Save the Date: Higher-Ed Application Deadlines are Approaching!

by Zena Smith

It’s officially crunch time for college-bound juniors and seniors—and let’s face it, their parents, too. As the remaining standardized test dates dwindle and financial aid deadlines approach, many of our heads are spinning with all the things that need to be done to make sure our students spend the fall off at college instead of  at home on the couch.

Sound like you? Don’t sweat it. Managing this flurry of deadlines and dates is easy as marking them on your calendar and spending a Saturday making sure all your ducks (and paperwork) are in a row. So open up those planners, review the information below, and make sure your student doesn’t miss a beat on their way to college.

Standardized Testing

act_sat_lIf you’ve sent a student to college before (or if you’ve gone yourself), you probably know that your student’s college application will be some of the most involved paperwork they’ll ever be accountable for. More than simple information such as name, number, and address, a college application usually asks for several metrics used by schools to determine how prepared their applicants are for the college experience. Highest on that list are standardized test scores. Almost any accredited college or university will require students to submit scores from the ACT, the SAT, or in the rarest of cases, both. Unfortunately, these tests must be taken at official test sites, and they are only administered a few times a year. That means students, as early as their junior year, should plan to take the test—and, ideally, plan to take it more than once. Begin by determining which test your student will need to take, then move on to finding a time and location that works for you. And finally, get registered!

ACT

The ACT (American College Test) is the most popular college admissions exam in the country. Any student who plans on attending college should prepare to take the ACT in their junior and/or senior years of high school. The multiple-choice test consists of four sections assessing students’ high school– and college-level knowledge across key subjects: English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science. In recent years, the ACT has added an optional writing prompt, taken at the end of the test, which is recommended for most students.

You can learn more about the ACT at www.actstudent.org, or go ahead and register today

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Test Date 1: April 18, 2015

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Registration Deadline:
March 13, 2015

Late Registration*:
March 14-27, 2015

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Nearest Test Center:
Bloom High School
101 West 10th Street
Chicago Heights, IL 60411

Test Date 2: June 13, 2015

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Registration Deadline:
May 8, 2015

Late Registration*:
March 9-22, 2015

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Nearest Test Center:                       Homewood-Flossmoor High School
999 Kedzie Avenue
Flossmoor, IL 60422

SAT

The SAT is another highly regarded college admissions exam, used by many of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the country. The purposes of the SAT are to determine how knowledgable students are in key subjects—reading, writing, and math—and how well they will be able to apply this knowledge at the college level. While SAT scores are generally less in demand (particularly here in the Midwest) than those from the SAT, students who plan on attending east-coast or highly competitive colleges, such as Ivy League schools, should be prepared to register and succeed on the SAT.

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Test Date 1:
March 14, 2015

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Registration Deadline:
February 13, 2015

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Nearest Test Center:
Marian Catholic High School
700 Ashland Avenue
Chicago Heights, IL 60411

Test Date 2:
May 2, 2015

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Registration Deadline:
April 6, 2015

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Nearest Test Center:                       Homewood-Flossmoor High School 
999 Kedzie Avenue
Flossmoor, IL 60422


Financial Aid

financialAid101Most students who go to college, and particularly those pursuing degrees from private or four-year programs, will wind up searching for ways to cover the difference between the money they’ve saved and the true cost of attendance. On top of tuition are a number of costs and fees that catch many families by surprise: room and board, meal plans, textbooks, school and hygiene supplies, and so forth. When you add it all up, the number can seem overwhelming and unattainable. Luckily, there are a number of financial assistance options available to most college-goers. But, like standardized testing, these opportunities have deadlines, so it is important to get your paper work finished and submitted on time so your wallet doesn’t keep you out of the classroom.

Government Assistance (FAFSA)

For most families who cannot cover the cost of attendance on their own, the preferred option for alternative funding will be federal financial aid. Federal loans generally have more relaxed eligibility requirements, more attractive interest rates, and more flexible repayment schedules than what is available through private loans. Still, if you decide to finance your college education through loans, you will want to do ample research to be sure you choose the best option for you.

Should you decide that federal loans are a good fit, you’ll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). But be aware: like standardized testing dates, opportunities for federal financial assistance are on a timeline. In other words, you’ll need to submit your application before the deadline to have the best chance of receiving the funds you request.

You’ll find a brief outline of the relevant FAFSA deadlines for 2015 below. Note that the deadlines differ for federal- and state-level awards, and may depend on additional dates determined by your school(s) of interest. If you want to learn more about federal financial aid, you can visit the official FAFSA website or revisit last year’s FAFSA Guide on the MASTERs Plus Edublog.

Federal Deadline

Online applications must be submitted by midnight Central Time, June 30, 2016.
Any corrections or updates must be submitted by midnight Central Time, September 17, 2016.

State Deadline

Students in Illinois should apply as soon as possible after January 1, 2015. State-based awards are limited, and will only be made until funds are depleted.
College Deadline
Check with the college(s) you are interested in attending. You may also want to ask your college about its definition of an application deadline—whether it is the date the college receives your FAFSA, or the date your FAFSA is processed.

Scholarships

An attractive alternative to loan-based funding is, is course, the partial- or full-tuition scholarship. Check with your guidance counselor, who should be able to provide information on which scholarships your student qualifies for and which of them have deadlines that haven’t yet lapsed.

When you’ve exhausted your options for academic-minded scholarships, don’t throw in the towel. Your student may qualify for a number of other opportunities based on things as odd as their height, the food they eat, or their unique skills with every-day items like duct tape. But do hurry, because many of the application deadlines are approaching fast!

 

 

 

 

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