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Planning for college: High school seniors close in on the finish line

Bill Cass

Bill Cass , 9/13/2017


Senior year in high school is a memorable one as students focus on a major milestone: graduation. And for students planning for college, it’s a year with many deadlines and final preparations.

Parents of these seniors are largely focused on finances for college, and financial aid may be top of mind. Some considerations:

  • Attend a college aid workshop or meet with a professional college counselor.
  • Complete the FAFSA form between October 1 and June 30. It’s important to remember that many states and colleges request the FAFSA submission as soon as possible after October 1.
There are many potential sources of assistance for college tuition. Parents can explore these ideas:
  • Ask your employer if college scholarships are available for your child.
  • Make sure you have enough liquid assets for college-related expenses. This may require investment transfers within college savings accounts to more conservative options.
  • Consider allocating funds within a custodial account, such as UGMA or UTMA, or regular savings account for travel costs, which are not considered “qualified expenses” for 529 plans.
  • Identify which savings accounts to tap into first for expenses based on investment, tax, or financial aid considerations. To learn more about developing drawdown strategies, read Putnam’s investor education piece, "Strategies to make the most of college savings.”
  • Research tax credits and deductions to help with college costs.
Key documents to secure before college
  • Have your child complete a health-care proxy after turning 18 and before going to college.
Considerations for students
  • Take the SAT/ACT in the fall.
  • Be mindful of maintaining good grades during the year.
  • Review social media accounts to make sure profiles and posted content would not jeopardize an admissions decision.
  • Establish a professional presence by creating a LinkedIn profile.
Application process
  • Over the summer before senior year, start working on the Common Application and college essay.
  • Research application options, including early decision, early action, regular admission, and rolling admission.
  • If opting for early decision, apply to colleges as early as November.
  • Research and apply for local scholarships from schools, towns, and relevant organizations.
Campus visits
  • Find out which schools offer interviews, and set up meetings. Schedule campus visits when school is in session to experience daily life on campus.
  • Trim your college list to a few safety, match, and reach schools.
  • If pursuing athletics, contact coaches to schedule official on-campus visits in the fall.
If families already have a plan mapped out by an advisor, it’s time to reconcile the list of tasks and make sure students and parents are on track. Putnam’s investor education piece, “Four-year action plan to prepare for college,” outlines year-by-year activities for parents and students to use as a guide throughout high school. Families may also seek guidance from an advisor to navigate the financial aid application process.

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