- Wait for your financial aid determination letter and subsequent offer letters from each college you’ve applied to before making any decisions.
Follow up on your applications.
You did the work to get those forms submitted, but you're not done yet!
It's always possible that someone missed something somewhere. Stay on top of the process.
- Verify with your counselor that all forms are in order and have been sent out to colleges.
- Check with the admissions offices at the schools where you’ve applied to confirm that they have received all your information, including test scores, transcripts, and recommendations.
Not heading to college next year?
If school isn’t what’s next for you, it’s time to start thinking about what is.
You may not plan on going to college but you still need to have a plan. Most careers require more than a high school diploma. Consider a certificate program or a career in the military, where you can acquire career skills.
Complete the financial aid process.
Review and compare financial aid packages offered by the schools you’ve applied to with your family. Be sure you understand each type of aid offered.
Remember to think about the net cost of college: the difference between the “sticker” price (full cost) to attend a specific college, minus any grants and scholarships you've been awarded.
- Schedule an appointment or call the financial aid directors at these schools if you have questions.
- Once you make a decision, don’t forget to sign the financial aid award letter and return it by the deadline.
- Notify the financial aid office of any scholarships that you are receiving.
- Complete any separate applications for loans you decide to accept.
Open and read ALL of your snail mail and email. You should be hearing from colleges in March and April.
After you receive letters of acceptance and financial aid awards, decide which school or program you’ll attend and then follow through on these important post-acceptance tasks.
- Submit your acceptance form and deposit check as soon as possible. Once you accept an offer, you should receive information from the college about course scheduling, orientation sessions, housing arrangements, and other necessary forms. Pay attention to all deadlines and make sure that your applications are sent in on time.
- Ask about campus housing deadlines, specifically, because on-campus student housing often fills up quickly.
- Decline offers received from other institutions or organizations in writing.
- Participate in orientation programs for incoming freshmen offered by the school of your choice.
- Prepare for any last standardized tests. You may be taking AP or CLEP tests to earn college credits as the school year winds down.
Reflect. Be proud. Celebrate!
You did it. Four years of hard work and planning has led to you becoming a high school graduate.
Go out feeling good about your senior year with good grades and great memories.
- Thank your teachers, counselors and mentors for all their support and guidance.
- Spend quality time with friends who might be going off to different schools or other opportunities next year.
- Put on your cap and gown and enjoy graduation day!
- Celebrate…safely and respectfully.
Prepare for freshman year.
If you're headed off to college in the fall, you've got a few things to take care of this summer.
Your first semester at college is going to be busy, so do what you can to prepare and hit the ground running.
- Check out this article from USA Today: “10 Tips for Incoming College Freshman.”
- If your college offers a bridge program, make sure to participate. You will start to build relationships and feel more at home when the school year begins.